The Savoia-Marchetti S.M.81 was created in 1934 alongside the S.M.73, a three-engine transport aircraft. While they share a similar design with fairing landing gear, the S.M.81 serves as a bomber. During its operational history, the S.M.81 played a role in the Spanish Civil War and was subsequently utilized by Italy during World War II. In total, 534 units of this aircraft were manufactured.
The S.M.81B bomber is a prototype aircraft derived from the S.M.81 standard bomber utilized by the Italian Air Force in the 1930s. The initial S.M.81 exhibited commendable performance and demonstrated its effectiveness in Eastern Europe during the Spanish Civil War and the early stages of World War II. The S.M.81B variant was primarily intended as a torpedo bomber, featuring two 840-horsepower water-cooled engines produced by Aesop Fletcher, which replaced the original S.M.81’s two Romeo-style 680-horsepower radial engines.
The SINAW factory in Nanchang chose the S.81B for production. In December 1936, six of these bombers were ordered, and one (MM326) was imported from Italy. In October 1937, the aircraft arrived in Hong Kong in nine cases. However, the cases were too large to be transported by rail into China, and permission to assemble the bomber in Hong Kong was denied. Finally, in June 1938, six of the cases were sent to Canton by rail. In the meantime, two S 81s were completed at the Nanchang factory and assigned to the 13th Squadron. Another one was almost finished but was unfortunately destroyed when the factory was bombed by the Japanese in December 1937, the factory immediately moved inland to Sichuan. three aircraft were handed to the 13th Squadron under the the Aeronautical Commission . In the autumn of 1937, the squadron underwent reorganization and transformed into a bomber squadron. Captain Li Tianmin was given the order to lead his team members to Nanchang, where they were to receive the three aircraft and conduct replacement training. However, due to the presence of numerous troops at the Nanchang base, training was hindered as they interfered with each other. Consequently, the 13th Squadron was relocated to Hankou and merged with the 18th and 31st Squadrons, forming a training school. Alongside the three aforementioned aircraft, the school was also equipped with a Heinkel He 111K bomber. The school appointed American Barr as the principal and Captain Li Tianmin as the vice principal, both affiliated with the 8th Brigade. Eventually, due to the war’s impact, the squadron was transferred to Yichang. Following Barr’s resignation, he was replaced by American John. Unfortunately, as John was unfamiliar with the terrain in Yichang, all three S.M.81Bs were destroyed in training accidents in February 1938.
Length - 17.8 m
Wingspan - 24 m
Height - 4.86 m
Empty Weight - 6,786 kg
Max Takeoff Weight - 10,480 kg
Engine - 2 x Isotta-Fraschini Asso XI inline engines (627 kW each)
Max Speed - 344 km/h
Service Ceiling - 6,700m
Range - 2185 km
Crew - 2 pilots, 3 gunners, 1 bombardier
Up to 1200 kg in bombs
1 x 7.7mm Breda-SAFAT in ventral turret
1 x 2 x 7.7mm Breda-SAFAT in dorsal turret
1 x 7.7mm Breda-SAFAT, 2 x beam turrets
Unknown if carried torpedo in ROCAF service.
(Book) A Encyclopedia of Chinese Aircraft Vol.1 - Page 94
(Book) A History of Chinese Aviation - Page 282