Tigger Models 1/32 Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 I
Sparviero (Sparrowhawk)
by Alexander Mayer

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The Regia Aeronautica felt that pilots transitioning from the slower 160 km/h (100 mph) biplanes then in service, to the 420 km/h (260 mph) S.79, that was faster than most contemporary fighters, would experience difficulty in converting to the high performance bomber. To facilitate aircrew transitioning to the S.79 12o Stormo Bombardamento Terrestre (land based bombers) was formed at Guidonia where it took delivery of the twenty-four S.79 pre-series (serialed from M.M.20663 to M.M.20686) between October of 1936 and January of 1937. The 12o Stormo was formed with the most experienced pilots, mostly drawn from veterans of the Balbo cruises and fighter units. The 12o Stormo was made up of two Gruppi (Groups) 41 and 42, of which only the former was operational at Guidonia.

The S.79 found itself in the paradoxical situation of being an admired and successful airplane, but an unwanted bomber. The Regia Aeronautica's Technical Branch was opposed to its trimotor configuration, its primitive defensive armament with hand-held guns in open positions, the location of the bomb aimer in a ventral "tub" from which the bombardier legs protruded. But most of all, criticism was levelled at the small bomb-bay, located in what was to all intents and purposes, an airliner fuselage, with bombs hanging vertically and therefore having an erratical dropping pattern. However the main reason for the S.79's adoption was the short-comings of its competitors. Of all the aircraft presented for the 1934 bomber competition, only the Fiat B.R.20, which began to enter squadron service in 1937, would be considered successful. The Piaggio P.32, according to a few pilots was "a misunderstood Italian B-25 Mitchell". The mixed construction Caproni Ca.135 had four different types of engines installed without attaining an acceptable level of efficiency.

Early in 1937 the Regia Aeronautica was increasing its air units according to a rearmament plan which would be continually rewritten until it became the 1939 "Plan R" calling for some 3,000 first-line aircraft. The staff Offices envisioned thirty-four bomber Squadriglie of B.R.20s, thirty-four Squadriglie of Caproni 135s, and twenty-four Squadriglie of Piaggio P.32s. The ambitious planners of the Staff Offices were unaware that Valle had already reduced production orders for the Ca.135 and the P.32 to only thirty-two machines each. While the great production scheme of the SIAI S.81 Pipistrello was successfully implemented, the same license building pattern would be applied to the S.79, which had near identical construction, simple wooden wings and a welded tube fuselage.

As dissatisfaction with the progress being made with the various twin engine bomber designs increased, added importance was placed on the S.79. Even before the first of the twenty-four pre-series planes were completed SIAI received an order for an additional eighty-two aircraft, and Aeronautica Macchi received an order for twenty-four license built S.79s, with license production later being joined by Reggiane and Aeronautica Umbra S.A. (AUSA) at Foligno, in Central Italy. By the spring of 1937 orders had been placed for 202 S.79s. While a single Ca.135 had yet to be delivered to the Regia Aeronautica, the S.79 was amassing combat triumphs in the Spanish Civil War, and by the fall of 1937 the Regia Aeronautica plans had been changed to thirty-four Squadriglie of B.R.20s, and twenty of Ca.135s (powered by an engine that didn't yet exist), and fifty Squadriglie of S.79s.

Throughout 1937 the number of S.79s in service grew very slowly, even though Macchi and Reggiane joined with license production, followed by AUSA in 1939. 8o Stormo at Bologna was the second unit to receive the S.79, followed by the 9o Stormo at Ciampino, Rome. Both of these units had previously flown the S.81. The dispatch of S.79s to Spain somewhat slowed down the Regia Aeronautica's build-up of the new bomber, but one by one the S.81 stormi converted to the S.79, and new units were formed on the new bomber. During the summer of 1938, with Europe seemingly on the edge of war, the Regia Aeronautica could field only some 150 S.79s. A year later just over 300 S.79s were on strength. On 10 June 1940, when Italy declared war on France and Great Britain, following the Nazi invasion of France, the S.79 equipped fourteen stormi and one independent gruppo with a total strength of 612 S.79s.

