62 - SM.79 torpedo-bomber

Carlo Emanuele Buscaglia and his

Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 torpedo-bomber

Models and diorama by Bjørn Jacobsen

Carlo Emanuele Buscaglia was one of the

most famous Italian pilots of World War II.


He flew the Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 torpedo-bomber, one of

the best torpedo-bombers in the war and fought for Italy

against the Allied in North Africa, he was shot down by a

British Spitfire and pronounced dead, but turned up in an

American Prison Camp and fought on the Allied side after the

Italian armistice of 8 September 1943!

Buscaglia was born in 1915 and entered the Italian Air Force

Academy) in October 1934.

In 1937, he was assigned to the to the 252nd Squadron

(46th Bomber Wing) and in June 1940, he took part in his

first military mission.

In July 1940, he volunteered to join the Reparto Speciale

Aerosiluranti ("Special Torpedo-Bomber Detachment")a, later renamed the 240th Torpedo-Bomber Squadron, based in Libya.

On the night of 17 September 1940, Buscaglia obtained his first success with a torpedo-armed SM.79, heavily damaging the cruiser HMS Kent. In early December, he also successfully attacked the cruiser, HMS Glasgow.

In January 1941 Buscaglia's unit was transferred to Catania, from where he took part in the action with some German Ju 87s in which the carrier HMS Illustrious was badly damaged.

Promoted to Captain, Buscaglia was

made commander of a new torpedo unit,

the 281st Squadron, based at the

Grottaglie airport in Apulia.

From there he took part in the Battle of

Cape Matapan.

By 1942 Buscaglia had already obtained

the Silver Medal of Military Valor five

times, and the German Iron Cross

second class. In April, he was selected

to command the new 132nd Torpedo

Group, subsequently sinking several

ships in the Mediterranean.

On 12 August of that year, together with

the German ace Hans-Joachim Marseille,

he was received in Rome by Benito Mussolini, who promoted him to Major.

On 12 November 1942, during action against the Allied invasion of North Africa, Buscaglia's aircraft was shot down by a British Spitfire. He was declared "killed in action" and a Gold Medal of Military Valor awarded posthumously.

However, although wounded and badly

burned, Buscaglia had survived, having

been captured by Allied troops and

transferred to a prisoner-of-war camp in

the United States at Fort Meade.

After the armistice of 8 September 1943,

Buscaglia was asked to fight alongside

the Allies, as a member of the newly

formed Aeronautica Cobelligerante del


On 15 July 1944 Buscaglia assumed

command of the 28th Bomber Wing,

equipped with Martin Baltimore and

based on Campo Vesuvio airport, near

Naples. On 23 August, while attempting

to fly one of the new aircraft without an instructor, Buscaglia crashed on take-off. He died the following day in a hospital in Naples, 29 years old.

Above: Buscaglia (first from left) and his crew besides his SM.79 with the markig 281-5

Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 “Sparviero” 

The SM 79 was considered by both Allied and Axis air-forces as being among the best torpedo-bombers ever built.

The plane was originally designed as a high-speed, eight-passenger transport. It was a very streamlined, trimotor machine with retractable landing gear and constructed of steel tubing, wood, and fabric covering. It first flew in 1934 and established several international speed and distance records. Eventually, the Italian air force expressed interest in it as a potential bomber, and a prototype emerged

in 1935.

The military “Sparviero” (“Sparrow Hawk”)

had a bombardment gondola under the

fuselage and a somewhat “humped” top

profile to accommodate two gun turrets.

Consequently, crew members nicknamed

it “Il Gobbo” (The Hunchback).

Several SM.79 were deployed to fight in

the Spanish Civil War and was quickly

established as a fast, rugged aircraft that

handled extremely well under combat


In 1939, a torpedo-bomber version was


Italy had helped pioneer the art of aerial

torpedo bombardment, so when their

efficient weapons were paired with the

Sparviero, a formidable combination


The engines fitted to SM.79 were three

780 hp Alfa Romeo 126 RC.34 radials.

Speeds attained were around 260mph at

12,000ft (3.900m)

The SM.79 damaged or sank twenty

British warships between 1940-43

The aircraft had a crew of five or six with

cockpit accommodation for two pilots.

The defensive armament consisted of four

or five 12.7mm (0.5 in) machineguns.

Torpedoes were carried externally, as

were larger bombs.

Two torpedoes could be carried, but the

performance and the manoeuvrability of the aircraft were reduced, therefore, only one was used in action.

In the summer of 1942, Allied efforts to relieve beleaguered Malta culminated in 'Operation Pedestal' when 14 merchantmen with heavy Royal Navy escort left Gibraltar on August 10. Among the enemy aircraft sent against them were 74 “Sparviero”s, some of which had already scored hits on the battleship HMS Malaya and the carrier HMS Argus. 'Pedestal' eventually got through to Malta, but at the cost of one carrier, two cruisers, a destroyer and nine merchant ships, many of them having been hit by torpedoes from the SM.79s.

The Diorama

I am trying to make a diorama (or dioramas), showing Buscaglia’s SM.79 both on the ground, in the air and above all, attacking a British destroyer in the Mediterranean.

