Trumpeter 1/48 Savoia Marchetti SM.79 II
Sparviero (Sparrowhawk)
by Peter Dixon

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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 lines. 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.


To begin, it was when reading the article in the history section of A Famous Torpedo-Bomber S.79 Carlo Emanuele Buscaglia's "281-5" (Dott. S. Lazzaro, 2007) here on Stormo, that made me think of perhaps it would be a good project. Classic Airframes was the first to come out with a kit of the SM 79 in 1/48 scale. Then Trumpeter came out with their SM 79. So which one to get? Well that was no problem as I could only get the Trumpeter. However it has it's problems, that's not to say Classic Airframes is perfect.

So the build, Three things to amend to the kit in my mind when done would make a fair representation of a SM79. First thing was to reduce down the overdone 'ribbing' of the fuselage and tail, next the horizontal stabilisers, they are too short in length. Both these mods you could live without doing but what really is a failing by Trumpeter is the opening for the engine cowlings - too big. This was corrected by using thin strips of plastic glued a little at a time to front edge of the cowl then cutting to fit and then join the two sides together. With these three mods out of the way the build proper could begin.

This is a straight forward kit to put together with no fit issues but is lacking in fine detail and thats where the Eduard Sets come in and Iím hoping the build pictures speak for themselves as how it came together. The torpedo rail was bent so as not to cross over the bomb doors as this plane was both a bomber and a torpedo bomber. I elected to have open the "hump" and the gondola.

Painting was done using the history article as a guide with two amendments. First the code letters do not have the old codes showing through like in the pictures, instead I took the view that they were amended on one of its many visits back to the workshop, likewise behind the centre engine cowl it says it may have been in the original overall scheme and not painted grey. To me that seems odd not to have painted that area whilst everything around it was, so mine is grey darkened a little to hedge my bets. One thing for certain it was done at a later date.

What else could I have done. well I didnít get aftermarket wheels, the wheels of the kit have centres that are nothing like the real aircraft, mark up another to Trumpeter. Also should I have painted the front glass of the gondola as I know there is a shield that could be raised and lowered and I have the aircraft sitting on itís under carriage, which is also why the two footwells are in the raised position. I have seen many examples of Ď281-5í with errors both as builds or drawings even the Skymodels decal sheet used on this, shows it having the fasces symbol on the centre engine cowl, something Ď281-5í never wore.

In conclusion, the Trumpeter kit has some major things wrong with it but with some fixes it can be made into a good kit and it is not that hard to do.

Additional Construction Images

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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June, 2017
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