Sunday, July 12, 2015

Piaggio P.108

P.108A Artiglieri anti-shipping aircraft

The only four-engine heavy bomber to see operation with Italian forces during World War 11, the Piaggio P.108 was an interesting design. Long established in Italy as engineers and shipbuilders, Piaggio had entered aviation during World War I, producing some aircraft and components under subcontract. Developed from an earlier P .50-11 design for a four-engine bomber, the P.108 was a cantilever low-wing monoplane of all metal construction, with retractable tailwheel landing gear and power provided by four Piaggio P.XIIRC.35 radial engines, two on each wing, in nacelles at the wing leading edges. Four versions were planned, but only the P.108 Bombardiere, which was first flown in prototype form during 1939, was built in any quantity. The variants, built only as prototypes or in small numbers, comprised first the single P.108A Artiglieri anti-shipping aircraft which, converted from the P.108 prototype, had its standard armament supplemented by the installation of a 102-mm cannon. Captured by German forces at the time of the Allied-Italian armistice, it was impressed for service with the Luftwaffe. The P.108C Civile was a civil transport version with increased wing span and a redesigned fuselage to accommodate 32 passengers. A total of 16 was built, including one prototype, but these were modified for use as military transports accommodating 56 troops, and about 24 P.108Bs were also converted to this configuration. One P.108T (Trasporto) military transport prototype was built as a conversion from a P.108C, from which it differed primarily by incorporating side loading doors and a ventral hatch. Proposed variants included the P.108M (Modificato), a development of the P.108B with the single machine-gun in the nose turret replaced by four guns and a 20-mm cannon; and the P.133, an advanced version of the P.108B with uprated engines and an increased bombload.

The P.108B was first deployed in night attacks on Gibraltar during early 1942, and the type saw service subsequently in the Mediterranean, North African and Russian theatres of operation. A total of 163 was built, but heavy losses meant that less than five per cent survived to serve with the Republican Socialist air force after the armistice with the Allies.

Production totals of the P108C and T are unclear, but combined there were approximately 16 built, with most of the P108Cs subsequently converted to the transport version.
    Prototype : MM 22001
    Series 1 : MM 22002—22008, MM 22601—22604
    Series 2 : MM 24315—24326
    Series 3 : MM 24667—24678
P.108 Prototype
P.108A Artiglieri
    Anti-shipping version. One built.
P.108B Bombardiere
    Heavy bomber version. 24 built.
P.108C Civile
    Civil transport version. Uncertain number built, but probably six.
P.108M Modificato
    Intended modification of P.108B with heavier armament. None built
P.108T Trasporto
    Transport version. More than 12 (including converted P.108Cs).
    Advanced version of the P.108B with better engines and increased bombload. Not completed.

Specifications (Piaggio P.108B)
General characteristics
    Crew: 6 or 7
    Length: 22.30 m (73 ft 2 in)
    Wingspan: 32.00 m (105 ft)
    Height: 6.00 m (20 ft)
    Wing area: 135.0 m² (1,453 ft²)
    Empty weight: 17,325 kg (38,195 lb)
    Max takeoff weight: 29,885 kg (65,885 lb)
    Powerplant: 4× Piaggio P.XII RC.35 radial engine, 1,120 kW (1,500 hp) each
    Maximum speed: 430 km/h (267 mph)
    Range: 3,520 km (2,187 mi)
    Service ceiling: 8,500 m (27,187 ft)
    5 × 12.7 mm (.5 in) Breda-SAFAT machine guns
    2 × 7.7 mm (.303 in) Breda-SAFAT machine guns
    3,500 kg (7,700 lb) of bombs

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