The Italian Navy of World War Two had some interesting ideas when it came to naval reconnaissance assets aboard her warships. One was to mount wheeled land based fighters aboard catapults. The thought was that they would provide a higher performance than a floatplane. This came about in 1942 after it was obvious that the land based Italian airforce did not provide effective cover for the Regia Marina. Of course they could not be recovered at sea by the launching. They would return to a land airfield and would be reloaded aboard ship when the parent ship returned to port. There was a certain logic to this decision in that the Reggiane Re. 2000, which was the fighter most frequently used, did out perform floatplanes and for a limited time could provide organic fighter protection for the ship. In the land-locked Mediterranean Italian warships were almost always within range of a land airfield. Of course this concept had two severe handicaps. Once the fighter was catapulted and had exhausted its time over the ship it would leave for the land base, leaving the ship short one aircraft. This naturally would induce conservatism in the ship’s captain to not launch the aircraft unless the situation was dire. The single seat fighter might be good for aerial protection but it was a terrible platform for reconnaissance. The pilot was supposed to control the craft, be on the lookout for enemy ships and be a radio operator.
The Italian Navy did have dedicated floatplanes designed for aerial reconnaissance and spotting. The most common was the Meridionali Ro.43. The traditional biplane design was built by a firm that started as the Officine Ferroviarie Meridionali, which was formed in 1923 and started building Fokker designs under license in 1925. In 1934 a new company was formed named Societa Anonima Industrie Aeronautiche Romeo, which absorbed Meridianali in 1936 and changed its name to Industrie Meccaniche e Aeronautiche Meridionali. The Ro. designation of the aircraft designed by this firm came from the Romeo of the 1934 company, as they had previous floatplane designs during this time.
The Ro.43 was a typical floatplane of the time. The 700hp Piaggio "Stella" radial engine gave the aircraft a top speed of 186 mph (298 kmph) at 8,000 feet. It had a two man crew in "semi-cabins" a pilot and observer, although it was equipped with dual controls. Armament consisted of two 7.7mm Breda machine guns, one fixed forward and one swivel mount for the observer. Range was somewhat limited at 435 miles (700km) with 2.8 hours flying time. The Littorio Class battleships would carry a mix of the wheeled Re.2000 and float equipped Ro.43. From 1940 to early 1942 these ships were normally equipped with two Ro.43 but in late 1942 received the mixed aircraft complement, as allied airpower had become far more formidable. In late 1942 through 1943 Vittorio Veneto carried one Ro.43 and two Re.2000 while Littorio and Roma carried two Ro.43 and one Re.2000.
Regia Marina now produces and accessory packet that includes resin and stainless steel photo-etch parts for three of the Ro.43 floatplanes. Each aircraft is composed of 12 parts, four of resin and eight of steel. Resin parts include the fuselage, center float and two wing floats. Photo-etched parts include the propeller, strut support for the center float, two upper wings, two lower wings and a two-part tail. The upper wings and horizontal tail surfaces are relief etched to portray the control surfaces. The upper wings of the Ro.43 were connected to the upper forward fuselage in a slight gull wing design, so the roots of the upper wing stainless steel parts will need to be very slightly bent downwards to replicate this feature. Instructions are found on one small sheet and consist of numbering each resin and photo-etch part. A plan and profile of the Ro.43 is provided with the number of each part being shown. It really is self-explanatory, as the location for each part is obvious. The only pitfall is the gull wing shape of the upper wing roots. There is no front view provided that shows the slightly bent design, although it can be discerned from the profile, if you know that the bent is there. Also the instructions do not show that any bending was needed. At 1:700 scale it is not really necessary to bend the upper wing roots for the gull wing base but purists will probably want to do so. Additionally no wing support struts are provided but they can easily be added from scrap railing or through stretched sprue.