The Piaggio P.108 B was the only heavy, four engined bomber to see service with the Italian air force (Regia Aeronautica) during World War Two. Due to the lack of production capacity of the Italian aviation industry, too few were built to play a significant role in this conflict. In total Piaggio built only 163 P.108 Bs, but this fact does not make the design less remarkable.

The Piaggio P.108 B (Bombardiere) was an all metal cantilever low-wing monoplane with an retractable undercarriage, driven by four Piaggio P.XII RC 35 18 cylinder radial engines, each producing 1350 hp. The first prototype was finished in October 1939 and had a very advanced defensive armament for its day. Not only had the Piaggio two 7,7 mm machine waist guns, a 12,7 mm machine gun in the lower turret and a similar weapon in the nose turret, it also had two remotely-controlled twin gun turrets on the outer nacelle of each wing. The first allied bomber with a similar armament was the Boeing B 29, which was developed four years later.   The bomb load of the Piaggio comprised of 3,500 kg, all carried internally in the bomb bay. In comparison, the Boeing B-17 'Flying Fortress' had a maximum internal bomb load of 2,200-kg.

The only unit of the Regia Aeronautica to fly the Piaggio P.108 B was the 274a Squadrilia Bombardamento a Grande Raggio (B.G.R.), the 274th Long-Range Bomber Group. This unit was formed in May 1941, around the first machines that came off the assembly lines.   After initial training and some familiarization with the plane the group became operational on  June 1942. The most spectacular raids with the Piaggio P. 108 B were flown during October 1942, when the Regia Aeronautica launched several night attacks on Gibraltar, from the airfield of Decimomannu on Sardinia.

Several versions were derived from the Piaggio P. 108 B, such as the P.108 A (Artigliere), which had a 102 mm anti shipping gun in it’s nose, the P.108 C (Civile) airliner and the P.108 T (Trasporto). The last two versions had a newly designed fuselage of larger diameter, for the transportation of passengers or freight. These planes were hardly used by the Regia Aeronautica, the main user being the German Luftwaffe. In September 1943, after the Italian armistice, the Luftwaffe had captured all fifteen built P.108 Cs and P.108 Ts. They were deployed to the Russian front, as part of Luftflotte 2, where they performed sterling duty, among others during the evacuation of the Crimea in 1944.   In 1940 a seaplane version of the P.108 was designed, the P.108 B.I. (Bombardiere Idrovolanti), but this was never developed beyond the stage of a wooden mock-up.
Technical Data:
Aircraft:
Piaggio P.108B
Manufacturer:
S.A. Piaggio & Co.
Type:
Bomber
Year: 1942
Engine: Four Piaggio P.XII RC 35, 18-cylinder radial, air-cooled, 1,350 hp each
Wingspan:
105 ft (32 m)
Length:
75 ft 2in (22.92 m)
Height:
17 ft  (5.18 m)
Weight:
65,970 Ib (29,855 kg) (Loaded)
Maximum speed:
261 mph (420 km/h) at 12.800 ft (3,900 m)
Ceiling:
26,400 ft (8,050 m)
Range:
2,190 miles (3,520 km)
Armament:
8 machine guns; 7,700 Ib (3,500 kg) of bombs
Crew:
6

Additional Images
:
Airmodel 1/72 Piaggio P.108 B
Italian Four Engine Heavy
by Peter Ibes
Click the STORMO! Eagle to return to the Gallery
September, 2010
STORMO! © 2010

The Model
When I built this model, back in 2001, the only model available of the P.108 B was the Airmodel kit, AM-403. The fuselage, wings and tail planes, as well as the engine nacelles are all vacuform parts. The engines, propellers, the cockpit and landing gear are injection molded. Further the kit has a fairly good decal sheet. Of course we now have the injection moulded one from Special Hobby, but the Airmodel kit should still not be dismissed.

To further improve the model, I bought a resin detail set from RCR, to replace the engines, engine cowlings, propellers and wheels from the kit. An alternative would be to use cast resin copies of the engines and propellers of the Cant Z.1007 bis from Supermodel.

For modelers used to building vacuform kits, the Piaggio should not pose a problem. After cutting out and sanding the parts, the fit is fairly good. Some panel lines don’t line up and should be re-scribed and the joining of the tail plane requires some filling with plastic card and putty.
Because of their length the wings have to be strengthened, so I used tubes from Evergreen to prevent them from sagging. The vacuformed canopy is very clear, but is a bit difficult to fit properly to the model.

As with all vacuform models, the inside lacks any detail. This was added using plastic strip, rod and tubing. (photo). The life raft in the fuselage was made by making a ‘floor’ of several pieces of plastic rod (Ć 0,8 mm). These were cut to size, after which thicker tubes (3,0 mm) were attached. The outside was then sanded round and ready.

Further details on the model are the open bomb bay doors, moveable propellers and the moveable door in the aft section of the fuselage. Also the gun turrets on the engine nacelles can rotate, by attaching a piece of plastic tube on the underside of the turret and one with a smaller diameter on the bottom of the nacelle.

The model is painted to represent a Piaggio of the 274a Squadrilia Bombardamento a Grande Raggio, as used at the time of the night attacks on Gibraltar. The colors used on the aircraft were Verde Oliva Scuro 2 (‘satin blue’, Humbrol 134, unfortunately o.o.p.) on the upper surfaces and Nero Opaco (matt black, Humbrol 33) on the underside. Although it would be expected, the striking white fuselage band was not painted out, in spite of the aircraft operating at night. The model was finished with the kit decals, supplemented by decals from Tauro, sheet no. 72-510, Regia Aeronautica, Insegne Nazionali. 

References:
1) Il Piaggio P. 108, Giancarlo Garello, Edizioni Bizzarri, Roma, 1973 .
2) Piaggio P. 108, Le Monografie Aeronautiche Italiane, No. 6/7, Anno II, Maggio-Giugno 1985 .
3) Colori e schemi mimetici della Regia Aeronautica 1935-1943, II edizione, Umberto Postiglioni – Andrea Degl’Innocenti, Gruppo Modellistico Trentino, Trento, 1994 .
4) Axis Aircraft of World War II, David Mondey, Chancellor Press, Reed International Books, London, 1996, page 231-232 .
5) Courage Alone, The Italian Airforce 1940-1943, Chris Dunning, Hikoki Publications, Hants (U.K.), 1998, page 104.