One thing is for sure, it took enormous courage to fly low towards a target throwing a barrage of exploding shells against you – and that goes for all torpedo-bombers in WWII – regardless which symbol was on the plane’s wings – and Buscaglia was one of the bravest!

I used a 1/48 kit from Trumpeter which was a very pleasant model to make.

No issues at all.

Spinning Propeller

I always like my aircraft to have spinning propellers, especially when being photographed in the air.

And the SM.79 had to be in the air.

I glued a brass rod to the propeller hub and drilled holes in the nacelle’s interior to accommodate the new brass propeller shafts.

By lubricating the shafts with dry graphite, they were spinning with the slightest wind (from a hairdryer).

Building the “Sparviero”

The Camouflage

The camouflage on Italian WWII aircraft are always a challenge, no one did the camouflage better than the Italian Airforce – and they had zillion variations!

I used the paint pattern that Buscaglia had on his aircraft 281-5. Patches of verde mimetico (green) and marrone minetico (red/brown) on a background of giallo minetico (yellow).

The undersurfaces and front of the aircraft were grigio mimetico (light grey). 

First, I airbrushed the plane with the yellow background colour, then I used thinned acrylic paint (as thin as airbrush-paint) and hand-brushed the patches.

The thin paint meant that I had to paint several layers before it was finished, but by painting by hand, I had complete control of the painting process all the time.

After the patches were done, the grey undersurfaces and front were painted (also by hand).

  Here is the finished model of the “Sparviero”

The wheels retracted

and mounting the SM.79 on the diorama base

The undercarriages were of course in place when I photographed the plane on the ground.

To prepare the plane for the air, I ripped the wheels away, cut the tires in half so just a part was visible when retracted, glued the half-wheels in the nacelles and closed the wheel doors.

The main drama in this diorama is when the SM.79 release the torpedo aimed for the Allied destroyer.

I would normally have pasted a picture of the plane in position for the attack on the warship (with a photo editing program), and at the same time telling that it would be easy to place the plane on a rod if the diorama should be a permanent one.

I was thinking: If it is so easy, why don’t you do it and show the readers how it’s done?

And that’s what I did.

I made a hole on the underside of the plane and glued a clear acrylic rod in the opening (with CA-glue)

I positioned the rod next to where the torpedo was fastened and glued the torpedo to the rod beneath the plane.

It would look like the torpedo just was launched from the aircraft.

By the way, the white “wings” at the rear of the torpedo is for steering the torpedo through the air.

When the torpedo hits the water, the “wings” are torn away and the torpedo is propelled towards the target by its own engine.

Pilots, Crew and Vehicle

I needed people and a vehicle in the airfield diorama and I found some 1/48 pilots and crew which I had used before.

By repainting them, they would be Italian pilots and crew.

An old Kübelwagen was painted in the same colours as the aircraft and became an Italian Kübelwagen.

The enemy ship

I used a 1/350

scale Destroyer

which I placed on

a base 90 x 80cm

(36 x 32 in)

(It had to be (at least) this big because I used a 1/48 scale aircraft. If I had some sense, I would have used a 1/72 scale aircraft. It would have been much more correct if this should have been a permanent, static diorama)

Just for the record: The SM.79s sunk three British destroyers and badly damaged one in 1941-42 so this diorama is not a theoretical one.

The base was painted blue/grey/black and covered with Natural Water (from Woodland). The wake from the destroyer was made with Water Effects from Woodland.

A hole is drilled in the base to accommodate the clear rod from the attacking aircraft.

Smoke made of painted cotton was fixed to the funnels on the destroyer.

There were often several warships sailing together and I placed an old 1/700 ship in the background.

I also painted some cotton which I placed on the starboard side of the destroyer to illustrate the torpedo explosion seen from the SM.79 banking away from the warship.

In this case, I pasted the picture of the aircraft on the picture of the base with the destroyer in the background.

The Base and the Torpedo hit

Above: The base before the SM.79 (with the acrylic rod) was fixed to the ground (sea).

The background is a painted foamboard. (Painted with airbrush)

In the picture to the right is painted cotton placed beside the destroyer to simulate a torpedo hit.

There are no lights in the “explosion”, mostly because it all happened underwater and I guess that would reduce the blast considerably.

And that's it! Putting everyting together, we get the

SM.79 “Sparviero”  DIORAMAS

Captain Buscaglia and his crew are preparing for the next combat mission.


Two torpedoes could be carried, but the performance and the manoeuvrability of the aircraft were reduced, therefore, usually, only one was used in action.

        Enemy warship in sight!

In the picture above, I have pasted the picture of the SM.79 into the picture of the base with the warships.

The picture below shows the SM.79 mounted on the acrylic rod with the torpedo glued to the rod below the aircraft.

The torpedo is of course aimed well ahead of the moving target

  One more victory for the Sparviero!

This is the base for the Buscaglia diorama with the British warships and the Italian torpedo bomber mounted on a clear rod above the water

This is the real thing;

The picture shows an SM.79 from 281 Squadriglia attacing a British battleship

HMS Barham in the Mediterranean

I hope you enjoyed this website!

Thank you for visiting!


Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have questions or comments




Bjørn Jacobsen

September  2017