A modernized version of the Breda 64 with an appreciable gain in performance, the Breda 65. first flown in 1935, nevertheless proved to be a disappointing machine in actual combat, and the problems experienced in North Africa by Italian squadrons equipped with the type were similar to those of the Fairey Battles over France in 1940. In both cases the bombers were too slow and unwieldy to protect themselves. Although faster than the larger Battle, the Breda 65 was a difficult machine to fly, and was generally ineffective throughout the North African campaign.
Whereas the Breda 64 had an open cockpit, the pilot of the Breda 65 was provided a sliding canopy. This was usually left open, however, most Italian pilots preferring the classic arrangement. In fact, it was not until the latter stages of the war that this preference was overcome among Regia Aeronautica personnel. Originally fitted with the 1030 h.p. FIAT A.aO R.CAI radial engine, the Breda 65 used the 900 h.p. Isotta-Fraschini K.14 (license-built Gnome-Rhone 14 Krsd) radial engine on subsequent operational examples. A fuller fuselage and modified vertical tail surfaces were the most noticeable differences from the Breda 64. Again, the design was adapted for fighter, bomber and reconnaissance duties, normal armament being two 7.7 and two 12.7mm machine guns mounted in the wings. Bomb loads varied from 160 8.8-lb. anti-personnel bombs to one 2200-lb. weapon. The two-seat version, designated Breda 65bis, placed an observer-gunner in a rear cockpit; some examples of the 65bis had a hydraulically-operated Breda L turret containing one 12.7mm gun. In this form, a number were supplied to Iraq in 1938. Other nations which received the Breda 65 were Hungary, Paraguay, and Portugal. The type also fought with the Aviazione Legronaria in Spain, equipping the 65a Squadriglia d'Assalto of the 35° Gruppo Autonomo Bombardamento Veloce.
When Italy entered the Second World War, the Regia Aeronaulica possessed 154 Breda 65 aircraft. They were used by the 5° Stormo d'Assalto, 7° and 19° Gruppi Caccia, and 101a and 102a Squadriglie. In addition 10 their use in North Africa, the fighter-bombers were employed in the Balkan campaign, with only moderate success.
In single-seat form, the Breda 65 had a maximum speed of 267 m.p.h. and cruised at 230 m.p.h. Range was 342 miles, service ceiling 27,230 ft. Maximum and cruising speeds of the two-seal Breda 65bis were 255 m.p.h. and 227 m.p.h., range being doubled and ceiling dropping slightly to 25,290 ft. Empty weight of both versions was 5291 lb.; loaded weights ranged from 6504 lb. to 7716 lb.
Dimensions of all models were: span 39 ft. 8 in., length 31 ft. 6 in., height 10 ft. 6 in., and wing area 252.9 sq. ft.