Supermodel 1/72 Savoia Marchetti SM.81
Pipistrello - VIP Transport
by Enrico Calanchini

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A military development of the SM.73 transport, the SM.81 bomber/transport appeared in 1934, seeing considerable use in the Ethiopian campaign of the following year. It fought in the Spanish Civil War and in the Second World War and was still in limited use as a transport in the immediate-postwar period. The SM.81 was the standard Italian bomber until the vastly superior SM.79 began to enter service in 1937.

The SM.81 was powered by three 750 h.p. Alfa Romeo 12,5 R.C.35 or 126 R.C.34 nine-cylinder radial engines, 900 h.p. Isotta-Fraschini (license-built Gnome-Rhone K.14) fourteen-cylinder radials, or 900 h.p. Piaggio Stella-IX R.C.40 nine-cylinder radials. Three distinct types of engine cowling were employed; the initial short-chord Townend ring was followed by a similar longer-chord type, finally replaced by the smoother Magni-N.A.C.A. tapered ariety. A glazed bombardier's position wasted below the fuselage just behind the engine nacelle, while two semi-retractable hydraulically operated turrets, each with two 7.7-mm machine guns, were located in dorsal and ventral positions. A fifth hand-held 7.7-mm gun was fired from either of two lateral hatches. Crew was six. The normal bomb load was 2640 lb. (maximum 4400 lb.), stored vertically in the bottom of the fuselage. This method of bomb storage did not allow a predictable bomb trajectory. Various loads were: four 1100-lb. or 550-lb. bombs, sixteen 220-lb. bombs, twenty-eight 110-lb. bombs, or fifty-six 44-lb or 33-lb bombs. The SM.81 was also tested in 1936 with two torpedoes mounted beneath the fuselage.

Operating both as a bomber and troop ransport in the Ethiopian campaign of 1935, the SM.81 was an effective machine, although not used in as great numbers as the older Ca 133. In Spain it was satisfactory when given reasonable fighter cover (usually FIAT CR.32's), but by 1939 it was out-of-date. At that time 276 machines (130 effective) were in service in Metropolitan Italy, Albania, Libya, and the Aegean Islands, while a further 36 (16 effective) were stationed in Ethiopia (A.O.I.). In June, 1940, SM.81's still equipped the 37° Stormo B.T. at Lecce, the 38° Stormo of the Aeronautica dell'Albania at Tirana, the 14° and 15° Stormi B.T. of the Aeronautica della Libia at El Adem and Castelbenito, and the 39° Stormo B.T. of the Aeronautica dell'Egeo at Rhodes. During the war the bomber, receiving the name Pipistrello (Bat) because of its usual night bombing role, served in North Africa, Greece, and Russia, but it was increasing employed for second-line duties such as paratroop and general-purpose transport. In this capacity 18 troops could be carried. In September 1943 five SM.81's joined the Allies, a few remaining machines being used the Fascists.

The SM.81 weighted 14,300 lbs empty and 23,100 lbs loaded. Performance included a maximum speed of 196-214 m.p.h., depending on the type of engine fitted, a cruising speed of 180 m.p.h., a range of 932-1242 miles and a service ceiling of 22,960 ft. Climb to 9840 ft took 12 min. Dimensions were: span 78 ft. 82/3 in., length 60 ft. 1 in., height 15 ft. 11 1/4 in., and a wing area of 1000.7 sq. ft.

A twin-engined version, designated SM.81B, had a 840 h.p. Isotta-Fraschini Asso XI R.C. twelve-cylinder vee engines and a glazed bombardier's position in the nose. Empty and loaded weights were 14,960 lbs and 22,880 lbs Length was 58 ft. 81/2 in. Performance included a maximum speed of 204 m.p.h., a cruising speed of 186 m.p.h., a service ceiling of 26,240 ft., and a range of 1366 miles. The SM.81B climbed to 3280 ft. in 4 min., to 6560 ft. in 7 min. 48 sec., to 13,120 ft. in 15 min. 30 sec., and to 19,680 ft. in 24 min. 30 sec .

This is the SuperModel 1/72 SM.81 that needs many changes to obtain the unarmed version assigned to high government and military persons. The model corresponds to SM.81 assigned to the CSM General Giuseppe Valle of the Regia Aeronautica in 1939. The wavvy red stripes distinguish these aircraft.

Construction photos:

Technical Data
Aircraft: SIAl-Marchetti SM.81
Manufacturer: SIAl-Marchetti
Type: Bomber
Year: 1935
Engine: Three Alfa Romeo 125 RC 35. 9­cylinder radial. air-cooled. 680 hp each
Wingspan: 78 ft 9 in (24.00 m)
Length: 60 ft 1 in (18.31 m)
Height: 14 ft 4 in (4.47 m)
Weight: 23,190 Ib (10,505 kg) (Loaded)
Maximum Speed: 211 mph (340 km/h) at 13,120 ft (4,000 m)
Ceiling: 23,000 ft (7,000 m)
Range: 1,200 miles (1,931 km)
Armament:6 machine guns; 4,415 Ib (2,000 kg) of bombs
Crew: 6

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July, 2016
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