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Lieutenant Colonel
Apr 1, 2004
I would like detailed information, including specs, and pictures of the SM.81. Also it's operational history and performance during the Spanish Civil War.

Thanks in advance. CC, I know you'll have something.
I'm researching the military involved in the Spanish Civil War. It seems to be forgotten mostly except the odd mention of German pilots practicing there. And it's an interesting war, the politics involved are very deep and heavy. I understand them...but naturally, I like the military equipment, tactics, battles, operations etc. etc. serves my interests. And I MIGHT be thinking of writing a book about it one ever really want to. I mean, they're Spanish...who writes about them!?! :rolleyes: :lol: And...maybe, just MAYBE...the Italians did something useful in some war.
Wow, seems like everyone is really down on the italians here, in both wars mentioned. sure they didnt have the best record, but they didnt fall as quick as poland or france XP
The only reason they didn't fall as fast as France or Poland is because Germany saved them time and time again. Italy were beaten by the Greeks for gods sake. And it took 'em a year to conquer Abyssynia when all they had were spears and Italy had tanks. And they out-numbered British forces in Eygpt 6:1 and still got beaten with 120,000 captured while the British forces lost 1,200 dead and wounded. If the Afrika Korps had never come to save Italy, Britain would have driven 'em so far out of Africa they'd be sat in the Atlantic. ;)
I should have some material at home about the SM 81 'Pipistrello', will post it tonight if I can (hectic week)
Was a honest and pleasant to fly airplane of old conception, born as civil transport (SM73) and completely obsolete before WW II

About Italian army at WW 2, it is not a mistery that, with some remarkable exception, it was totally inexistent.

Does not matter if you outnumber the enemy 6:1 when you don't even have food or you go to fight in Russia with boots made of pressed carton.
Only the greed for glory and the irresponsability of Mussolini could had started that clearly foreseable disaster that was WW2.

In 1937, Himmler visited the Governor Italo Balbo (*) in Lybia and this is the translation of what the 'unpolite' guy told him :
"If there will be a war we will never be able to defend Lybia or any other territory. Maybe we will have some early success but we are doomed to disaster because we have no resources... Don't forget my words, you can make the war but we will be only ballast and you'll regret to have us as allies... of course, if we'll receive the order to march we will do it"

Also it is unfair to compare Poland with France or Italy, the poor abandoned Polish had absolutely no chance against the Wermacht, any military/political support or Lend-Lease was not available to them!

(*) is the same guy who, amongst other things, lead the transcontinetal flight of 1933 with 24 S55 seaplanes from Rome to Chicago. But he was too much a competition for the Duce in Rome, so was sent in 'golden exile' in Africa.
I've found the item (source: 'Aerei nella Storia' magazine, issue #33 Jan 2004, West Ward editions, author Daniele Lembo, WWW.AEREINELLASTORIA.IT) and here is a summarized translation up to Spanish war, let me know if you are interested in WW2 service and I'll translate it.

It is very detailed on the aircraft and the WW2 service, unfortunately not so much detailed on Spanish war operations.

There is also plenty of photos and nice drawings, but unfortunately I can't scan and post them for a while (i am leaving and will be back home on oct 13): let me know if you are still interested by then.

On July 4th 1934 the Savoia-Marchetti SM73 fast liner took the air. Was a 3 engine cantilever monoplane, one of the first land based liners to challenge the supremacy of seaplanes for long range passenger Transport. In 1935 the plane was used for air connection between Rome and Asmara (6000km) by Italian companies and between Bruxelles and
Elizabethville (Congo) by the Belgian SABENA. Seating was for 18 passengers and 4 crew in a (by then) luxury cabin.
Apparently the SM73 was originated by a request from Italo Balbo to 'put a simple fuselage on the good wing of the S55 seaplane' in order to have a modern transport for the colonial empire.
In parallel the military bomber/transport version was developed: the SM81 whose maiden flight was Feb. 8,1935.

