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What's so special about this picture?

It was taken in Tokyo in July 1942. The trimotor aircraft is the Savoia-Marchetti S.75 GA RT (GA for Grande Autonomia, i.e. long range, RT for Rome-Tokyo). Its pilot, Lieutenant Colonel Antonio Moscatelli, was placed in charge of the flight operation, which in addition to providing Italy with propaganda about Italian aviation prowess was to carry new codes for communications between Japan and her Axis partners; the Italians believed the British had broken the existing codes. The flight was made difficult to perform by the extreme distance involved and the need to fly thousands of kilometers through the airspace of the Soviet Union, a country with which Italy was at war.

Taking off from Guidonia Montecelio at 05:30 hours on 29 June 1942, the SM.75 GA RT landed later that day 2,030 kilometers (1,260 mi) away at Zaporozhye in German-occupied Ukraine, the easternmost airfield available to the Axis powers. At 18:00 hours on 30 June 1942, carrying no documents or correspondence that might embarrass the Japanese (who were not at war the with Soviet Union) and with its crew under orders to burn the aircraft and its documents if forced down in enemy-held territory, the overloaded SM.75 GA RT made the difficult and potentially dangerous takeoff from the grassy 700-meter (2,297-foot) runway at Zaporozhye, weighing 21,500 kilograms (47,400 pounds) while having 11,000 kilograms (24,250 pounds) -- 10,340 liters (2,721 gallons) -- of fuel on board.

Operating under strict radio silence, the aircraft continued unscathed through the night—despite encountering Soviet anti-aircraft fire, bad weather conditions, and a Soviet fighter, probably a Yakovlev Yak-1 -- flying over the north coast of the Aral Sea, skirting Lake Baikal and the Tarbagatai Mountains and over the Gobi Desert. Maps of Soviet positions proved inaccurate, and Moscatelli had to climb to 5,000 meters (16,404 feet) to avoid detection, causing the aircraft's oxygen supply to run out earlier than planned. A sandstorm over Mongolia also endangered the SM.75 GA RT, but its crew sighted the Yellow River at 22:00 hours on 30 June 1942 and, on the last of its fuel, landed 6,000 km (3,700 mi) east of Zaporozhye on the 1,300-meter (4,270-foot) runway, at Pao Tow Chien, over 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) above sea level in Japanese-occupied Inner Mongolia, at 15:30 hours on 1 July 1942.

The aircraft was painted with Japanese markings so that it would be safe in Japanese airspace, took an interpreter aboard, and then flew the final 2,700 km (1,700 mi) leg of the journey to Tokyo.

The S.75 GA RT departed Tokyo on its return journey on 16 July 1942. Arriving at Pao Tow Chien, its Japanese markings were removed and replaced with Italian ones. It took off at 21:45 hours on 18 July 1942 from Pao Tow Chien, retraced its route, and, after 29 hours and 25 minutes in the air and having covered 6,350 kilometers (3,950 mi), it landed at Odessa in the Ukraine. Moscatelli then completed the operation by flying the aircraft on to Guidonia Montecelio.

The Italians publicised this event on 2 August 1942 despite the Japanese government's reluctance for diplomatic reasons, which cooled relations between the two countries; the Italians made no attempt to repeat the flight.

Savoia liners / transports / bombers, designed by Alessandro Marchetti, are probably less famous than Fokker, Ford and Junkers trimotors. Nevertheless, they deserve their share of fame.

This humble eight-passenger liner, S.71, built in 1930, was the predecessor of Marsupiale, Sparviero, Canguro and other trimotors which looked a bit outdated in 1940 but gave sterling service during WWII.

The Savoia-Marchetti S.73 was developed in only four months, thanks to the use of the S.55 wing, combined with a much more conventional fuselage. Developed in parallel with a bomber version (the SM.81 Pipistrello) the prototype S.73 first flew on 4 July 1934 from Cameri, with Adriano Bacula as test pilot.The prototype had a four-blade wooden propeller on the central engine, and two-blade wooden propellers on each wing engine. Later all aircraft were fitted with three-blade metal propellers.

