G.91, Fiat / Aeritalia

Fiat G.91 Gina Photo by G.Tonelotto

The Italian G.91 was declared winner of a NATO-competition for a lightweight strike aircraft, but of course most NATO members had second thoughts after their own aircraft had lost the competition, and the G.91 was used only by Germany and Italy. It is a small swept-wing subsonic aircraft, similar in appearance to the F-86K. 450 were built, the majority of them in Germany. The G.91Y was a twin-engined development, a change that demanded a virtually complete redesign. The G.91Y was less successful, because the basic concept was outmoded at the time. 67 built.

The Aeritalia G.91, also known as the Fiat G.91 and nicknamed Gina, was an Italian fighter aircraft that was intended to serve as standard equipment for NATO air forces in the 1960s. It was eventually only adopted by three - the Italian Air Force, West Germany's Luftwaffe, and the Portuguese Air Force but enjoyed a long service life that extended over 35 years.

Type: Fiat / Aeritalia G.91R-3
Country: Italy
Function: attack
Year: 1959
Crew: 1
Engines: 1 * 2270 kg Bristol Orpheus 801/02
Wing Span: 8.56 m
Length: 10.29 m
Height: 4.00 m
Wing Area: 16.42 m2
Wing loading: 331 kg/m²
Empty Weight: 3269 kg
Max.Weight: 5670 kg
Thrust/weight: 0.42
Speed: 1090 km/h
Rate of climb: 30 m/s
Ceiling: 13260 m
Range: 1850 km (other sources claim 1150 km)
Armament: 2*g 20mm, 680 kg payload

Type: Fiat / Aeritalia G.91Y
Country: Italy
Function: attack
Year: 1968
Crew: 1
Engines: 2 * 1850kg G.E. J85-GE-13A
Wing Span: 9.01 m
Length: 11.67 m
Height: 4.43 m
Wing Area: 18.13 m2
Empty Weight: 3900 kg
Max.Weight: 8700 kg
Speed: 1110 km/h
Armament: 2 DEFA 552 30mm cannons with 125 rounds per gun, 1814 kg payload.

G.91 Development

In 1953, European aircraft manufacturers were invited by NATO to submit aircraft for evaluation for the "Light Weight Strike Fighter" (LWSF) role. The G.91 was designed by the famous Italian engineer Giuseppe Gabrielli, hence the initial of the designation.

The aircraft first flew in August 1956 and the competing designs were evaluated in 1957. Besides the G.91, these included the Northrop N156, Dassault Etendard IV, Sud-Est Baroudeur, Aerfer Ariete and Breguet Taon. Despite the G.91's impressive performance in trials, the French government preferred to pursue development of the locally-designed Etendard, and the British government ignored the competition to concentrate on Hawker Hunter production for the same role. In fairness, it should also be pointed out that the Italian government also ordered the G.91 for the Italian Air Force before the results of the competition were known. These pre-production machines would later go on to serve for many years with the Italian aerobatic team, the Frecce Tricolori.

G.91 Service history

The first G.91's entered service in 1958. Aeritalia built 174 G.91's for Italy, plus 144 for Germany (including 50 that had been ordered and then cancelled by Greece and Turkey). Another 294 were built in Germany by Flugzeug-Union Süd (a consortium of Messerschmitt, Heinkel, and Dornier). These were the first jet combat aircraft built in Germany since the Second World War. The type was also considered by Austria, Norway, Switzerland, and even the United States Army, which briefly evaluated the type as a possible Forward Air Control (FAC) aircraft before relinquishing all fixed-wing aircraft operations to the USAF. From 1961, Portugal began to purchase the G.91 to deploy to her former African colonies of Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, and Angola in the close-support role. The first 40 were purchased second-hand from the Luftwaffe out of the aircraft that had originally been produced for Greece and which differed from the rest of the Luftwaffe G.91s sufficiently to create maintenance problems. The aircraft replaced the F-86 Sabres, which were withdrawn following US protests over the use of these aircraft that had originally been supplied for defensive purposes. Portuguese G.91s continued in this role until the withdrawal from Africa in 1975. Portugal finally phased out the last of her G.91s in 1993, and Italy in 1995.

The G.91Y

An additional 67 aircraft built by Aeritalia were significantly uprated from earlier versions. These aircraft, designated G.91Y replaced the original Bristol-Siddeley Orpheus engine with two General Electric J85 units. The G.91Y first flew in 1966 and displayed a vast improvement in speed, range, payload, and maneuverability. It increased maximum speed to 600 kt (1,110 km/h, Mach 0.91). The machine guns were replaced by a pair of DEFA 552 30mm cannon with 125 rounds per gun.

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