Deployment of S.79 units were as follows:

2nd Air Force - Sicily
Stormi 11o 30o 34o 36o 41o
3rd Air Force - Central Italy
Stormi 9o 12o 46o
Air Force of Sardinia
Stormi 8o 32o
Air Force of Libya
Stormi 10o 14o ** 15o 33o
Air Force of East Africa
44o Gruppo
** partially equipped

It was an impressive force, conceived for a lightning war ("Guerra di Rapido Corso" which was the only coherent Military philosophy on mechanized warfare outside of Germany, developed prior to WWII, which called for a balanced all-arms military unit the armored division or armored brigade - combining artillery, tanks, motorized and mechanized infantry into a single cohesive unit) which would last only a few weeks and would be decided by these fast uninterceptable bombers. Only the 1st Air Force in Northern Italy had no S.79s, being equipped with the B.R.20 at its western bases (around Fiat's hometown of Turin), and the Cant Z.1007.

This bomber force, internationally exalted, by 1940, could no longer remain unescorted in daylight encounters with modern monoplane fighters such as the Spitfire, P-40 and the D.520. The proud bomber Stormi expierenced losses in courageous but ineffective massed daylight attacks on the British Fleet (bombers could not bomb moving naval vessels effectively at altitude, lessons similarly learnt by the USAAF), the island of Malta against Spitfires, and over the Western Desert. The S.79, obviously outclassed by modern fighters seemed destined to second-line duties.

The reluctant bomber, however, would find itself a new role, that of torpedo bomber, which would breath new operational life into the design and bring it additional acclaim. From the first experimental torpedo attacks during the Summer of 1940 to the final operations of Mussolini's Aeronautica Nazionale Republicana in early 1945, a small group of overworked aircrew and S.79s supplied one of the most effective elements of Italy's contribution to the Axis air-war effort.


This is a model of the Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 Sparviero in 1/32. The SM.79 was one of the best Italian bombers, and indeed one of the most successful torpedo bombers of all in WWII, sinkling up to 1,000,000 gross tonnage of shipping.

The model is the early tactical-bomber version (non-torpedo) red 1, 18 Squadriglia, 27 Gruppo, 30 Stormo, Sicilia, 1940. The Warpaint book: Hall Park Books - Savoia Marchetti S.79 Sparviero - HB0061 as well as Ali D'Italia #28, SM.79 Special Edition include color profiles of this aircraft.

This is the Tigger Models vacuform kit. I believe its the same kit as the former ID Models kit mentioned in Ali D'Italia #28. The kit just offers a "hollow shell" of the main parts, which is of course mentioned on the website of Tigger Models.

As a consequence, I had to add the entire interior and landing gear assembly (mostly with Evergreen cards and profiles), get some resin engines (Bristol Pegasus/Alfa Romeo 126C43 by Vector) and create my own decals. The guns (Breda-SAFAT machine guns on the real thing) are a mixture of the Browning M2 (a good substitue) from CMK and parts from my spare box. The tail wheel came from my spare box too, as well as the propellers.

The engine cowlings of the finished model were partly made from the caps of aersol cans because the kit parts were not very good. The forward part of the cowlings were 3D-printed, as well as the main wheels. The exhausts are made from a styrene sprue. Maybe one day, Ill make completely new 3D-printed cowlings with more refined exhausts.

Beside the wheels and cowlings, the provided kit parts were OK, although I had to use lots of putty. Due to the thin plastic of the wing parts, I had to make my own wing-spars and ribs from styrene sheet to get a sturdy construction. This turned out to be pretty tricky as I had to determine the shape of every rib using a profile-gauge and some trial and error. Once finished, both wings were connected with two massive 4mm brass rods trough the fuselage.

Painting: for the undersides I used grey (Grigio Azzurro Chiaro) and upper surfaces a sand color (Giallo Mimetico) using the corresponding acrylic colors from LIFECOLOR. For green (Verde Mimetico) I used Revell 361, and for the brown (Marrone Mimetico), I used Revell 381. I painted the interior grey, following the STORMO! Color Guide. For yellow (Giallo Cromo) engine cowlings I used Model Master 2023 - Blue Angels Yellow FS. 13655.
Technical Data

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/h) at 13,120 ft (4,000 m)
Ceiling: 23,000 ft (7.000 m)
Range: 1,180 miles (1,900 km)
Armament: 4-5 machine guns; 2,756 Ib (1,250 kg) of bombs
Crew: 6

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