Savoia-Marchetti SM.81 Pipistrello
The Savoia-Marchetti S.M.81 Pipistrello (Bat) had originally been designed as a bomber, by Alessandro Marchetti, and saw service in both the Spanish and Abyssinian wars.
Based on the S.M.73, it also had a fixed landing gear arrangement.
Dating from 1935, the S.M.81 was already a degree of obsolescent when Italy entered World War II. Despite the robust mixed construction which proved capable of absorbing much battle damage, it was replaced as a bomber by the S.M.79.
Production ceased in March 1938 after 534 had been delivered. The 304 which remained on the strength of the Regia Aeronautica were converted to troop carriers (18 men) after withdrawal from front-line squadriglie.
In this capacity, the S.M.81 was relegated to service on the African and Eastern fronts, where it proved sufficiently useful for production to be resumed in 1943 of the S.M.81/T. At the armistice in September 1943 only about 80 of these additional aircraft were built, and only four remained in the south by this time although at least two complete transport units were still equipped with the type in the 'Salo' Republic of Italy (Fascist-controlled northern Italy).
An interesting historical fact is that one transport model of the S.M.81 was later used as the personal transport of Mussolini, and received the name Taratuga (Tortoise).
A variety of different radial motors was fitted, including the 485kW or 507kW Alfa Romeo 125 RC.35 or 126 RC.34 respectively, the 485kW Gnome-Rhone 14K or the 500kW Piaggio P.X RC.35.
Around 70 were delivered to Spain during the Civil War and 40 were still in service as transports in March 1940.
Savoia Marchetti SM 81 Pipistrello
Engines: 3 x Piaggio P. X RC.35, 690 hp / 522kW
Max take-off weight: 9300 kg / 20503 lb
Empty weight: 6300 kg / 13889 lb
Wing loading: 20.50 lb/sq.ft / 100.0 kg/sq.m
Wingspan: 24 m / 78 ft 9 in
Length: 17.8 m / 58 ft 5 in
Height: 4.45 m / 15 ft 7 in
Wing area: 93 sq.m / 1001.04 sq ft
Max speed: 184 kt / 340 km/h / 211 mph
Service Ceiling: 7000 m / 22950 ft
Range: 1080 nm / 2000 km / 1243 miles
Armament: 5 x 7.7mm machine-guns, 1000kg of bombs
Savoia-Marchetti S.M.81 Pipistrello