Supermodel 1/72 Cant Z.1007bis
Alcione (Kingfisher)
by Richard Mendes


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The Cantieri Aeronautici e Navali Triestini (CANT) Z.1007 Alcione (Kingfisher) medium bomber based on the Z.506 Airone (Heron) seaplane were amongst the largest wooden aircraft to see combat during the 20th Century. Both designed by Filippo Zappata (1894-1994) they flew well though Z.1007 airframes suffered from adverse climatic conditions in North Africa and Russia. Regarded by some aero historians as the best Italian bomber of WWII, Alciones flew with the Regia Aeronautica Italia (RAI), Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana, Aviazione Cobelligerante Italiana, Luftwaffe, Croatian Zrakoplovstvo Nezavisne Države Hrvatske and the Free French.

In 1935 Zappata designed the three-engine Monoderiva (single-tail) Z.1007 and twin-engine Bideriva (twin-tail) Z.1011 powered by Isotta-Fraschini Asso XI inlines first flying in March 1937 (MM.337) one year after the Z.1011, twenty-nine months after the Z.506 Airliner (MM.291). The Z.1007’s design and performance was clearly superior to the Z.1011 leading to the RAI ordering 18 aircraft on January 9, 1936 and a further 16 on February 23, 1937 deliveries taking place February-October 1939. Before they were constructed Zappata initiated a major redesign of the Z.1007 to resolve problems with Asso-powered aircraft Z.1007bis, such as the longer wings of greater span and area, Piaggio P.XI radial engines, heavier offensive and defensive armament though empty weight increased by 1,280lb maximum takeoff 1,960lb.

The mid-wing Z.1007 with fully retractable three-point landing gear was aerodynamically cleaner than its contemporary, the mixed steel tube and sheet, wood and fabric Savoia-Marchetti S.79 with semi-retractable and exposed landing gear though its wooden construction entailed having to employ specialized woodworking labor. The improved Z.1007bis first flew in July 1939 as part of an 8 aircraft pre-production order (MM.21221-21228) testing proving successful the RAI subsequently ordering large scale production; 466 aircraft were produced in 11 Serie between January 1940 and December 1942.

The Z.1007bis had five crew members: command pilot, co-pilot, bombardier/navigator/ventral gunner, dorsal gunner/radio operator and waist gunner/flight engineer, radio equipment located in the aircraft center section between the dorsal turret and waist gunner positions. The aircraft’s seductively slim fuselage necessitated pilots sitting in tandem offset to port underneath a long and elaborately framed cockpit canopy for the bombardier to enter his compartment below the command pilot's feet. The rear seated co-pilot was capable of taking off, flying and landing the Z.1007bis unassisted though his forward view was limited, his primary purpose relieving the command pilot whilst in flight, add muscle to flight controls, monitor gauges (those for engines on the starboard cockpit side) and observe.

The Z.1007bis could carry 2,650lbs of ordnance in a long, shallow horizontal bomb bay and 2,200lbs under a pair of underwing hard points over 400 miles, though standard payload was 2,645lbs over 621 miles; it could carry two 17.7-inch, 1,760lb torpedoes externally slung under the belly for anti-shipping operations though the planes were never operationally deployed this way.







The Z.1007bis defensive armament included 7.7 and 12.7mm machine guns. Two beam-mounted 7.7mm Breda guns with 500 rounds each, were employed by a single gunner, a manually-powered Lanciani dorsal turret (electrically powered Breda V turret in late production aircraft) fitted with a 12.7mm Scotti or a Breda-SAFAT weapon. The turret had a good field of fire. Another 12.7mm gun was ventrally positioned behind the bomb bay, its field of fire being restricted to the aircraft’s lower rear quadrant like most bombers of the time. Crew armor protection included plating of several thicknesses.

Operational History
In May 1939 the first Z.1007 Assos equipped the 50° Gruppo of 16° Stormo. When Italy entered WWII on June 10, 1940 the RAI had two Stormi equipped with the Alcione: 16° with 31° not battle ready Assos, 47° with four CANT Z.1007bis’ operational readiness of the latter was not reached till August when 30 aircraft were dispatched to Sicily to bomb Malta.

The Alcione received its baptism of fire on August 29, 1940 when ten Z.1007bis Monoderiva of 106° Gruppo bombed RAF Luqa airfield on Malta though its first large-scale deployment was during the Italian invasion of Greece. On October 28, 1940 the 47° Stormo at Grottaglie, 50° Gruppo of 50° Stormo at Brindisi had 44 Alciones available, on November 5th the 41° Gruppo of 12° Stormo joined them with 16 aircraft. These Stormi suffered few operational losses during the campaign though two were downed by Polemikí Aeroporía Lieutenant Marinos Mitralexis piloting a PZL P.24 one by ramming its tail. In January 1941 41° Gruppo was replaced by 95° Gruppo of 35° Stormo; heavy rains during the Greek campaign damaged several airframes necessitating near continuous repair work on them.

