At 0025 hours, an Italian Savoia-Marchetti SM79 Sparrowhawk penetrated Force H’s defence screen unchallenged. Once the bomber loosed its payload, Indomitable realised she was under attack and began to turn into the torpedo. The turn came too late, however, and the missile slammed into the port side of the carrier, opening a 28-square-foot hole in the hull.
– Excerpt from Eagles over Husky
By mid-1943 the Savoia-Marchetti SM79 Sparviero (Sparrowhawk) was obsolete, but it was retained as a torpedo bomber out of necessity. The Regia Aeronautica’s torpedo bomber force was mostly ineffective during Operation Husky. There weren’t enough aircraft or crews left to achieve enough concentrated strength to mount successful raids against Allied shipping. The torpedoing of HMS Indomitable on the night of 15/16 July 1943 was an impressive exception.
Type: four/five-seat torpedo bomber
Powerplant: three 746kW (1,000hp) Alfa Romeo 128 RC.34 9-cylinder single-row radial engines
Performance: maximum speed 475km/h (295 mph); climb to 5000m (16,000ft) in 16 minutes 7 seconds; service ceiling 6500m (21325ft); range 1900km (1181 miles) with a 1250kg (2756lb) bomb load
Weights: empty 6800kg (14991lb); maximum take-off 10480kg (23,104lb)
Wingspan: 21.2m (69ft 3in)
Length: 15.62m (51ft 9in)
Height: 4.40m (14ft 5in)
Armament: one 12.7mm (0.5in) fixed forward-firing machine gun above the cockpit, one 12.7mm (0.5in) trainable rearward-firing machine gun in dorsal position, one 12.7mm (0.5in) machine gun in ventral position and one 7.7mm (0.303in) machine gun in two beam positions; bomb load of 1250kg (2756lb)