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Conventionally-Powered Aircraft Carrier

Kingdom of Italy | 1941

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

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 05/02/2021 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
For the Italian Navy in World War 2, the battleship was still the centerpiece of its power projection in the Mediterranean while powers like the United States and Britain relied heavily on the aircraft carrier to bring the fight to the enemy wherever he lay. The first Italian carrier project was not undertaken until 1941 at which point the war was well underway. The "Aquila" ("Eagle"), ordered in 1941, was neither a purpose-built solution nor was it ever completed prior to the Italian armistice of September 1943.

Both the Kingdom of Italy and Germany would neglect the aircraft carrier in their respective navies of the period - leading to a considerable deficiency in bringing firepower to bear on the high seas. Aquila became the first, and only, aircraft carrier type to be considered / acted upon by the Italian government.

Like other carrier warships of the period, Aquila was built atop the framework of an existing ship, in this case the trans-Atlantic passenger liner SS Roma. This proved a sensible cost-effective measure to ensure the ship could be gotten into service in as short a time as possible. The Ansaldo Shipyard at Genoa was tasked with its construction which began in 1941.

Of conventional design and propulsion, the modified ship showcased a displacement of 24,000 tons under standard load and up to 28,200 tons under full load. It exhibited a running length of 772.7 feet from bow-to-stern, held a beam of 98.4 feet, and measured 23.10 feet along its draught. Installed power was from 8 x Boiler units feeding 4 x Geared-steam turbines developing 151,000 horsepower to 4 x Shafts astern. This provided the warship with a maximum speed (in ideal conditions) of 30 knots and a range out to 6,300 miles. These specifications indicated a good performing ship for the Mediterranean Theater.

Aboard was a complement of 1,420 personnel including 107 officers. Armor protection included 3.1" at the deck. Up to 50-to-60 combat aircraft were to be carried on the ship - though 35-to-45 has been accepted as more realistic due to the expected small hangar space offered by the conversion process.

Self-defense armament consisted of 8 x 5.3" (135mm) /45 caliber main guns backed by a battery of 12 x 2.56" (65mm) /64 caliber secondary guns. Up to 132 x 20mm /65 caliber Anti-Aircraft (AA) guns were planned as a last line of defense.

The Aquila was never launched nor was her construction completed to the point that the warship could be considered war-worthy. Some basic static testing was being done on her in 1943 but the progress was halted in full with the Italian surrender on September 8th, 1943. Following this, the Germans moved in to claim the hull and thus the ship began a prime target for the Allied aerial bombing campaign. On June 16th, 1944, she was damaged by aerial bombs when the Allies targeted Genoa. To further restrict her value, Italian "frogmen" loyal to the new government attacked the ship on April 19th, 1945, leaving the ship partially scuttled where she rested. This removed the hull from play and reduced the chances of the Germans being able to blockage Genoa Harbor with her remains.

With the end of the war in August 1945, the warship was finally raised in 1946 and relocated to La Spezia in 1949. There, she was scrapped in 1952 and the history of Italy's first aircraft carrier came to a rather unceremonious end.

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Power & Performance
Those special qualities that separate one sea-going vessel design from another. Performance specifications presented assume optimal operating conditions for Aquila.
8 x Boilers feeding 4 x Geared steam turbines developing 151,000 horsepower to 4 x shafts under stern.
30.0 kts
34.5 mph
Surface Speed
5,475 nm
6,300 miles | 10,139 km
The bow-to-stern, port-to-starboard physical qualities of Aquila.
760.0 ft
231.65 meters
O/A Length
96.0 ft
29.26 meters
24.0 ft
7.32 meters
Available supported armament and special-mission equipment featured in the design of Aquila.
8 x 135mm (5.3") /45 caliber guns.
12 x 65mm (2.5") /64 caliber guns.
132 x 20mm (0.79") /65 caliber Anti-Aircraft (AA) automatic cannons.
Air Arm
Available supported fixed-wing / rotary-wing aircraft featured in the design of Aquila.
Between 50 and 65 aircraft of various makes and models.
Ships-in-Class (1)
Notable series variants as part of the Aquila family line as relating to the Aquila group.
Global operator(s) of the Aquila. Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national naval warfare listing.

Shipbuilder(s): Ansaldo - Kingdom of Italy / Italy
National flag of Italy National flag of the Kingdom of Italy

[ Kingdom of Italy ]
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Image of the Aquila
Image from the Public Domain.

Mission Roles
Some designs are single-minded in their approach while others offer a more versatile solution to seaborne requirements.
Some designs stand the test of time while others are doomed to never advance beyond the drawing board; let history be their judge.
Going Further...
Aquila Conventionally-Powered Aircraft Carrier appears in the following collections:
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