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Between 1925 and 1945, the Regia Marina built only one kind of explorer, the "Navigatori" class. These units were classified explorers in 1929 and reclassified destroyers in 1938. During the period leading to World War II, the Regia Marina built or refurbished 8 battleships, numerous light and heavy cruisers, but the units which were built in the largest number were destroyers and explorers.
The destroyers were, by then, units belonging to naval squadrons and not any longer than the original torpedo boat hunters. This new class of ships was required to be able to attack using torpedoes and cannon fire and was also expected to provide escort for larger units. These new units not only grew in scope, but also in displacement which from the original 1,560 tons of the "Turbine" class, grew to the 2,460 tons of the "Soldato" class. The armament usually consisted of several 120mm guns and 4 to 6 533mm torpedo launchers.
One of the original requirements was speed. These new units were capable of speed of 38 to 39 knots while being sufficiently seaworthy. Unfortunately, on March 23rd 1942, during the Second battle of the Sirte, the "Scirocco" of the "Maestrale" class and the "Lanciere" of the "Soldati" class were lost to an unusually violent gale.
The general silhouette, armament, and the location of the smokestacks did not vary much between older and newer models. All the italian destroyers, from the "Sauro" class onwards, had a main armament of two twin 120 mm. guns, one on the forecastle and one at the stern (often on a bandstand). The only exceptions to this general rule were: the "Sella" class (initially they had only a single gun on the forecastle, replaced in 1929/1930 by a twin turret), the "Navigatori" class (armed with six 120mm. guns in three twin turrets, the third being between the torpedo tubes, amidships), the second group of the "Soldati" class (with the exception of the Velite) had a fifth gun in a single turret amidships) and the planned "Comandanti" class that was to be armed with four single 135 mm guns. We do not consider in this analysis the ex enemy destroyers of the Premuda, Sebenico and FR classes.
Torpedo launchers were twin mountings in the "Sella" class and (for some periods only) in the "Navigatori" class, and triple mountings from the "Sauro" class onwards. These launchers were fully adjustable and always mounted on the centerline.
All units had two propellers, with two separate engine rooms and two or three boilers. Up to the "Turbine" class, all units had two smokestacks, which were later reduced to one starting with the "Freccia" class (1931).
The war decimated the Regia Marina, especially in the area of explorers and destroyers: 11 out of 12 explorers and 30 out of 41 destroyers were lost. Of the remaining 12 units, two were captured by the Germans, while others were transferred to the victorious Allies. At the end of the hostilities, Italy was left with only four units.
Adapted and translated from the book "Guida alle navi d'Italia", by Gino Galuppini, published in 1982 by Arnold Mondadori Editore.
Edited by Cristiano d'Adamo and Pierluigi Malvezzi
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