Italeri 1/72 SM.79 Sparviero

KIT #: 1225
PRICE: $30.00 or so
DECALS: Four options
REVIEWER: Pierre-André Boillat
NOTES: A much acclaimed kit – but a rare sight at model shows.


Unlike many pre-war German bomber types which started their career pretending to be airliners or fast mail aircraft, the Savoia Marchetti S.79 tri-motor was a bona fide airliner which ended up as Italy’s best (and most famous) bomber type of WWII.

 Designed in 1933 by Alessandro Marchetti as a fast passenger aircraft and first flown on October 8, 1935, the S.79 quickly made the headlines by breaking several world records.

Of course, some people at the Regia Aeronautica HQs at once saw the military potential of the new aircraft, whose performance made the Air Force’s newest bomber, the SIAI S.81 Pipistrello (then entering production), instantly obsolete. As a consequence, a military version of the S.79 was commissioned… not without difficulties, as the tri-motor configuration was seen as unpractical for bombers by many officials and twin-engined aircraft were preferred for the task (one version, the S.79 B, was made in this fashion, but was rejected and only sold on export).

 Eventually, the new bomber took to the air for the first time on July 8, 1936, powered by three Alfa Romeo 125 engines. The most visible changes compared to the airliner were the ventral gondola housing the bomb aimer, and of course the streamlined dorsal hump containing defensive MGs which earned the aircraft the nickname “il gobbo” (the hunchback).

 For the record, this name - as well as the aircraft’s official designation “Sparviero” (Sparrowhawk) - were hardly ever used by the crews, who simply called their (beloved) planes “S.79”.

 The aircraft entered service in late ‘36 / early ’37, and saw a long and turbulent career from civil war-torn Spain under Nationalist colours to the end of WWII, serving both the Axis in the ANR and the Allies in the co-belligerant Air Force.

Though conceived as a bomber, the S.79 is most famous as a torpedo aircraft, a role in which this very stable and rugged machine excelled, the Aerosiluranti squadrons making the Mediterranean a dangerous place for Allied shipping until the 1943 armistice. Italian torpedo bomber pilots enjoyed immense popularity, some reaching the “national hero” status known only to fighter aces in other countries.

As a conclusion, one can say that this strange-looking, slow, obsolescent aircraft was much better than its looks, and fully deserves its place in History as an important and popular type. 


First released a few years ago, Italeri’s S.79 was a much awaited kit, as the only choice in this scale was an old model by Airfix which was not only antique, but very hard to find. Paradoxally, 1/48 modellers were much better served at the time, with Classic Airframes and Trumpeter both offering rather good kits.

 At once, Italeri’s effort was very well received by the modelling world, being generally accurate, well detailed for the scale and (at least in Europe) reasonably priced. The first boxing (which is the one reviewed here) depicts a Regia Aeronautica torpedo aircraft, while the second issue’s subjects are bomber versions (both Italian and Spanish Nationalist), the third featuring late war torpedo versions of the ANR, all in dark green on gray or with black undersides.

 However, as stated above, one hardly sees this model built (the only one I’ve seen “in the flesh” so far was at a model show in southern France, brought by an Italian modeller).

 The box contains two main sprues totalling 80 well-molded parts, rather thick but clear transparencies, and a very good decal sheet for four R.A. versions, carefully picked to be interesting and to represent different levels of painting difficulty. Small parts are a little on the thick side, but cockpit and interior detail won’t be too visible anyway. On the plus side, engines and the exhaust pipes are really nice. A little flash and an ejector pin mark here and there will give you a little extra work, but nothing too bad.


One thing quickly turns out: the fuselage of the S.97 being full of ports, windows, doors and other openings, its assembly is a little tricky and is better prepared (by dry-fitting and deciding in advance what option you’ll go for). Cockpit detail is decent for the scale (in my taste at least), and the other fuselage areas (dorsal and central MG stands, top of the bomb bay, radio compartment) are good enough for an OOB build and provide a good base for super-detailing. However, although some care is required to install the inner parts, I found fit to be quite good, and the fuselage becomes solid enough to withstand further manipulation.

