In 1942, the Italian
Aeronautica accepted three
prototype fighter aircraft entries, all to be powered by the Daimler-Benz DB
605 liquid-cooled, inverted V-12 inline engine, and its license-built
Italian twin, the Alfa Romeo RA 1050
Tifone (Typhoon). This new generation of fighters was known as the
“Series 5”, denoting the DB 605 engine.
The entries were the Reggiane
Re 2005 “Sagittario” (Archer),
the Macchi MC. 205 “Veltro”
(Greyhound; basically a development of the MC. 202 “Folgore”),
and the Fiat G.55 “Centauro”
(Centaur). The chief designers of these aircraft were Roberto Longhi, Mario
Castoldi and Giuseppe Gabrielli, respectively. All three aircraft were
designed to be armed with a combination of
SAFAT 12.7mm machine guns and the Mauser MG 151 20mm cannon.
The Regia Aeronautica tested
all three prototypes, and while each aircraft had its merits (and
weaknesses), no clear winner was announced, so all three were ordered into
production, though the G.55 was considered the “primary aircraft”.
limited industrial capabilities (coupled with supply problems of the DB 605
engines), none of these three aircraft reached what could be considered
large-scale production. In fact, the total production of all three fighters
was just over 400 units (48 of the Reggiane, 262 of the Macchi, and 107 of
the Fiat) having been built during wartime.
G.55 prototype (MM491) first flew on
April 30, 1942,
with Valentino Cus at the controls. Of the three Series 5 fighters, the Fiat
certainly had the most robust construction and showed excellent overall
performance in terms of speed and maneuverability (all three aircraft were
very close in all performance regimes). Top speed was listed at 389 mph.
This was Fiat’s first monoplane
fighter designed around an inline engine (although the previous Fiat
fighter, the G.50 was radial-engined, at least one experimental G.50 was
modified and fitted with the DB 601). The G.55 had many design similarities
to the Macchi, although the entire airframe was slightly larger, chunkier
and less graceful. Despite this, the Fiat is, in my opinion, a very sharp
and good-looking design.
Luftwaffe also showed great
interest in the G.55, as its performance was reported to be on par with (or
in certain cases slightly superior to) the current crop of Messerschmitt and
Focke-Wulf fighters then in service.
Twelve pre-production G.55s
(serials MM91053 to MM91064) were given the designation “Sottoserie
0” (pre-production, series 0). These aircraft were fitted with four of the
SAFAT 12.7mm machine guns in the nose (two above the engine, and two below),
with the 20mm cannon firing through the propeller hub. The later (Series 1)
setup was two machine guns above the engine, two wing-mounted 20mm, and the
propeller-mounted cannon. In either configuration, the G.55 was well-armed,
with a five-gun punch.
The first G.55s flew briefly with the Regia
Aeronautica before the Armistice, and enjoyed limited success in combat,
particularly against the P-38 Lightning. Once the Armistice was signed (and
divided), the G.55s were seized by the Germans. These aircraft subsequently
served with the Luftwaffe and the newly-formed
Republicana, which would fight
alongside the Germans until the end of
involvement in the war in late-1944, but not before the
Wehrmacht seized control of the
Fiat factory in
which delayed production for a brief period.
The G.55 was also developed
into a torpedo bomber, known as the G.55S “Silurante”.
Another development was the G.56, which was powered by an even more potent
DB 603 engine in the 1,750 hp range. With a top speed of over 426 mph, and
performance on par with the Bf 109K and Fw 190, the Germans did not allow
this variant to go into production.
After the end of World War II,
production once again resumed, and G.55A and B models served with the
Italian, Argentinean, Egyptian and Syrian air forces. A G.59 variant was
also produced, powered by the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine.
Fiat G.55 was probably the best Italian fighter of World War II, but due to
limited production and other factors, did not have a significant impact on
the outcome of the war.
