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Τετάρτη, 3 Αυγούστου 2016

A Greek PZL P24 fighter aircraft, 1940-41


The Royal Hellenic Air Force (EVA) is the only air force during WW2 to operate the PZL.24 as its main fighter type. 

Two subtypes, thirty P.24F and six P.24G, were ordered and delivered in 1937-38. 

They were split between three Mirae Dioxeos (Fighter Squadrons): the 21st at Trikala, 22nd at Thessaloniki and 23rd at Larissa. 

The only other operational Greek fighters, stationed further south, were eight Bloch MB.151s and two each Gladiator Mk I and Avia B-534 II, both of which were of limited value. 

When Italy attacked in October 1940, the Polish fighter was the Greeks' only modern type in adequate numbers. 

However, by 1940, the PZL.24 was no longer a front-runner despite a powerful powerplant and satisfactory armament. 

It had no speed advantage over the Fiat Cr.42 nor could it outfly the nimble Italian biplane, while it was much slower than the Macchi MC.200 and the Fiat G.50 it was pitted against. 

Its armament was the only real advantage against the Italian fighters whose reliance on the slow firing Breda-SAFAT 12.7mm machine guns proved detrimental. 

The PZL.24F armed with two 20mm Oerlikon FF cannon and two MGs gave the Greeks a temporary edge in combat until lack of ammunition and spares forced EVA to re-arm all P.24Fs with 4x Colt–Browning 7.7 mm MG40 machine guns. 

Overall, the PZLs performed gallantly during the early period of the conflict, holding their own against impossible numerical odds and despite the fact that their main target were enemy bombers which forced them to fight at a disadvantage against enemy fighters. 

Italian claims of easy superiority over the Albanian front were vastly over-rated and their kill claims even exceeded the total number of operational fighters on the Greek side. 

Total Greek fighter losses -in combat- came to 24 a/c with the Greek fighter pilots claiming 64 confirmed kills and 24 probables (about two third bombers). 

By April 1941, however, lack of spares and attrition had forced EVA to merge the five surviving PZL.24s into one understrength squadron supported by five Gloster Gladiators Mk I and II and the two surviving MB.151s. 

These fought hopelessly against the Luftwaffe onslaught in April 1941 scoring 4 kills (two Hs-126, one Ju-87B and one Do-17) and losing most of their surviving a/c on the ground. None of the Pulawski fighters survived.

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