 A few sink marks were present on the inner fuselage walls and on some of the cockpit parts, which I filled and sanded. Now that all’s closed, I think I could have done without the extra work.

 I installed the lower fuselage windows and the transparent part of the bomb aimer position, then masked them, except for the gunner ports’ windows, which were left out, as they hardly ever were carried.

 On the other hand, the central MG was glued in place through the crew access door (with tweezers) at the very end of the project, to avoid breakage – in spite of the fact that the plastic is rather soft and not brittle at all.

 The wings assemble with ease and fit very well to the fuselage. I left the engines and their cowlings aside until after the main filling and sanding session, and the landing gears for the final assembly. Same goes for the tail plane struts. All in all, the main airframe is put together easily and doesn’t require much “heavy work” or lots of putty. Once this was done, I added the three engines, filled all openings with moist tissue and went to the painting.


I chose one of the four options offered by Italeri: one simple (plain dark olive over light grey), one with a very dense tri-colour mottling, one in larger mottles with a grey nose and leading edges that’s very nice but a bit too famous for my taste, and the one I picked: it is a machine of 252° Squadriglia A.S. based at Rhodes in 1944, which in my opinion is the most elegant of the lot. According to my documentation, it’s quite obvious that this aircraft must have been at first in plain Italian dark olive over light blue grey, with a mottling of the undersides colour being sprayed later over the olive.

 So, after spraying and covering the copper cowling rings (the silver part would come later as decal bands), I painted the aircraft using the same pattern. Here, I must say that, while the Vallejo Air paints worked very well on the plain-coloured surfaces, the mottling job with a 0.25mm nozzle proved impossible (at least with my Harder & Steenbeck airbrush), due to instant clogging.

 After many trials, I eventually used my good old Tamiya acrylics for this part of the project. Subsequent touch-ups with Vallejo showed that mottling is possible after all - with the 0.35 nozzle, but not with the same precision, with the additional risk of annoying droplets-spitting. As a result, I’ll keep my Vallejos for one-tone or segmented schemes.

 After the main paint job was done, I sealed the model with a gloss coat and applied the decals, which went on perfectly. Then I used my usual wash of oil paint to give the model a weathered aspect.


All separately-painted “fiddly bits” were now ready for assembly: the landing gear, props, struts, gear doors, machine guns, pitot tubes, etc. The sole torpedo (the S.79 usually only carried one of these heavy and very effective weapons) was painted in metallic tones, according to the few colour pics in my documentation. Speaking of metallic tones, I used thin painted decal stripes to represent the framing of the fuselage windows. Quite a job, but well worth it. Then, after a slight weathering on these parts to “blend” them into the rest of the model, I applied the final matte coat.

After this, I installed the main transparencies, which fit excellently. As usual, I used painted decal stripes for the framing. The final touches were some exhaust stains, the tail plane’s rigging, antenna wires and, last but not least, the open crew access door which I left for the very end (I wonder how many times I would have broken it if I hadn’t done so).

 Ecco - è finito questo. 


 Though not exactly the proverbial “shake-and-bake” kit, this one was not a difficult project at all. A modeller with a little experience will have a good time building it, and the super-detailing enthusiast will find it a sane and sound base for further improvements. Above all, the model perfectly recaptures the S.79’s characteristic shape, doing full justice to this important and fascinating aircraft. In 1/72, it won’t take too much display space – a good thing, considering that the many superb and colourful schemes sported by the Sparviero throughout its career are a strong motivation to build more of these three-engined birds.

 Highly recommended to all but absolute beginners.


-          Savoia Marchetti S.79 in Action # 71

-          Warpaint Series # 61 : S.79

Pierre-André Boillat

April 2011

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