Francesco Caracciolo-class battleship
Line-drawing of the Francesco Caracciolo class
|Name:||Francesco Caracciolo class|
|Preceded by:||Andrea Doria class|
|Succeeded by:||Littorio class|
|Displacement:||Full load: 34,000 t (33,000 long tons; 37,000 short tons)|
|Length:||210 m (689 ft 0 in)|
|Beam:||29.6 m (97 ft 1 in)|
|Draft:||9.5 m (31 ft 2 in)|
|Installed power:||105,000 shp (78,000 kW)|
|Speed:||28 kn (52 km/h; 32 mph)|
|Range:||8,000 nmi (15,000 km; 9,200 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)|
The Francesco Caracciolo-class battleships were a class of battleships designed for the Italian Regia Marina in 1912–1913 and ordered in 1914; the first ship of the class, Francesco Caracciolo, was laid down that year. The other three ships, Cristoforo Colombo, Marcantonio Colonna, and Francesco Morosini were all laid down in 1915. Armed with a main battery of eight 381 mm (15.0 in) guns and possessing a top speed of 28 knots (52 km/h; 32 mph), the four ships of the class were intended to be the equivalent of the British Queen Elizabeth class. They were never completed, however, due to material shortages and shifting construction priorities after the outbreak of World War I in 1914. Only the lead ship was launched, and several proposals to convert her into an aircraft carrier were considered, but budgetary problems prevented any work being done. She was sold to an Italian shipping firm for conversion into a merchant ship. This too proved to be too expensive, and so she was broken up for scrap.
In 1913, Admiral Paolo Thaon di Revel became the Chief of Staff of the Regia Marina (Royal Navy). He secured authorization for a huge new construction program, which called for four new battleships, three cruisers, and numerous other warships. The Francesco Caracciolo class was the first type of super-dreadnought battleship designed by the Regia Marina. They were intended to match the new fast battleships being built in foreign navies, such as the British Queen Elizabeth class. Rear Admiral Edgardo Ferrati was responsible for preparing the designs. He originally called for a ship armed with twelve 381-millimetre (15.0 in) guns and twenty 152 mm (6.0 in) secondary guns, but by the time he had finalized the design, he had reduced the main battery to eight guns and the secondary battery to twelve guns.
The Francesco Caracciolo class was 201.6 m (661 ft) long at the waterline and 212 m (696 ft) long overall. They had a beam of 29.6 m (97 ft) and a draft of 9.5 m (31 ft). They would have displaced 31,400 metric tons (30,900 long tons; 34,600 short tons) at normal loading and up to 34,000 t (33,000 long tons; 37,000 short tons) at full combat load. They were to be equipped with two tripod masts.
The ships would have been powered by four Parsons steam turbines, with steam provided by twenty oil-fired Yarrow boilers. The boilers were trunked into two large funnels. The engines were rated at 105,000 shaft horsepower (78,000 kW), which provided a top speed of 28 knots (52 km/h; 32 mph). At a more economical speed of 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph), the ships could have cruised for 8,000 nautical miles (15,000 km; 9,200 mi).
Francesco Caracciolo and her sisters were to be armed with a main battery of eight 381 mm 40-caliber guns in four twin gun turrets, all mounted on the centerline in superfiring pairs fore and aft. They had a secondary battery of twelve 152 mm 45-caliber guns mounted in casemates clustered amidships. These were supplemented by eight 102 mm (4.0 in) 45-caliber guns. Anti-aircraft defense was to be provided by twelve 40 mm (1.6 in) autocannon. As was typical for capital ships of the period, the ships of the Francesco Caracciolo class were to be armed with eight torpedo tubes, either 450 mm (18 in) or 533 mm (21.0 in) in diameter.
Armor for the class consisted of Krupp cemented steel manufactured by Terni. The main belt armor was 303 mm (11.9 in) thick; horizontal protection consisted of a 50 mm (2.0 in) thick deck. The main conning tower had 400 mm (16 in) thick sides. The same level of protection was applied to the main battery turrets, while the secondary guns had 220 mm (8.7 in) of armor protection.
Francesco Caracciolo was laid down at the Castellammare shipyard on 16 October 1914. Marcantonio Colonna was laid down on 3 March 1915 at the Odero Shipyard in Sestri Ponente. Cristoforo Colombo followed on eleven days later on the 14th, at the Ansaldo shipyard in Genoa. The last member of the class, Francesco Morosini, was laid down at the Orlando Shipyard in Livorno on 27 June 1915. Francesco Caracciolo was the only member of the class to be launched, on 12 May 1920.
Shortages of steel slowed the construction of the ships, and after Italy entered World War I, other classes of warships, particularly destroyers, submarines, and other light craft were needed to combat the Central Powers. As a result, work on the ships was suspended in March 1916. Around 9,000 t (8,900 long tons; 9,900 short tons) of steel had been built into the hull for Francesco Caracciolo when work stopped. Cristoforo Colombo was the next furthest along ship, with 12.5 percent of the hull completed and 5 percent of the machinery assembled. Work on the last two ships had not progressed significantly by the time work on them halted. Two of the heavy guns intended for Cristoforo Colombo were installed aboard the monitor Faà di Bruno. The monitor Alfredo Cappellini received a pair of 381 mm guns from Francesco Morosini, and the two Monte Santo and four Monte Grappa-class monitors were also equipped with spare 381 mm guns. Another pair of guns was installed in Venice as Batteria Amalfi to protect the harbor.
Work resumed on Francesco Caracciolo in October 1919, but she was not to be completed. That year, the Regia Marina considered converting Francesco Caracciolo into a flush-deck aircraft carrier similar to the British HMS Argus. The poor economic situation in Italy in the aftermath of World War I, and the heavy expenses of the Italian pacification campaigns in Libya, forced severe reductions in the naval budget. As a result, a modern carrier conversion could not be completed. Ansaldo proposed converting Franceso Caracciolo into a floatplane carrier, a cheaper alternative. It was nevertheless still too expensive for the Regia Marina.
In addition to the budgetary problems, the senior Italian navy commanders could not agree on the shape of the post-war Regia Marina. One faction advocated a traditional surface battle fleet, while a second believed a fleet composed of aircraft carriers, torpedo boats, and submarines would be ideal. A third faction, led by Admiral Sechi, argued that a balanced fleet with a core of battleships and carriers was the most flexible option. In order to secure budgetary space for new construction, Sechi drastically reduced the number of older ships in service; he also cancelled the battleships of the Francesco Caracciolo class. Francesco Caracciolo was sold on 25 October 1920 to the Navigazione Generale Italiana shipping company. The firm planned to convert her into a merchant ship, but the work was deemed too expensive, and so she was temporarily mothballed in Baia Bay outside Naples.
By this time, the Regia Marina had returned to the idea of converting the ship into an aircraft carrier. In the on-going negotiations Washington Naval Conference, the proposed tonnage limits for the Regia Marina was to be 60,000 long tons (61,000 t), which was now to include a converted Francesco Caracciolo and two new, purpose-built ships. A new conversion design for Francesco Caracciolo was prepared, with an island superstructure, but Italy's chronic budgetary problems prevented the navy from building any of these ships. Francesco Caracciolo was subsequently broken up for scrap, starting in the fall of 1926. The other three ships had also been dismantled shortly after the end of the war.
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