Italian Aircraft Torpedo Development

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Carl Schwamberger
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Italian Aircraft Torpedo Development

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 15 Jan 2021 05:12

Web search turned up some information lite. I'm looking for reading/information of the why there was no aircraft launched torpedo development inter war, and about the late development leading to the limited 1940 production. Seems like a opportunity was missed.

Thanks & Graci for any information

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Re: Italian Aircraft Torpedo Development

Post by Sid Guttridge » 15 Jan 2021 11:16

Hi Carl,

I wonder if there is a correlation between those countries with strong independent naval air arms and the development of air-delivered torpedoes? I suspect that where a country had aircraft carriers it developed aerial torpedoes early. Italy had neither a strong independent naval air arm, nor any aircraft carriers.

One internet source (https://weaponsandwarfare.com/2020/04/2 ... nufactured.) says that Germany's first aerial torpedo was partly developed from Italian patents but was unsatisfactory so "by February 1938, the navy bought an aerial torpedo from the Italians.". In 1942 the Germans were asking Japan for aerial torpedo plans.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: Italian Aircraft Torpedo Development

Post by Ironmachine » 15 Jan 2021 14:16

The Italians, notably lawyer Raoul Pateras-Pescara and Captain of Naval Engineering Alessandro Guidoni, had conducted tests of aerial torpedoes from 1941. Some aerial torpedo attacks had been attempted as early as World War I, but to no avail. Triasl continued through the 1920s and 1930s using several aircraft types, until in 1938 the first aerial torpedo produced by the Whitehead firm of Fiume was paired with the SIAI Marchetti (also known as Savoia-Marchetti) S.79, later named Sparviero (Sparrowhawk). Thanks to its remarkable speed and manoeuvrability, the S.79 was destined to become the Italian aircraft of choice for the torpedo-bomber role.
Yet, owing to rivalries between the Italian Navy and Air Force, which disputed each other's control and financing of the new role, Italy entered the war in 1940 lacking trained crews, specialised units and sufficient air-launched torpedoes to wage an adequate anti-shipping war. This situation was aggravated by the poor performance of the Italian level bombers, whose weapons, dropped from too high an altitude, dispersed and mostly failed to hit enemy ships. Those aboard the targeted vessels were usually able to spot and avoid the falling bombs, although the ships were often straddled and, in many cases, suffered damage from near misses.
Luckily, Generale di Squadra Aerea Francesco Pricolo, the Regia Aeronautica's Chief of Staff since November 1939, intervened to resolve this absurd situation. Pricolo was a strong supporter of the potential new torpedo-bomber branch, and shortly after his appointment he had hastily ordered a batch of 30 aerial torpedoes from Whitehead. To further accelerate this process following Italy's entry in the war, Pricolo ordered a further batch of 50 aerial torpedoes (formerly allocated to Germany) for the air force's new role in July 1940. Thanks to his initiative, Italy at least had a modest quantity of torpedoes at its disposal during the first months of war. Otherwise, there would have been nothing.
Source: Osprey Combat Aircraft 106 Savoia-Marchetti S.79 Sparviero Torpedo-Bomber Units by Marco Mattioli.

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Re: Italian Aircraft Torpedo Development

Post by Andy H » 15 Jan 2021 22:50

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
15 Jan 2021 05:12
Web search turned up some information lite. I'm looking for reading/information of the why there was no aircraft launched torpedo development inter war, and about the late development leading to the limited 1940 production. Seems like a opportunity was missed.

Thanks & Graci for any information
Hi Carl

Look up the works of Fabio De Ninno, he's a Professor of Italian Naval History & MH at the University of Siena.

Regards

Andy H

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Re: Italian Aircraft Torpedo Development

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 16 Jan 2021 00:45

Thanks Andy.

The Osprey text quoted above confirms other sources that described the early torpedo bomber unit formed July 1940. That is the only torpedoes available when the war started were 50 just built. It appears the small number previously built were expended in tests.

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Re: Italian Aircraft Torpedo Development

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 16 Jan 2021 00:51

Sid Guttridge wrote:
15 Jan 2021 11:16
Hi Carl,

I wonder if there is a correlation between those countries with strong independent naval air arms and the development of air-delivered torpedoes? I suspect that where a country had aircraft carriers it developed aerial torpedoes early. Italy had neither a strong independent naval air arm, nor any aircraft carriers.

One internet source (https://weaponsandwarfare.com/2020/04/2 ... nufactured.) says that Germany's first aerial torpedo was partly developed from Italian patents but was unsatisfactory so "by February 1938, the navy bought an aerial torpedo from the Italians.". In 1942 the Germans were asking Japan for aerial torpedo plans.

Cheers,

Sid.
This would connect to the Germans developing Skip Bombing or extreme low level bombing tactics. I found a description of a single squadron using this technique to sink or damage a few Spanish cargo ships 1938-39. The same suspects turn up again over the North Sea in 1939 & 1940 using the same techniques to attack British cargo ships in the Eastern Approaches. Since there are few descriptions of this tactic I am guessing very few air crews were trained to use it.