Over the years, the Fiat G.55 has been kitted in a few scales, with mixed
results. The first plastic model of the G.55 was a 1/50th scale
kit by the Italian manufacturer Aliplast. Done in the mid-60s, this kit is
pretty crude, and does not properly represent the plane. Aliplastmade
several other Italian fighters in 1/50th,
including the CR. 42, MC.202, and
the MC.72 racing seaplane. These are the same molds that were later sold as
the late-60s, two 1/72 offerings were produced; one by FROG (which was
reasonably accurate), and one by another Italian manufacturer, Aliplast
(which was slightly better than the FROG kit). Aliplast later became
Italaeri, which yet again shortened its name to Italeri. The Aliplast 1/72
G.55 kit was again offered as the “Silurante” torpedo version boxed under
the name Supermodel. The most recent 1/72 G.55 kit is also by Special Hobby,
and you can see Scott Van Aken’s review if you check the archives.
Classic Airframes did a 1/48 G.55 kit about
fifteen years back. Without having ever built the kit, I understand that it
has some serious shape issues, particularly the nose profile. The most
recent G.55 kit is in 1/32 scale by Pacific Coast Hobbies. You can see Tom
Cleaver’s review in the Archives.
In 2007, MPM’s owner Jiri Silhanek, along
with one of his employees, was in
for the IPMS Nationals in
Jiri and his assistant also spent a day with Tom Cleaver at the Planes of
photographing and measuring most of the aircraft in the museum’s inventory.
That day at
I had the opportunity to meet Jiri, and spoke with him regarding future kit
projects. Mr. Silhanek is a very interesting and personable man, and because
of his passion for airplanes, makes kits of many rare or lesser-known types
that other kit companies won’t touch. MPM’s impressive and diverse catalog
through the years confirms this.
At The IPMS Nats, Jiri had a
booth selling his MPM, Special Hobby and Flying Machines product lines. I
purchased the new Flying Machines 1/48 G.55S (sister-kit to the G.55/0, with
an extra lower wing, resin and parts for the twin-radiator torpedo version),
Special Hobby 1/48 F2G Racing Corsair, and the Special Hobby 1/72 Vultee
V-1, all at a great discount (thank you again, Jiri). A month or so later I
saw the Special Hobby G.55”Sottoserie 0” on ebay, so I purchased it, also at
a reasonable price.
first glance, the kit is beautiful, with crisp detailing and mold quality.
Shapes and thicknesses are good, and this is clearly the best G.55 kit in
1/48 scale to date. Kit comes with two fuselage sets, as the fin and rudder
are different from the Series 1 aircraft, but all the major sprues are from
the Series 1/ Silurante kit. The Series “0” kit uses the two fuselage halves
on sprue “E”. It should be noted that all the illustrations in this kit are
with the Series 1 fin and rudder, but this is not a big deal. There is also
the lower cowling piece (from the Series 1 kit), that has no guns. These are
the only three pieces not for use in the Series 0, and they are clearly
shown as such in the instruction sheet.
is plenty of PE detail such as interior bits and radiator screens, and also
clear film for the instrument panel. Canopy is very clear. Decals by
CARTOGRAPH provide markings for an early Regia Aeronautica machine of the
353 Squadriglia, and ANR machines of the 13 Squadriglia “Montefusco” and 1
Squadriglia “Gigi Tre Osei”. The latter aircraft has the experimental
three-tone splinter camouflage on the upper surfaces (hence the German
influence in the ANR) and the painting guide is beautiful, in full-color
printed on glossy paper. Although the assembly illustrations are a bit
vague, the kit looks to be a quality item overall. Let’s cut the bags open
and put it together…
The cockpit is the first order of business. After assembling the
basic floor, seat, bulkheads and side panels, these were set aside to dry. I
assembled the wings next, and then after they had dried, I painted the
interior and the wheel wells in Model Master FS 34227 Pale Green. This is
the same color I used for past assembly of a Hasegawa Macchi 202 interior,
and is probably the closest color of reference for Italian aircraft
chromate. Because good documentation does not exist for Italian aircraft, I
will assume this color to be correct, as did the kit manufacturers.