The fuselage was a frame of steel tubes, covered in fabric and plywood,except for the cockpit area that was covered in alloy sheet.
Internal illumination was provided by 8 windows per side plus 3 on the fuselage top; two further openings toward the rear side were available for the defensive MG
The cantilever wing had 3 'double T' shaped wood spars and was skinned in plywood. Rudder and tail were in steel tubes covered in fabric. Landing gear was fixed, with air operated brakes.
The emergency exit was trough the upper glass panels of the cockpit
A narrow passage enabled the inspection of the wing engines
The bombsight was fitted in a retractable cabin on the cockpit floor, to be lowered during the bomb run. The cabin was also jettisonable for emergency exit.
Bomb bay was in the fuselage center, two rows with a central passage.

- Engines
3 , one in the nose and one per wing, 3 bladed metal propellers, diameter of 3.40-3.50 mt
several engine types were installed, in order to standardize the logistic per operating theatre with other aircrafts.
Alfa Romeo 125 RC 35, 650 Hp
Gnome&Rhone K14RC, 740 hp
Piaggio PX RC15, 700 hp
Alfa Romeo 126 RC34, 750 hp
Piaggio PIX RC40, 780 hp

the Alfa Romeo were used in Europe, the Piaggio in East Africa and the G&R in Lybia/Egypt

The engine cowlings were of course different in shape, depending on the fitted engine

Fuel capacity was 3620 or 4400 (G&R engines) liters, divided in 2 fuselage and 6 wing protected tanks

Wingspan : 24 m
Area : 92 sqm
Lenght : 17.9 to 18.30 m, depending on engines
Height : 4.30
Empty weight : 6750 to 7300 kg, depending on engines
MTOW : 10505 kg

- Performances
top speed : 325 to 350 kmh depending on engines
Cruise : 260 kmh
operative ceiling : 7000 m
range : 640 km full loaded, 1500 km 'light', 2000 km max
take off run : 230 to 290 mt
landing run : 200 m

- crew : 6 (pilot, co-pilot, radio operator/waist gunner, bomber/waist gunner, 2 gunners)

- special Versions
VIP transport (was one of the planes assigned to Benito, who used to fly it personally)
Air ambulance (5 units)
Air tanks
Radio transmission
Minesweeper (magnetic ring)

- Armament
6x 7.7 mm machine guns, two manually handled Lewis for the side and 4 SAFAT in 2 twin hydraulically operated turrets (upper top and lower bottom fuselage)
Bomb load : 2000 kg, in various bomb combinations.
Bigger bombs (250 and 500 kg) fit horizontally in the bomb bay, smaller bombs were installed vertically.
Possibility to carry 2x800 kg torpedo (but operative trials were not successful)

- Operativity

Delivery started in 1935, to
7th and 13th Stormo, Lonate Pozzolo (where now is Malpensa intl airport)
9th Stormo, Ciampino (Rome)
15th Stormo, Ferrara

First operation was in Ethiopia (Piaggio engines) : bombing, reconnaissance and air-drop supply. 36 units remained there after the war.

In 1936 was delivered to
8th Stormo, Bologna
10th Stormo, Bresso (Milan)
11th stormo ,Ferrara
12th stormo ,Guidonia (Rome)
14th and 16th Stormo, Vicenza
32th and 33rd, Naples

In 1936 the SM81 was posted in Lybia (G-et-R engines)

In July 1936, 12 SM81 (Alfa Romeo) flying from Sardinia joined the Nationalist party in Spanish war.
Officially the airplanes were 'purchased' by a Spanish citizen, the crews were not officilly Italian soldiers.
Due to bad weather only 9 arrived in spain.
The small force was first used to bomb the Republican Navy (August) in order to protect the troop transport of Franco, then were redeployed to day and night bombing.
Was here that the night bombers were named 'Pipistrello' (bat), and the name remained for good.

