Surface Forces: Italian Horizons

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October 16, 2005: The Italian Horizon class destroyers, like their French counterparts, have had their construction plans scaled back. This is now a class of two ships, the Andrea Doria (lead ship of the class) and the Ciao Duilio. These could be the only ships of the class - four others were cancelled (two were dropped early on, the other two were cancelled in 1993 to free up $375 million to purchase and refit the Artigliere-class frigates that had been delayed since 1985). The two cancelled in 1993 could be re-authorized and equipped for ballistic missile defense.

Like the French vessels, these ships are primarily designed for anti-air warfare. They displace 5800 tons, and are equipped with the ASTER 30 surface-to-air missile. There are some significant differences in the weapons fit. For example, rather than the Exocet anti-ship missile, the Andrea Doria-class vessels are carrying the Otomat Mk 2 Teseo anti-ship missile. The Otomat Mk 2 has a range of 185 kilometers and a 463-pound warhead. They also have three 76-millimeter guns as opposed to just two on the Forbin-class destroyers.

The Andrea Doria-class destroyers will be replacing the Audace-class destroyers. The Audace-class destroyers displace 3950 tons, and are equipped with a five-inch gun, four 76-millimeter guns, eight Otomat Mk 2 missiles, an eight-round launcher for the Aspide surface-to-air missile, and a Mk 13 launcher that carries the SM-1 surface-to-air missile. These ships were commissioned in 1972 and 1973. Despite their age, they are still very capable destroyers.

Italy also operates two other destroyers, the Luigi de la Penne-class destroyers (Luigi de la Penne and Francesco Mimbelli). These are larger (4500 tons) vessels which have a similar armament to the Audace-class vessels (albeit with only three 76-millimeter guns as opposed to four in the older ships). This class was cut from four vessels to two when Italy decided to join the Horizon program. These vessels are relatively young (commissioned in 1992 and 1993). They are also going to receive an upgrade to fire the SM-2 surface-to-air missile.

Italy has joined France in the European Multi-Mission Frigate program. These vessels are probably more accurately described as destroyers (coming at roughly 5,600 tons). Italy is planning to acquire ten of these ships to replace the Lupo and Maestrale-class frigates. These vessels will primarily be designed for anti-submarine warfare (being equipped with the Milas anti-submarine missile, which delivers a Mk 46 or MU-90 torpedo 55 kilometers away from the firing ship), and like the French version, will probably carry a high degree of commonality with the Andrea Doria-class destroyers. In essence, Italy will be replacing twelve frigates with ten destroyers. - Harold C. Hutchison (hchutch@ix.netcom.com)

 


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