Author Topic: Suppressed history: the A.R.200  (Read 2088 times)

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Offline comrade harps

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Suppressed history: the A.R.200
« on: May 28, 2014, 05:43:33 am »

Alfa Romeo A.R.200 Series 1
a/c 5, Commando Botto, Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana
Personal mount of Major Adriano Visconti di Lampugnano
Piacenza-San Damiano, 24 July, 1944

In 2008, Red Army librarian Jitka Hurych was digitising and cataloguing documents at the State Military Archive when she found evidence of a suppressed first. Among material that had been seized in Berlin in 1946, Hurych found diaries, gun camera footage, pilot log books, a Italian intelligence debriefs and German intelligence reports in a non-description wooden box. Upon assessing the documents, she concluded that the first jet fighter to enter combat was not the Luftwaffe's Me 262 as history recorded.

The story of Alfa Romeo's A.R.200 goes back to 1938, when the Italian state-owned company established an aviation division and entered into a strategic partnership with Germany's Heinkel firm in order to kick-start their aviation product line. Their first plane was the A.R.100 fighter, which was a licensed produced Heinkel He 112B for the Regia Aeronautica. After ordering 80 A.R.100s, the Regia Aeronautica passed on the proposed A.R.101 (He 100D), but the locally designed A.R.102 went on to be massed produced with both in-line and radial engines until August 1944.

Through their relationship with Heinkel, Alfa Romeo became aware of the German firm's work on jets. Thus, in April 1943 as Heinkel's He 280 jet fighter was rejected in favour of Messerschmitt's Me 262, Alfa Romeo (through Mussolini) requested a licensing agreement for the He 280 and its HeS8 turbojet. Believing the He 280 to be an inferior design and the HeS8 to be obsolete, Hitler agreed. Alfa Romeo moved quickly to establish a design office, testing facilities and a jet prototyping shop. Critical to the company's philosophy with what they called the A.R.200 was a single focus on producing a day fighter powered by a workable HeS8, without the distractions of other roles or engines.

With the Italian Armistice of September 1943, the prototype flying programme went into a temporary hiatus as the German occupation forces closed down Italian military flying. Following the establishment of the Italian Social Republic puppet state and the Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana  (ANR) in late October, 1943, flying resumed. Now overlooked by German industrial advisors, Alfa Romeo took their advice and dispersed their A.R.200 production facilities whilst at the same time simplifying production. In April 1944, the Regia Aeronautica established Commando Botto, an operational test unit at Piacenza-San Damiano with a collection of three armed A.R.200 prototypes and four A.R.200 Series 1 production examples. On 20 July, 1944, Commando Botto's inventory was 15 A.R.200 Series 1s.

With Hitler's assassination on 20 July and the successful Wermacht coup in Berlin, it soon became apparent that time was running short for the Italian Social Republic and the ANR. Amid the turmoil in the days that followed the coup, Mussolini and his ministers went into hiding and armed Red Partisans took to the streets to declared liberated zones, as the Wermacht went to war with the Gestapo and the SS wherever they met. On 23 July, at the near-by town of Carpaneto Piacentino, a fire fight broke out between Reds and Italian Fascists as a Wermacht platoon looked on. Witnessing this, the commander of the ANR jet unit, Lt Col Ernesto Botto, realised that he needed to act quickly if he wanted to prove that his crews and jets were a force to be reckoned with. Ignoring the German-imposed ban on jet combat, that night he planned the next day's operations, scheduling a series of air defence patrols and armed visual reconnaissance flights.

The next morning, Major Adriano Visconti di Lampugnano was on an armed visual reconnaissance patrol in A.R.200 Series 1 a/c 5 in the Lombardy region when he spotted an aircraft above him. Climbing to intercept, he recognised the plane as a P-38 fighter or F-5 reconnaissance Lightning and set up for a bounce from above and behind. He had shot down a P-38 in  January 1944, when flying a Macchi C.205, and now quickly claimed his second Lightning kill, using the A.R.200's three 20 mm MG 151/20 cannons in a high speed slashing attack that sent the plane spinning and burning into Lake Garda.

The Major saw German vehicles approaching the Piacenza-San Damiano air base as he lined up with the runway on finals. Less than an hour later, the Germans had taken control of the airfield. Declaring that the Italian Social Republic and the ANR were no longer viable, Luftwaffe officers offered the ANR personnel the options of internment or of joining the Lutfwaffe's Italian Legion.  Most opted for the latter and by mid-August the entirety of the A.R.200 program had been destroyed by the Germans ahead of the advancing Allied armies. Lost in the crisis was Major di Lampugnano's first, as the Italians had no power to make it news (indeed, Lt Col Botto effectively had no ANR high command to report the aerial victory to) and the Germans actively suppressed the event, taking all relevant documentation with them back to Berlin in a wooden box. On 26 July, 1944, the Luftwaffe's Leutnant Alfred Schreiber, flying a Me 262 A-1a, damaged a Mosquito reconnaissance aircraft of No. 540 Squadron RAF, going down in the history books as the first pilot to engage in jet combat. The A.R.200 went down in the history books as a could-have-been also-ran that ran out of time.

Major di Lampugnano was killed in June, 1945, whilst flying a Bf 109K over Poland and Lt Col Ernesto Botto was captured by the Red Army in August and, in January 1946, died in a POW camp from pneumonia. The nondescript wooden box was confiscated from Luftwaffe archives in Berlin during June 1946 and sent to Moscow where it remained unopened until librarian Jitka Hurych found it on a top shelf in October, 2008.

« Last Edit: June 01, 2014, 04:49:17 am by comrade harps »

Offline Weaver

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Re: Suppressed history: the A.R.200
« Reply #1 on: May 28, 2014, 05:52:20 am »
Excellent - good looking build and a well thought out back story.  :thumbsup:
Neophyte: Is Eris true?
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Offline sandiego89

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Re: Suppressed history: the A.R.200
« Reply #2 on: May 28, 2014, 06:18:01 am »
Nice choice of colors.  Refreshing.   
Dave "Sandiego89"
Chesapeake, Virginia, USA

Offline NARSES2

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Re: Suppressed history: the A.R.200
« Reply #3 on: May 28, 2014, 07:47:52 am »
I like that, especially the colour scheme. I've used similar in the 3 colour splinter the Italian's used but never thought of a wavy line scheme  :thumbsup:
Decals my @r$e!

Offline Tophe

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Re: Suppressed history: the A.R.200
« Reply #4 on: May 28, 2014, 11:19:23 pm »
I love this one! :wub:
[the word "realistic" hurts my heart...]

Offline Nils

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Re: Suppressed history: the A.R.200
« Reply #5 on: May 29, 2014, 12:24:16 am »
she's a real beauty  :thumbsup:
on the bench:

-all kinds of things.

Offline zenrat

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Re: Suppressed history: the A.R.200
« Reply #6 on: May 29, 2014, 02:05:32 am »
Bravo Comrade!
11/10 for the camo.

Another ill conceived, lazily thought out, crudely executed and badly painted piece of half arsed what-if modelling muppetry from zenrat industries.

zenrat industries:  We're everywhere for your convenience..