Aquila-class cruiser

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Scout cruiser Nibbio (Mărășești).jpg
Nibbio (Mărășești) in 1919
Class overview
Name: Aquila class
Builders: Pattison, Naples
Operators:
Succeeded by: Regele Ferdinand class
In commission: 1917-1965
Completed: 4
Retired: 4
General characteristics
Type: Scout cruiser
Displacement: 1,820 tons
Length: 94.7 m (310 ft 8 in)
Beam: 9.5 m (31 ft 2 in)
Draught: 3.6 m (11 ft 10 in)
Installed power:
  • 5 x Thornycroft type boilers
  • 40,000 hp (30,000 kW) (designed)
Propulsion: 2 shaft Tosi type geared turbines
Speed: 34 knots (63 km/h; 39 mph) (designed)
Range: 1,700 nautical miles (3,100 km; 2,000 mi) at 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph)
Complement: 146
Armament:

The Aquila class was a group of scout cruisers built in Italy during the First World War. Initially ordered by Romania in 1913 as a class of large destroyers, the four ships saw service in both world wars, but for different owners and had a complex history.

Construction and specifications[edit]

Aquila-class cruiser in 1917

The four warships were ordered in 1913 by Romania, from the Pattison Shipyard in Naples. Designed by engineer Luigi Scaglia and based on Romanian specifications, the ships were to be large destroyers armed with three 120 mm guns, four 75 mm guns, five torpedo tubes, and have a 10-hour endurance at full speed, as they were required to operate in the limited perimeter of the Black Sea. However, the four ships were interned on 5 June 1915, soon after Italy joined the war. At that time, one ship was completed 60%, one 50%, one 20% and the fourth was yet to be laid down. They were completed as scout cruisers and commissioned on 27 July 1916, with the names Aquila, Falco, Nibbio and Sparviero. Aquila was the first to be completed, on 8 February 1917, followed by Sparviero on 15 July, Nibbio on 15 May 1918 and Falco on 20 January 1920.[1]

Each cruiser measured 94.7 meters in length, with a beam of 9.5 meters and a draught of 3.6 meters. Power plant consisted of Tosi turbines and five Thornycroft boilers, generating a designed output of 40,000 hp powering two shafts, which gave each warship a designed top speed of 34 knots. However, this actually oscillated between 35 and 38 knots, depending on the vessel. Each ship had a complement of 146, with ranges of 1,700 nautical miles at 15 knots and 380 nautical miles at 34 knots. Nibbio and Sparviero were each armed with three 152 mm Armstrong guns and four 76 mm Ansaldo guns, while Aquila and Falco were each armed with two twin 120 mm guns and two 76 mm Ansaldo guns. Each warship also carried four 457 mm torpedo tubes (two pairs) and two 6.5 mm machine guns. Nibbio and Falco could also carry mines, 24 and 38 respectively.[2]

Each warship had a displacement of 1,820 tons.[3]

Sparviero and Nibbio were sold to Romania on 1 July 1920, being renamed Mărăști and Mărășești.[4]

Service with other countries[edit]

Romanian service[edit]

Mărășești in 1944
Mărăști in 1944

Mărăști and Mărășești were the most heavily-armed Axis warships in the Black Sea, and had the second greatest displacement, after the cruiser-sized submarine tender Constanța. The succeeding Regele Ferdinand-class destroyers were more modern, but not as heavy and heavily armed. Mărăști and Mărășești were refitted at the Galați shipyard in Romania in 1925, and sent back to Naples for rearming in 1926.[5] Their armament was modified several times, reaching its final configuration in early 1944: 4 x 120 mm naval guns, 4 x 37 mm anti-aircraft guns, 4 x 20 mm anti-aircraft guns, 4 x 13 mm machine guns, 4 x 457 mm torpedo tubes, 50 mines, 1 depth charge thrower and two depth charge racks with 20 depth charges each.[6][7] The two warships were thus effectively converted to destroyers, reverting to their initial designation prior to World War I. Their 6-inch Armstrong guns were used as coastal artillery (such as the Tudor battery near Constanța with three guns).[8]