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Re: Italian Aircraft Torpedo Development

Post by Dili » 16 Jan 2021 10:46

The first reason was that the torpedo was considered too expensive compared to the bomb -with assumption that they could get more bomb hits than what came to be.

The first torpedo attack was in August and the unit had only 4 crew. They were quite successful, not least because RN ships were quite poor in close range AA.

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Re: Italian Aircraft Torpedo Development

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 16 Jan 2021 17:44

My fathers bomber group came to Europe with the same assumption. They could have a adequate number of hits on bridges with a handful of aircraft and a few bombs each. Previous tests and training were misleading for his Army Air Force Group, even with experience in the Pacific and several years of RAF experience to draw from. This assumption abound the effacy of medium and high altitude bombing seems to be near universal until harsh experience showed other wise.

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Re: Italian Aircraft Torpedo Development

Post by jwsleser » 05 Feb 2021 17:48

While researching a different topic, I found these meeting notes.

From Verbali delle riunioni tenute dal Capo di SM Generale [Minutes of the meetings held by the Capo di SM Generale] tomo I, pp. 11-13. My clarifications in [ ]

26 January 1939

Recommendations and Special Topics

2. Torpedo bomber problem

S.E. BADOGLIO - This involves the purchase of 30 torpedoes for torpedo bombers.

There is a divergence of views between the Navy and Air Force on this issue. The same has happened in Germany.

S.E. CAVAGNARI - For me the problem of a torpedo for torpedo bombers is already solved. We made a type that can be launched from 120m altitude, at a speed of 300 km. No country has managed to make one that can be launched from more than 40-50m altitude and speed of 180-200k. Therefore I can no longer consider our torpedo in an experimental phase and, therefore, I believe that I should no longer have to pay for experiments.

S.E. VALLE - For the Air Force, this type of torpedo cannot be used.

S.E. CAVAGNARI - It must serve. Today, given the low speed difference between large ships and torpedo boats, it is more difficult for the latter to perform all their tasks (escort, reconnaissance, etc.) and therefore planes have to replace them [torpedo boats] in some situations of torpedo use.

The Air Force, on the other hand, envisages its possible use and, therefore, proposes the solution that all aircraft can be used for carrying torpedoes.

Carrying the torpedo and using it are, however, very different things. The problem is complex: it cannot be accepted that every aircraft can be used as a torpedo [bomber].

S.E. VALLE - I take note of the statements of S.E. Cavagnari. If the Navy passes the cost [money] of a flotilla of torpedoes to me, I am happy to build flocks of torpedo bombers.

S.E. CAVAGNARI - It is not a question of budget, but it is first of all a question of doctrine. When we agree on this point, we'll see.

S.E. VALLE - I believe, on the other hand, how it is treated in the budget. Just 4 years ago aircraft for the Navy cost 300,000 lire: today it costs 1 million and 500,000 lire; aircraft for the Army cost 270,000 lire: today it costs 1 million and 200,000 lire.

The budget of the Air Force is just 1 billion and 900 million and, indeed, practically 1,600,000,000; while the British budget is 20 billion and the French one 23 billion. And France can thus spend 12 billion on aviation materials and build 200 aircraft a month.

The Air Force is forced, for economy of means, to build aircraft, which with a well trained crew (ours are the best in the world) can be used for various forms of employment, namely bombing, torpedoing, transport, ground observation, and maritime observation.

If the Air Force had a few billion more, it could very well build units to be used solely as torpedo bombers.

S.E. CAVAGNARI ‐- I requested the stability of the personnel in the seaplane units but this has never been possible to obtain.

It is only human that an aviation officer does not stay for a long time in unwelcome locations such as those where seaplane units are located.

S.E. VALLEY - I refute this. Officers go where they go.

S.E. CAVAGNARI - The problem of launching is of such difficulty and delicacy as to require specialization obtainable only through continuous and exclusive training.

On the other hand, the tendency of aviation officers to chose fighter and bombing aviation and not seaplanes is undeniable in aviation officers.

S.E. VALLEY. - Absolutely not. The rotation of personnel in seaplane units is due to a completely different need and is absolutely no greater than that for other specialties.

But let's go back to the torpedoes.

The brilliant characteristics of the current type of torpedo that allows launching from 100 m. altitude, at a speed of 300 km per hour, were obtained on the basis of studies carried out by the Air Force in Guidonia. Germany has seen that we are the most advanced in this field and has ordered 300 torpedoes, to be delivered from June onwards: about 1 per day. The torpedo factory of Fiume naturally tends to have other orders: but, if the torpedo characteristics are good, more can and must be obtained, provided that today it is very difficult to approach warships given the power of the anti-aircraft defense, and, since all the aircraft now fly at 380 km. per hour in the approach phase, we want a torpedo that can be launched at 350 km. per hour.

We therefore believe that the order for the 30 torpedoes must be done to test the weapon with the squadrons and to obtain a type with better characteristics. When the new type [of torpedo] with excellent characteristics is approved, it will be switched to series production, which will be paid for by the Air Force. For now we are in an experimental phase which, as agreed, must be charged to the Navy.