During the Battle of Britain six Z.1007bis Monoderivas saw limited action with the 172a Squadriglia as strategic reconnaissance aircraft for the Corpo Aereo Italiano (CAI) based in Belgium between November 1940 and January 1941. Also in 1941 35° Stormo Alciones were dispatched to North Africa as level bombers. On May 21, 1941 the British destroyer HMS Juno was sunk by a Z.1007bis commanded by 50° Gruppo Tenente Mario Morassutti - the only warship lost by a single attacking Alcione during WWII.

Throughout 1942 two Stormi and four Gruppi flew Alciones over the Mediterranean in the anti-ship role as well as over Malta against night roaming radar-directed Bristol Beaufighters. From October 10th to 20th 1942 Alciones conducted a wave of night attacks on Malta with thirty 9° Stormo and 8° Gruppo of 43° Stormo Z.1007bis’ because of serviceability issues barely a dozen could be dispatched. Alciones also operated over Russia with the Corpo d'Armata during 1942 in small numbers. In conjunction with intense Axis air and sea efforts to halt Operation Pedestal during August 1942 51° Gruppo Alciones based in Alghero, Sardinia flew reconnaissance missions, three Z.1007bis’ bombing the convoy at high altitude on the 14th. On August 12th an unmanned explosive-packed Aereo Radio Pilotato (Radio Guided Aircraft) S.79 guided by a Z.1007bis radio controller escorted by five FIAT G.50s was launched against the Pedestal convoy, the S.79's pilot bailing out after setting it on course to hit it when the S.79’s radio malfunctioned, cruising uncontrolled till crashing into Mount Klenchela in Algeria.

In November 1942 seventy-five Alciones equipped ten Gruppi with 39 serviceable. By the time of the Italian Armistice September 8, 1943 seventy-two out of 147 available RAI bombers were Alciones, 22 of them in Perugia, Sardinia, joining with eight others fleeing Alghero, Sardinia on the 11th, two downed by German flak, on the 16th they bombed German ships carrying troops and equipment from Sardinia to Corsica, one being downed by flak.

After the September 8th Armistice surviving Alciones went on to serve with the Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana, Aviazione Cobelligerante Italiana, Luftwaffe, Croatian Zrakoplovstvo Nezavisne Države Hrvatske and the Free French. On October 15, 1943 Alciones based in Sardinia grouped with those surviving in Southern Italy co-formed the Raggruppamento Bombardamento Trasporti (RBT) under the Aeronautica Cobelligerante Italiana, the worst day of RBT operations occurring on May 14, 1944 when 88o Gruppo dispatched twelve aircraft to drop Josip Broz Tito’s partisan army food containers over Kolasin, Montenegro five being shot down by 7 Staffel Jagdgeschwader 27 Messerschmitt Bf 109s over the Aegean sea, while two others landed with damage at Lecce-Galatina air base in Apulia, Italy.





Construction

The 1973-vintage injected-molded SUPERMODEL CANT Z.1007bis Monoderiva and Bideriva along with the c.2010-vintage vacuform BroPlan Z.1007 Asso Monoderiva are the only 1/72 scale model kits of these shapely Italian bombers. Several reviews have been written about these kits over the decades so I won’t repeat them other than in conjunction with my building the Bideriva Alcione.

The Bideriva Alcione art rendered by Don Greer on page 44 of Christopher Shores’ Regia Aeronautica Vol.1, A Pictorial History of the Italian Air Force 1940-1943 (Squadron/Signal Publications 1976) in conjunction with that on the decal options pamphlet included with Tauro Model Decal Sheet 72-519 of 210° Squadriglia, 50° Gruppo, 16° Stormo Bombardamento Terrestre "red 2" formed the basis of this SUPERMODEL build. Purchasing a copy of Shores' softbound pictorial around 1980-81, Greer’s evocative art caught my eye, then-there pined to build a model of "red 2" but couldn't till Tauro Decal Sheet 72-519 came on the market decades later.

