The Fiat G.50 Freccia ("Arrow") was a World War II Italian fighter aircraft developed and manufactured by aviation company Fiat. Upon entering service, the type became Italy’s first single-seat, all-metal monoplane that had an enclosed cockpit and retractable undercarriage. On 26 February 1937, the G.50 conducted its maiden flight. During early 1938, the Frecciasserved in the Regia Aeronautica (the Italian Air Force) and with its expeditionary arm, the Aviazione Legionaria, in Spain, where they proved to be relatively fast and very manoeuvrable in comparison to its adversaries in the theatre.
Early in the Second World War, it was determined that the G.50 possessed inadequate armament, comprising a pair of Breda-SAFAT 12.7-mm machine guns. The fighter was extensively used on various fronts by Italy, including in Northern Europe, North Africa, the Balkans, and the Italian mainland. The G.50 commonly came up against the British Hawker Hurricane, which was fast enough to frequently outrun and out-range the Italian opponent. Later models of the fighter had improvements, including a substantial increase in range.
The G.50 was exported to several overseas customers, small numbers being flown by the Croatian Air Force while 35 G.50 fighters were shipped to Finland, where they served with distinction during both the Winter War of 1940 and the Continuation War of 1941–1944 against the Soviet Union. In Finnish service, the type reportedly achieved an unprecedented kill/loss ratio of 33/1.
Upon Italy's entry into the Second World War in June 1940, the Regia Aeronautica possessed a total of 118 G.50s that were available for operations; of these, 97 aircraft were available to perform front line duties while others were either in maintenance or awaiting delivery. The majority of these were assigned to 51° Stormo, which was based at Ciampino Airport (just outside Rome) and at Pontedera, with 22° Gruppo (wing[N 1]) of 52° Stormo. On 10 June 1940, when Italy issued its declaration of war against both France and Great Britain, the G.50s of 22° Gruppo went into action, followed by the 48 aircraft of 20° Gruppo. Operations during the first few days were sporadic and varied, often serving as escorts for Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 bombers on attack missions against harbours and airfields on the island of Corsica. These operations were quickly brought to an end when France signed the Armistice of 22 June 1940, officially capitulating to the Axis powers.