Savoia-Marchetti S.79 Sparviero Bomber Units

Published: February 6th, 2018     
Product Image
Author: Marco Mattioli
Reviewed by: 
Frank Landrus, IPMS# 35035
Company: Osprey Publishing
ISBN #: 978-1-4728-1877-5
E-Book ISBN #: 1472818830
Other Publication Information: Illustrator: Richard Caruana; Soft Square Bound ; 7.2” x 9.8”, 96 pages
Price: $23.00
Product / Stock #: 122

Marco Mattioli was born January 1, 1966 in Rome. Marco has been interested in military history since he was a teenager. In 1992 he joined the Italian National Journalist Order, after which he was employed as a writer for several leading Italian history publishers. A contributor to many important Italian history and defense magazines, as well as the author of a number of books on Italian military aviation, he wrote Osprey Aviation Elite Units 38: 53deg Stormo and Osprey Combat Aircraft 106: Savoia-Marchetti S.79 Sparviero Torpedo-Bomber Units.

Richard J. Caruana, who lives and works in Malta, is best known for his technical and colour drawings which appear regularly in magazines in the UK (Scale Aviation Modeller International), Italy (Elicotteri e Aerei Militari, Aerofan) and Greece (Model Expert). His aviation art, specializing in the history and colours of the Regia Aeronautica, has also been published in the US, Canada, Australia, Portugal, Argentina and Israel. He also has 14 books to his credit as author. Check him out at

This follows up Marco Mattioli's 2014 Savoia-Marchetti S.79 Sparviero Torpedo-Bomber Units (Combat Aircraft 106). This 96 page book's front cover features a color painting by Mark Postlethwaite of Tenente Arturo Lauchard's Savoia-Marchetti S.79 Sparviero '56-9' being attacked by John Lapsley's Hawker Hurricane. The crew of '56-9' ended up being POWs and the aircraft was put on display by the British in Alexandria's Ismailia Square as a trophy. I counted 77 black and white pictures, there were no color photographs. Richard Caruana contributes thirty color profiles along with 15 illustrations detailing unit badges.

The Italian S.79 Sparviero (Sparrow Hawk) is a three engined bomber develop by Savoia-Marchetti. Originally designed as a speedy executive transport, the S.79 was converted to the bomber role and made a name for itself in the Spanish Civil War. Operating without fighter escorts, the Sparviero was normally able to simply outrun any opposition. The end of the Spanish Civil War saw nearly all the S.79s staying in service with the Spanish Air Force, but Italy still had nearly 600 Sparvieri in service for the advent of World War II. The S.79 served in every theatre that the Italians engaged in and early on where a significant challenge to down. Based on its early reputation, it also operated with the Brazilian, Yugoslavian, and Romanian air forces. Savoia-Marchetti ended up making some 1,370 S.79s between 1936 and 1944. This early reputation began taking hits when they started running into modern WWII fighters like the Hawker Hurricane and the Supermarine Spitfire. After World War II some S.79s soldiered on into the mid -1950s as transports. Two Savoia-Marchetti S.79s have survived destruction and are on display in Italian museums.

Marco Mattioli has covered the development of tactics and operational use of the S.79 as a torpedo bomber previously. This volume is focused on its use strictly as a bomber. Marco utilizes war diaries and first person accounts to give a detailed analysis of the operational use in the Spanish Civil War followed by its use in the Mediterranean and African theaters of action during World War II. The sections include:

  • Introduction
  • Author's Notes
  • Chapter 1 - Birth of a Bomber
    • In Brazilian Service
  • Chapter 2 - Into the Spanish Arena [Page 13]
    • Balearics Hawks in Action
    • General Valle Strikes Again
    • In Spanish Service
    • Albanian Prelude [Page 29]
  • Chapter 3 - World War
    • Colour Plates [Page 41]
    • S.79s Over the Balkans
    • Yugoslav Sparveri
  • Chapter 4 - War Over the Mediterranean [Page 58]
    • Sardinian Sparveri
    • The Pedestal Battle
    • Aegean Sparveri
  • Chapter 5 - War Over North Africa
  • Chapter 6 - In East African Skies
    • Italian East Africa Invaded [Page 90]
  • Appendices:
    • A) S.79 Warship Kills 1940-41
    • B) S.79 Merchant Ship Kills 1940-41
    • C) Colour Plates
    • D) Unit Badges
  • Index

One of the sections I found fascinating was on S.79 actions over the Balkans on November 1, 1940. A bombing run on Salonkia (Greece) was led by Tenente Colonnello Galeazzo Ciano with a force of ten Sparvieri. They were met with intense anti-aircraft flak and seven PZL.24 fighters that damaged four Sparvieri, although all aircraft returned to their base. Tenente Colonnello Galeazzo Ciano noted in his diary:

"The sun at last. I'm taking this opportunity to make slap-up bombardment of Salonika. On the return route I am attacked by Greek fighters - all goes well and two of them are going down. But I confess it was the first time I had fighters on my tail - it's a really bad sensation."

Count Ciano was used to being able to outrun under-gunned fighters with impunity. The arrival of the Hawker Hurricane would change all that with its eight Browning machine guns.

Marco Mattioli provides a great follow-up to his earlier book on the Savoia-Marchetti S.79 Sparviero Torpedo-Bomber Units. If you are into Italian aircraft, the Spanish Civil War, or the Italian Air Force in World War II, this is a good reference book that is also a great read. If you own one the previous releases in the Combat Aircraft series, you know what you are getting. If this is your initial entry into this series, you will be quite pleased.

My thanks to Osprey Publishing and IPMS/USA for the chance to review this great book.

Highly recommended!

  • Front Cover
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  • Rear Cover
    Rear Cover
  • Sample Page
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