The land-based Savoia-Marchetti (SM-79) bomber is
the most widely used of several types of aircraft employed
by the Italian Air Force. This aircraft has long been the
mainstay of the bomber squadrons, and has been adapted
successfully for torpedo-carrying purposes.
The SM-79 is a large, low-wing, tri-motored monoplane
of metal and plywood construction. The engines,
approximately 1,000 horsepower each, give the aircraft,
when used as a bomber, a speed of almost 300 miles per
hour. When a torpedo is carried, the plane has a top
speed of about 200 miles per hour. The SM-79 normally
carries a crew of four—two pilots, a radio operator,
and a bombardier.
|Savoia-Marchetti (SM-79) Torpedo Bomber; Two Views and Recognition Silhouettes|
The depth settings of the torpedoes carried vary
according to the size of the target. When employed
against convoys, the aircraft carry torpedoes with several
settings, the planes with deeper settings always attacking
the larger vessels. These settings are adjusted by special
torpedo mechanics and cannot be altered in flight.
An attack by torpedo bombers is usually made at dawn
or dusk. Dusk is considered preferable since the aircraft
may make a low, unobserved approach toward the
target, which is silhouetted against the horizon. The
attacks are always made from the east since this is the
direction of poorest visibility. Daylight attacks are
suicidal and are very seldom attempted.
Early in the war Italian aircraft torpedo attacks were
usually made by individual aircraft and were not pressed
home. Recently, however, these attacks have been
better coordinated and many of them have been made at
comparatively close range.
Torpedo squadrons are believed to have the highest
morale of all units of the Italian Air Force. Their
efficiency is such that Germany has sent squadrons to
Italy for instructions in torpedo tactics. Italian aircraft
torpedoes are believed to be superior to those of German
design and are probably used by the German Air Force.