Savoia-Marchetti S.M.81 Pipistrello


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Savoia-Marchetti S.M.81 Pipistrello

Like the larger Junkers Ju 52/3m which it resembled, the Savoia-Marchetti S.M.81 Pipistrello (bat) had originally been designed as a bomber, the work of Alessandro Marchetti, and as such had seen service in both the Spanish and Abyssinian wars; also like the German, design it had its root in civil aviation, being based on the S.M.73, which also had a fixed landing gear arrangement.

Dating as it did from 1935, the S.M.81 was already suffering a degree of obsolescence when Italy entered World War II, so that despite the robust mixed construction which proved capable of absorbing much battle damage, it was rapidly replaced as a bomber by the S.M.79, production having 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 version which by then had been designated S.M.81/T. However, the coming of the armistice with the Allies in September 1943 meant that only about 80 of these additional aircraft were built, and only four remained in the south by this time although no less than 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, a specimen that received the inappropriate 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.

Savoia-Marchetti S.M.81 Pipistrello

 ENGINE3 x Piaggio RC 35, 522kW
  Take-off weight9300 kg20503 lb
  Empty weight6300 kg13889 lb
  Wingspan24 m79 ft 9 in
  Length17.8 m58 ft 5 in
  Height4.45 m15 ft 7 in
  Wing area93 m21001.04 sq ft
  Max. speed340 km/h211 mph
  Ceiling7000 m22950 ft
  Range2000 km1243 miles
 ARMAMENT5 x 7.7mm machine-guns, 1000kg of bombs

Savoia-Marchetti S.M.81 PipistrelloA three-view drawing (972 x 564)

Barry, 11.09.2012 13:25

The lower colour profile shows an SM81 /T of 1 Gruppo Trasporto 'Terracciano' /Transportgruppe 10 (Italien) of the Aviazione Nazionale Repubblicana at Riga Latvia 1944. I wonder what the Italians made of being in Latvia?


Massimo Maffucci, e-mail, 05.05.2008 21:57

Sono in possesso di alcune foto del 1943 che ritengo siano del "pipistrello", scattate da mio padre a Pistoia nelle officine di riparazione S.Giorgio.Se a qualcuno interessano puņ contattarmi.


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