After the war, the remaining SM81 were kept by the Spanish air force.
Thanks for the information. I'm in the understanding that the Italian crews wore Nationalist uniforms while operating in Spain. I did not know that the planes actively bombed the Republican while protecting the vessels transporting the Army of Africa. In fact, I was in the understanding that the Republican navy didn't even attack the transports because of the German pocket-battleship Gross Deustchland that was masking the transportation. Although I did hear that the SM81s airlifted a few troops of the Army of Africa along with Ju-52. Not to be an over-stated importance (the airlift) but it was important. Whether or not the Italians actually took part, I don't know.

I don't really care for the WWII operations of the plane at the moment. Any more pictures and, in anyone has anymore information on them during the Spanish Civil War it'd be great.
Hello Plan_D, I have been reading about this post yesterday (a little bit late, but…) and I was really shocked by some of the assertions made for you. What's the matter with you and the Spanish people? Some problem? I have everv tried to be a honest person, but it is too much... You seem to know NOTHING about Spanish history. If you want to learn something about Spanish Civil War, you can read many books written by ENGLISH, USA and IRISH authors, they seem interested in US; maybe you have not heard about them, or have not read about Spain, I strongly recommend you to learn more about us, but if you don't want to, you can go on reading Harry Potter. Here are some information about US, the Spanish:
Did you know that in fact the only people who stopped one German panzer division during a couple of days in the location of Arras (I speak about Rommel´s seventh panzer division¡¡¡¡ and not for an isolated tank as you could suppose) in May of 1940 were SPANISH REPUBLICANS, armed with only rifles, some machineguns, hand-grenades abandoned by French and British troops in retreat, and Molotov cocktails, but no one antitank gun¡¡¡¡¡ and the famous maquis (French and Belgians), were created and trained by SPANISH REPUBLICANS also (in fact the first saboteurs and sabotage acts of the maquis, were Spanish, even the same name is a Spanish word to designate some types of bushes, used in guerrilla tactics to ambush the enemy, a very commonly used strategy in the Spanish Civil War by both sides). And I should remember you that in the year 1944 the very first people to enter in Paris where SPANISH REPUBLICANS, contained in the elite Armoured Free French Division "Leclerc", suffering the half of casualties, and entering even before than Frenchs?, not bad for "those Spanish" (I mean, they're Spanish...who writes about them!?! … as you asserted before).
In the other side, Hitler would have been very proud of use the NATIONALIST SPANISH divisions in the carnaging and bloody campaign of Barbarossa in the Eastern front, because these troops were very well trained in a three years long war (the Spanish Civil War), and were extremely large number (I will say you, a million and half soldiers or maybe two, officers and privates ready to enter in combat, only in the Army, but You must take in account the pilots and Navy sailors and seamen too). If you put bother, the German and the Spanish army fighting in Russia (the Spanish army with German war material), you will see that the Soviet army would have been obliterated and destroyed very fast (and I won't mention the other Axis allies, as Finland, Romania, Hungary and of course, Italy, which accounted for a lot more of soldiers), and It would have made possible the victory over the Soviet Union finally.
Of course, if Spain would have entered in war in the Axis side, the first target to reach was Gibraltar, and given the lack of armoured vehicles and the highly limited number of soldiers in this place, the British forces would have been sent out to the Atlantic really FASTLY (probably, If using the German aviation coupled to the Spanish army, a matter of DAYS, yes), and with the Royal Navy making NOTHING to prevent it but evacuate as fast as possible to Alexandria base and Malta, because this operation was a job for the Army and Air Force only. Churchill was very afraid by the possibility of Spanish nationalist would join the Axis side, and to prevent this, Great Britain studied various plans to counter the menace, even invade the Iberian Peninsula Maybe via Pyrenees, or via Portugal way?, and as you see, one of these planes was very expensive (Portugal, and it is very optimist giving the account that you did not have more than 150.000 soldiers to cope with this in 1941-43, so at least until 1943-44, it would have been impossible) and the other was completely impossible until well after the D-Day (Pyrenees) as You can see.
If Gibraltar was overrunned, the conquest of Malta would have been very simple for the Germans using Fallschirmjägers (even being expensive as it was the campaign of Crete).
Why? Simply because the only way to re-supply the Maltese base was, using the Suez channel via Capetown, as you really had to make in some occasions. The course of war would have been very different and maybe, only maybe, Germany and the occidental axis allies would have won the war.

