Savoia s-85

SM 85s[1]

The Savoia-Marchetti SM.85 was a single-seat twin-engined dive bomber developed by Italy in the late 1930s.


The SM.85 was developed in response to Mussolini’s demand for an aircraft capable of sweeping Britain’s Mediterranean Fleet out of what the Duce liked to refer to as mare nostrum ‘our sea’. At the time of Italy’s entry into the war, on 10 June 1940, the SM.85 equipped one Gruppo: Capitano Ercolano Ercolani’s 96°,[2], consisting of the 236a and 237a squadriglia,[3] which was based on the island of Pantelleria, almost midway between Sicily and the coast of Tunisia. Operationally, the ‘Flying Banana’ - so dubbed because of its distinctive upward curvature both fore and aft when viewed in profile - was a total failure.[2] The main shortcoming was the fact that the dive brakes could not be deployed at speeds in excess of 124 mph (200 km/h), which put the SM.85 in danger of stalling, making it an easy target for fighters.[3].

After nearly a month of inactivity, the SM.85’s moment of glory came when three aircraft spent several hours fruitlessly searching for units of the British fleet reported off Malta. This was the ‘Flying Banana’s’ sole contribution to the Italian dictator’s dreams of ridding ‘his sea’ of the enemy’s presence. For by now Pantelleria’s climate - fierce heat by day, dampness at night - had done its worst. Parked out in the open, the SM.85s’ wooden structures were beginning to warp badly. Still convinced of his air force's need for a dive-bomber, Mussolini turned, not for the last time, to his Axis partner for assistance, leading to a special mission, headed by Generale Pricolo, Chief of the Italian Air Staff, to negotiate the purchase of sufficient Ju 87s, initially to equip two full gruppi. By the end of July 1940, the first 15 Italian pilots had arrived at the Luftwaffe’s Stuka-Schulz 2 at Graz-Thalerhof in Austria to begin training. A similar number arrived the following month.[2]

The withdrawal of the SM.85 from service had been completed within eight weeks of the abortive search for British shipping, as the 96° Gruppo's two subordinate squadriglie, 236a and 237a, had achieved operational readiness with 15 Ju 87s, based at Cosimo in South East Sicily. [4]

Savoia-Marchetti produced a derivative with liquid cooled engines, which was designated SM.86.[5]


  • Model: S.M.85
  • Weights: Empty 9,237 lb (4,190 kg), Loaded 6,504 lb (2,950 kg)
  • Dimensions: Wingspan 46 ft 11 in (14 m), Length 34 ft 1 in (10.4 m), Height 11 ft 10 in (3.3 m), Wing area 277.71 sq ft (25.8 m2)
  • Power: Two 373kW Piaggio P.VII RC.35 engines.
  • Performance: Max. speed 229 mph (368 km/h), Ceiling 21,350 ft (6,500 m), Range 514 miles (827 km)
  • Armament: 1 x 12.7mm or 1 x 7.7mm machine-gun, 1 x 800kg bomb[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Aviastar
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Weal, John. Aircraft of the Aces: Men & Legends #2 - Junkers Ju 87 over the Mediterranean. Delprado Publishers. 1999. ISBN 84 8372 208 9 Page 15
  3. 3.0 3.1 Neulen, Hans Werner. In the Skies of Europe - Air Forces allied to the Luftwaffe 1939-1945. The Crowood Press. 2000. ISBN 1-86126-326-0 Page 37
  4. Weal, John. Page 16
  5. Wikipedia