Classic Airframes 1/48 SIAI-Marchetti SM.79
Best WWII Land Based Torpedo Bomber
by Jean Barby
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As the British Spitfire and the American Mustang characterized an era in the history of aviation in their countries, so too did the 'Sparviero' (Sparrowhawk) for Italy. It was certainly the best known Italian aeroplane of the Second World War, and saw duty on all fronts. The aircraft was designed as a bomber, but it became famous as a torpedo-carrier, and was an outstanding airplane.

Between October 1936 and June 1943, a total of 1,217 aeroplanes came off the assembly line.  It was designed by Alessandro Marchetti, and was developed from the earlier SM.81. Like its predecessor, the SM.79 was a low-wing. monoplane, with a wood and metal structure and a composite covering, but the new three-engine aeroplane incorporated many improvements, such as more powerful engines, which improved performance. It had finer aerodynamic lines, and the retractable under-carriage was designed to raise up into the engine nacelle.

The prototype had been designed as a civil transport aeroplane with eight seats. The first flight took place in October 1934, when the aeroplane took off from the Cameri Airport in the province of Novara. It was a brilliant debut. Its general performance was outstanding. The aeroplane flew over 220 mph (354 km/h) at sea level and more than 250 mph (402 km/h) at higher altitudes. The aeroplane improved in performance the following year, when 750 hp Alfa Romeo engines were installed in place of the original 610 hp Piaggio P.IX. In the month of September six world speed records were broken, over distances of 625 and 1,250 miles (1,000 and 2,000 km) with loads of 1,100, 2,200, and 4,400 pounds (498, 997 and 1,995 kg). The military authorities were so impressed with this achievement that they ordered a second prototype in a bomber model. This version did not differ structurally from the civil version, and the only changes were alterations to accommodate bombs and armament in the belly, and the raising of the cockpit.

The airplane was used in the Spanish Civil War from February 1937, but it also continued to be used as a civil transport and racing aeroplane. A special model with 1,000 hp Piaggio P.XI engines continued to establish speed records. On December 4, 1938, it flew at an average of about 300 mph (482 km/h) over a distance of 621 miles (1,000 km) with a 2 ton (2.02 tonnes) load. One of the aircraft's finest achievements took place on August 20-21, 1937, when five SM.79C racers took the first five places in the Istres-Damascus-Paris race. A distance of almost 4,000 miles (6,437 km) was covered at an average speed of more than 220 mph (354 km). A top speed was established on the Istres-Damascus leg of the flight, when one of the aeroplanes reached 265 mph (426 km/h). In January 1938 three other SM.79s, trans-atlantic models flew from Guidonia, Italy, to Rio de Janeiro, via Dakar - a distance of more than 6,000 miles (9,656 km) at an average speed of more than 250 mph (402 km/h). At the same time a commercial export model was developed, the SM.79B. This was a twin-engine aeroplane with a modified forward section, powered by a pair of 1,030 hp Fiat A.80 RC 41s, or by two 1,000 hp Gnome-Rhone K.14s. A third engine variant was powered by two 1,220 hp Junkers Jumo 211 D in-line engines. A total of 113 of this variant model were produced, 16 of them in Romania on licence. The aeroplane was sold to Iraq, Yugoslavia, Brazil, and Romania.  A final version, the SM.79-III, appeared in 1943.

When Italy entered the war, there were 594 SM.79s in service. The plane started out as a bomber, but soon was assigned to torpedo carrying, and was outstanding in this role. It continued in this sort of operation after 1943 in the air force of the Aeronautica Nazionale Reppublicana. In the south, the Allies reassigned the aircraft to transport duty. The SM.79s that survived the war were used for some years as transport aeroplanes and target tugs. The last aircraft were retired from service in 1952.

