The "Sparviero" was the most important Italian bomber of World War II, this tough three-engined aircraft established a reputation that contrasted with most Italian weapons of the day. S.M. 79s served widely in the normal bombing role, but it is as a land-based torpedo bomber that the type deserves its place in military aviation history, being regarded by many as one of the finest torpedo bombers of the war.
The prototype appeared in late 1934 and subsequently had a varied career, setting records and winning races with various engines and painted in civil or military markings. It first flew on 2 September 1935, powered by three 750 hp AlfaRomeo 125 RC.34 engines, and so following the Regia Aeronautica's preferred tri-motor formula. About 1,300 production models were built over a nine year period. They had internal provision for 2,750 lb (1,250 kg) of bombs, supplemented by under fuselage racks for a pair of heavy bombs, or two torpedoes in the case of the SM.79-II and SM.79-III.
The SM.79 had a distinctive 'hump' on the upper forward fuselage, which housed both the fixed forward-firing heavy machine-gun and the dorsal gunner's position. Its appearance earned the aircraft the nickname "Gobbo Maleditto" ("Damned Hunchback"). In spite of its cumbersome appearance and outdated steel tube/wood/fabric construction, the S.M.79 was a rugged, reliable multi-role medium bomber which did quite a bit of damage in the face of heavy opposition.
When Italy joined the war in 1940 its air force had nearly 1,000 bombers, of which well over half were Savoia-Marchetti S.M.79 Sparviero (Hawk) medium bombers. An effective torpedo bomber as well, the S.M.79 served in the air forces of Brazil, Iraq, Yugoslavia, Romania and Spain, some right up to the end of the war. Post-war surviving SM.79s were converted into various versions of utility transports during the last phases of the war and survived in that role until 1952.
NOTE: Flashback's kit is a reissue of Classic Airframe's original "Sparviero", so everything you've read about it in term of accuracy, fit and quality, apply to this present review.
Flashback's S.M. 79 kit comes in a big top opening box (picture 1). All the injected and resin parts are protected by seperate plastic bags. The content is the following:
- Five sprues of injected plastic (about 60 parts)
- Two bags with resin detail parts (about 60 parts)
- One clear sprue (11 parts)
- One photo etched fret ( 65 parts)
- One acetate instrument panel
- One set of masks
- One decal sheet
- Instruction booklet with painting guide
The plastic parts are typical of the "second generation" short run technology. Made of medium grey styrene, they are more crisply done than their predecessors and the plastic is softer and of much better quality (picture 2). The surface texture is quite nice with nice engraved panel lines and subtle relief fabric effects (picture 3). Flash is almost not present and the molding is top quality even on the bigger parts (picture 4 and 5). I didn't noticed any sink marks neither and the smaller parts (engine cowlings, propellers, gear legs etc...) are also well done (picture 6 and 7). They will require some cleaning work though, but nothing comparable with earlier short run kits.
The real "plus" of these kind of short run kits are the resin detail parts! In this case there are many and will allow you to make a very realistic cockpit. A complete floor and sidewalls assembly (picture 8) is provided, but also detailled seats (with photo etched seatbelts), instrument panel, control sticks, consoles (with PE levers) etc... Some parts are destined to the dorsal (Hunchback) gunner position and the resin armament is superb (picture 10). Other polyurethane parts are the detailled engines and exhausts (picture 11) as well as the wheels (picture 12).
The clear parts are injected and their transparency is good (picture 13). Surprisingly there are not many for a plane of this size. A set of masks is provided in the kit to make the painting easier (picture 15).
As if the level of detail of the resin parts wasn't enough, a photo etched fret with about 60 parts (some very small!) can be found in the box as well (picture 14). There is a nice instrument panel on it, seatbelts, levers, details parts for the engines and the armament etc... Some external parts, such as window frames, are also present on the photo etched fret, and you can even display the door open as the typical access ladder is also provided. But beware of the "Pandora's box effect", you will have to scratchbuild a complete interior if you do so!
A rather big decal sheet will allow you to choose between three decorations (picture 16). It is to note that none of them is meant to depict a torpedo plane so, from a strictly historical point of view, you won't be able to use the torpedo provided in the kit. The decals appear to be of good quality and are in register. Having said that, only their use will tell if they conform well.
The instructions are "Eduard style" and in color (picture 17). They are made of three sheets of A4 sized paper folded so to make a 12 page booklet. There is a parts layout (very usefull with so many parts of different origins!), a 20 step assembly guide, a masking guide and paint references. An additional painting guide, also in color, will help you to choose between one of the three very colorfull paintschemes of the kit.
Accuracy and fit
There are currently two 1/48 scale S.M. 79 available today in injected plastic (I won't mention Smer's, ex. Artiplast, 1/50 kit wich is not even close to today's standards). One is the Classic Airframes/Flashback kit and the other the Trumpeter version. So wich one is better? If you want the most accurate and detailled one, go for the short run kit. Apart from a too long ventral gondola (an error wich is easy to fix) there are no big shortcomings. If you want the easiest kit to build, buy the mainstream one. But you should be aware that Trumpeter's model, once finished, will have wrong engine cowlings (too wide open), wrong engine nacelles and a too small tail (horizontal stabilizers and elevators as well as vertical fin and rudder).
If you want to know more about the fit of the parts, take a look at this fully detailled build article: S.M. 79 Sparviero by Stefan Ericsson
If you search for an accurate and detailled model of the "Sparviero" in 1/48 scale, without hesitation, it's Classic Airframe/Flashback's kit! While not easy to build (it's short run), it is well engineered and will make into an impressive model once finished. Just take a look at Stefan's model and you will see. All things considered, the only negative point is that this kit is not as easily available as the Trumpeter one. We just don't live in a perfect world...
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