Regia Aeronautica

According to various sources, Italy has a fairly considerable force in AOI (Africa Orientale Italiana), under the command of the Duke of Aosta, consisting of 250 to 280,000 men, including 91,000 Italians and 200,000 Askaris (colonial troops). The latter, representing about 70% of the total, are of very different qualities. If the Eritrean contingents are among the best soldiers deployed by Italy, those from Ethiopia will not have the same efficiency. Initially recruited to carry out colonial police missions (with the corresponding equipment), unsafe, they will desert in large numbers as the Commonwealth troops progress.

The quality of the « whites » units is also very heterogeneous. In reality, only a regular unit of the Italian army is present, in this case a division of the Grenadiers of Savoy, to which is added a battalion of Alpini (elite mountain troops) and a Bersaglieri battalion of motorised infantry. The remainder consisting of auxiliary elements: territorial units and battalions of Black Shirts.

All Italian ground forces were equipped with approximately 3,000 machine guns, 24 M11 / 39 tanks, several L3 / 35 tankettes, 126 armored vehicles and 813 pieces of artillery.

The Italians and their troops encountered three major problems. First, their geographical isolation from the metropolis made it difficult, if not impossible, to send reinforcements and supplies. Secondly, they are weakened by endemic diseases in the region, especially malaria. It is estimated that nearly a quarter of the men defending Amba Alagi during the siege of April 1941 suffered various diseases, including Commander Amedee II Duke of Aosta. The latter died of tuberculosis on 3 March 1942, when he was detained by the British. Thirdly, the situation of « latent rebellion » in Ethiopia forces the Italians to permanently retain a certain number of units on the srear, in spite of the needs of the front, to maintain order and to fight against the partisans.

The Italian strategy is quite simple and consists in ensuring the survival of the Empire pending the outcome of events. The objective is initially to take advantage in the direction of British Somaliland in order to strike a blow with a view to discouraging any wishes, and then to await the evolution of the conflict (capitulation of the United Kingdom, conquest of Egypt following offensive in North Africa …). This strategy is explained in particular by the need for the Italian command to spare its military troops, but had the effect of depriving the Italians of their strong initial qualitative and quantitative advantage.

The Regia Aeronautica, which was based in Addis Ababa under the command of Generale Pietro Pinna, was divided into three sectors : North (Asmara), tCenter (Addis Ababa) and South (Mogadishu). At the operational level, the Air Force has a total of 138 bombers, 36 fighter aircraft and 9 reconnaissance aircraft. In addition, there is a reserve of 140 aircraft, of which only 59 can be used (35 Ca 133, 1 SM 81, 1 SM 79, 5 CR 32, 2 Ro 37), all the others being in repair (48 Ca 133, 16 SM 81, 2 SM 79, 11 CR 32, 2 CR 42, 2 Ro 37). Finally, an air transport group consisting of 9 SM 73, 9 Ca 133, 6 Ca 185 and 1 Fokker FVII is available for the transport of men and equipment. The Regia Aeronautica also has the following reserves: 107,000 tons of AVIO fuels, 5,300 tons of bombs, 8,620,000 cartridges and 500 different engines. The aircraft repair service is guaranteed by the local workshops of Piaggio and Caproni, as well as the SRAM, the latter performing on average 15 complete revisions per month, in addition to small routine work. In view of the war and the future isolation, a reinforcement program was proposed in 1939. The 41 Stormo with its 36 S 79 aircraft had to join the AOI by Egypt, while 26 others, in order to replacing Ca 133, were expected to reach the colony by sea. In addition, a shipment of equipment, fuel and ammunition by sea should guarantee its self-sufficiency. The turn of events led to the realization of only a small part of this program. Only 18 S 79 and 36 Fiat CR 42 were able to be transferred by air because of the ban on flight over Egypt in January 1940.

Order of Battle of Regia Aeronautica (June 1940)

North Sector (Asmara)

25bis Gruppo BT (Gobwen) : Ca.133

  • 8a Squadriglia : 6 Ca.133
  • 9a Squadriglia : 6 Ca.133

26bis Gruppo BT (Gondar) : Ca.133 / S.81

  • 11a Squadriglia (Gondar) : 6 Ca.133
  • 13a Squadriglia (Bahar Dar) : S.81

27bis Gruppo BT (Assab) : 18 Ca.133

  • 18a Squadriglia
  • 52a Squadriglia
  • 118a Squadriglia

28bis Gruppo BT (Zula) : 12 S.81

  • 10a Squadriglia
  • 19a Squadriglia

Gruppo Gasbarrini BT (Agordat) : 12 Ca.133

  • 41a Squadriglia
  • Squadriglia dello Stato Maggiore del Settore Nord (SMSN)

412a Squadriglia CT (Massaua) : 9 Fiat CR.42

413a Squadriglia CT (Assab) : 9 Fiat CR.42

414a Squadriglia CT (Gura) : 9 Fiat CR.42

Center Sector (Addis-Abeba)

4bis Gruppo BT (Scenele) : 12 S.81

  • 14a Squadriglia
  • 15a Squadriglia

29bis Gruppo BT (Assab) : 12 S.81

  • 62a Squadriglia
  • 63a Squadriglia

44bis Gruppo BT (Ghiniele) : 12 S.79

  • 6a Squadriglia
  • 7a Squadriglia

49bis Gruppo BT (Gimma) : 12 Ca.133

  • 61a Squadriglia
  • 64a Squadriglia

Squadriglia dello Stato Maggiore del Settore Centrale (SMSC) (Addis-Ababa) : 6 Ca.133 and 2 S.79

110a Squadriglia RT (Dire Dawa) : 9 Ro.37bis

410a Squadriglia CT (Dire Dawa) : 9 Fiat CR.32

411a Squadriglia CT (Addis-Abeba) : 9 Fiat CR.32

South Sector (Mogadiscio)

31bis Gruppo BT (Yavello) : 12 Ca.133

  • 65a Squadriglia
  • 66a Squadriglia

Squadriglia dello Stato Maggiore del Settore Sud (SMSS) (Mogadiscio) : 6 Ca.133

Transport Group

Nucleo Aerotrasporti AOI : 9 SM.73, 9 Ca.133, 6 Ca.148, 1 Fokker FVII

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