Tag Archives: MAS boat

Warship Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019: Italian Mosquitos of the Baltic

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019: Italian Mosquitos of the Baltic

Motortorpedbåt T 28 i full fart i skärgården 1943 Fo196168

All photos, Swedish Sjöhistoriska Museet maritime museum unless noted. This one is file no. Fo196168

Here we see HSwMS T 28, a T 21-class motortorpedbåt (motor torpedo boat) of the Svenska Marinen (Royal Swedish Navy) in 1943 as she planes on her stern, her bow completely above the waves. If she looks fast, that’s because she was– like 50 knots fast.

The Swedes in the 1930s had the misfortune of being sandwiched between a resurgent Germany and a newly ambitious Soviet Union, both having come up on the losing side of the Great War and suffered much during the generation immediately following. This fear went into overdrive as World War II began.

With a lot of valuable coast to protect, the Flottan’s plan to do so was the new Tre Kronor (Three Crowns)-class of three fast cruisers (kryssaren) who were to each serve as a flotilla flagship of a squadron of four destroyers and six motor torpedo boats while three  pansarskepps (literally “armored ships”) bathtub battleships would form a strategic reserve.

For the above-mentioned MTBs, Stockholm turned south, shopping with the Baglietto Varazze shipyard in Italy– which is still around as a luxury yacht maker). Baglietto’s “velocissimo” type torpedo boat, MAS 431, had premiered in 1932 and was lighting quick but still packed a punch.

MAS 431, via Baglietto

Just 52.5-feet long overall, MAS 431 was powered by a pair of Fiat gasoline engines, packing 1,500hp in a hull that weighed but 12-tons. The 41-knot vessel carried a pair of forward-oriented 18-inch torpedoes, a couple of light machine guns, six 110-pound depth charges for submarines (she had a hydrophone aboard) and was manned by a crew of seven.

MAS 431 craft proved the basis for the very successful MAS 500 series boats, with more than two dozen completed. These boats used larger Isotta-Fraschini engines which coughed up 2,000hp while they could putter along on a pair of smaller 70hp Alpha Romero cruising motors. The Swedes directly purchased four of these (MAS 506, 508, 511, and 524) which became T 1114 in 1939. These 55-foot MTBs could make 47 knots.

MAS 500 in the Mediterranean 1938, via Regina Marina

However, the Swedes weren’t in love with the wooden hulls of the Italian boats and went to design their own follow-up class of MTBs in 1941. The resulting T 15 class, built locally by Kockums with some support from Italy, went 22-tons in weight due to their welded steel hulls. However, by installing larger Isotta-Fraschini IF 183 series engines, they could still make 40+ knots.

Swedish Motortorpedbåt T 15. 5 Just four of these craft would be built by Kockums. The camo scheme and white “neutral” racing stripe were standard for Sweden’s wartime fleet. Fo101806

Nonetheless, there was still room for improvement. Upgrading to larger 21-inch torpedo tubes and stretching the hull to 65-feet, the T 21 class carried 3,450hp of supercharged 18-cylinder IF 184 engines which allowed a speed listed as high as 50 knots in Swedish journals. They certainly were a seagoing mash-up of Volvo and Ferrari.

T 28 MTB Fo200188

Motortorpedbåten T 28. 1943 Fo88597A

T30. Bild Sjöhistoriska Museet, Stockholm SMM Fo88651AB

Besides the torpedoes, the craft was given a 20mm AAA gun in a semi-enclosed mount behind the pilothouse while weight and space for two pintle-mounted 6.5mm machine guns on either side of the house and one forward was reserved. As many as six depth charges were also carried.

Torpedbåt, motortorpedbåt typ T 21

The T 21s proved more numerous than the past Swedish MTB attempts, with a total of 11 boats produced by 1943. They proved invaluable in what was termed the Neutralitetsvakten (neutrality patrol) during the rest of WWII.

Assorted Swedish splinter boats clustered at Galo Island in Stockholm, 1943. (Motortorpedbåtar vid Gålö år 1943 Fo88679A)

Hkn Prince Bertil, Duke of Halland, who in the 1970s served as heir to his nephew King Carl XVI Gustaf, clocked in on Swedish torpedo boats during the first part of WWII before he was reassigned in 1943 as a naval attaché to London.

HRH Prince Bertil of Sweden aboard a torpedo boat, holding a pair of binoculars Nordiska Museet NMA.0028790

Due to their steel hulls, the craft proved much more durable than comparable plywood American PT-boats or the Italian MAS boats and, while the latter’s days were numbered immediately after WWII, the Swedish T 21s endured until 1959, still keeping the peace on the front yard of the Cold War.

In late 1940s service and throughout the 1950s they carried a more sedate grey scheme.

1947 Janes entry

Motortorpedbåt T 25. Propagandaturen på Vättern, Juli 1947 Fo88595A

T24, note another of her class forward, with the M40 20mm cannon showing

Swedish torpedo boat Motortorpedbåten T29, 1950 Gota Canal. Note the 20mm cannon, which is now better protected, and the depth charges with two empty racks. The Swedes, then as now, were not squeamish when it came to dropping cans on suspect sonar contacts in their home waters. 

The T 21s were later augmented by the similar although up-gunned (40mm Bofors) T 38 class and finally replaced by the much-improved Spica-class, which remained in use through the 1980s with the same sort of tasking as the craft that preceded them.

At 139-feet oal, the Spicas were more than twice as long as the T 21s and carried a half-dozen torpedoes in addition to a 57mm Bofors gun.

However, that welded steel hull and the mild salinity of the Baltic has meant that at least one of the old T 21s, T 26 to be clear, has been preserved as a working museum ship in her Cold War colors and is still poking around, although she probably could not make her original designed speed at this point.

