The Savoia-Marchetti S.M. 79 Sparviero

(Sparrowhawk)

Italy
Italy

side view front view under view

Based on a civil passenger aircraft, the Sparviero was definitely obsolescent, if not obsolete, when Italy went to war. Nevertheless, general opinion holds it as one of the finest torpedo bombers of the War.
The S.M.79 was typical for it's time, a cantilever low-wing monoplane type of mixed construction. It was based on a rectangular-section fuselage with a rounded upper decking. This fuselage was of welded steel tube construction covered over its front half by Dural panels and plywood, and over its rear half by plywood and fabric. The tail unit was of welded steel tube construction with fabric covering, and included a horizontal surface that was braced to the lower longeron on each side by two parallel struts. The cantilever low-set wing was a single-piece structure of mixed metal and wood construction with plywood skinning: the wing was dihedraled, tapered in thickness and chord, and carried over the full span of its trailing edge outboard ailerons and inboard camber-changing flaps. The outboard ends of the leading edges were fitted with Handley Page automatic slots for improved low-speed handling. The main landing gear could be retracted rearward into the two engine nacelles that were wing mounted, and a tailwheel completed the set. Like the Junkers Ju 52/3m and the CANT Z.1007 Alcione it was a tri-motor aircraft.
Because of it's typical silhouette, it was also nicknamed 'Gobbo Maledetto' or 'Hunchback' by the Italians.

Version list:

Further pictures:

Savoia-Marchetti S.M.79 of the italian Air Force on an airfield
Savoia-Marchetti S.M.79 of the italian Air Force on an airfield

Savoia-Marchetti S.M.79 of the italian Air Force in another nice view.
Savoia-Marchetti S.M.79 of the italian Air Force in another nice view.

 

Technical data on the Savoia-Marchetti S.M.79-I Sparviero
Powerplant 3 × Alfo Romeo 126 RC.34 9-cylinder radial, rated at 780 hp (581.48 kW) each Role during war
  • Medium Bomber
  • Scout Bomber
  • Torpedo Bomber
  • Maritime/Coastal patrol reconnaissance Bomber
  • Anti-shipping Aircraft
Length 51 ft 10 inch Height 14 ft 1.75 inch
Empty weight 14991 lb Operational weight 23104 lb max
Wing Span 69 ft 2.67 inch Wing Aspect ratio 7.28
Wing Area 664.14 sq ft Service ceiling 21325 ft
Maximum speed 267 mph at 13125 ft Cruising speed 233 mph at optimum altitude
Initial climb rate Climb to 16,405 ft in 19 min 45 sec Range 1181 miles typical,
2050 miles max
Fuel capacity internal 5,622 lb (actual amount of gallons depends on type of fuel) Fuel capacity external -
Machine guns
  • 1 × 0.50 inch Breda-SAFAT fixed forward-firing in a position above the cockpit, 350 rounds
  • 1 × 0.50 inch Breda-SAFAT trainable rearward-firing in the dorsal position, 500 rounds
  • 1 × 0.50 inch Breda-SAFAT trainable rearward-firing in the ventral position
  • 2 × 0.303 inch Lewis trainable lateral-firing, one in each beam position
Cannons -
Bomb load Up to 2,756 lb of disposable stores carried in a lower-fuselage weapons bay rated at 2,756 lb. General disposables load consisted of:
  • 2 × 1,102 lb bombs, or
  • 5 × 551 lb bombs, or
  • 12 × 220 lb bombs
Torpedoes/rockets
  • 2 × 17.7 inch torpedo (other versions), either a Silurificio Whitehead with 375 lb warhead, or a Silufiricio Italiano with 353 lb warhead. Later models had a 441 lb warhead.
Crew 5: pilot, co-pilot, navigator/bombardier/gunner, radio operator/gunner, flight engineer/gunner Naval or ground based Ground
First flight (prototype) late 1934 Operational Service 1937 - early 1950's
Manufacturer Società Italiana Aeroplani Idrovolanti 'Savoia-Marchetti' Number produced about 1.370 total, unknown this version
Metric system
Length 15.8 m Height 4.31 m
Empty weight 6800 kg Operational weight 10480 kg max
Wing Span 21.1 m Wing Aspect ratio 7.28
Wing Area 61.7 m² Service ceiling 6500 m
Maximum speed 430 km/h at 4000 m Cruising speed 375 km/h at optimum altitude
Initial climb rate Climb to 5.000 m in 19 min 45 sec Range 1901 km typical,
3299 km max
Fuel capacity internal 2.550 kg (actual amount of liters depends on type of fuel) Fuel capacity external -
Machine guns
  • 1 × 12,7 mm Breda-SAFAT fixed forward-firing in a position above the cockpit, 350 rounds
  • 1 × 12,7 mm Breda-SAFAT trainable rearward-firing in the dorsal position, 500 rounds
  • 1 × 12,7 mm Breda-SAFAT trainable rearward-firing in the ventral position
  • 2 × 7,7 mm Lewis trainable lateral-firing, one in each beam position
Cannons -
Bomb load Up to 1.250 kg of disposable stores carried in a lower-fuselage weapons bay rated at 1.250 kg. General disposables load consisted of:
  • 2 × 500 kg bombs, or
  • 5 × 250 kg bombs, or
  • 12 × 100 kg bombs
Torpedoes/rockets
  • 2 × 450 mm torpedo (other versions), either a Silurificio Whitehead with 170 kg warhead, or a Silufiricio Italiano with 160 kg warhead. Later models had a 200 kg warhead.

