Fiat CR.32: The Spanish Cricket
The CR.32 is an Italian biplane fighter and was the most widely used aircraft in the Spanish Civil War. 1,211 vehicles were produced, and this nippy “cricket” was exported to China, Hungary, Austria, Paraguay, and Venezuela, was licensed for production in Spain, and also formed the core of Italy’s armed air force in the latter half of the 1930s.
The story of this remarkable biplane began on April 28, 1932, when the first experimental CR.32 (the letters “CR” stand for the name of the aircraft’s chief engineer, Celestino Rosatelli) completed its first 30-minute flight. It was immediately clear that this lightweight and slightly smaller version of the CR.30 would outshine its predecessor. Orders soon came pouring in, and the first batch of the new Fiats was shipped to China in 1935, promising the revenue that Italy desperately needed. Unfortunately, the insufficient technical skills of the Chinese pilots and mechanics of the time meant that they were forced to quickly give up hopes of using these cutting-edge Italian vehicles. On the other hand, the Italian pilots instantly appreciated the Fiat’s qualities. By the end of 1935, CR.32s made up the lion’s share of Italy’s fighter fleet. The various models of the CR.32 were also in demand around the world. Starting in the mid-1930s, besides being exported to China, the Italian biplane was ordered by Hungary, Austria, Paraguay, and Venezuela, while Franco’s CR.32quater planes that arrived in Spain during the civil war were produced under license under the designation HA-132-L.
The initial CR.32 model was released in 1935 and was equipped with a pair of 7.7 mm synchronized Vickers machine guns on the fuselage. The modification that followed, the CR.32bis, was put into production in 1936, and had enhanced armament in the form of four 7.7 mm machine guns (two of which were later replaced with the 12.7 mm Breda-SAFAT). It was also fitted with an upgraded engine capable of brief thrust augmentation. The third modification, the CR.32ter (“ter” for third), came in 1937. It was lighter than the CR.32bis and had improved onboard equipment. From the third model onward, the aircraft’s main armament comprised two synchronized large-caliber Breda-SAFAT machine guns on the fuselage. The final modification, put into production at the end of 1937, was the CR.32quater (“quater” for fourth), which gained a larger water-cooling radiator and the ability to carry small bombs. Between 1935 and 1939, a total of 1,211 CR.32 fighter aircraft were produced, 159 of which were exported to other countries.
The aircraft’s battle debut came in 1936, during the Spanish Civil War. On August 20, the Italian CR.32 shot down the Republican NiD 52. The Italian aircraft were initially only up against the outdated ragtag band that comprised the Republican aviation fleet, so success seemed inevitable – however, by autumn, the tables had turned. The Republicans acquired the incredibly fast SB Soviet bombers, and the Italian CR.32s had no hope of matching their speed. The new Soviet I-15 and I-16 fighters soon appeared, surpassing the Italian CR.32s and the German He 51s in virtually every flight characteristic. The Italian pilots fought tooth and nail in their clashes with the Soviet fighters, and in January 1938, the Spaniards also took a liking to the CR.32s, giving them the nickname the “Cricket.” The Spanish Cricket became the most widely used aircraft throughout the whole civil war (375 CR.32s were supplied to Spain) and became a de facto symbol of the conflict.
By the start of the Second World War, most of the old CR.32s had been repurposed as training aircraft, although they continued to be used in secondary combat areas until the spring of 1941.
In the game, the CR.32 will take its rightful place at the very roots of the Italian aviation tech tree. This fighter will have the excellent horizontal maneuverability typical of all biplanes. On the other hand, it’s best to avoid vertical maneuvers in this aircraft, as you will quickly lose speed and render the plane virtually useless. Compared to its main historical rival, the Soviet Polikarpov I-15, the CR.32 can’t compete in maneuverability, but it does have a higher low-altitude speed and can dive well. When comparing the CR.32 with the earlier I-16 monoplane, the situation is reversed: the I-16 is certainly the faster aircraft, while the Italian plane is the favorite when it comes to maneuvers.
The frontal armament – two large-caliber Breda-SAFAT machine guns – will be a compelling show of force in the hands of the player, since even a short burst of 12.7 mm explosive rounds can detach an opponent’s wing or set fire to their fuel tank. The ability to carry several small bombs when necessary allows you to temporarily recast the CR.32quater as a light attacker and suppress anti-air resistance.
The aircraft’s entire load-carrying structure is made of metal, which means that it can withstand serious damage and still make it back to the airfield in cases when virtually all similar fighter aircraft would have long dropped out of the sky.
The CR.32 will appear in the War Thunder skies in the forthcoming update 1.69. It will be a reserve aircraft in the Italian aviation tech tree. All pilots are advised to bring their sunscreen, as they’ll soon be in the sweltering skies of Spain, battling it out in fiery and furious turning engagements.
The War Thunder Team