The SUPERMODEL Z.1007bis kits though well molded gave me endless grief aligning Bideriva Mainwing-Fuselage-Tailplane (M-F-T) dihedrals the most - despite exerting extraordinary caution whilst building “red 2” the M-F-T dihedrals still came out misaligned! The Main Landing Gear and Engine Nacelle assemblies also gave grief poor Mainwheel Mud Shield Mounts and Retraction Arms, Engine Nacelle-Mainwing fits in particular. Despite the M-F-T dihedral misalignments “red 2” was built as planned though barring Italeri rereleasing the Alcione kits fixing these et. al. construction issues don’t ever want to build another SUPERMODEL Alcione kit again!




Paint
Wartime photographs of multi-engine RAI aircraft base painted Verde Mimetico (VM) 53192 typically were over sprayed with Verde and/or Marrone mottles of varying shades and types "red 2" reportedly over sprayed with VM3 squiggles resembling Luftwaffe "Wave Mirror". Whether factory applied or a Servizia Riparazioni Aeromobili e Motori repaint the genesis of this unusual Mimetico scheme still remains a mystery - to me.

All Fuselage, Engine Nacelle and Cowling interiors were spray painted Humbrol 78 Matt Cockpit Green +Testors Flat White 50/50 mix + 36% Flat White by volume replicating Verde Anti Corrosione topsides Humbrol 120 Matt Light Green + 36% Testors Flat White enamels replicating VM 53192 undersides Humbrol 140 Matt Gull Grey (MGG) + 36% TFW replicating Grigio Mimetico "Wave Mirror" squiggles Humbrol 117 U.S. Matt Light Green + 36% Testors Flat White enamels replicating VM3. Don Greer’s "red 2" fuselage port side bideriva Alcione art was all I had in way of replicating the "Wave Mirror" pattern over the rest of the model’s topsides, faithfully replicating it was an extended exercise in teeth-pulling, i.e. gritty Humbrol 117 paint clogging-up airbrush spray nozzles causing uneven spray flows and spitting, though the painting work was successfully completed.

Testors "utility" enamels White (36% scale perspective shading), Aluminum, Black, Bronze, Olive Green, Red, Rubber, Rust et. al. flat enamels also were employed as well as Polly Scale Flat Black, White, Dirt, Mud et. al. acrylic colors for weathering.

All models were over-sprayed with Testors Model Master Semi-Gloss Clear Lacquer Finish thinned 50% with Klean Strip Lacquer Thinner (WAY cheaper than Model Master thinner and just as good), prefer semi-gloss finish over flat, detail "pops out" better plus aesthetically more pleasing in appearance.

All spray work was accomplished with Testors Aztek A320 Single & A470 Double Action airbrushes, 9304CX 0.30, 9305CX 0.40, 9306CX 0.50 mm spray nozzles. Large-area spraying was accomplished with 0.50 and 0.40 mm nozzles "Wave Mirror" squiggles alternatively with 0.40 and 0.30 mm. Enamel paints have distinctive behaviors requiring different solutions to achieve smooth flow with as few “spits” possible, an ever persistent issue associated with RAI mottle camouflage painting.

Decals
Decals employed include SKY Models 72-061 (House of Savoy crests), Tauro Decal sheets 72-519 and 72-554 (black outline and white over black fasci). Don Greer’s “red 2” stationed at Viterbo, Italy in November 1941 lacks the fuselage fasci, empty and loaded weight nomenclature, aircraft type and "MM" serial numbers whilst the Tauro 72-519 pamphlet art of it stationed at Egeo, Greece in 1941 includes them, e.g. "MM.23438" ("MM-?" on the description), tossing dice over their historical accuracy or lack thereof, employed all the Tauro decals whilst building the bidervia Alcione model except white Distintivo di Guerra tail crosses, painted them on House of Savoy crest decals applied afterwards. Black outline and white over black wing fasci decals were respectively applied on mainwing upper and undersides, the former an "educated" guess not having information regarding the wing fasci type.





Technical Data

Aircraft: CANT Z.1007bis
Manufacturer: Cantieri Riuniti dell'Adriatico
Type: Bomber
Year: 1938
Engine: Three Piaggio P.XI RC 40, 14-cylinder radial, air-cooled, 1,000 hp each
Wingspan: 81 ft 4 in (24.80 m)
Length: 61 ft (18.59 m)
Height: 17 ft 1 in (5.22 m)
Weight: 38,200 lb (17,327 kg) (Loaded)
Maximum Speed: 283 mph (456 km/h) at 15,100 ft (4,600 m)
Ceiling: 26,500 ft (8,100 m)
Range: 1,243 miles (2,000 km)
Armament: 4 machine guns; 2,430 lb (1,100 kg) of bombs
Crew: 5

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October, 2018
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