Fo196168

Update 9/2/2020: Motortorpedbåten T28, which has been in private hands since 1970 and stored ashore, is now undergoing further preservation as a running museum ship in Sweden. 

Specs:

Displacement: 28 tons
Length: 65.66-feet
Beam: 15.75-feet
Draft: Puddle
Engines: 2 Isotta-Fraschini IF184 supercharged gas engines, 3450hp
Speed: 50 knots max
Range:
Crew: 7 to 11
Armament:
2 21-inch torpedo tubes forward
1 20 mm LuftVärnskanon M.40 AAA gun, rear
up to 6 6.5mm machine guns (if using dual mounts on three pintles)
6 depth charges

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Warship Wednesday October 23, The Net Jumping Cricket

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take out every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week.

– Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday October 23, The Net Jumping Cricket

mas2grillo
Here we see a rendering of a very interesting boat in the Italian Naval service during World War One. Part tank, part torpedo boat, it was designed to crawl over the nets protecting enemy naval bases, then punch holes in the bad guys ships, sending them to the bottom and  taking them out of the war.

When the Great War started, Italy, who was officially an ally of Germany and Austria, flung its hands in the air and proclaimed its official neutrality. You see Italy bordered France to the west, and faced the might of the combined British and French fleets in the Mediterranean, and had very little to gain for coming into the war for the two Kaisers, with everything to lose. Them, after eight months of wooing from the Allies, Italy double crossed their buddies and cast their lot with the West.  Although the Italian Army found itself in a bloody stalemate in the Alps against the Austrian army that brought nothing but misery, their navy served a very real purpose in bottling up the rather large Austrian fleet in the Adriatic. This freed up the British and French forces in the Med to move into the Atlantic to face the Germans.

Just look at all of those pretty Austrian battleships at anchor in Pula harbor. Here you see  Austro-Hungarian dreadnought battleships ( Tegetthoff class ) at the roadstead in Pula , Croatia , Which Was then a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Just look at all of those pretty Austrian battleships at anchor in Pula harbor. Here you see Austro-Hungarian dreadnought battleships ( Tegetthoff class ) at the roadstead in Pula , Croatia , Which Was then a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

For most of 1915, 1916, and 1917 the Italian Navy, (Regia Marina) was content with holding the line across the Adriatic and keeping the Austrians in their ports. Then in 1918, they decided to go north and sink the Kaiser’s battleships where they slept. Two Italian torpedo boats made it into the lightly defended harbor at Trieste and sank the old battleship Wien. The problem was, the Austrians had years to fortify their largest naval base at Pola (now Pula in Croatia) with anti-submarine nets, anti-torpedo nets, underwater obstacles, coastal artillery, and naval mines. To penetrate these harbors, the Italians had to come up with something different.

1918 - Barchino saltatore 'Grillo'

They came up with the “Barchino saltatore” or “punt jumper”. These fifty foot long wooden hulled boats had a flat bottom and two tracks along each side of the hull, port and starboard. Each track held a series of metal crampon hooks and was turned by a set of pulleys fore and aft, propelled by a pair of 5hp electric motors. This unusual boat 8-ton could literally crawl over the rows of torpedo nets and anti-submarine nets that separated the Adriatic from the protected harbor. Once over the nets, the boat would drop into the inner harbor, where it would transit, using its spinning tracks to move like a side-mounted paddle wheel, at 4-knots. Then, lining up with an Austrian battleship at anchor, it would send two torpedoes into its side before beating feet (err, tracks) back out to sea. Of course this required the punt jumper to be towed to Pola and back by a larger ship, but once there, it was good to go.

1918 - Barchino d'assalto 'Grillo'

The Italians built four of these boats and named them the Cavalletta (Grasshopper) , Locusta (Locust), Pulce (Flea) and Grillo (Cricket). The were made a part of MAS 95 and 96 squadrons, which became famous for irregular naval actions in the war.

Four times in early May, 1918, two Italian destroyers, two torpedo boats, and the punt jumper Grillo left the Italian side of the Adriatic and made its way in convoy to Pula. On the first three of those attempts, conditions were less than ideal Then on the night of  May 13-14, 1918, the Grillo made a go of it with a mission to make it through Pola harbor. Crewed by Stoker Giuseppe Corrias, Seaman Angelino Berardinelli, and commanded by Lieutenant CC Pellegrini , the Grillo made it through four of the five Austrian obstruction nets, but got caught on on the last one. These obstacles were rows of timber baulks and wire hawsers six feet apart. Four out of five doesn’t count in harbor defenses and the Austrians opened fire on the helpless Grillo when it was caught in the searchlights, which sunk.

Pellegrini

Pellegrini

Her three-man crew was captured and ended the war as POWs, winning the Italian Gold Medal for Military Valor.

The Austrians Grillo clone

The Austrians Grillo clone

The Austrians thought it interesting enough to make one of their own as a testbed to make sure the Italians couldn’t get successful using one of these tank-boats in the future.

With that in mind, the Italians shelved the other three and concentrated on human torpedoes, which they used to penetrate Pola in November and sink the battleship Viribus Unitis (20,000 t) and the nearby steamer Wien (7,400 t) in the last days of the war.

imgdk2
Specs:
Displacement 8 tons
Length     16.0 m (52.29ft)
Width     3,10 m (10.17 ft)
Draft     0.75 m (2.46ft)
Propulsion     2 electric motors on axis for 10 HP total
Speed     4 knots
Range    30 mn at 4 knots
Crew     4
Armament     2x 450mm torpedoes

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The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

Nearing their 50th Anniversary, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

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