MT explosive motorboat

The explosive motorboat MT (Motoscafo da Turismo) also known as barchino (Italian for "little boat"), was a series of small explosive motor boats developed by the Italian Royal Navy, which was based on its predecessors, the prototype boat MA (Motoscafo d'Assalto) and the MAT (Motoscafo Avio Trasportato), an airborne prototype. Explosive motorboats were designed to make a silent approach to a moored warship, set a collision course and run into full gear until the last 200 or 100 yards to the target, when the pilot would eject after blocking the rudder. At impact, the hull would be broken amidships by a small explosive charge, sinking the boat and the warhead, which was fitted with a water-pressure fuse set to go off at a depth of one metre.[1] By the end of September 1938 the Navy Department ordered six explosive boats. The one-pilot vessels were built by the companies Baglietto of Varazze and CABI of Milan, which was also to supply the engines.[2] The small vessels were used by the Italian Navy in at least two major operations in the Mediterranean theatre during World War II.

MT (Motoscafo da Turismo)
Sprengboot M.T.
MT explosive motorboat
TypeExplosive motorboat
Place of origin Italy
Service history
In service1940–1949
Used by Regia Marina
 National Republican Navy
 Israeli Navy
WarsWorld War II
1948 Arab-Israeli War
Production history
No. builtapprox. 20

Manually piloted with gyroscopic stabilisation and automatic running
Surface ship, submarine

Delivery and trials

The first six boats were delivered in early 1939, immediately after which test trials were conducted off La Spezia. The MT explosive motorboat revealed some weaknesses. The deck was made of tarpaulins, which exposed the hull to leakage from splashing at high speed. The naval command demanded the addition of a solid wooden deck and a larger freeboard of 0.9 m (later enlarged to 1.1 m) and sent the boats and machine parts back to the manufacturer so that they could implement the requirements. In March 1939, the Navy Department ordered a further 12 explosive boats, increasing the total number to 18.[2]

MT deployment

The 18 motor boats were not operational until November 1940, when a full trial was carried out with a reduced warhead against an old warship.[3] That was just six months after Italy's entry into World War II as an ally of Nazi Germany. More extensive testing before the official line-up showed once again that the boat's operational performance was limited.[2] Consequently an improved sea-going version, which also included a reverse gear, was designed, the MTM (Motoscafo da Turismo Modificato).[3]


The MTs had a length of 5.62 m and a beam of 1.62 m. They were propelled by a 95 horsepower Alfa Romeo AR 6cc outboard motor[2] and developed a maximum speed of 33 knots at full load.[3] The boats were specially equipped to be launched from a surface mother ship and then make their way through obstacles such as torpedo nets. The pilot would steer the assault craft on a collision course at his target ship, and then would jump from his boat before impact and warhead detonation.[4] The pilot's cockpit was at the rear, in order to ensure an even distribution of weight with the 330 kg explosive charge inside the bow.[3]

Contrary to Japanese Shinyo motorboats, MT boats, though very dangerous to use in combat, were not designed as suicide weapons: Installed over the transom, the pilot had a crude ejector seat and after bailing out, the seat acted as a miniature raft to keep the pilot out of the water and immune from the lethal shock of the underwater explosion.[5] Another very innovative design was the Isotta-Fraschini Z-drive transmission system, featuring an inboard engine and twin outboard contra-rotating propellers.[6]

Operational history

The remains of St. Elmo Bridge which collapsed after the MT boat attack of 1941 (before a new bridge was built in 2012).

On 25 March 1941, the destroyers Crispi and Sella departed from Leros island in the Aegean at night for the allied naval base at Souda Bay, Crete, each one carrying three MTs. The destroyers released their MTs some 10 nm off Suda Bay. Once inside the bay, the six boats located their targets: the British heavy cruiser HMS York, the Norwegian tanker Pericles of 8,300 tons, another tanker, and a cargo ship. Two MTs hit York amidships, flooding her aft boilers and magazines. The Pericles was severely damaged and settled on the bottom. The other barchini apparently missed their intended targets, and one of them was stranded on the beach. All six Italian pilots were captured. The disabled York was later scuttled with demolition charges by her crew before the German conquest of Crete, while the disabled Pericles sank in April 1941 while being towed to Alexandria.[7]