Here is a quick overview of all different versions, without the full technical specifications:

Different versions of the Savoia-Marchetti S.M. 79  Sparviero
Savoia-Marchetti S.M.79P Sparviero This single aircraft was the prototype of the Sparviero. It was a civil 8-passenger transport aircraft, originally powered by 3 × Piaggio Stella engine, rated at 610 hp (455 kW) each. Later it was reengined with 3 × Alfa Romeo 125 RC.35/126 RC.34 rated at 780 hp (582 kW) each.
This aircraft's capabilities were sufficiently to impress the Italian upper command, which subsequently decided to take it on a s a reconnaissance bomber.
Number built: 1
Savoia-Marchetti S.M.79-I Sparviero This was the first production model, but acted as prototype model as well. It was based on the S.M.79P but with a modified cockpit, ventral gondola, and deleted side windows. Some of these aircraft were powered by 3 × Alfa Romeo 126 RC.32, rated at 1,350 hp (1.006 kW) each.
Number built: unknown out of 1.230 S.M.79-I/-II/-III
Savoia-Marchetti S.M.79-II Sparviero This version was the first true torpedo bomber of the S.M.79, and could be armed with 2 × 450 mm torpedoes (other versions), either a Silurificio Whitehead with 170 kg warhead, or a Silufiricio Italiano with 160 kg warhead. Later models had a 200 kg warhead.
The powerplant consisted of one of three different variants:
  • 3 × Piaggio P.XI RC.40 radial, rated at 1,000 hp (746 kW) each,
  • 3 × Fiat A.80 RC.41 radial, rated at 1,030 hp (768 kW) each, or
  • 3 × Alfa Romeo 135 RC.32 radial, rated at 1,350 hp (1.007 kW) each

