The Breda Ba 201 was a prototype dive bomber developed for, and eventually rejected by, the Regia Aeronautica.[N 1]
The Ba.201 was a single-engine dive bomber, all-metal in construction with a retractable undercarriage. It had a long fuselage, quite slim, with a high tail. The cockpit was set as far forward as possible. The wings had a distinct polyhedral "W" shape, like the Junkers Ju-87. The dive capabilities were found to be satisfactory, and the air brakes were highly effective, perhaps too effective - with the risk of slowing the aircraft down so much it became too easy a target. It was capable of carrying a single 500 kg (1,100 lb) bomb and was armed with two 12.7 mm (.5 in) Breda-SAFAT machine guns fixed in the wings. After such engines as the 895 kW (1,200 hp) Fiat A.38, the 716 kW (960 hp) Isotta-Fraschini IF L.121, and the powerful 839 kW (1,125 hp) Isotta-Fraschini Zetra, were evaluated, the Daimler-Benz DB 601 engine was chosen, because it was compact, and allowed free dives thanks to its direct injection system.
Following the July 1939 Italian review of documents relating to the Ju 87B, the Regia Aeronautica issued a specification for a proper dive bomber. After receiving the details of the specification, Breda engineers Vittorio Mario Calderoni and Pittoni, who were well acquainted with Ju.87B, decided to rework the German design. The resulting all metal design, known as the Va 201, differed from the Junkers aircraft by having a single cockpit, located close to the engine for better visibility, Handley page style flaps, internal bomb storage and retractable undercarriage.
The prototype, serial number MM.451, first flew on 3 July 1941, completing 13.5 hours in 34 sorties without any serious incidents. The aircraft was then sent to Guidonia for official testing, which showed that it had enough agility, once freed of its bombload, to hold its own against other Italian fighters. However speed was disappointing, at only 460 km/h (290 mph) - slower than the requested for 500 km/h (310 mph) - and slightly slower than older front-line fighters. The aircraft was barely capable of defending itself against enemy fighters, and then only after releasing its bomb. It had very good forward visibility, but rear visibility was poor.
In comparison, the Junkers Ju-87D had a top speed of only 410 km/h (260 mph), but was armed with two new 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 81z machine guns, with 3,200 rpm instead of 1,050. The Junkers rear-gunner gave it a greater defensive capability, while the Ba.201 pilot relied on himself alone. The Reggiane Re.2001 fighter bomber fitted with the same DB 601 engine was able to reach almost 550 km/h (342 mph), and carry 640 kg (1,411 lb) bombs.
In April 1942 the prototype was destroyed on impact due to pilot error. Since Va.201 had not been discredited, tests continued with the participation of the second prototype (MM.452), which made its first flight on March 28, 1942. The fate of the second prototype remains unknown, but it was likely destroyed in September 1943 to avoid capture by the Germans.
- ↑ Allied intelligence believed this designation was used for examples of the Ju 87 built under licence.