The Piaggio P.108 Bombardiere was an Italian four-engine heavy bomber that saw service with the Regia Aeronautica during World War II. The prototype first flew in 1939 and it entered service in 1941. It was one of a handful of Italian combat aircraft that could match the best manufactured by the Allies. Four versions of the P.108 were designed, but only one, the P.108B bomber, was produced in any quantity before the armistice.
The other variants included the P.108A anti-ship aircraft with a 102 mm (4 in) gun, the P.108C, an airliner with an extended wingspan and re-modelled fuselage capable of carrying 32 passengers, and the P.108T transport version designed specifically for military use. Only one P.108A and 24 P.108Bs were built. The combined total number of all versions (and prototypes) was 35. Most of the P.108Cs were subsequently modified for use as military transport aircraft and could accommodate up to sixty passengers.
Nine P.108 Ts were used by Luftwaffe transport units until the end of the war.
Piaggio P.108 FULL STORY
Crew: 6 or 7
Length: 22.30 m
Wingspan: 32.00 m
Height: 6.00 m
Wing area: 135.0 m
Empty weight: 17,325 kg
Max. takeoff weight: 29,885 kg
Powerplant: 4 × Piaggio P.XII RC.35 radial engine, 1,120 kW (1,500 hp) each
Maximum speed: 430 km/h
Range: 3,520 km
Service ceiling: 8,500 m
Armament: 5 × 12.7 mm Breda-SAFAT machine guns
2 × 7.7 mm Breda-SAFAT machine guns
3,500 kg of bombs
Piaggio P.108 oli italialainen raskas nelimoottorinen pommikone, jota Regia Aeronautica ja Luftwaffe käyttivät toisessa maailmansodassa.
Konetyyppiä valmistettiin kaikkina versioinaan yhteensä 163 kappaletta, joista 24 kappaletta pommituskäyttöön. Lisäksi joitakin sen muunnoksia käytettiin kuljetustehtäviin. Varsinainen pommitusmuunnos oli P.108B.
Piaggio P.108:n puolustusaseistus käsitti seitsemän konekivääriä. Tähtimoottorit olivat 1 500 hevosvoiman tehoisia ja 18-sylinteriset. Huippunopeus oli 430 km/h ja Enimmäispommikuorma oli 3 500 kg.
Konetyypin lakikorkeus oli 8 500 metriä ja toimintasäde peräti 3 520 km
The P.108 was unique in the history of Italian aviation, as it was the only four-engine strategic bomber used by the Regia Aeronautica during World War II. It was a development of the earlier underpowered and wooden-structured P.50-II which was unable to take-off at its designed maximum weight.
The designer of the aircraft was Giovanni Casiraghi, an experienced engineer who had previously worked in the US from 1927 to 1936. On the basis of his experience he designed a radically new aeroplane. The P.108 was an all-metal low wing bomber with a retractable under-carriage. During the Air Ministry official requirement of 1939, it won the Regia Aeronautica 's contract for a new bomber over the Cant Z.1014 as it became obvious that the other competitors could not deliver useful numbers of aircraft to the Italian Royal Air Force before the mid-1940s.
The first prototype P.108B flew on 24 November 1939. It performed extremely well in a series of tests and required refining in only a few minor areas, but it took some time for pilots to get used to the new aircraft. The P.108 was delivered to a single unit, the 274a Squadriglia (274th Squadron), in 1941. But there were several accidents, one of them involving the son of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. On 7 August 1941, Bruno Mussolini, commander of the 274a Squadriglia, was piloting one of the prototypes of the "secret" bomber. He flew too low and crashed into a house. The cockpit section separated from the rest of the aircraft and although the aircraft did not catch fire, it was nevertheless totally destroyed in the impact. Commander Bruno Mussolini died from his injuries.
By the end of 1941, the P.108B had demonstrated just 391 flying hours. Nonetheless, the new bomber showed much promise. The average Italian bomber cost around 2.1 million lire, the SM.79 cost 1.7 million, while the P.108 cost 5.2 million. With a single squadron of nine P.108s capable of flying 1,100 km (700 mi) with 3,500 kg (7,700 lb), the estimated efficiency was comparable to a group of 26 SM.79s covering 1,000 km (620 mi) with 1,000 kg (2,200 lb). The total cost of the aircraft was 46.8 and 45.6 million lire respectively, but only 54 crew were required to man the P.108s compared to 130 required to man the SM.79s.
The P.108B's engines were designed to be more powerful than those propelling the B-17, and most of its defensive gun turrets were remote-controlled.
The second series, designated P.108B II, were a revised sub-category having had the nose turret removed. While this reduced defence against head-on attacks, the aircraft was operated mainly at night. The speed gain was ten km/h (six mph), due to weight reduction and the more aerodynamic nose.
Like the Lancaster, the P.108's nose turret was positioned above the bombardier/bomb-aimer
The P.108 was an all-metal, four-engine bomber, with a crew of eight. It had a very robust modern structure (with a six g tolerance) designed by Giovanni Casiraghi, and built almost entirely of duralumin.
Provisions for the crew included a two-pilot cockpit with five to six crew members located in the mid-fuselage and nose; like early B-17 Flying Fortresses, the P.108 had no tail turret. The most noticeable feature was the nose, having a separate structure for the bombardier/bomb-aimer, with the front turret above him; similar to the nose of the Armstrong Whitworth Whitley with the lower part protruding from the rest. The P.108's tail was even larger, because of the need to stabilise the heavy, powerful aircraft (30,000 kg/66,000 lb and up to 4,500 kW/6,000 hp at take-off, around 20% heavier than early B-17s).