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Macchi vs U.S. Fighters

By Barrett Tillman

Italy’s finest WW II fighter was a sleek, good-looking machine with the kind of aesthetics expected of an artistic people who produce world-class racecars. But the Darwinism of aerial combat paid little benefit for appearance, as the MC.202 fared poorly against its American competitors in almost every category. The P-51D and P-38L were 40 to 60mph faster at most altitudes and packed a far more lethal punch. The Macchi’s two 12.7mm machineguns simply could not match the American .50 calibers, let alone the Lightning’s 20mm cannon. The Folgore pilot’s main advantage was maneuverability—an asset negated by intelligent opponents with greater speed on the level and in the dive. Furthermore, the Mustang and Lightning possessed nearly three times the 202’s range, which permitted Allied bomber formations to arrive over Italian bases with powerful fighter escort.

Macchi and U.S. Fighter Stats

C.202 series IV-VIII
Wingspan: 34 ft., 9 in.
Length: 29 ft.
Empty weight: 5,492 lbs.
Gross weight: 6,460 lbs.
Powerplant: Alfa Romeo RA1000 RC41-I supercharged V-12 “Monsone”
Nominal Output: 1,175hp
Normal Output (HP) at 3,600mt 1040
Structural limit: 15.8 (highly questionable, in my opinion)
Max speed: 372mph
Cruise: 265mph

Payload details (kg)
Fuel: 250
Oil: 33
Pilot and parachute: 80
2 x 12, 7 mm Breda SAFAT 60
740 rounds (12, 7mm) 76
Radio: 68
Gunsight, Oxygen equipment: 13

Two Breda-Safat 12, 7 mm, 370 rpg
Practical ceiling:11.500 m
Dive speed: 761 km/h
Range: 475 miles
Lockheed P-38L
Wingspan: 52 ft.
Length: 37 ft., 10 in.
Empty weight: 12,780 lb.
Gross weight: 17,500 lb.
Powerplant: two Allison V-1710 turbocharged V-12
Nominal Output: 1,725 HP
Combat range: 1,300 miles
Structural limit (positive g): 8.1
Max Speed: 414mph
Cruise: 290mph
Four Browning M2 .50 caliber machine guns with 500 rounds per gun
One Hispano-Suiza 20mm cannon with 150 rounds
Up to 2,000 lbs of bombs
Up to 10 HVAR rockets beneath each wing.

North American P-51D
Wingspan: 37 ft.
Length: 32 ft., 3 in.
Empty weight: 7,635 lb.
Gross weight: 9,200 lb.
Powerplant: One Rolls-Royce Merlin V-1650 supercharged V-12
Nominal Output: 1,490hp
Combat range: 1,300 miles
Structural limit (positive G): 8.1
Max speed: 437mph
Cruise: 362mph
Six Browning M2 .50 caliber machineguns with 400 rounds per gun
Up to 1,000 lb. of bombs
Up to 10 HVAR rockets.
G limits for U.S. aircraft found at

Wingspan 34 ft., 9 in. 52 ft., 0 in.  37 ft.,0 in.
Length 29 ft., 0 in. 37 ft., 10 in. 32 ft., 3 in.
Empty wt 5,492 lb. 12,780 lb. 7,635 lb.
Gross wt 6,460 lb. 17,500 lb. 9,200 lb.
Engine Alfa-Romeo V12 2xAlison V12 Merlin V12
Output 1,175hp 1,725hp each 1,490hp
Combat range 475 miles 1,300 miles 1,500 miles
G limit 15.8+ G 8.1+ G 8.1 +G
Max speed 372mph 414mph 437mph
Cruise speed 265mph 290mph 210-362mph
Armament 2×12.7mm MGs 4x50cal, 1 20mm 6x.50 cal.

NOTES: I suspect the G figures are apples and oranges: Italian is the pull-the-wings off figure while the U.S. are RATED, which does not include the (50%?) safety margin.

The usually listed P-51 cruise of 362 is batguano. Unless it was a short mission, you’d run out of fuel at that rate irregardless of external tanks. I know for sure that on VLR missions from Iwo to Japan, the Mustangs loped along at 220 indicated.

Updated: July 18, 2011 — 3:25 PM
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