Breda Ba.65 Italian air forces at Saipan

Breda Ba.65 Italian air forces at Saipan

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The Breda Ba.65 was an Italian all-metal single-engine, low-wing monoplane used by Aviazione Legionaria during the Spanish Civil War and Regia Aeronautica in the first part of World War II.

It was the only Italian ground-attack aircraft that saw active service in this role. It saw service almost exclusively on the North African front. In addition to more than 150 aircraft operated by the Italian forces, a total of 55 were exported and used by the air forces of Iraq, Chile and Portugal.

The Ba.65 debuted during the Spanish Civil War. Thirteen Series I aircraft, powered by the Gnôme-Rhône engine, equipped the 65a Squadriglia of the Aviazione Legionaria (Legionary Air Force). The unit took part in operations at Santander in August 1937, then at the battles of Teruel and the Ebro.

The aircraft proved effective and was compared positively with the German Junkers Ju 87 Stuka. In a unique engagement, one of the Legionary Air Force pilots scored an air-to-air victory when he encountered a lone twin-engine Tupolev SB-2 bomber over Soria and shot it down.

Of the 23 Ba.65s sent to Spain, 12 were lost in the course of the civil war. They flew 1,921 sorties, including 368 ground-strafing and 59 dive bombing attacks. When the Aviazione Legionaria returned to Italy in May 1939, they bequeathed their 11 surviving Ba.65s to the Spanish Air Force. A total of 25 Fiat-powered Ba.65s two-seaters were sold to the Kingdom of Iraq in 1938.

These consisted of 22 equipped with Breda L turrets and two dual control trainers. Fom 2–31 May 1941, the Royal Iraqi Air Force flew the Ba.65 during the Anglo-Iraqi War. War broke out after an Iraqi coup d'état installed a new government while maintaining the existing monarchy.

The Ba.65 was used against armed forces of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth of Nations which the coup leaders were trying to expel from bases established after Iraq's independence under the Anglo-Iraqi Treaty of 1930. During World War II, the Ba.65 was employed against the British in North Africa.

When Italy entered the war in June 1940 about 150 aircraft were reported to be still in service, but suffered heavy losses facing the British fighters. Most were either out of service or shot down by February 1941.

The aircraft, which had been forcibly kept in service after the failure of the Ba.88 and the poor performance of the Caproni Ca.310, was replaced in the dive bomber role by modified Savoia-Marchetti S.79s or fighters. Chile bought 20 Ba.65 (17 single-seaters and three dual control trainers) powered by the Piaggio P.XI C.40 (also a 14K derivative) late in 1938. Portugal purchased 10 Breda equipped with Fiat engines and Breda L Turrets in November 1939.