Caproni Ca.3

The Caproni Ca.3 was an Italian heavy bomber of World War I and the postwar era. It was the definitive version of the series of aircraft that began with the Caproni Ca.1 in 1914.

Caproni Ca.3
Class Aircraft
Type Bomber
Manufacturer Caproni, Milan
Origin Italy
Country Name Origin Year
Italy 1916
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
Argentina View
France View
Italy View
United States of America View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Caproni, Milan View

The development of the Ca.1 to the Ca.2 suggested the benefits of increasing amounts of power to the very sound airframe. The Ca.3 was a development of Ca.2, by replacing the two engines mounted on the booms with the same Isotta-Fraschini engine that had been used as the central, pusher engine on that design.

The prototype flew in late 1916 and was soon put into production. Known to Caproni at the time as the Caproni 450 hp, the Italian Army designated it the Ca.3. In Caproni's postwar redesignation, it became the Ca.33. Somewhere between 250 and 300 of these aircraft were built, supplying the Italian Army and Navy (the latter using the type as a torpedo bomber), and the French Army. Late in the war, Robert Esnault-Pelterie built the type under licence in France, building an additional 83 (some sources say only 19) aircraft.

Note: there is some variation in published sources over early Caproni designations. The confusion stems, in part, from three separate schemes used to designate these aircraft - Caproni's in-house designations of the time, those used by the Italian Army, and designations created after the war by Caproni to refer to past designs.

The Ca.1 entered service with the Italian Army in the middle of 1915 and first saw action on 20 August 1915, attacking the Austrian air base at Aisovizza. 15 bomber squadrons (1-15 Squadriglia) were eventually equipped with Ca.1, Ca.2, and Ca.3 bombers, mostly bombing targets in Austro-Hungary. The 12th squadron operated in Libya. In 1918, three squadrons (3, 14 and 15) operated in France.

Apart from the Italian Army, original and licence-built ones were used by France (original Caproni were used in French CAP escadres, licence-built examples in CEP escadres). They were also used by the American Expeditionary Force. There has been some confusion regarding the use of the Ca3 by the British Royal Naval Air Service. The RNAS received six of the larger triplane Ca4 and did not operate the Ca3. The British Ca4 were not used operationally and were returned to Italy after the war.

Some of the Ca.36Ms supplied after the war were still in service long enough to see action in Benito Mussolini's first assaults on North Africa.

This plane is also remembered for a tragedy on May 4, 1919, which killed the French General Dr. Milan Rastislav Stefanik, who was the minister of war in the Czechoslovak Republic at the time. The accident occurred at the conclusion of a flight from Campoformido near Udine to Bratislava (capital of Slovakia). On his initial approach, the pilot determined that the ground was too wet to land on, so he increased power to the engines and began to aim the plane to a landing patch further afield which appeared to be dry. While doing so, one of the engines exploded, causing the aircraft to nosedive. General Stefanik and the three Italian crew members were pronounced dead at the scene. A subsequent investigation determined that the most likely cause of engine failure was a failure of the airblast cooling of the engine, probably induced by the increased strain cause by the pilot's sudden demands on the engine after the aborted landing. There were allegations that a Czech anti-aircraft artillery company had fired on the aircraft, either because they mistook the plane's Italian markings for Hungarian markings or that they had done so as part of a conspiracy to see Gen. Stefanik killed in order to prevent him from putting forth proposed changes in the Czech government. These allegations were never proven, and the failure of the engine's blast cooling is widely accepted as the best explanation for the accident.

Role Heavy bomber
Manufacturer Caproni
First flight 1916

General characteristics

  • Crew: four (pilot, co-pilot, front gunner, and rear gunner/mechanic)
  • Length: 11.05 m (36 ft 3 in)
  • Wingspan: 22.74 m (74 ft 7 in)
  • Height: 3.7 m (12 ft 2 in)
  • Wing area: 95.6 m2 (1,029 sq ft)
  • Empty weight: 2,300 kg (5,071 lb)
  • Max takeoff weight: 3,800 kg (8,378 lb)
  • Powerplant: 3 × Isotta-Fraschini V.4B 6-cyl. water-cooled in-line piston engines, 112 kW (150 hp) each


  • Maximum speed: 137 km/h (85 mph; 74 kn)
  • Range: 599 km (372 mi; 323 nmi)
  • Service ceiling: 4,844 m (15,892 ft)
  • Rate of climb: 2.083 m/s (410.0 ft/min)


  • 2 × 6.5 mm or 7.7 mm FIAT-Revelli machine guns
  • 800 kg (1,764 lb)) of bombs

End notes