Source: Flying Review International Oct. 1967

On March 11, 1943, the Ministero dell' Aeronautica had supplemented earlier orders totalling 400 machines with an order for a further 300 Ariete IIs, although at the time of the Armistice only 147 machines (99 Serie I' and 48 Serie II') had been delivered to the Regia Aeronautica and these against the initial order for 200 aircraft. The remaining 53 aircraft on this order were nearing completion on the assembly line at Reggio Emilia, and the German authorities immediately ordered "Reggiane" to complete these, together with a further 30 aircraft of which construction had started against the third order (the second awarded the Reggio Emilia plant). Furthermore, the factory was instructed to commence immediate preparations for the production of an initial quantity of 300 examples of a new version of the Ariete II mounting a BMW 801 engine and reverting to the original fivespar wing with integral fuel tankage of the Re.2000.

The factory personnel protested that they were unable to produce such wings as they possessed no suitable sealing materials, but the Germans overruled these objections, saying that the necessary materials would be obtained from Sweden. Design of a suitable mounting to adapt the BMW 801 for installation in the Ariete II was completed rapidly, and a prototype mount was constructed in the experimental shop and transported to Germany where presumably a trial installation was to have been made in an Ariete II airframe. However, Allied attacks on Reggio Emilia put paid to all plans to manufacture the BMW 801-powered Ariete II, and also seriously affected completion of the aircraft already on the assembly line. In fact, only two were handed over to the Luftwaffe in November followed by a further six in December, and an Allied attack on the night of January 7-8, 1944 terminated production once and for all. What machinery and tooling could be salvaged from the Reggio Emilia plant was then transferred to Caproni's Taliedo factory and to another facility at Biella where tooling had already begun for 70 of the Ariete lls of the 300 that had been ordered by the Italian Ministero in March 1943. In the event, only two aircraft were completed at Biella, and of 60 built at Taliedo during 1944, only 25 reached the Luftwaffe.

The Ariete II attack fighters taken over by the Luftwaffe at the time of the Italian Armistice and those delivered subsequently were delivered to hastily-formed Schlachtgruppen in France for operations against the increasingly troublesome French resistance forces, particularly in the areas of Aisne, Vercors and Limoges, some operating from the airfield at Etampes-Mondesir.

Reggiane Re 2002 Ariete II

Captions to Reggiane Re 2002 Ariete Colour Illustrations

After the Italian Armistice the Luftwaffe seized a number of Re 2002s for use by the Schlachtgeschwader, and instructed the Reggiane plant to complete 53 aircraft then under construction, 25 of these actually reaching the Luftwaffe. The Luftwaffe's Re 2002s were flown in both standard and non-standard finish as illustrated above. From top to bottom these show: (1) An Re 2002 seized from the Regia Aeronautica and retaining original overall olive green upper surfaces and grey under surfaces. The non-standard fuselage crosses, individual aircraft number and radio call-sign letters (OV-BI) are noteworthy; (2) A newlycompleted Re 2002 at Taliedo in 1944. Note retention of overall grey finish apart from olive-green rudder; (3) A former Regia Aeronautica Re 2002 seized by the Luftwaffe and flown with nonstandard insignia. Crosses were superimposed on white fuselage band and on white rectangles on the upper wing surfaces, but those on the under surfaces of the wings were not outlined; (4) An Re 2002 (Wk-Nr 5240) completed at Taliedo in standard Luftwaffe finish with two-tone green upper surfaces and pale blue under surfaces.