So you wanna build a Sparviero ...
Well! Let's talk plain english: there are two kits available to build this plane, the Classic Airframes and the Trumpeter kits and many discussions have emerged regarding the pros and cons of each kit.  Let's put it this way: if you want a fast build of something that will look like a SM79, without attention to detail, accepting fantasy as well, then build the Trumpeter model.  However as we know, the Chinese have never been much good at antipasto!  Then there’s the Classic Airframes kit; basically much better but crying-out for detail and for a more authentic representation of what the plane should be, even more if you’re interested in building the Aerosilurante (AS) version.  In both cases you’ll need a lot of aftermarket products, some you’ll use and some you won’t.  The PE set from from Poland has three set of photoetch and you will be able to grab some prettty good material from them. Then you have our Italian craftsman, Felix Ruffolo from Italian Kits from whom you will get some very good engines, not so good  engine cowlings and excellent Italian MGs. Alpha flight provides a new rudder and movable surfaces for the tailplane, and these are great.

How to start!
First of all you must get accuarte drawings from the Ali D'Italia book Vol. 1 (the ones you see in the pics below) and enlarge them to 1/48th. Then using evergreen rods 10,15,20,25 and build the structure of the plane just like the real thing. Remember to use liquid cement for a solid bond as plastic with plastic and liquid glue are stronger than using cyano. Its a long process but you cannot get away with anything else. Use as many pictures as you can, and take as many breaks as you need.

You'll have to change the position of the underbelly windows which are too far back.  Also widen the opening of the gondola which is too large. Once again I did provide pics of the ' Work in Progress' and the pics speak a thousand words.
When you're tired of the fuselage, theres plenty of fun with the undercarriage bays: a total scratch re-build including undercarriage legs; these are so basic that they make you feel like crying! Retracting arms need to be made from scratch, once again I refer you back to the pics to get an idea of what should be done.
A lot of work is waiting for you in the cowling area where you'll have to build the two fasteners, always on the opposite side of the exhausts, a feature missed by all manufacturers and resin sets alike !
Should I write that the entire flight deck was revisited and enhanced with a lot of resin and photo etch parts ? You start to get it! Great!
Technical Specifcations:

Aircraft:
SIAl-Marchetti SM.79
Manufacturer: SIAl-Marchetti
Type: Bomber
Year: 1937
Engine: Three Alfa Romeo A.R. 126 RC 34, 9-cylinder radial, air-cooled, 750 hp each
Wingspan: 69 ft 7 in (21.20 m)
Length: 53 ft 2 in (16.20 m)
Height: 13ft 5t in (4.10 m)
Weight: 23.180 Ib (10.500 kg) (Loaded)
Maximum speed: 267 mph (430 km/hl at 13.120 ft (4.000 m)
Ceiling: 23.000 ft (7.000 m)
Range: 1.180 miles (1.900 kml
Armament: 4--5 machine guns; 2.756 Ib (1.250 kg) of bombs
Crew: 6

Aircraft: SIAl-Marchetti SM.79 III
Manufacturer: SIAl-Marchetti
Type: Torpedo Bomber
Year: 1943
Engine: Three Piaggio P.XI RC 40. 14-cylinder radial. air-cooled, 1,000 hp each
Wingspan: 69 ft 7 in (21.20 m)
Length: 51 ft 2 in (15.60 m)
Height: 15ft 10 in (4.60 m)
Weight: 23.180 Ib (10.500 kg) (Loaded)
Maximum speed: 295 mph (475 km/h)
Ceiling: 23.000 ft (7.0001)
Range: 1.180 miles (1.900 km)
Armament: 4 machine guns; 1 20 mm cannon; 1 torpedo
Crew: 6

October, 2007
STORMO! © 2007
I was in touch with Stefano Lazzarro during this build and he provided some very good information regarding  equipment of the AS SM79. That's why I added an auxilliary tank, placed in the bomb bay and painted it yellow. A field modification in scale!
Some panels are absent and some panels need to be scribed, here, again constant references to the plans and pics are essential.
One of the biggest mistakes of the Classic Airframes kit is to represent a step in the line from the ailerons / flaps junction. These are on the same level and requires heavy surgery.

... well I told you it wasn't an easy kit. C'mon we are only half way home!   When you build the wings, make sure you rectify the length of the slats, which are too short on the model. Rescribe, sand, putty, again and again.

Well I am tired of writing so you better reference the pics and make your own judgement!