S.M.81 Pipistrello (bat) was a development of the Savoia-Marchetti
S.M.73 18-pagsenger airliner which had first flown in prototype form on
4 June 1934. Like the airliner from which it was derived, the S.M.81
was a three-engine cantilever low-wing monoplane with fixed tailwheel
landing gear. First flown in early 1935, it was available in some
numbers by the time that Italy invaded Abyssinia (Ethiopia) on 3
October 1935. Here in addition to its dedicated bomber role, it was
used also for reconnaissance and transport. The next operational use of
the type came during the Spanish Civil War, with S.M.81s being among
the first aircraft provided in support of General Franco, and others
served in Spain a little later as components of the Aviazione
A Savoia-Marchetti S.M.81 Pipistrello "Bat" of
600 Squadriglia in North Africa during the spring of 1943
By the time Italy
became involved in World War II about 100 remained in service with the
Regia Aeronautica, but although it was already completely outdated the
S.M.81 was to be found wherever Italian forces were fighting. Because
of its low speed and vulnerability to attack, it was used primarily for
second-line duties, but with the protection of darkness many found
important use as night bombers, particularly in North Africa. Some
remained in service at the time of the Italian surrender, continuing in
operation with the Aeronautica Cobelligerante del Sud, and a few
survived the war to serve for five or six years with the post-war
Aeronautica Militare Italiana. A total of approximately 534 S.M.81s had
been built and flown with a variety of powerplants including the 650 hp
(485 kW) Gnome-Rh˘ene 14K or similarly powered Alfa Romeo 125 RC.35,
the 900 hp (671 kW) Alfa Romeo 126 RC.34, and the 700 hp (522 kW)
Piaggio P.X RC.35. Under the designation S.M.81B a single experimental
twin-engine prototype had been flown under the power of two 840 hp (626
kW) Isotta Fraschini Asso XI RC engines, but no production examples
- The production version and flown with a variety of powerplants
including the 650 hp (485 kW) Gnome-Rh˘ene 14K or similarly powered
Alfa Romeo 125 RC.35, the 900 hp (671 kW) Alfa Romeo 126 RC.34, and the
700 hp (522 kW) Piaggio P.X RC.35 radial engines, with the latter being
the most common (534 built).
S.M.81B - A single experimental aircraft using only two 840 hp (626 kW)
Isotta Fraschini Asso XI RC engines. Performance was disappointing an
no further development or production took place (1 built).
S.M.81 Pipistrello "Bat")
Type: Five or
Six Seat Transport & Bomber
(Bomber) Pilot, Co-pilot/Navigator, Radio Operator/Gunner, Bombadier/Gunner
and one or two beam gunners. (Transport) Pilot, Co-pilot/Navigator and
Radio Operator/Gunner was the standard crew. Depending on the armament
(if any) on the transport, additional gunners were crewed.
Italiana Aeroplani Idrovolanti (Savoia-Marchetti) Design Team
Societa Italiana Aeroplani Idrovolanti (Savoia-Marchetti) with
factories in Sesto Calende and Borgomanero.
(Typical) Three 700 hp (522 kW) Piaggio P.X RC.35 9-cylinder air-cooled
Maximum speed 211 mph (340 km/h) at 3,280 ft (1000 m); service ceiling
22,965 ft (7000 m); climb to 9,845 ft (3000 m) in 12 minutes.
miles (2000 km) on internal fuel as a transport and 932 miles (1500 km)
with full weapons/equipment and a 2,205 lbs (1000 kg) bomb load. Up to
4,410 lbs (2000 kg) of bombs could be carried when required, but this
severely impacted the range of the aircraft.
13,889 lbs (6300 kg) with a normal combat take-off weight of 20,503 lbs
(9300 kg) up to a maximum (overload) take-off weight of 23,040 lbs
78 ft 9 in (24.00 m); length 58 ft 4 3/4 in (17.80 m); height 14 ft 7
1/4 in (4.45 m); wing area 1,001.08 sq ft
(93.00 sq m).
varied greatly but usually consisted of five or six 7.7 mm (0.303 in)
Breda-SAFAT machine-guns (two in a powered dorsal turret, two in a
retractable ventral turret and one or two manually aimed from each beam
position) plus a bomb load of up to 2,204 lbs (1000 kg) carried
internally. Some aircraft saw the dorsal turret fitted with a single
12.7 mm (0.50 in) Breda-SAFAT machine-gun.
S.M.81, S.M.81B (single prototype).
Standard communication and navigation equipment.
flight (prototype) early 1935.
(Regia Aeronautica, Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana and Aeronautica
Cobelligerante del Sud), Spain.