On 26 July 1941, two human torpedoes (Maiale) and ten MAS boats (including six MTs) launched an unsuccessful attack on the British naval base at Valletta, Malta. The MTs were transported and lowered off La Valetta by the sloop Diana. The force was detected early on by a British radar facility, but the British coastal batteries held their fire until the Italians approached to close range. Fifteen Decima MAS crewmen were killed and 18 captured. All six MTs, both human torpedoes and two MAS boats (MAS 451 and MAS 452 [8]) were lost either to the coastal artillery or aircraft. One of the MTs hit a pile of the bridge linking Fort Saint Elmo with the breakwater, which collapsed with the blast, blocking the entrance to the harbor. The bridge was never restored, and a new one was not built until 2012.[9]

The MTs were eventually superseded by the MTMs by the fall of 1941.[3] The MTMs were deployed to the Black Sea at German request, in support of Operation Barbarossa from March 1942 to May 1943 and along the Libyan-Egyptian coast from August to September 1942, in both cases with little success.[10] On 29 June 1942, during the Black Sea campaign, a number of MTMs supported a diversionary German landing near Balaklava. One of the explosive boats was intentionally run aground and set off on a beach occupied by Soviet troops in order to create confusion about the main landing point.[11]

Later in the war, the Italian Navy developed a third type of explosive motorboat, the MTR (Motoscafo da Turismo Ridotto), a light version of the MTM for being carried to the intended target by submarine,[3][12] on the same containers used to transport human torpedoes.[13] An attempt against Allied naval forces in the Messina Strait was aborted when the submarine carrying the MTRs, the Ambra, was depth-charged on 25 July 1943 by Allied aircraft. The containers were distorted by the explosions and the boats became jammed inside.[14]

After Italy signed an armistice with the Allies, the Italian Social Republic, a fascist puppet state in northern Italy which remained part of the Axis, continued to build and use MTMs. During the last days of the war in Europe, on 16 April 1945, one MTM hit and heavily damaged the French destroyer Trombe off Liguria.[10]

Israeli navy

At least four MTMs survived World War II to be used by Shayetet 13, the naval commandos of the Israeli Navy, during the War of Independence. Three of them, transported by the former US patrol yacht INS Ma'oz, attacked the Egyptian sloop Emir Farouk and a BYMS-class minesweeper in the Mediterranean on 22 October 1948, off the Sinai peninsula. The sloop sank in five minutes, while the minesweeper was severely damaged and had to be written off. Unlike the Italian procedure, the Israelis allocated a fourth boat to rescue the pilots.[15][16] Another MTM was deployed to the Red Sea, tasked with infiltrating secret agents into Jordan.[15]

See also


  1. ^ Borghese, Valerio (1995). Sea Devils: Italian Navy Commandos in World War II. Naval Institute Press, p. 28. ISBN 1-55750-072-X
  2. ^ a b c d Fock, Harald (1996). Marine-Kleinkampfmittel. Bemannte Torpedoes, Klein-U-Boote, Kleine Schnellboote, Sprengboote gestern – heute – morgen. Nikol, pp. 110–111. ISBN 3-930656-34-5 (in German)
  3. ^ a b c d e f Greene and Massignani (2004), pp. 38–39
  4. ^ Greene, Jack and Massignani, Alessandro (2004). The Black Prince And The Sea Devils: The Story Of Valerio Borghese And The Elite Units Of The Decima Mas. Da Capo Press, p. 141. ISBN 0306813114
  5. ^ "HistoQuiz/la Decima MAS". Archived from the original on 22 February 2016. Retrieved 12 November 2015.
  6. ^ "BARCHINO ESPLOSIVO MODIFICATO RIVA | Edoardo Napodano". Retrieved 12 November 2015.
  7. ^ Borghese, pp. 74–84
  8. ^ Vernon, Caroline (1992). Our Name Wasn't Written — a Malta Memoir. Imagecraft, p. 36. ISBN 0-646-07198-X
  9. ^ Fort St Elmo is finally linked to the breakwater by Annette Vella, 25 July 2012
  10. ^ a b Italeri 1/35 MTM Barchino by Ray Mehlberger Archived 19 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ Borghese, pp. 178–179
  12. ^ Borghese, Valerio (1952). Sea Devils: Italian Navy Commandos in World War II. Naval Institute Press, p. 28. ISBN 1-55750-072-X
  13. ^ Borghese, p. 48
  14. ^ Borghese, p. 256
  15. ^ a b Greene and Massignani (2004), p. 199
  16. ^ Goodman, Hirsch; Mann, Shlomo (1982). "Navy". IDF in its Corps: Army and Security Encyclopedia (in Hebrew). Vol. 10. Revivim Publishing. p. 44.
Cosmos CE2F series

CosMoS CE2F were a series of Swimmer Delivery Vehicle (SDV) built by M/s Cos.Mo.S Spa. which was based in Livorno, Italy.