Once the interior paint was
dry, I added as much of the photo-etch cockpit details as I deemed necessary
(though knowing up front the model would be built with closed canopy, did
not use every tiny piece). Some of the nice PE stuff includes seat belts and
belt retention chains, rear seat panel, instrument panel (with clear film
gauge set), rudder control cables and adjustment knobs/wheels. In my 40
years of modeling, this is the first kit I have ever built with PE, and
while the details are indeed beautiful, they are tedious and time-consuming
to install. It was at this time that I realized a slight vagueness to the
instruction drawings. The drawings are very clear, but not quite as precise
on exact location of the smaller details as a Hasegawa or Tamiya kit, for
comparison. The seat was painted aluminum, the seat belts khaki, and the
head rest in a red-brown mixture.
the cockpit was completed, the tail wheel fork was installed and the
fuselage halves joined. Overall fit is pretty good to this point (there are
no alignment pins in this kit, so a little extra care is required), with the
cockpit assembly fitting squarely within the assembled fuselage. The nose
cowling assembly with exhaust stacks was completed next, and assembled to
the forward fuselage. While the fit of the nose cowling to the fuselage is
good, the overall cross-section of the cowling is slightly larger than that
of the fuselage itself, so some major sanding will be required.
I then fitted the wing assembly to the
fuselage, and this had some slight gaps in the wing root-to-fuselage area,
as well as the inboard leading edge of the wing to the lower cowl
intersection. This will require some sanding and filler, but is not a big
The horizontal stabilizers were next, and
here is where I ran into the only “flaw” (albeit minor) in this kit. When
dry fitted to the fuselage, the inboard edge of the elevators (where they
contact the fuselage), are a bit too narrow compared to the stabilizers
themselves. This results in a
slightly swept hinge-line
when the stabilizers are in place. On the actual aircraft, the hinge (or
pivot) line is supposed to be straight. But the fix is easy and simple.
Using some Plastruct sheet (either 1/32” or 1/16”, I don’t remember), add a
small tab of plastic sheet to the inboard edges of each elevator only (at
the root). Once dry, sand the add-on tabs to the correct airfoil shape of
the elevators, then cement to the fuselage using CA glue. You will now have
a slight gap at the stab-to-fuselage junction, but this can be sanded and
filled once dried. The elevator pivot line is now straight and square.
After allowing ample drying time, sand all
the seams paying close attention to the cowling/ fuselage joint, wing
leading edge to lower cowling joint, and the gaps at the corrected
horizontal stabilizers. The latter two are the key areas where filler is
needed. Be careful not to lose too much detail at the cowling and forward
fuselage joint, as this is where the most aggressive sanding is
With sanding and filling now completed, I then wet-sanded the model up to
about 1600-grit (whatever the orange/brown Flexi-Grit is).
Once sanding was completed, I then
installed the “fiddly bits” that would have broken off during sanding. These
included the oil cooler scoop with PE screens (pay attention to correct
directional installation here), inboard main gear doors (I put them on
before painting whenever possible for strength and neatness), radiator with
PE screens (a good fit below the wing here) with rear door in opened
position, air intake snorkel on left side of engine, tail wheel doors, and
various other “bumps, bulges and scoops” that go on the forward fuselage. I
then re-scribed panel lines where necessary. With cockpit and wheel wells
plugged with tissue paper, the assembled airframe is ready for the paint
As previously stated, the kit has markings
for three aircraft. The first is an early Regia Aeronautica machine in dark
green topsides over grey undersides. The next is an ANR machine (briefly
used by the Luftwaffe, then returned to ANR service), with the same scheme.
The last choice is by far the most interesting. It is MM91064 (the last
“Series 0” of the batch of twelve), an ANR machine of the 1st
Squadriglia “Gigi Tre Osei”, 2nd Gruppo, and carries an
experimental cammo scheme of sand, medium green and brown in an angular
“splinter” pattern on the topsides with the bottom in light gray. This
experimental scheme is almost certainly from the Luftwaffe’s influence and
collaboration with the ANR, and was used sporadically on a few G. 55s. The
attractive, colorful, and challenging scheme became my choice, and has not
yet been done on a G.55 by anyone else on a Modeling Madness kit review!
I started by painting the underside in
Model Master 2113 “Italian Blue Gray” (grigio
chiarro 1). After the underside
color was dry, I masked off the undersides at the sharp demarcation line to
the upper surface colors. The next step was to paint the tan color (giallo
mimetico 3) on the upper surface.
