Aircraft Carrier Impero...

...The Axis Powers' V-1 Carrying Capital Ship, from Fonthill Media

Title: Aircraft Carrier Impero
Author: Davide F. Jabes and Stefano Sappino

Publisher: Fonthill Media
ISBN: 978-1-78155-677-1


Another new book from Fonthill Media with a Naval theme, and a case of wondering what might have been.  The Italian Impero was the fourth hull in the Littorio class of battleships.  This is the story of the ups and downs of the plan to complete it as a Fleet Aircraft Carrier for the Italian Navy, the Regia Marina.

It makes for a fascinating story not only of something the 'might have been' but all the context that surrounded it in relation to the war itself, the relationships between Italy, Germany and Japan as well as the internal rivalries within Italian commands, especially between the Regia Marina (Navy) and the Regia Aeronautica (Air Force) both before and during WW2.  Reading some of it makes you wonder how, especially in time of war, the rivalries and desire for dominant influence seems to have overshadowed the national needs in a time of war.  Common sense seems to have been ignored.  Even as late as 1942, how could anyone sensibly suggest that it wasn't practical to land a fighter back onto the deck of an aircraft carrier!

The book makes use of drawings and other records from the Ansaldo archive, with a number of different drawings showing potential designs for the Impero, utilising the hull of the battleship (which was built) but which was never completed.  Part of this was due to the lack if vital raw materials.  Other possible ship conversions to carriers are also provided.  There were even plans to equip the ship with missiles, including one featuring the Argus Pulse Jet of the V-1 along with other alternatives, that a ramp for rockets was included in the design as well as a catapult for aircraft.  There is also an added extra if you like, with the details of the Italian Pugliese anti-torpedo system to be built into the hull, a design copied later by the Soviets.  If all this isn't enough, there is also the story of the failure to put enough effort into developing the aircraft types it would need.

Despite the armistice of 1943, bombing and the German occupation of Italy, the hull did survive the war, though the flight deck and superstructure were never added.  The hull was taken to Porto Marghera after the war and scrapped.

Thanks to Fonthill Media for our review copy.