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Italy's Piaggio P.108 heavy bomber

Photos

  • Piaggio P.108 bomber
  • Piaggio P.108 heavy bomber C-B
  • Piaggio P.108 heavy bomber C-B

Design

The P.108 was designed by Engineer Giovanni Casiraghi who worked in the United States from 1927 to 1936. Design decisions were influenced by the development of the Piaggio P.50.

The Piaggio P.108 was an all metal design. The P.108 had retractable landing gear.

Defensive Armament

There were remotely controlled barbettes in each of the outer engine nacelles that were armed with two 12.7 mm machine guns in each. They were sighted through domes on the top of the fuselage.

There were 12.7 mm machine guns mounted in a turret in the nose and a ventral retractable one.

There were two in lateral hatches.

Prototype

The P.108 prototype first flew on November 24, 1939 / 1939.

The P.108C prototype first flew on July 16, 1942.

Production

  • Piaggio P.108: 1
  • Piaggio P.108B pre-production:
  • Piaggio P.108B: 163
    • Deliveries started in late 1941.
  • Piaggio P.108C: 16, 24
    • Converted to military transport: 15
  • Piaggio P.108M: 1
  • Piaggio P.108T: 1, 9
  • Total: 24, 182
    • Production: November 1939 - August 1943

Variants

  • Piaggio P.108A (Artiglieri): Anti ship. The original prototype had a 102 mm cannon installed in the nose. Testing started in March 22, 1943. Captured by Germans and used for testing.
  • Piaggio P.108B (Bombardiere): Long range bomber.
  • Piaggio P.108C (Civile): Civilian transport. Could carry 32 passengers. Could carry 16 at night. Were later taken over by the Regia Aeronautica and modified to carry 56 soldiers.
  • Piaggio P.108M (Modificato): Carried four 20 mm cannons and four 7.7 mm machine guns in the nose.
  • Piaggio P.108T (Transporto): Transport. Converted P.108C. Loading doors and ventral hatch were installed.
  • Piaggio P.108T2: Cargo or passenger transport. Could carry 48-60 passengers. Never built.
  • Piaggio P.133: Prototype bomber with more powerful engines and could carry larger bomb load. Never built.
  • Piaggio P.133C: Was to be a 40 - 50 passenger airliner developed in 1947 but was never built.

Usage

Italy and Germany used the P.108. The Piaggio P.108 was the only four engine heavy bomber used by the Regia Aeronautica.

Initial Accidents

As pilots and crew were unaccustomed to the style of aircraft there were several accidents with the first operational squadron.

First Deployment

The 274a Squadriglia Auronoma Gombardamento a Grande Raggio (B.R.G.) received the pre-production P.108Bs.

First Use

The P.108's first mission was on June 9, 1942. It was a search and bomb naval mission near the Balearic Islands.

Gibraltar

The P.108 was used in attacking Gibraltar in early 1942 at night.

Benito Mussolini's son Bruno was killed in a P.108 while attacking Gibraltar.

Eastern Front

Some P.108s were used on the Eastern Front.

Anti-Convoy

In the Mediterranean the P.108s were used against Allied convoys.

German Use

The Germans captured around 17 P.108s when Italy surrendered. They were not used on combat missions. Some were used in the evacuation of the Crimea carrying up to 125 evacuees each.