Instead of Model Master’s “Italian Sand”, which looks a bit too pink, I used
Model Master 2088 “RLM 79 Sandgelb”, and sprayed the entire upper surface.
Because this is a semi-gloss color when dried, I allowed more time for the
paint to cure, perhaps two days or so. Once the Sandgelb was thoroughly dry,
it was time to mask the upper surface splinter scheme.
I made photocopies of the painting guide,
enlarging the plan drawings by 219%. This gave me an almost exact size
duplication in 1/48 scale. After the full size copies were made, I cut out
the tan parts of the paint scheme from the copies for the wings and
fuselage, and traced each one to 3M Scotch low-tack painter’s tape (the blue
stuff), then cut the tape to the correct shapes and applied them to the
upper surface. This took some time and patience to get right
mimetico 1) was applied. The
painting guide recommended FS 34258, but this appeared a bit too bright. The
best match I found (to my eyes, anyway) is Model Master 1793 “SAC Bomber
Green” FS 34159. I then sprayed the green over the masked upper surface and
allowed to dry. Once the green had dried, it was time to mask over where the
green meets the brown. With the tan isolated from the green, it was now time
to isolate the green from the brown, and the same masking technique was
used, but while still leaving the tan covered. The third color (marrone
mimetico 1) is well-represented
by Model Master 2111 “Italian Dark Brown” with just a touch of light grey to
lighten it slightly. Once the brown was sprayed and dried thoroughly, I then
removed all of the masking tape from the airframe. The result was pretty
close to the painting guide, with hard demarcation throughout, and I was
surprised how just a little extra care and effort in masking resulted in
minimal required touch-up after the fact. I gently rubbed the surface to
eliminate any masking “ridge” between colors. I then applied a light coat of
Testors Glosscote to the entire airframe and allowed it to dry.
The Cartograph decals are well-printed, and
went on with no drama. The markings for this plane are fairly simple: ANR
square fasces on the upper and
lower wings, the Italian national flag on fuselage and fin positions, the
Gigi Tre Osei squadron insignia on both sides of the upper cowl, blue 11 on
fuselage sides and main gear doors, the build plate on the fuselage sides
just ahead of the horizontal stabs, and three propeller logos, one on each
blade. Note that on all ANR aircraft, the Italian flag should always have
the green field facing forward, and on the wing insignia, the outboard
fasces blade faces forward (or “up” in plan view). With all the decals dried
and the setting solution washed off, two light coats of Testors Dullcote
were then applied, for a uniform finish overall.
Prop spinner is tan, blades black with
yellow tips, gear doors grey outside with the green “Italian chromate” color
inside, gear legs and wheel hubs aluminum with black tires, gear actuating
rods steel gray with chrome oleo pistons, pitot tube is tan with silver tip,
and radio antenna mast dark brown. The gear and gear doors fit well with no
canopy was then masked and sprayed first with the interior green color, and
then in the brown. On this aircraft, the windshield framing is tan as per
the color demarcation, so the canopy section was masked from the windshield
section and this was the last color sprayed. The one-piece canopy is a good
fit with minimal gap and was white-glued to the airframe. The model is now
really happy with this build in so many ways. First of all, I have always
been a fan of Italian WWII fighters. This probably rubbed off from my
father, Jonathan Thompson, who authored “Italian Civil and Military Aircraft
1930-1945” by Aero Publishers way back in 1963. At the time it was really
the only authoritative book on Italian planes in existence, and I learned a
lot about them from him and his book. Secondly, I appreciate Jiri Silhanek
for doing this kit. It is by far the best 1/48 example of what was a
significant airplane. The kit has no real problems to speak of; just a
little sanding and fitting in the areas mentioned. His kits are just getting
better and better all the time, and even the most detail-oriented builders
will have all they need. With the complex paint scheme working out as
planned, that was the icing on the cake. I would definitely recommend this
kit to anyone who is a fan of Italian WWII aircraft, or WWII aircraft in
general. Very gratifying build, and looks good next to Macchis, Reggianes,
Ki-61s, Bf 109s and Heinkel 100s or any other DB-powered fighters!
“Italian Civil and Military Aircraft 1930-1945”
by Jonathan Thompson, Aero Publishers,
Various G.55 references on the
internet, including Wings Palette.