If you find some other form to prevent the fall of Gibraltar and Malta, in this you can say What if … threat, and/or you like to speak of course, of the very "uninteresting Spanish Civil War and the Spanish people" as you said some posts before, I will be very happy to comment, chat and/or debate with you in a civilized way (something very difficult giving the extreme arrogance and superiority feelings shown when you spoke before, concerning to the Spanish military capabilities).
Now you can say that all that I have posted is ridiculous, false or a "mere invention made by a 25 years old guy, with no idea of the WWII and this period", and in fact I consider me only a little hobbyist in airplane and aircraft threats, but you should know that in naval matter and history I know something more, because I belong to the Spanish Naval Ring (NOT WEBRING), in which there are very known writers in Spanish marine, such as Juan Luis Coello Lillo, not to mention also the aircraft writers J. Miranda and P. Mercado, with some very interesting books about the secret projects planes of the Third Reich, or you don't know them…(these writers are not strictly on this association, but they have visited us some two days I must say even I couldn't speak with them), and in fact, a lot of Spanish military seamen and historians.
Ahh, of course, I almost forgot something more… the name of the German pocket battleship which you make reference IS NOT "Gross Deutschland", it is only "Deutschland" (which was sometime after renamed "Lützow" when the WWII started). This name you give is a COMPLETELY UNOFFICIAL name given/or suggested to an H-39 to H-44 series class battleship, not built in fact due to the premature start of the WWII (which almost all the Nazi Germany military circles, including the Kriegsmarine specially thought would start in late 1944 or in the new year of 1945).
I apologize for the other members of the forum for this very big (in size)post (I'm very sorry :oops: ), and I wish like to congratulate them for this very interesting forum (I think the best in this subject in internet) :D .
I got bored at the first paragraph. And you need to learn something about me, then stop feeling special, I'll insult your country, your culture, your race and your religion no matter which country you come from, your culture, your race or religion. Don't feel so special that you're Spanish and I only pick on Spain - I pick on f*ckin' everyone ...and even Britain doesn't get away from me.

Now, just for you being upset. Here - :-({|=

And if I know nothing about the Spanish Civil War - you better go tell Antony Beevor he's a liar.
Alright guys,

I may come from another world but things like this makes me react...

what about thinking more about the pussy (yes, that beautiful thing between the legs) and less about supposed supremacy of one Country/Religion/way-of-life vs all others?
Didn't the Italians have the best patrol bombers of the war? I read some where that their airplanes were some of the best in the patrol business. Their record might not show it but I think they had the most extensive training in patrol work.
That would be interesting new, I am not aware of that.
Italians had the P108 that we already discussed in the forum, plus some neat seaplane design for sea patrol, but as far as I know no special record in patrol business.
I got bored at the first paragraph. And you need to learn something about me, then stop feeling special, I'll insult your country, your culture, your race and your religion no matter which country you come from, your culture, your race or religion. Don't feel so special that you're Spanish and I only pick on Spain - I pick on f*ckin' everyone ...and even Britain doesn't get away from me.

Now, just for you being upset. Here -

And if I know nothing about the Spanish Civil War - you better go tell Antony Beevor he's a liar.