Specifications

  Piaggio P.108
Type Bomber
Engine (Type) 4: Piaggio P.XII R.C.35
Cylinders Radial 18
HP 1,500 each
Cooling Air
Propeller blades 3 each
Dimensions  
Span 104' 11.75"
32 m
Length 73' 1.5"
22.29 m
Height 19' 8.25"
6 m
Armament  
Wings 4: 12.7 mm machine guns
Turret - Nose 1: 12.7 mm machine gun
Turret - Ventral 1: 12.7 mm machine gun
Bombs 7,720 lb
OR  
Torpedo 3: 450 mm Whitehead Flume
  Piaggio P.108B
Type Bomber, Heavy bomber
Crew 6, 7
Passengers  
Engine (Type) 4: Piaggio P.XII RC 35
Cylinders Radial 18
HP 1,350 each
Cooling Air
Dimensions  
Span 104' 11.75", 105'
Length 75' 2", 75' 2 1/3"
Height 17' 0.75", 25' 3"
Wing area 1,456.3 sq ft
Weight  
Empty 38,104 lb, 38,195 lb
17,325 kg
Loaded 64,900 lb, 65,885 lb, 65,970 lb
29,885 kg
Performance  
Speed at 12,800' 261 mph
Speed at 13,780' / 4,200 m 267 mph
430 kph
Speed - Cruising 198 mph, 199 mph
320 kph
Climb to 6,560' 10 minutes
Climb to 16,400' / 16,405' / 5,000 m 21.1 minutes, 30 minutes
Service Ceiling 26,400', 27,880', 27,890'
8,500 m
Range 1,550 - 2,187 miles, 2,190 miles, 2,484 miles
2,495 - 3,520 km
Armament 8: 12.7 mm MG
Remote controlled turrets on outboard engines 4: 12.7 mm MG
Sides 2: 12.7 mm MG
Belly 1: 12. 7 mm MG
Bombs 7,700 lb, 7,716 lb
3,500 kg
OR  
Torpedo 3: 18"
3: 45.7 cm
  Piaggio P.108C
Type Transport
Passengers Day: 32, 56
Night: 16
Dimensions  
Span 108' 4"
Length 84' 6.5"
Height 18' 8 7/8"
Wing area 1,537.1 sq ft
Weight  
Empty 37,840 lb
Loaded 70,400 lb
Performance  
Speed 273 mph
Service Ceiling 21,876'
Range 1,553 - 2,484 miles
  Piaggio P. 108 C-B
Type Long range bomber, Transport
Engine (Type) 4: Piaggio P. XII R.C. 35
HP 1,200 each
Dimensions  
Span 108' 3"
Length 81' 6"
Weight  
Loaded 59,000 lb
Performance  
Speed 290 mph
Range 2,500 miles
  Piaggio P.108T
Type Transport
Cargo 80 fuel drums
OR 6: torpedoes
OR 8: airplane engines
Weight  
Empty 35,266 lb
Loaded 68,420 lb
Performance  
Speed 273 mph
Speed - Cruising 239 mph
Climb to 6,560' 9 minutes
Climb to 16,400' 24 minutes 50 seconds
Service Ceiling 24,607'
Range 2,237 miles
Armament  
Turret - Dorsal 1: 12.7 mm machine gun
Turret - Ventral 1: 12.7 mm machine gun
Dorsal 2: 12.7 mm machine guns
  Piaggio P.133
Type Heavy bomber
Engine (Type) 4: Piaggio P.XV R.C.60/2v
Cylinders Radial 18
HP 1,650 each
Cooling Air
Dimensions  
Span 118' 1"
Length 80' 8.25"
Height 14' 5.25"
Wing area 1,721.6 sq ft
Weight  
Empty 38,500 lb
Loaded 83,600 lb
Performance  
Speed 304 mph
Speed - Cruising 248 mph
Climb to 6,560' 8 minutes 10 seconds
Service Ceiling 26,240'
Range 4,037 miles
Armament  
Turrets 6: 20 mm
4: 12.7 mm
Bombs 10,560 lb

Sources:

  1. Aircraft of WWII, Stewart Wilson, 1998
  2. World War II Airplanes Volume 1, Enzo Angelucci, Paolo Matricardi, 1976
  3. Aeronautics Aircraft Spotters' Handbook, Ensign L. C. Guthman, 1943
  4. Italian Civil and Military Aircraft 1930-1945, Jonathan Thompson, 1963
20th Century American Military History Crucial Site