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Aerial Torpedo Development


Staff member
This question was originally posted in a different forum. You can read the thread here: Italian Aircraft Torpedo Development

Italian Aircraft Torpedo Development
Web search turned up some information lite. I'm looking for reading/information of the why there was no aircraft launched torpedo development inter war, and about the late development leading to the limited 1940 production. Seems like a opportunity was missed.
I initially provided the following information.

From Verbali delle riunioni tenute dal Capo di SM Generale [Minutes of the meetings held by the Capo di SM Generale] tomo I, pp. 11-13. My clarifications in [ ]

26 January 1939

Recommendations and Special Topics

2. Torpedo bomber problem

S.E. BADOGLIO - This involves the purchase of 30 torpedoes for torpedo bombers.

There is a divergence of views between the Navy and Air Force on this issue. The same has happened in Germany.

S.E. CAVAGNARI - For me the problem of a torpedo for torpedo bombers is already solved. We made a type that can be launched from 120m altitude, at a speed of 300 km. No country has managed to make one that can be launched from more than 40-50m altitude and speed of 180-200k. Therefore I can no longer consider our torpedo in an experimental phase and, therefore, I believe that I should no longer have to pay for experiments.

S.E. VALLE - For the Air Force, this type of torpedo cannot be used.

S.E. CAVAGNARI - It must serve. Today, given the low speed difference between large ships and torpedo boats, it is more difficult for the latter to perform all their tasks (escort, reconnaissance, etc.) and therefore planes have to replace them [torpedo boats] in some situations of torpedo use.

The Air Force, on the other hand, envisages its possible use and, therefore, proposes the solution that all aircraft can be used for carrying torpedoes.

Carrying the torpedo and using it are, however, very different things. The problem is complex: it cannot be accepted that every aircraft can be used as a torpedo [bomber].

S.E. VALLE - I take note of the statements of S.E. Cavagnari. If the Navy passes the cost [money] of a flotilla of torpedoes to me, I am happy to build flocks of torpedo bombers.

S.E. CAVAGNARI - It is not a question of budget, but it is first of all a question of doctrine. When we agree on this point, we'll see.

S.E. VALLE - I believe, on the other hand, how it is treated in the budget. Just 4 years ago aircraft for the Navy cost 300,000 lire: today it costs 1 million and 500,000 lire; aircraft for the Army cost 270,000 lire: today it costs 1 million and 200,000 lire.

The budget of the Air Force is just 1 billion and 900 million and, indeed, practically 1,600,000,000; while the British budget is 20 billion and the French one 23 billion. And France can thus spend 12 billion on aviation materials and build 200 aircraft a month.

The Air Force is forced, for economy of means, to build aircraft, which with a well trained crew (ours are the best in the world) can be used for various forms of employment, namely bombing, torpedoing, transport, ground observation, and maritime observation.

If the Air Force had a few billion more, it could very well build units to be used solely as torpedo bombers.

S.E. CAVAGNARI ‐- I requested the stability of the personnel in the seaplane units but this has never been possible to obtain.

It is only human that an aviation officer does not stay for a long time in unwelcome locations such as those where seaplane units are located.

S.E. VALLEY - I refute this. Officers go where they go.

S.E. CAVAGNARI - The problem of launching is of such difficulty and delicacy as to require specialization obtainable only through continuous and exclusive training.

On the other hand, the tendency of aviation officers to chose fighter and bombing aviation and not seaplanes is undeniable in aviation officers.

S.E. VALLEY. - Absolutely not. The rotation of personnel in seaplane units is due to a completely different need and is absolutely no greater than that for other specialties.

But let's go back to the torpedoes.

The brilliant characteristics of the current type of torpedo that allows launching from 100 m. altitude, at a speed of 300 km per hour, were obtained on the basis of studies carried out by the Air Force in Guidonia. Germany has seen that we are the most advanced in this field and has ordered 300 torpedoes, to be delivered from June onwards: about 1 per day. The torpedo factory of Fiume naturally tends to have other orders: but, if the torpedo characteristics are good, more can and must be obtained, provided that today it is very difficult to approach warships given the power of the anti-aircraft defense, and, since all the aircraft now fly at 380 km. per hour in the approach phase, we want a torpedo that can be launched at 350 km. per hour.