Well, I didn´t tried to make the Spanish race superior to others, and if someone has been injured I´m terribly sorry (Parmiggiano) It was not my intention, I only said a little real facts about the Spanish people (I don´t feel special for been spanish, in fact we have a lot of defects, as U the British), but I don´t consider honest to degradate to other countries as Italy, or Spain in these forums where there is a lot of people which tends to denigrate us, knowing nothing about us. don´t worry, I´m not upset U will need somemore than this to obtain your objetive if it is...
And better than Antony Beevor if he lies (I don´t know because I couldn´t read his new book), why don´t you try to read someothers...
And Why to consider my religion...? I didn´t speak about it
Parmigiano said:
That would be interesting new, I am not aware of that.
Italians had the P108 that we already discussed in the forum, plus some neat seaplane design for sea patrol, but as far as I know no special record in patrol business.

Yes, the R.S.14. I dont think they had anything outstanding in the area, but their seaplanes such as the S.55 were impressive.
I'm just going to assume both you, Parm and Hartmann, can't read English properly because both you of you completely missed the point of the post I made.

Let me make it more simple, I degrade every nation including my own. Before you jump in two feet first, learn something about the members here. More importantly, if you're going to start trying to wage war with me over what I said about Spain - you've got a lot to learn, and you're going to have a hard time here.

"And better than Antony Beevor if he lies..." means nothing. Unless you are calling him a liar. But I assume that you've never read The Spanish Civil War by him, you should it's a good book. I would know, because I own it.

And by the way, I've been to Spain three times and Gran Canaria three times - enjoyed every trip and find most of the Spanairds I got talking to, to be decent people. But that doesn't mean I'm not going to have a go at Spain. Just ask any member on this site what I think about their country...and you'll get negative answers for every single one of them.
Alright PD, let's straighten it up...
I know how to read english, although it is only my 3rd language (Italian is of course first and French is the second).

You like to to 'degrade every nation', especially when is NOT your own.
That is fine with me, but since you are allowed the right to write things that may hurt other people, this 'other people' has the right to write back things that hurt you, and since you opened fire first you have not the right to get pissed at it. Simple and plain 'as the nose in my face'.

'I am not of your opinion but I would give my life to grant you the right to express it'

(Francois Marie Arouet, better known as Voltaire)
The Eyetalians did something useful during The Spanish Civil War??? I dont think serving Raviloi at a Spanish Music Festival counts....

I wish you were right.If Italy had sent only ravioli,truffles,calabrian "nduja",tuscanian "ribollita",caciocavallo ciociaro,sicilian cassata ,napulitan mozzarella in carrozza ,san Daniele ham, barolo Pio Cesare ,Greco di Tufo etc etc to support Francisco Franco 's war and not a whole legionarian "volunteer" armed corp maybe they would have had more resources to face the next war of 1940.

Much worse,some tragical illusions appeared in Spain for Regia Aeronautica and they would have lead to heavy errors for the next war:

Illusion number 1-the biplane fighter could be still considered the lord of the sky on the battlefield .Anyone would have believed it: 500 Fiat Cr 32 were employed , no more than 72 were lost ( from Storia del Novecento, 2005, n. 55), the new up-to-date monoplane I-16 could not face the biplane unless it was managed by very expert usually Russian pilots

Illusion number 2-The fast medium bomber could ridicoulize enemy interceptor fighters without the help of a long range fighter escort.Again, anyone would have believed it: SM-81 had troubles to face i 15 and I-16, but SM 79 could do anything it wanted over Spain , none of them was lost for the action of enemy fighters ( from Aerei nella Storia, Storia Militare various numbers, Dimensione Cielo vol 4-edizioni Bizzarri), few were damaged by fighters, some of them were lost by AA fire.Some I-15s and I-16 interceptors were shot down by the gunners of the trimotors.Bf-109B of Condor Legion had serious troubles to escort SM-79 for the high cruise speed of the latter.

The destiny is ironical sometimes,I think that these would have really been illusion in 1939 but in 1937 SM79 and CR-32 could fly and do what they wanted with impunity over the sky of Britain and USA as in Spain without any serious opponent that were better than Polikarpov fighters.

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