Italian Air Force

The Italian Army created an Aeronautical Section for balloon operations in 1884 and purchased its first aircraft in 1910. The following year, Italy became the first country in the world to use aircraft to perform military operations, when it carried out aerial reconnaissance and bombed soldiers during the Italo-Turkish War (1911-12).

On the outbreak of the First World War the Italian Army had very few aircraft. Most of these were fairly old French aircraft such as the Farman MF-II and Morane-Saulnier. The situation improved in 1915 with the formation of the Corpo Aeronautico Militare (CAM) and by March of that year it had 58 aircraft and 91 pilots.

Although CAM relied heavily on French fighter aircraft, the Italians did produce the impressive Caproni CA heavy bomber. In March 1916 the CAM had 7 bomber squadrons, 10 reconnaissance squadrons and five fighter units equipped with Nieuport II.

By 1916 the Corpo Aeronautico Militare began to have considerable success against the Austro-Hungarian Air Service. CAM's leading war ace was Francesco Baracca with 34 combat victories. Other successful pilots were Silvio Scaroni (26), Pier Piccio (25), Flavio Baracchini (21) and Fulco di Calabria (20).

The Italian aviation industry had turned out 1,255 planes and 2,300 engines in 1917. They now had 13 bomber and 22 reconnaissance squadrons. The following year they managed to produce 3,861 planes and 6,726 engines. In July 1917, the Italians carried out a 30-aircraft raid against Pergine airfield.

At the Piave battle June, 1918, CAM fielded 221 fighters, 56 bombers and 276 other frontline aircraft. With the support of the Royal Air Force, CAM shot down 107 enemy aircraft and 7 balloons in 10 days, emphasizing its superiority over the Austro-Hungarian Air Service.

In 1918 CAM began using the Italian built Pomilio PE. Over 100 of these took part in the battle of Vittorio Veneto and played an important role in the victory over the Austro-Hungarian Army and helped to bring the war to an end the following month.

Primary Sources