Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 Sparviero
Developed from an eight-seat commercial airliner of 1934, the three-engine Savoia-Marchetti S.M.79 Sparviero entered service as a conventional medium bomber with the Regia Aeronautica in 1937, and served operationally with the Aviacion del Tercio alongside the Nationalist forces during the Spanish Civil War.
In 1937 the S.M.79 embarked on trials at Gorizia as a torpedo bomber, being equipped to launch a single 450mm naval torpedo from an offset rack under the fuselage. The following year trials with paired torpedoes led to the adoption of the S.M.79-II aircraft as standard torpedo bomber equipment. Following Italy's entry into the war in June 1940, when Sparvieri (Sparrowhawks) equipped 14 stormi based in Italy, Sicily, Sardinia and Libya, the aircraft was constantly in action in the anti-shipping role, its first action being an attack by 19 S.M.79s of the 9° and 46° Stormi on French shipping off the Riviera coast on 13/14 June.
During the invasion of Crete S.M.79s of the 92° Gruppo and the 28la Squadriglia were active against Allied shipping in the Aegean, after which most aircraft were redeployed to Libya for operations against British naval forces and convoys in the Central Mediterranean as well as the naval base at Malta. Among the ships of the Royal Navy sunk by S.M.79s in the Mediterranean were the destroyers HMS Husky, HMS Jaguar, HMS Legion, and HMS Southwall, while the battleship HMS Malaya and the carriers HMS Indomitable and HMS Victorious were all struck by torpedoes launched by the Italian torpedo bombers; the majority of these ships were hit during the attacks on the Operation 'Pedestal' convoy which sailed with 14 merchant ships and heavy escort for the relief of Malta. Among the famous Italian pilots of the Sparviero were men such as Capitani Buscaglia, Cimicchi, di Bella and Melley, An improved version was the S.M.79-III without the ventral gondola but with a forward-firing 20mm cannon.
The SM.79 was blooded in the Spanish Civil War as a level bomber with four gruppi of the Italians’ Aviazione Legionaria and 3-, 4-, 5- and 6-G-28 of the Nationalists’ Agrupacion Espanola. Total deliveries to Spain were some 135 SM.79-ls, and as they pulled out at the end of the war the Italians donated 80 of their surviving aircraft to the victorious Nationalists. In the war the SM.79-ls had proved decisive, for they comprised one of the few homogeneous forces able to undertake an effective offensive role, in this instance long-range bombing without the need for fighter escort because of their performance and good defensive firepower. The Sparviero also proved reliable, and remained in service with the Spanish air force for many years after World War II.
The aircraft suffered from poor servicing facilities, and it was unusual for even as much as half the available strength of Sparvieri to be fit for operations at any given time. Nevertheless the S.M.79 was acknowledged as being among the best torpedo aircraft to serve in the Mediterranean theatre during World War II.
Savoia Marchetti SM 79 Sparviero
Engines: 3 x Piaggio P XI R C 40, 986 hp
Length: 53.15 ft / 16.2 m
Height: 13.451 ft / 4.1 m
Wingspan: 69.554 ft / 21.2 m
Wing area: 664.139 sq.ft / 61.7 sq.m
Max take off weight: 24916.5 lb / 11300.0 kg
Weight empty: 16758.0 lb / 7600.0 kg
Max. weight carried: 8158.5 lb / 3700.0 kg
Max. speed: 234 kt / 434 km/h
Cruising speed: 173 kt / 320 km/h
Service ceiling: 22966 ft / 7000 m
Wing loading: 37.52 lb/sq.ft / 183.0 kg/sq.m
Range: 1890 nm / 3500 km
Range (max. weight): 1075 nm / 1990 km
Armament: 4x MG
Type: four/five-seat medium bomber
Powerplant: 3 x Alfa Romeo 126 RC 34, 582 kW (780 hp)
Span: 21.2m (69ft 6.7 in)
Length: 15.80m (51ft l0in)
Height: 4.3 m / 14 ft 1 in
Wing area: 61.7 sq.m / 664.13 sq ft
Empty weight: 6800 kg / 14992 lb
Max T/O weight: 10480 kg (23,100 lb)
Max speed: 267 mph at 13,125 ft
Ceiling: 6500 m / 21350 ft
Operational range: 1,180 miles
Armament: 1 x 7.7-mm (0.303-in) and 3 x 12.7-mm 0.5-in) m-g
Bombload: 1250 kg (2,756 lb) internally
Savoia-Marchetti S.M.79 Sparviero