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Aquila Aircraft Carrier (1941)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 11/5/2010

The Aquila became the first Italian-produced aircraft carrier though she was never to see operational service in World War 2.

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The Aquila (meaning "Eagle") was a proposed aircraft carrier whose construction began in 1941 but was never completed due to the Italian armistice in 1943. She was a conversion of the Italian passenger liner Roma and offered up some good performance specifications and by all accounts would have performed admirably well in the defined role. She was never launched nor commissioned and suffered the fate of the scrap heap at the end of the war. Her name was officially struck in 1952.

The Aquila was powered by eight boilers feeding four steam geared turbines. This in turn propelled four propeller shafts for a top reported speed of up to 32 knots at 151,000 horsepower. Her crew complement would have numbered some 1,420 servicemen and a contingent of 60-plus aircraft was envisioned though some sources have this value more realistically placed at about 35 aircraft made up of fighters and bombers. Her offensive punch would have been conversely supplemented by her defensive arms made up of 8 x 5.3" guns, 12 x 2.5" guns and 132 x 20mm anti-aircraft cannons.

Aircraft carrier warfare was to come of age in the Second World War, though this held little precedent in the Mediterranean where both Germany and Italy both neglected the type in favor of other battlefield elements. Such was not the case in the Pacific where America was using the aircraft carrier to unseat the mighty battleship as "King of the Seas" against the Empire of Japan. As such, the Aquila would be the first and only carrier attempt of the Italians in World War 2, similar to the attempt of the launched but incomplete KMS Graf Zeppelin carrier made by the Germans years earlier.

The Aquila was never launched nor was her construction seriously completed (though basic testing had already been completed) whereas her German counterpart was launched but never made fully operational. One can only wonder at what difference (if any) the Aquila would have had in naval operations in Italian waters. At the very least, she would have offered a mobile air arm for which to engage Allied air and sea targets of interest for a time. By the Armistice, Germany had abandoned hope of any future Italian assistance and moved in to confiscate the Aquila. It is more probable that the Germans would have used the Aquila as nothing more than to blockade a major port than to use it in anger. As such, she was scuttled by Italian commandos who saved her from such a fate, only to see her go to the scrap yard a short time later.

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Specifications for the
Aquila
Aircraft Carrier


Country of Origin: Italy
Initial Year of Service: 1941
Operators: Italy


Crew: 1,420


Length: 760ft (231.65m)
Beam: 96ft (29.26m)
Draught: 24ft (7.32m)
Displacement: 28,356tons


Machinery: 8 x boilers powering 4 x geared turbine engines with 4 x shafts at 151,000hp.

Surface Speed: 32kts (37mph)
Range: 3,355miles (5,399km)


Armament:
8 x 5.3" guns
12 x 2.5" guns
132 x 20mm anti-aircraft guns


Air Arm: 66 aircraft of various makes


Ship Class: Aquila
Number-in-Class: 1
Ships-in-Class: Aquila