We therefore believe that the order for the 30 torpedoes must be done to test the weapon with the squadrons and to obtain a type with better characteristics. When the new type [of torpedo] with excellent characteristics is approved, it will be switched to series production, which will be paid for by the Air Force. For now we are in an experimental phase which, as agreed, must be charged to the Navy.

In conclusion, for now the order of the 30 torpedoes cannot be considered as a normal series and the Air Force cannot commit ten million for their purchase.

S.E. CAVAGNARI - I repeat that the agreement established with the Air Force clearly states that the Navy will pay for the torpedo prototypes, and this the Navy has done. With the prototypes, the altitude and speed parameters set by the Whitehead company were brilliantly achieved in the tests in Fiume, as possible with the type of torpedo which has been realized.

Therefore the current production of 30 prototype torpedoes is no longer relevant to the Navy and therefore I believe I do not have to pay anything.

S.E. BADOGLIO - I will present the situation in question to the Head of Government and we will hear his decision.


Staff member
I then provided these meeting notes from the same source as above.

It gets better. This meeting is from 18 Nov 1939 (pp. 29-31)

Organization of the Aircraft Militia and Maritime Militia
(Cadre and Subordinates)

Pantelleria air base

Torpedoes for aircraft and torpedo bombers

S.E. BADOGLIO -‐ Now there are 3 topics that I do not wish to deal with here, to avoid discussing without reaching a conclusion. There are proposals from the Navy for the Milmart [Milizia Marittima] and the Army for the Antiaircraft Militia [Milizia Contraerei].

Proposals from the three armed forces are also underway for the Pantelleria air base.

That of aircraft torpedoes is a long-debated issue. Now let's take advantage of the new situation created in the ministries following the changing of the guard, and bearing in mind that the current situation must overcome any distrust and lead to a better understanding, I thank C.E. Starace and S.E. Soddu for the Antiaircraft Militia, C.E. Starace and S.E. Cavagnari for Milmart, wanting to carry out preliminary discussions and, then, inform me, so that I can study the issue and brief it to the Duce.

The same should be done with Pantelleria. I pray Pricolo to review the joint decrees with the other S.M. as well as for the torpedo bombers. The question of whether or not they should be employed is out of date; on the German side there is a large order of torpedoes (300).

There is no longer any question of whether the bomb is more effective than the torpedo; they are opinions that do not correspond to the practical act and that must be examined from a more realistic point of view.

There has been too long an exchange of correspondence in this regard.

S.E. CAVAGNARI - It is not the principle that is under discussion, but only who pays. The Navy has considered the problem solved for three years. The Air Force must buy and pay.

S.E. BADOGLiO ‐‐ It is useless to deal with the subject again here of aircraft torpedoes. I avoid discussions that would give rise to a useless academic [arguments].

The one who pays is always the state.

Let us not get uptight, therefore, over this.

S.E. PINNA - The question has already been decided. The Air Force was unable to buy the 30 torpedoes because the torpedo factory was busy with the order given by Germany.

S.E. CAVAGNARI - It's not like that.

S.E. PRICOLO - I cannot report on this subject because I don’t know [the status].

S.E. BADOGLIO - I close this meeting by remembering what I said in the beginning: that is, the absolute need to always say exactly the real situation while keeping, indeed, with a safety margin.

The Duce must always know exactly the situation of the military forces.

It is he who decides.

You have to be able to tell the Head of Government what you have and not what you would like to have.

Do not say for example that you have sent 4 divisions CC.NN. in A.O. while they were [actually] separate battalions put together; it took 3 months in the field to set up a division, partly changing officers and troops.

It can’t be said [that] units can be created overnight. Let's stick to a crudely realistic way to inform the Duce.

It is our duty to always provide him with non-questionable facts so that he knows what he can and cannot decide.

And only in this way can we say that we have served the country loyally, which deserves to be served well.
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Staff member
The following is from General Giuseppe Santoro's L'Aeronautica italiana nella seconda guerra mondiale vol I pp. 61-64. This was the first official history of R.A. (later followed by that written by Nino Arena). Gen. Santoro was the Sottocapo of Superaero and was directly involved in the meetings previously posted above. This note is written at the very beginning of the history and is interesting when compared to the meeting notes. Any errors in translation are mine. Text in [ ] are added for clarification for reading by me.

