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S.M. 79 Torpedo Tactics


Staff member
Posted 23 November 2009 - 08:05 AM by PipsPriller

Does anyone have any information on the tactics adopted by the pilots of the SM 79 in torpedo attacks? Such as height of release and speed; what was the preferred approach eg bow or beam; how distance to target was determined; how the 'angle off' (deflection) was estimated and so on.

Posted 23 November 2009 - 08:39 PM by Gian


Torpedo bombers used a rather crude aiming device developed by Maggiore Carlo Unia. It might be like in picture, or with more nails sticking out.
The graduated scale was shifted according to the speed of the ship and it was used by the pilot to adjust the aircraft accordingly. The front nail was used as an aiming sight to drop the torpedo in deflection, which had to be done near, but not too near to the target. This is how it is narrated by a real torpedo pilot:

The aiming instrument was a primitive device shaped like a horseshoe with several nails sticking out of it. As I saw the ship, I was to estimate its speed. The only clue I had for this was the length of the wake; if it was equal to the length of the ship, the speed was estimated at 20 nautical miles per hour. For a wake half the length of the ship, the speed was estimated at 10 miles per hour; any other length of the wake would give me a corresponding estimated speed of the ship. Once the speed had been estimated, I would aim the corresponding nail of the horse shoe at the ship and launch the torpedo in the direction of the front nail of the device. This would create a triangle where the ship and the plane were at the two lower points and the torpedo would hit the ship at the third, higher point.

And more:

The torpedo was launched by the first pilot by pulling a lever at an estimated distance of about 2000 feet from the side of the ship. This distance was needed to overcome the "dolphin" trajectory of the torpedo at the first impact with the water until it would stabilize itself at about a 3 foot depth, preset before takeoff."

As per the drop height, there were no preferences. I have seen footage where aircraft drop their torpedo from several hundred feet of height, but I am certain that the pilots were trained to fly incredibly low to evade both ack-ack and fighters.



Staff member
Posted 24 November 2009 - 11:31 AM by PipsPrillrer

Brilliant Gian!! Many thanks for that photo and the corresponding explanation. That's the best detail I have come across on torpedo dropping technique - of any nation.

I've been searching for that sort of detail for ages. Anythign to do with Japanese or American torpedo aircraft talk about theory eg angle on the bow, approx height and drop distannce, but none talk about how pilots determined distance or the deflection necessary to obatin a hit.

The above is a real gem. :)

Posted 24 November 2009 - 10:38 PM by Gian

Is there any other detail you might want to know?

Posted 25 November 2009 - 07:48 AM by PipsPriller

A few questions if I may.

Japanese practice was for a force of several carrier based torpedo bombers to attack head-on simultaneously, from slightly off the each bow. Rarely would they attack broad on the beam.

I gather (and please correct me if I'm wrong) the Italians and Germans preferrred to attack from the beam, and usually individually. Correct?

The Germans would also attempt to combine a torpedo attack with bombers, usually sending a mixed force of He-111's and Ju-88's. Did the Italian's alos use this strike force pattern? If so what aircraft peformed the bombing role?

The clever aiming device developed by Carlo Unia is the only one I have seen used by torpedo bombers - of any nationality. With other nations everything seems to have been purely guesswork. Do you know if the Italians shared this device with the Germans?

One last question. Can you recommend any books that deal with the Aerosiluranti (would ahve to be in English). Cheers. :)

Posted 25 November 2009 - 12:31 PM by Gian

I gather (and please correct me if I'm wrong) the Italians and Germans preferred to attack from the beam, and usually individually. Correct?

I think so, although I am no expert on German or Japanese torpedo warfare and I do not know if the three Axis Air Forces ever shared their expertise. They were at different levels of development - the Italian being both the lowest (i.e. non-existent prior to the war) and the most resourceful.

The Germans would also attempt to combine a torpedo attack with bombers, usually sending a mixed force of He-111's and Ju-88's. Did the Italian's also use this strike force pattern? If so what aircraft performed the bombing role?

Italian strikes were "bombs-only" or "torpedo-only". The pattern was chosen according to ordnance shortages and/or type of aircraft available.
Anti-ship duty was usually committed to S.79s and S.84s, which would carry both types of ordnance. The S.79 was an ex-competition aircraft modified for military use. The S.84 was a "pure" bomber specifically designed to replace the 79, but it was generally considered a failure.

