Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 Sparviero (Sparrowhawk) Medium Bomber / Torpedo Bomber
The Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 Sparrowhawk became the best Italian bomber of World War 2, particularly in the anti-shipping role.
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The Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 Sparviero series of tri-engined bombers was the best bomber for the Italian Axis power in the Second World War. Aptly named the "Sparrowhawk", the system was double-effective in the anti-shipping role (due mainly to its speed for an aircraft of this type), able to carry up to two 17.7 inch torpedoes. It achieved notoriety at some levels, despite being consistently overshadowed by its German counterparts in terms of successful aircraft and bomber designs.
The SM.79 became a further development of existing tri-motor passenger aircraft, with the SM.79's role directly evolving into a military one. Initial prototypes were actually based on an eight-seat passenger model designated as the SM.79P, and would be fitted with lower-powered 610 horsepower radials from Piaggo Stella. The base system featured a retractable tail wheel design and a variety of other systems that improved its standing in the eyes of military strategists. Thusly, a militarized model of the SM.79 was engineered featuring a redesigned cockpit cabin with an extended top-fuselage position, usually referred to as a gondola. Offensive and defensive machine gun arrays were integrated into the system as well, providing more of a punch regardless of what role the bomber would be called to fulfill.
Following the German lead, the Italians utilized the Spanish Civil War to showcase and train their weapons and crews in a combat setting against a vastly underpowered foe. The SM.79 was featured as a traditional bomber and showcased in the role of torpedo bomber to good success. The torpedo version found enough success to warrant improved powerplants from either Piaggo (1,000hp) or Fiat (1,030hp).
The SM.79 was crewed by a group of four, having access to five total machine guns (3 x 12.7mm and 2 x 7.7mm) in various fuselage positions. Crew entry was through a rather traditional looking side fuselage door. The airframe was fitted with a low-monoplane wing design and sat on two large from landing gear systems with a single tail wheel at rear. The overall design appearance was very much like transport aircraft of the time, though at second glance, the myriad of defensive and offensive armaments would soon change the perspective of the unknowing observer.
Several variants also emerged, pushing total production numbers to a reported 1,370 in all. Variants included several export versions featuring only two of the traditional three engines and varying powerplants depending on the customer.
In all, the SM.79 Sparviero was a capable machine with roots in traditional aviation engineering - regarded in some circles as the best of the torpedo aircraft of the war on any side. Though not a spectacular traditional bomber by any means, the system still found a way to shine before and through the Second World War in the hands of very capable Italian bomber crews in the anti-shipping role throughout the Mediterranean Theater.