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SM.81 Kit

Italeri 1/72 SM.81 Pipistrello Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review January 2006 Manufacturer Italeri
Subject SM.81 Pipistrello Scale 1/72
Kit Number 10-008 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Nice detailing, molds don't show any sign of aging Cons
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $27.99

First Look

SM.81 Kit
SM.81 Kit
SM.81 Kit
SM.81 Kit
SM.81 Kit

The SM.81 Pipistrello (Bat) was first flown in 1935, developed as a bomber version of the S.75 passenger aircraft. These aircraft featured similar lines and characteristics of other notable aircraft coming off the Savoia Marchetti drawing boards like the SM.79 Sparviero. The SM.81 was powered by a trio of engines, typically Alfa Romeo 125 radials, but these types varied by the mission of the individual aircraft.

The aircraft was armed with retractable dorsal and ventral turrets, could carry a bomb load of 2,000 kg, and a semi-retractable bomb aimer's gondola was mounted under the nose.

Unlike aircraft production today, Savoia Marchetti had production aircraft supporting Italian Air Force combat operations a mere two months after the first flight of the prototype! In all, 534 SM.81s were built and supported operations from the Ethiopian campaign in 1935 through the Spanish Civil War and well into World War Two.

Italeri is re-releasing the Supermodel series of 1/72 kits. I remember these kits from many years ago as these were (and still are) highly detailed models for this scale. Note that detailed doesn't always translate into complex.

Molded in light gray styrene, this kit is presented on three parts trees, plus a tree of clear transparencies, and comes from the raised panel line generation of molds. The panel lines and details are still nicely done.

The instructions are nicely illustrated but quite busy. Assembly of the entire kit is accomplished in only two steps (!!!). In step one alone, you're building out the interior, armament, center engine, and the entire fuselage - all in the first step.

Step two takes on the wings, landing gear, engines one and three, and the tail surfaces.

Despite the number of actual assembly steps in each of the two steps, taking a few minutes to study the instructions should make the job easy enough. In fact, one whole page of the instructions are dedicated to illustrating the location of each part by number.

The kit provides your choice of the short-cowled Alfa Romeo 125 engines or the longer cowled Piaggio P.Xs. In addition, you can portray your SM.81 as a bomber or as a torpedo-carrying attack aircraft.

This kit provides markings for two different aircraft. The subjects are:

  • SM.81, MM 2014, 11 Sqn, 11-3, pre-WW2 colors
  • SM.81, 218 Sqn, 218-4, WW2 camouflage

I'm glad to see this kit back on the market as this is the only kit of the SM.81 I'm aware of in styrene in any scale. Despite its age, it was an advanced kit for its time and kits nicely into contemporary expectations for detail.

My sincere thanks to Testors for this review sample!