Based on an Eng. Fabrizi’s original study, the F.5 project was completed by the Eng. Riparbelli, after Fabrizi’s death in a flight accident. Riparbelli, employed at the Caproni-Vizzola plant in Vizzola Ticino, ( a small town near Varese, northern Italy), was then supported by Eng. Baldassari.
The Caproni-Vizzola F.5 was conceived to comply with the requirements of the Regia Aeronautica “II° Concorso Caccia Intercettore Terrestre” (2nd Open Competition for a Land-based Fighter/Interceptor), based on a single-engined, monoplane aircraft. The aircraft construction was a mixed one: the fuselage had a framework structure, made by soldered tubes, covered with duraluminium panels, while the wings had two wooden spars and were covered with fabric-coated, painted, plywood panels. The landing gear was retractable, with the main legs rotating inward; the cockpit had a rearward-sliding plexiglas canopy.
The aircraft was powered by a Fiat A.74 RC.38 engine, developing 840 HP and driving a 3m diameter Fiat/Hamilton propeller with in-flight variable pitch; the armament consisted of two 12,7mm. machine-guns (350 rounds each), mounted on both fuselage sides, at the wing roots.
The first prototype (Contract No. 3491; Military ser.No. MM.392) was completed at the end of 1938 and made its first flight, at Vizzola Ticino, on 19 February 1939, in the hands of Caproni test pilot Giuseppe Pancera; the official test flight took place on 15 July 1940.
Since from the inception, the F.5 did not show the shortcomings that affected its competitors (Fiat G.50 and Macchi C.200); on the contrary, it showed a number of advantages like, for example, a better climb speed. More, the mixed aircraft structure and its ease of construction made the F.5 a cheap aircraft (one ship, complete of equipments, with propeller but without engine, cost, in 1940, 295.000 Lire, while a Macchi C.200 in the same condition cost 380.000 Lire).
Unfortunately, the delay of the test flights proved to be fatal for the F.5 because, in the meantime, the Regia Aeronautica had already ordered a considerable number of Fiat CR.42s, Fiat G.50s and Macchi C.200s.
The second prototype (MM.413) was obtained by transformation of a Caproni-Vizzola F.4, substituting its Isotta- Fraschini L.121 engine with a Fiat A.74; it made the first test flight on 8 January 1940. This aircraft sported many detail modifications, like a larger and modified tailfin and the presence of a propeller spinner; it also had a rearward-sliding canopy, covering the whole cockpit.
Consequently, only one order was placed (Contract No. 4424), for an amount of 3.245.000 Lire, regarding twelve ships belonging to the “1a Serie” (1st Series) and the relevant equipments to build 200 aircraft; the twelve “1a Serie” F.5s were given the “Matricole Militari” (Military ser. Nos.) from MM.5921 to MM.5932. The aircraft belonging to this construction batch reverted to the open cockpit and had a fixed tailwheel.
The ship MM.5932 was retained by the manufacturer to be converted in the only DB601A-engined F.4 (manufacturer designation F.5bis), that made the first flight in July 1940 in the hands of Francesco Agello.
As regards the operational life, the aircraft initially were taken on charge by the Roma-Ciampino-based “300a Squadriglia” (300th Flight). After a brief stay in Albania - during the war against Greece - the Unit came back to Ciampino, where it was tasked to defend Rome together with other Units equipped with Fiat G.50s and Macchi C.200s. On 10 May 1942 the Unit was incorporated in the “167° Gruppo Intercettori” (167th Interceptor Squadron), brought up to strength with a number of Fiat CR.42 and tasked with night-fighter duties; on note, this miscellaneous Unit included also the “303a Squadriglia”, equipped with Reggiane Re.2001s and Dewoitine D.520s.
The F.5 left a good recollection to its pilots, so it was considered better than the Macchi C.200. On 9 July 1943, ten F.5s resulted still on charge to the Regia Aeronautica (but only five had the “flyable” status); the first prototype was still on charge on 17 June 1943, while the second prototype was declared out of use on 25 February 1941.
Referring to the photos enclosed in this article, the first one, taken at Caproni’s facility in Vizzola Ticino, shows the second prototype in its final configuration; the second photo shows the cockpit access hatch and the third one shows the production instrument panel; the last photo depicts a “300a Squadriglia” F.5, during a night alarm at Roma-Ciampino.
· “Notiziario di Plasimodellismo-CMPR” 2/91
· “I.A.R.B.” – Abstract from issue 6/1975
· “Dimensione Cielo” series, Vol.1
· Curami & Gambarini: “Catalogo delle Matricole Militari della Regia Aeronautica 1923-1943
· Arena: “La Regia Aeronautica 1939-1940”, Vol.1