On 26 June 1941, Mărăști helped repel a Soviet naval attack against the main Romanian port of Constanța, together with the destroyer Regina Maria and the minelayer Amiral Murgescu. Surprised by the level of resistance and the accuracy of the return fire, the Soviet fleet withdrew, losing the destroyer leader Moskva into a Romanian minefield, laid by the Romanian minelayers Amiral Murgescu, Regele Carol I and Aurora on 19 June that year. Amiral Murgescu claimed to have shot down two Soviet aircraft during the battle and Mărăști claimed one.[9][10]

Both warships were active during the Romanian Naval campaign in the Black Sea in World War II, mainly providing escort for Axis supply convoys between Romania, the Crimea and the Bosphorus. Throughout the war, Mărăști carried out a total of 28 escort missions and Mărășești 21. There were 6 escort missions in which both warships took part, resulting in a grand total of 55 escort missions. During these missions, the Axis convoys were attacked numerous times by Soviet submarines and aviation, and many Soviet mines were also encountered. Four of the escorted ships were sunk, one by Soviet aircraft and three by Soviet submarines. On the opposite side, 1 Soviet submarine was sunk, 1 aircraft was shot down and 14 mines were shot and destroyed.[11]

After over 1 year in Soviet service (August 1944-October 1945), the two destroyers were returned to Romania and the last one, Mărășești, served until 1965.[12]

Spanish service[edit]

Aquila and Falco were sold to the Nationalist Spanish Navy, which, in 1937 only had one destroyer available (Velasco). They were renamed Melilla and Ceuta, and saw heavy service, in spite of their poor condition. To conceal the fact that Italy was selling ships to Franco's side, the two warships were often referred to as Velasco-Ceuta and Velasco-Melilla. For further concealment and to increase the similarity to Velasco, a fourth funnel (false) was installed. After the war, they were retained by the Spanish Navy and served mainly as training ships, the last one being stricken in late 1950.[13]

Soviet service[edit]

Both ships were surrendered to the Soviets in August 1944, on the Capitulation of Romania, and were incorporated into the Black Sea Fleet as Lovkiy (Ловкий, ex-Mărăști) and Lyogkiy (Лёгкий, ex-Mărășești) but were returned to Romania in October 1945.[14]

Ships[edit]

Ship Launched Commissioned Refit Fate
Mărăști (ex-Sparviero) 26 March 1917 15 July 1917 1925, Galați shipyard Stricken 1964
Mărășești (ex-Nibbio) 30 January 1918 15 May 1918 1925, Galați shipyard Stricken 1965

The former Aquila and Falco served in the Spanish Navy as Melilla and Ceuta until 1949

Name

Name in Italian Service

Builder

Launched

Transferred to Spain

Decommissioned

Fate

Melilla Aquila Patison - Naples 1916 1937 1950 Scrapped
Ceuta Falco Patison - Naples 1919 1937 1948 Scrapped

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Robert Gardiner, Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1906-1921, Naval Institute Press, 1985
  2. ^ Robert Gardiner, Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1906-1921, Naval Institute Press, 1985
  3. ^ Franco Bargoni, Ufficio storico della Marina militare - Esploratori fregate corvette ed avvisi Italiani 1861-1968: Esploratori classe Aquila, Tipografia Stato maggiore Marina, 1970
  4. ^ Robert Gardiner, Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1906-1921, Naval Institute Press, 1985
  5. ^ Frederick Thomas Jane, Jane's Fighting Ships, S. Low, Marston, 1962, p. 204
  6. ^ Robert Gardiner, Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1922-1946, Naval Institute Press, 1980, p. 360
  7. ^ Navypedia: MĂRĂȘTI (VIFOR) destroyers (1917-1918/1920)
  8. ^ Adrian Storea, Gheorghe Băjenaru, Artileria română în date și imagini (Romanian artillery in data and pictures), pp. 108-109 (in Romanian)
  9. ^ Antony Preston, Warship 2001-2002, pp. 70 and 71
  10. ^ Jonathan Trigg, Death on the Don: The Destruction of Germany's Allies on the Eastern Front, Chapter 3
  11. ^ Jipa Rotaru, Ioan Damaschin, Glorie și dramă: Marina Regală Română, 1940-1945, Ion Cristoiu Publishing, 2000, pp. 267-274 (in Romanian)
  12. ^ Robert Gardiner, Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1906-1921, Naval Institute Press, 1985
  13. ^ Navypedia: MELILLA destroyers (1917-1920/1937)
  14. ^ Navypedia: LIOGKIY destroyers (1917-1918/1944)