Sprung out of the earlier design, the Fiat Cr.32, which had sucesses in the Ethiopian conflict and the Spanish civil war the Cr.42 entered service in 1939, on the brink of WWII. It's biplane construction was dated by this time but it also gave it high agility but at the cost of speed. Fighting in Regia Aeronautica (Italian Air Force) at all the WWI scenes where the Italian partook it was outperformed by it's contemporaries but many Italian pilots were saved by the planes agility. It also fought in the Belgian and Hungarian air forces.
At the time for the Finnish Winter War 12 Cr. 42 was ordered by a Swedish initiative to equip the Finnish Air Force. However by the time they were ready the war in Finland was over so the planes were transferred to SAF and the F 3 air flotilla. When the planes ordered from USA was diverted by an embargo the only country prepared to export to the neutral Sweden was Italy. Sweden bought an additional 60 Cr.42's and these and the existing 12 was assigned to F 9. In the SAF the plane received the code J 11, J for Jakt (Fighter).
The J 11 was primarily used for border defence around Gothenburg fending off planes from the bordering conflicts that transgressed Swedish air space. During spring 1942 the first division at F 9 was transferred to Luleå in northern Sweden. The planes were then equipped with skies as it defended the northern air space. By 1943 F 9 received the new J 22 and the J 11's were transferred to the newly established F 13 in Norrköping. Many J11's were lost to ground failures as the quality of the planes were not the best. The last J 11's was retired by 1945. A few saw civilian service in Sweden after the war but only for a limited time.
There are four Fiat Cr.42's left in the world. Two of these are Swedish. No. 2543 was hidden away on a private initiative at F 3 in Malmslätt when the J 11's were decommissioned, it is now on display at Flygvapenmuseet (Swedish Air Force Museum) in Linköping. The other, 2542, was recovered from a crash site in northern Sweden in 1983 and has now been restored to flying condition in Britain in Italian markings. The two others are displayed at Royal Air Force Museum London and Italian Air Force Museum in Bracciano, Italy respectively.
Fiat Cr.42 at plasticfantastique.com: