Piaggio P.108 Heavy Bomber
The Piaggio P.108 B was the only heavy four-engine bomber to see service with the Regia Aeronautica during World War Two. Too few were built to play a significant role in the war, only 24 P.108 Bs having been built. The P.108 B was an all-metal cantilever low-wing monoplane with an retractable under-carriage, driven by four 1,350 hp Piaggio P.XII radial engines. The first prototype was finished in 10/39 and had a very advanced defensive armament for its day of two 7.7 mm machine waist guns, a 12.7 mm machine gun in the lower turret and a similar weapon in the nose turret, and two remotely-controlled twin gun turrets in outer engine nacelles. The first Allied bomber with a similar armament was the Boeing B 29, developed four years later. The bomb load of the Piaggio comprised of 7,700 lbs, all carried internally in the bomb bay.
The first prototype was ready at the end of 1939, finishing the flight tests in September 1940. At the beginning of June 1941, the 274 Squadron of Bombardment of Great Reach, under the command of Cap. Bruno Mussolini, son of the Duce. On August 7, on a training flight, a problem on the landing ended with the life of Bruno Musolini.
The only unit of the Regia Aeronautica ever to fly the P.108 B was the 274th Long-Range Bombardment Group. This unit was formed in 5/41 around the first machines that came off the assembly lines. The training of the crews lasted far longer than anticipated and in 6/42 the 274th became operational. The most spectacular raids with the P. 108 B were flown in 10/42 when several night attacks against Gibraltar were undertaken from Sardinia. Several versions were derived from the P. 108 B: such as the P.108A, which had a 102 mm anti-shipping gun in the nose; the P.108C airliner and the P.108T transport. The latter two versions had a larger diameter fuselage for transporting passengers or freight. They were hardly used by the Regia Aeronautica, the main user being the German Luftwaffe. In 9/43, after the Italian armistice, the Luftwaffe had captured all fifteen P.108 Cs and P.108 Ts built. They were used at the Russian front, as part of Luftflotte 2, where they performed sterling duties, among others during the evacuation of the Crimea in 1944.
|Model||Piaggio P 108|
|Horsepower||1350 x 4|
|Engine||Piaggio P.IIX RC 35|
|Max Speed||420 km/hr at 3,900 m|
|Max Elevation||8,050 m|
|Max Weight||29,885 Kg|
|Armament||6 x 12,7 mm + 1 x 12,7 mm + 2 x 7.7 mm|