Number built: unknown out of 1.230 S.M.79-I/-II/-III
Savoia-Marchetti S.M.79-III Sparviero This improved S.M.79-II version had no ventral gondola, and armamanet was revised by replacing the 0.50 inch (12,7 mm) gun above the cockpit with a 20 mm cannon. The propellers were improved, exhaust manifold pipes were lengthened, and improved radio equipment was installed.
Number built: small number out of 1.230 S.M.79-I/-II/-III
Savoia-Marchetti S.M.79B Sparviero This version was a twin-engined export version, bound for Brazil, Iraq and Rumania, with a rediedigned (glazed) nose. The Brazil version (3 aircraft) was powered by 2 × Alfa Romeo 128 RC.18 radial, rated at 930 hp (694 kW) each. Max level speed was 255 mph (410 km/h), at 14,765 ft (4.500 m). The aircraft for Iraq (4 aircraft) were powered by 2 × Fiat A.80 RC.41 radial, rated at 1,030 hp (768 kW) each. The Rumanian version (24 aircraft) was powered by 2 × Gnome-Rhône 14K Mistral Major radial, rated at 1,000 hp (746 kW) each.
Number built: 31
Savoia-Marchetti S.M.79C Sparviero This version was a conversion of the S.M.79-I, and was utilised as a VIP transport. It had the dorsal and ventral gun positions removed, and was powered by 3 × Piaggio P.XI RC.40 radial, rated at 1,000 hp (746 kW) each.
Number converted: 16
Savoia-Marchetti S.M.79JR Sparviero This version resulted from the second Rumanian order, and was powered by 2 × Junkers Jumo 211Da inverted-Vee, rated at 1,120 hp (835 kW) each. It had an empty weight of 15,860 lb (7.195 kg), max take-off weight of 23,790 lb (10.790 kg), max level speed of 276 mph (445 km/h) at 16,405 ft (5.000 m), climb to 9,845 ft (3.000 m) in 8 minutes 40 seconds, and a service ceiling of 24,280 ft (7.400 m).
Rumania was quite happy with it, and secured a license to build a number of aircraft themselves, see separate IAR entry.
Number built: 24
Savoia-Marchetti S.M.79K Sparviero This version was identical to the S.M.19-I, but exported to Yugoslavia.
Number built: 45
Savoia-Marchetti S.M.79T Sparviero This version was the long-range version of the S.M.79C, powered with 3 × Alfa Romeo 126 RC.34 radial, rated at 780 hp (582 kW) each. The internal fuel capacity was enlarged
Number converted: unknown
Savoia-Marchetti S.M.83 This version was a civil transport version in a 10-passenger configuration. it was powered by 3 × Alfa Romeo 126 RC.34 radial, rated at 750 hp (559 kW)
Number built: unknown out of 23 S.M.83
Savoia-Marchetti S.M.83A This version was a civil transport version in a 6-passenger with mail configuration. it was powered by 3 × Alfa Romeo 126 RC.34 radial, rated at 750 hp (559 kW). This version had increased fuel capacity compared to the S.M.83
Number built: unknown out of 23 S.M.83
Savoia-Marchetti S.M.83T This version was a civil transport version in a mailplane configuration. it was powered by 3 × Alfa Romeo 126 RC.34 radial, rated at 750 hp (559 kW). This version had increased fuel capacity compared to the S.M.83A
Number built: unknown out of 23 S.M.83
Savoia-Marchetti S.579 This was an alternative designation for the S.M.79-III
Redesignated aircraft
IAR S.M.79JR This version was identical with the Savoia-Marchetti S.M.79JR Sparviero, but license built bij IAR indigenous in Rumania
Number built: 16

Operational remarks:

The Sparviero entered operational status before World War 2 broke out. Nevertheless it was on active duty real soon with the Aviazione Legionare (Italian Expeditionary Force) supporting the Nationalists during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). The performance of the Sparviero during that war led Yugoslavia to order 45 aircraft for their own airforce.
When Italy entered World War 2, there were some 600 aircraft in service, and they and subsequent aircraft have been used in every theatre of operations were Italy was fighting.
When Italy was divided by the Allied forces, the Sparviero served on both sides, in the Aeronautica Cobelligerante del Sud as well as the Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana.
In the end the Sparviero had sunk considerable Allied shipping (including 5 destroyers) mostly in the Mediterranean Sea, and had further acted as a reconnaissance aircraft, groundsupport and transport. It even has featured as the worlds first remote controlled bomb. After the War some aircraft have long served as transports and mailplanes.

Strengths:

Weaknesses:

 

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© by Frans Bonné, 2000
Last revision: 5/27/02