The S.73 was a mixed-construction (a skeleton of steel covered by wood and fabric for the fuselage, wood for the three-spar wing) monoplane with a braced tailplane and fixed undercarriage. There were two generators, one in each side of the fuselage; the batteries were 24 V and were rated at 90 A.The pilot and co-pilot were seated side-by-side in an enclosed cockpit, with a compartment for a radio operator and a mechanic. A passenger compartment could house 18 passengers in two rows.It had eight metallic fuel tanks, all in the wings, with a total capacity of 3,950 L (1,044 US gal).

The prototype had French Gnome et Rhône Mistral Kfr engines, but further aircraft had 522 kW (700 hp) Piaggio P.X Stella, 574 kW (770 hp) Wright R-1820, 544 kW (730 hp) Walter Pegasus III MR2V and Alfa Romeo AR 125 and 126. Propellers were three-blade, aluminium-steel variable pitch (only adjustable on the ground).It could be used from small airports and had reliable handling controls, and was not too costly. The power on board was incremented with the latest types of engines, including Piaggio P.X, 522 kW (700 hp), Wright R-1820, 574 kW (770 hp), Walter Pegasus, 544 kW (730 hp), and Alfa AR.125/126. With the R-1820 engine it had 1,723 kW (2,310 hp) and a speed cruise/max of 270/340 km/h (170/210 mph), 1,000 km (620 mi) range, and 6,300 m (20,670 ft) ceiling.

The SM.81 Pipistrello ('bat") was a militarised version of the SM.73, having cantilever wings, three engines and a fixed undercarriage.

The origins of this version were in pursuit of the interests of Italo Balbo, a brilliant exponent of the Fascist regime (but nevertheless "exiled" in Libya by Mussolini), who required a fast and efficient aircraft that was capable of serving the vast Italian colonies in Africa.The SM.81 had wings that were roughly similar to those of the double-fuselage SM.55, and identical to those of the SM.73, but had a much simpler fuselage. Around six months after the SM.73s first appearance, the SM.81 prototype (MM.20099) first flew from Vergiate, near Varese, on 8 February 1935, controlled by test pilot Adriano Bacula. The first serie, ordered in 1935, was for 100 aircraft and was quickly put into production as a result of the international crisis and the embargo caused by the war in Ethiopia. The first examples were sent to 7 Wing, Lonate Pozzolo.Although it was quickly superseded as a front-line bomber, the SM.81 continued to serve as a transport aircraft by virtue of its wide fuselage, which allowed it to accommodate a wide range of armament.

The SM.75 was designed in response to an enquiry from the Italian airline Ala Littoria, which was seeking a modern, middle-to-long-range airliner and cargo aircraft as a replacement for its Savoia-Marchetti S.73 aircraft. In his design of the SM.75, Savoia-Marchetti chief designer Alessandro Marchetti (1884–1966) retained the general configuration of the S.73 but introduced retractable main landing gear to reduce aerodynamic drag. The SM.75's airframe consisted of a steel-tube frame with fabric and plywood covering, and its control surfaces were plywood-covered. The SM.75 had a four-man crew, and its cabin was built to accommodate up to 25 passengers. Its short take-off run of 337 meters (1,105 feet) and shorter landing distance of 280 meters (919 feet) meant that it could operate from short runways on secondary airfields.

The SM.75 was powered by three Alfa Romeo 126 RC.34 radial engines rated at 559 kilowatts (750 horsepower) each at 3,400 meters (11,155 feet). Eleven aircraft fitted with three Alfa Romeo 126 RC.18 14-cylinder engines rated at 641 kilowatts (860 horsepower) at 1,800 meters (5,905 feet) were designated the SM.75bis.