I'm pretty positive that this is the only one English-language resource mentioning torpedo bombers (along with the book on the Italian Navy by James Sadkovich). A firsthand account by one of those pilots, which covers most of your questions.

One more suggestion I can give you is to learn Italian...And a wealth of books on the subject will be at your disposal!

Posted 03 February 2010 - 06:59 PM by orlando lorenzini

Hello Dear Sirs!:
Congratulations about this article of the fighting tactics of the S-79 in the attack with torpedoes.First I want to say my congratulations to our dear friend Gian by to put here the impressive photograph of the two Savoias S-79 flying too low.my personal observation about the incredible photograph of the Savoia S-79 flying low between houses I have felt paralyzed by of type of flying.Really the photograph was made from other S-79 while they acrossed flying low one the wide street or avenieu in one inhabit zone.In any Air Force of one civilized country these pilots ought be expeled of the Air Force even these pilots are manific pilots owed to they can in grave danger the life of the people because the airplane can crash in one house and to kill one family.For exemple in the RAF during the 1930s years when one fighter pilot flying too low this pilot was expeled of the RAF.To make this type of flying inside in the town or village ought to be punished.The costum of flying too low between one inhabit zone is a barbarian costum that can in danger the life of the people that lives there.

I hope that my coment doesn´t bother to anybody,it is one personaly observation.One great salute from Ciudad Real dear friends:


Posted 30 April 2010 - 06:47 PM by blackhawk

I have some infos about the torpedo installation in a He 111, that used the same Fiume-torpedo.

There was a rigid crosshairs for the bombardier. He had an calculator available and the data had to be transmitted manually into the torpedo by two cranks (depth and angle) for each. Later there was an automatc control device that combined calculation and adjusting the torpedoes. Has anyone infos about similar italian devices?

The whole story is in the book "Der Lufttorpedo" by F. Lauck Bernard&Graefe; Verlag.


Posted 30 April 2010 - 08:03 PM blackhawk

There is a interrelation between the performance of the torpedo an the carrying aircraft.

The Fiume torp had to be launched at the parameters: Speed=300+-10km/h Height=100+-10m
That required an aircraft that handled well at this speed/height. Whereas the british torp MkVIII had the following requirements: Speed=180km/h Height=50m. No wonder that they loved their Swordfish biplanes. A fast plane would crash at 180 km/h! Have a look at the british planes. The Beaufort, Beaufighter and Barracuda had an incredible thick and large wing for a good low speed handling.

No wonder that the S.M.79 is among the best torpedo bombers - it handled well and carried one of the best torpedoes.


Posted 30 April 2010 - 09:17 PM by Andreas

Great thread.

What are the best references in Italian?

Also, does anyone have a list with dates of successful aerosiluranti attacks?

Many thanks!

All the best


Posted 01 May 2010 - 02:31 PM by Gian

Courage Alone from Chris Dunning has a list.

Posted 07 August 2010 - 06:30 AM by Gian

Carlo Unia, Storia degli Aerosiluranti italiani (rare).
Martino Aichner, Il Gruppo Buscaglia
Ottone Sponza, Nato per volare
And whatever else you can find. By the way, all three authors were prime pilots in the TB arm.

In any Air Force of one civilized country these pilots ought be expeled of the Air Force even these pilots are manific pilots owed to they can in grave danger the life of the people

In old times aerobatics (and low level flying) were tolerated as the sign of a good fighting attitude. If I remember correctly, Faggioni was able to do aerobatics with an SM.79. However, when casualties due to flying accidents became too frequent, stunts were discouraged and disciplined. A pilot could kill himself no matter how experienced: remember "Cobber" Kain died and Doug Bader lost both legs doing this kind of show. Today it's a "no-no" for any pilot without the "aerobatic" certificate.


Osprey Combat Aircraft book number 106 is a book dedicated to Aerosiluranti! Gives a good overview of the aircraft and their use. It is also in English!


Staff member

Grazie for the heads-up on this book!



You’re welcome!

Still finding my way round the site and only realised afterwards that your question was from 2009!

Hopefully I have attached a photo of a subsequent Osprey book which covers the SM79 bomber units. Another good book but little on torpedo tactics!




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