In conclusion, for now the order of the 30 torpedoes cannot be considered as a normal series and the Air Force cannot commit ten million for their purchase.

S.E. CAVAGNARI - I repeat that the agreement established with the Air Force clearly states that the Navy will pay for the torpedo prototypes, and this the Navy has done. With the prototypes, the altitude and speed parameters set by the Whitehead company were brilliantly achieved in the tests in Fiume, as possible with the type of torpedo which has been realized.

Therefore the current production of 30 prototype torpedoes is no longer relevant to the Navy and therefore I believe I do not have to pay anything.

S.E. BADOGLIO - I will present the situation in question to the Head of Government and we will hear his decision.
Last edited by jwsleser on 05 Feb 2021 18:09, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Italian Aircraft Torpedo Development

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 05 Feb 2021 17:59

Interesting brief on military politics and bargaining. I like how its first stated a 300km launch speed is a breakthrough, beyond what any other nation has. Then there a new requirement for a 350 km per hour launch speed. Cute way of kicking it down the road.

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Re: Italian Aircraft Torpedo Development

Post by jwsleser » 05 Feb 2021 20:17

It gets better. This meeting is from 18 Nov 1939 (pp. 29-31)

SPECIAL TOPIC IV
Organization of the Aircraft Militia and Maritime Militia
(Cadre and Subordinates)

SPECIAL TOPIC V
Pantelleria air base

SPECIAL TOPIC VI
Torpedoes for aircraft and torpedo bombers


S.E. BADOGLIO -‐ Now there are 3 topics that I do not wish to deal with here, to avoid discussing without reaching a conclusion. There are proposals from the Navy for the Milmart [Milizia Marittima] and the Army for the Antiaircraft Militia [Milizia Contraerei].

Proposals from the three armed forces are also underway for the Pantelleria air base.

That of aircraft torpedoes is a long-debated issue. Now let's take advantage of the new situation created in the ministries following the changing of the guard, and bearing in mind that the current situation must overcome any distrust and lead to a better understanding, I thank C.E. Starace and S.E. Soddu for the Antiaircraft Militia, C.E. Starace and S.E. Cavagnari for Milmart, wanting to carry out preliminary discussions and, then, inform me, so that I can study the issue and brief it to the Duce.

The same should be done with Pantelleria. I pray Pricolo to review the joint decrees with the other S.M. as well as for the torpedo bombers. The question of whether or not they should be employed is out of date; on the German side there is a large order of torpedoes (300).

There is no longer any question of whether the bomb is more effective than the torpedo; they are opinions that do not correspond to the practical act and that must be examined from a more realistic point of view.

There has been too long an exchange of correspondence in this regard.

S.E. CAVAGNARI - It is not the principle that is under discussion, but only who pays. The Navy has considered the problem solved for three years. The Air Force must buy and pay.

S.E. BADOGLiO ‐‐ It is useless to deal with the subject again here of aircraft torpedoes. I avoid discussions that would give rise to a useless academic [arguments].

The one who pays is always the state.

Let us not get uptight, therefore, over this.

S.E. PINNA - The question has already been decided. The Air Force was unable to buy the 30 torpedoes because the torpedo factory was busy with the order given by Germany.

S.E. CAVAGNARI - It's not like that.

S.E. PRICOLO - I cannot report on this subject because I don’t know [the status].

S.E. BADOGLIO - I close this meeting by remembering what I said in the beginning: that is, the absolute need to always say exactly the real situation while keeping, indeed, with a safety margin.

The Duce must always know exactly the situation of the military forces.

It is he who decides.

You have to be able to tell the Head of Government what you have and not what you would like to have.

Do not say for example that you have sent 4 divisions CC.NN. in A.O. while they were [actually] separate battalions put together; it took 3 months in the field to set up a division, partly changing officers and troops.

It can’t be said [that] units can be created overnight. Let's stick to a crudely realistic way to inform the Duce.

It is our duty to always provide him with non-questionable facts so that he knows what he can and cannot decide.

And only in this way can we say that we have served the country loyally, which deserves to be served well.
Last edited by jwsleser on 06 Feb 2021 14:18, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Italian Aircraft Torpedo Development

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 06 Feb 2021 02:50

Thank God I've not had any of those meetings for several decades. Where is the icon for slamming ones head against something solid?

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Re: Italian Aircraft Torpedo Development

Post by Dili » 13 Feb 2021 07:48

Now imagine if they had trained torpedo bombers at time of Punta Stilo battle, instead of August 1940 when first mission occurred...

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Re: Italian Aircraft Torpedo Development

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 13 Feb 2021 11:39

With the same effciency as the Japanese or British pilots they'd also need a fairly robust wing of aircraft. A 10% hit rate means at least a dozen aircraft in a successful strike group. When aborted aircraft, and no contact missions are counted the rate of sorties per hit is enormous. 30 or 40 to one.

For a operationally or strategically effective torpedo they'd need to commit at a similar scale to the IJN or RN.

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Re: Italian Aircraft Torpedo Development

Post by jwsleser » 15 Mar 2021 18:15

I provided some additional information on this topic HERE.

Pista! Jeff
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