The development of the Ca.1 to the Ca.2 suggested the benefits of increasing amounts of power to the very sound airframe. The Ca.3 was a development of Ca.2, by replacing the two engines mounted on the booms with the same Isotta-Fraschini engine that had been used as the central, pusher engine on that design.
The prototype flew in late 1916 and was soon put into production. Known to Caproni at the time as the Caproni 450 hp, the Italian Army designated it the Ca.3. In Caproni's post-war redesignation, it became the Ca.33. Somewhere between 250 and 300 of these aircraft were built, supplying the Italian Army and Navy (the latter using the type as a torpedo bomber), and the French Army. Late in the war, Robert Esnault-Pelterie built the type under licence in France, building an additional 83 (some sources say only 19) aircraft.
Note: there is some variation in published sources over early Caproni designations. The confusion stems, in part, from three separate schemes used to designate these aircraft - Caproni's in-house designations of the time, those used by the Italian Army, and designations created after the war by Caproni to refer to past designs.
The Ca.3 was a three-engined biplane of wooden construction, with a fabric-covered frame. The of four was plaved in an open central nacelle (front gunner, two pilots and rear gunner-mechanic). The rear gunner manned upper machine guns, standing upon the central engine in a protective "cage", just in front of a propeller. Tricycle landing gear.
Armament consisted of two to four Revelli 6.5 mm or 7.7 mm machine guns, one in front ring mounting and one, two or sometimes even three in an upper ring mounting. Bombs were suspended under the hull.
The Ca.1 entered service with the Italian Army in the middle of 1915 and first saw action on 20 August 1915, attacking the Austrian air base at Aisovizza. 15 bomber squadrons (1-15 Squadriglia) were eventually equipped with Ca.1, Ca.2, and Ca.3 bombers, mostly bombing targets in Austro-Hungary. The 12th squadron operated in Libya. In 1918, three squadrons (3, 14 and 15) operated in France.
Apart from the Italian Army, Caproni Ca.3s were also used in British squadrons, before the introduction of the Handley Page Type O bombers. Original and licence-built ones were used by France (original Caproni were used in French CAP escadres, licence-built examples in CEP escadres). They were also used by the American Expeditionary Force.
Some of the Ca.36Ms supplied after the war were still in service long enough to see action in Benito Mussolini's first assaults on North Africa.
This plane entered the memoires by a tragic event. On 4 May 1919, French general Dr. Milan Rastislav Stefanik, minister of war in Czechoslovak republic, flew in Caproni 450 hp from Campo Formido near Udine to Bratislava (capital of Slovakia). He had an accident, probably because of failure of the air-blast cooling of Isotta engine. One of the engines exploded and the plane nosedived into the ground. General Stefanik and three Italian crew members were dead at the scene. There continue to be speculations on whether the plane was shot down by an anti-aircraft company or that it suffered engine failure. This could have been done either because they had mistaken Italian flag on the wings with Hungarian, or in direct order from higher posts, but this is just conspiracy, they say, that Stefanik planned changes in new Czechoslovakian Government. Most likely it was carelessness of the officer Piccione, who underestimated the disposition of the landing runway. It was wet, and after a first attempt to land, the pilot took off when he spotted the wet ground and wanted to land further on, but in these maneuver many planes noticed cooling failure, as it was the most likely reason of the fatal crash of Caproni 450 hp with Gen. Dr. Milan Rastislav Stefanik.
All of the following designations were applied after the war. At the time, all were known as the 300 hp by Caproni and the Ca.3 by the Army.
Published - July 2009
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