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Savoia Marchetti SM.82 Bomber Transport Aircraft

by Jim H

A three-engine bomber and transport aircraft, the Savoia Marchetti SM.82 Marsupiale (Marsupial) flew for the first time in 1939 and served in the Italian Air Force from 1940 until the early 1960s. Marsupial’s ability to carry broken fighters earned the aircraft its nickname, which is often interchangeable with “Canguro”. The Italian aircraft manufacturer Savoia-Marchetti produced the aircraft, which served extensively throughout World War II in the various African campaigns.

Savoia Marchetti SM. 82 Marsupiale of the 604th Transport Squadron, Libya 1941.

Savoia Marchetti SM. 82 Marsupiale of the 604th Transport Squadron, Libya 1941.

Background on the Savoia Marchetti SM.82 Marsupial

The Societa Italiana Aeroplani Idrovolanti (Savoia-Marchetti) Design Team developed the Savoia Marchetti SM.82 Canguro from an earlier version, the SM.75 Marsupiale civil transport. The company built aircraft in factories in Sesto Calende and Borgomanero.

Savoia Marchetti SM.82

Savoia Marchetti SM.82

Designed for heavy bombing and military transport, the new version featured a longer and deeper fuselage, retractable tailwheel landing gear, and a three-engine power plant. It also had greater loaded weight, a redesigned fin and rudder, and a hydraulically operated gun turret on the fuselage. The aircraft could accommodate 40 armed troops or be used as a long-range heavy bomber. Additionally, it could carry up to 8818 pounds. During the war years, about 850 Savoia Marchetti SM-82 aircraft were built. They served extensively during the war on both African fronts.

A U.S. intelligence report on the Savoia Marchetti SM.82 refers to it as the largest of Italy’s three-engine aircraft and the only Italian plane to be used substantially by the Germans. It has a wingspan of over 97 feet and a gross wing area of 1,290 square feet. Powered with three Alfa Romeo 128 RC 21 9-cylinder engines, it could reach a speed of 205 mph at 7000 feet and 185 mph at sea level.

Service history

The Savoia Marchetti SM.82 flew extensively with the Regia Aeronautica and later with the Luftwaffe to transport cargo. A handling gear simplified the loading and unloading process and its seats folded to provide places for 40 people plus equipment. Although it had the capacity to operate as a bomber and to carry a bomb load of up to 8,818 pounds, it did not serve in this way on a regular basis.

Maintenance work being conducted on an SM.82.

Maintenance work being conducted on an SM.82.

First missions

For its first missions, the SM.82s transported Italian troops and equipment to Libya in June 1940. By 24 June, 11 aircraft transported men and equipment to Africa, and in July, some SM.82s engaged in bombing missions to Gibraltar. Other early missions included a special mission to British-controlled oil refineries in Manama in the Persian Gulf and six single aircraft night bombing missions against Alexandria and other targets. Over this time period, several planes were destroyed or damaged.

East African Campaigns

In the East African Campaign, SM.82s functioned almost exclusively as transport aircraft. They maintained contact with East Africa and helped to support the troops who fought in the East Africa Campaign. With many missions flown, the SM.82s logged over 5000 hours of flight time by the end of 1940. In May 1941, the AOI fell to the Allies. Isolated attacks on Gibraltar with new SM.82s occurred in the spring of 1941 and 1942.

North Africa Campaigns

In North Africa, SM.82s performed a few bombing missions in 1941. Afterward, they served as transport aircraft. They flew several missions in 1941 during which they carried equipment and people. In 1942, they continued to fly supply missions across the Mediterranean until Operation Flax ended the air bridge to Axis forces in Tunisia.

A Savoia Marchetti SM.82P releasing paratroopers.

A Savoia Marchetti SM.82P releasing paratroopers.

The planes continued to fly with troops and materials even after the Axis defeat at El Alamein. During this time, the Allies shot down or destroyed around 100 SM.82s. Attacks destroyed many more SM.82s, but the aircraft continued to mount attacks and bombings through the remaining years of Italy’s participation in World War II. SM.82s saw the most success in their paratrooper transport missions, with 15 successful combat airdrops taking place.

Luftwaffe use

The FliegerTransportGruppe “Savoia” of the German Luftwaffe operated 100 Savoia Marchetti’s from 1942 through spring 1943. Subsequently, SIAI delivered 299 more planes for the Luftwaffe after September 1943. They operated transport missions on the eastern front and in Northern Germany until the end of the war.

Post War

After Italy signed the Armistice in September 1943, 29 planes continued to operate in Southern Italy and 60 planes operated in the fascist puppet state installed by Germany in northern Italy. After the war, a few SM.82s continued to serve with the Italian Air Force in transport duties through the early 1960s.

Variants

  • SM-82: The standard version, a transport aircraft with 32 seats and room for 50 people. It was produced in ten series.
  • SM-82 Bomber: Included a bombardier’s gondola and bomb racks. Regia Aeronautica ordered 68 aircraft while some others later became modified to serve as bombers.
  • Carro Armato: Modified to carry the L3/35 light tank.
  • Transporto Caccia: Modified to carry a disassembled FIAT CR.32, and later adapted for a Fiat CR.42. Used to deliver aircraft to East Africa.
  • Transporto Motori: used to transport aircraft engines to Africa.
  • SM.82P: Aircraft of the VIII series modified for use of paratroops.
  • Tanker: Transport up to 790 gallons of fuel.
  • LATI: Aircraft for international airlines with ten seats, automatic pilot, toilet, enhanced radios, and two additional fuel tanks.
  • SM.82LW: Modified for Luftwaffe with turrets and radios. Used in long-range and heavy bombing missions.
  • S.82PW: Modified after the war with Pratt & Whitney R-1830 engines. Served until 1960.

Historical Footnote

The SM.82 set a record when it covered approximately 10,000 miles at an average speed of 240 km/h and flew for 56.5 hours in 1939. This record-breaking impressive feat as well as its service in the African theater of the war have made this a legendary aircraft and has earned it a central spot in World War II military history.

Specifications

Model Savoia-Marchetti SM.82
Crew 4
Powerplant (3) Alfa Romeo 128 RC.21
950 HP each
Maximum Speed 212 mph (347 km/h)
Max Ceiling 19,685 ft (6,000 m)
Range 1,864 miles (2,100 km)
Length 75 ft 1½ in (22.9 m)
Height 19 ft 8.25 in (6 m)
Wingspan 97 ft 4½ in (29.68 m)
Armament (1) 12.7 mm Scotti machine gun in dorsal turret
(3) 7.7 mm Breda-SAFAT machine guns in ventral and lateral positions
8,818 lbs (4,000 kg) bombload
Weight Empty: 23,259 lb (10,550 kg)
Max: 39,727 lb (18,020 kg)
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