The Regia Aeronautica (Italian Royal Air Force) showed solid interest in the SM.75, resulting in the development of a militarized version. This lacked windows in the passenger cabin but was fitted with a reinforced panel to permit the installation of a dorsal gun turret. It was powered by three Alfa Romeo 128 RC.21 engines and had a greater cargo capacity than the SM.75, and entered military service as the Savoia-Marchetti SM.82 (below):

Although having the same configuration of the SM.75, the SM.82 was larger. The aircraft was quickly developed and the prototype first flew in 1939. Although underpowered and slow, it was capable of carrying heavy loads, including the L3 light tank and a complete disassembled CR.42 fighter (these loads demanded special modifications, though). It had both cargo and troop transport capability, with room up to 40 men and their equipment.

Deliveries to the Regia Aeronautica began in 1940. However, production rates were slow, with only 100 aircraft delivered in 1940, and another 100 in 1941, so that there were never enough of these aircraft in service. By 1942 production doubled to 200 a year, while in 1944 almost 300 were produced, by which time the factory was under the control of the Germans.In 1939 it set a world's closed circuit distance record when it covered 10,000 km at an average speed of 239.67 km/h, remaining in the air for 56.5 hours. The aircraft has seen extensive service throughout all the various African campaigns.

In 1939, a floatplane version of the SM.75 appeared. Known as the SM.87 (above), it was powered by three 746 kW (1,000 hp) Fiat A.80 engines. It could reach a speed of 365 km/h (227 mph) and had a ceiling of 6,250 m (20,510 ft), a range of 2,200 km (1,400 mi), and a crew of four, and could accommodate 24 passengers. Four were built.

The SM.90 was a version of the SM.75 fitted with more powerful 1,044 kW (1,400 hp) Alfa Romeo 135 R.C.32 engines. It had a longer fuselage than the SM.75.

Only one was built.

The Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 Sparviero (Italian for "Sparrowhawk") in the years 1937–39, set 26 world records that qualified it for some time as the fastest medium bomber in the world. It first saw action during the Spanish Civil War and flew on all fronts in which Italy was involved during World War II. It became famous and achieved many successes as a torpedo bomber in the Mediterranean theater.

Three of the SM.79CSs (high-performance version) were modified to cross the Atlantic Ocean and reach Brazil. They took off on 24 January 1938 and landed in Dakar 11 hours later, then headed for Rio de Janeiro arriving at 22:45 local time on 25 January. One faulty aircraft, however, landed at Natal, where it remained and was later donated to the Brazilian Air Force.

The SM.79 was an outstanding aircraft and was certainly the best known Italian aeroplane of World War II. It was easily recognizable due to its distinctive fuselage dorsal "hump", and was well liked by its crews who nicknamed it Gobbo Maledetto ("damned hunchback"). It was the most widely produced Italian bomber of World War II, with some 1,300 built, remaining in Italian service until 1952.

The Savoia-Marchetti S.83 was a civilian version of the Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 bomber. Though the cabin was provided with heaters, oxygen provision and sound insulation it was only large enough for the 4 crew and four to 10 passengers. The construction was of mixed materials in the typical Savoia-Marchetti style of the time: steel tubes for the fuselage, wood for the wings, and the outer skin made up of wood, fabric or metal. The wings had slats. The powerplant was three AR.126 engines giving a total of about 2,300 hp.The maximum range stated was 4,800 km. The maximum speed was slightly better than the bomber 444 km/h at 4,000 m due to the absence of the gondola and hump machine gun positions.

First flying on 19 November 1937, it entered into production for LATI, SABENA and other companies, but it had less success compared to the more economic and capable 18 seater Savoia-Marchetti S.73 even if had much improved performance. As a result only 23 were built in two main series.

The Savoia-Marchetti SM.84 was an Italian bomber aircraft of World War II. It was designed by Savoia-Marchetti as a replacement for its successful SM.79, and shared its three-engine layout. However, although it entered service with the Regia Aeronautica in 1941, it never replaced the SM.79, being retired from service before it.

As for the SM.79, it continued to serve into early 1950s. Production of its two-engine version, license-built in Romania, ended in 1946.

Source: Wikipedia

 

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