The FL-boat (Fernlenkboot, literally "remote controlled boat") was a weapon used by the Imperial German Navy during World War I. It was a remote-controlled motorboat, 17 m long, carrying 700 kilograms (1,500 lb) of explosives, which was intended to be steered directly at its targets - initially the Royal Navy monitors operating off the coast of Flanders.

FL-boats were constructed by Siemens-Schuckertwerke. They were driven by internal combustion engines and controlled remotely from a shore station through spooled wire unwound behind the boat. The wire was 20 kilometres (12 mi) long and the spool weighed 800 kilograms (1,800 lb). An aircraft could be used to signal directions to the shore station by radio. The commands available to the boat operator were:

System test

Engine start, engine stop

Set Rudder position

Turn on a light, to enable the boat to be tracked at night

Detonate the warhead, to prevent capture of the boat if it missed its targetPlanned developments were to use a control station carried on a ship, in an airship or use a radio-control system. The boats could attain speeds of 30 knots (56 km/h; 35 mph).

On 1 March 1917 an FL-boat hit the Nieuwpoort mole and on 28 October 1917 one hit the Royal Navy monitor HMS Erebus.

French destroyer Trombe

Trombe was a Bourrasque-class destroyer (torpilleur d'escadre) built for the French Navy during the 1920s.

After France surrendered to Germany in June 1940 during World War II, Trombe served with the navy of Vichy France. She was among the ships of the French fleet scuttled at Toulon, France, on 27 November 1942. She later was salvaged and repaired by the Regia Marina (Italian Royal Navy), who christened the ship FR 31. When the Armistice of Cassibile was signed, the repairs were still underway and Free France requested the return of the vessel upon completion of the work. On October 28 1943, the Trombe moved to Bizerte, once again under French command.

On April 16, 1945, off the coast of Liguria, the Trombe came under attack by a MT explosive motorboat and MTSM motor torpedo boat of the Marina Nazionale Repubblicana. MTM 548 struck the Trombe starboard, killing 20 men and causing severe damage. She was successfully towed to Toulon, where the damaged was ruled irreparable. The Trombe was stricken and scrapped in 1950.

Human torpedo

Human torpedoes or manned torpedoes are a type of diver propulsion vehicle on which the diver rides, generally in a seated position behind a fairing. They were used as secret naval weapons in World War II. The basic concept is still in use.

The name was commonly used to refer to the weapons that Italy, and later (with a larger version) Britain, deployed in the Mediterranean and used to attack ships in enemy harbours. The human torpedo concept has occasionally been used by recreational divers.

Italian cruiser Quarto

Quarto was a unique protected cruiser built by the Italian Regia Marina (Royal Navy) in the 1910s. Her keel was laid in November 1909, she was launched in August 1911, and was completed in March 1913. She was the first Italian cruiser to be equipped with steam turbines, which gave her a top speed of 28 knots (52 km/h; 32 mph). Her high speed was a requirement for the role in which she was designed to serve: a scout for the main Italian fleet.

Quarto was based at Brindisi during World War I; she saw action once, during an attack by the Austro-Hungarian Navy on transports operating in the southern Adriatic. She engaged the Austro-Hungarian cruiser SMS Helgoland but neither ship was damaged and both sides withdrew. Quarto served briefly in East Asian waters in the early 1930s, and supported Italian forces during the Second Italo-Abyssinian War in 1936. The following year she served as the flagship of the Italian forces participating in the non-intervention patrols during the Spanish Civil War; here she was attacked by Republican bombers, although she escaped damage. She was stricken from the naval register in January 1939 and subsequently used in weapons tests with human torpedoes and explosive motorboats. Quarto was sunk in a test with an MT explosive motorboat in November 1940.

MTSM motor torpedo boat

The MTSM motor torpedo boat ( Motoscafo da Turismo Silurante Modificato) was a series of small motor torpedo boats developed by the Italian Royal Navy during World War II. The vessel was an improved version of its predecessor, the motor torpedo boat MTS. This was achieved through a larger sea-going hull with reinforced keel and a sharper stem. The MTSM were designed to be towed by larger motorboats into the target area. Once there, the MTSM could carry out a torpedo attack on moored or stationary ships. The boat could also been transported by land on trailers.

Aircraft carriers
Patrol craft
Fast attack craft
Mine warfare
Command and support


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