Notes on torpedoes and their production
From the early years of the creation of the Air Force it thought to study new weapons that, in attacking warships, were more effective than the usual aerial bombs, which the experience of the 1915-18 war had already proved insufficient against those targets.

In the first experiments carried out in the years 1927 and 1928 with seaplanes M. 24 and S. 55, it was foreseen that the launch of the torpedo had to be carried out at very low altitudes. Nonetheless, it was found that the common torpedoes used by the Navy suffered more or less serious damage when impacting the water.

Some modifications were defined, intended to conveniently reinforce some parts of the weapon to be used for aeronautical use, but this did not completely remove the drawbacks. So, in 1933, an attempt was made to define a device that would allow the angled launch of the torpedo, in order to cushion the impact on the water. A special type of aerodynamic tail was made, which perfectly fulfilled the purpose.

In 1937 the Air Force General Staff arranged for an S. 79 aircraft to be equipped to continue the experience with more modern and faster aircraft, for the launch of the W torpedoes built by the Silurificio di Fiume.

The first aircraft, equipped for launching a single torpedo, entered service in November 1937. In March 1938, the S. 79 was ordered to be equipped to carry two torpedoes. In August this, equipment was completed by S.i.A.I., manufacturer of the aircraft. The first tests revealed the failure of the system and some changes had to be made.

In September 1939 the first S. 79 with double installation arrived on the field of Gorizia and, after tests and modifications, in October it was possible to start the serial production.

As can be seen from this brief chronology, the tests and experiences had been conducted very slowly, without a precise vision of the importance of the problem, and without a determined will to quickly reach a solution.

Not only that, but for years between the Air Force and the Navy there was an unedifying struggle to establish & which of the two Administrations was responsible for supplying the torpedo and on which of the two budgets, it should weigh in relative expense.

The outbreak of the conflict found the question still unsolved.

In the phase of "non-belligerence" the S.M. of the Air Force not only returned to the problem of torpedo bombers with the utmost care and energy, but tried to solve in the best way those great and small difficulties that the emergence of the new specialty inevitably put on the table, both for the Air Force and in relations between Air Force and Navy.

First of all, it established - as was unquestionably logical - that the supply of the weapons and related equipment on the ground belonged exclusively to the Air Force and requested from the Navy only the assistance of means and people that the Air Force could not do without in the initial stage.

Some difficulties inevitably arose, yes: because the Navy was not able to reduce many from its availability, its production and its staff, both for the existence of some susceptibility. For example, to the request for torpedo pistols, which the Navy had that the Air Force lacked to complete the first weapons produced on its behalf, the Navy countered with the request that the aiming and launch of the torpedo should be done by the Navy observers, who - due to the agreements between the two MS - were initially made part of the crews of torpedo aircraft.

Now this request, apparently logical in theory, was not feasible in practice. The observer officer, in fact, could not take the place of one of the pilots in the dangerous phase of the attack and, having to remain standing behind the pilot's seat, he was certainly not able to perform the aiming and to steer or to steer the aircraft with the instantaneity of maneuvers that a torpedo bombing attack requires.

Moreover, the presence of a naval officer on board was considered opportune essentially for the identification of the enemy ships; once ensured, nothing supported that the naval officer was, more than a specially instructed and trained pilot, able to perform the physical operation of aiming and launching.

The impossibility in which the Air Force found itself to accept the request of the Navy seemed to compromise the transfer of the indispensable pistols. But the superior needs and the spirit of mutual understanding ended up prevailing and this question too was resolved.

The procurement of torpedoes for the Air Force was especially at the beginning, far from easy. The Silurificio di Fiume and that of Naples had long had their production fully committed to the Italian Navy and the Germans; at first, for the most immediate needs, it was possible to obtain a production rate of 4 torpedoes per month.

Subsequently, it was very difficult to establish an appropriate program, which made it possible to make the most of the residual production capacities of the Silurificio di Fiume and that of Naples; so that the situation slowly gradually improved.

In September 1942, the Air Force had withdrawn altogether, both for its own orders and for disposals of the Navy and the Germans, about 250 torpedoes; it had a total of 250 W orders at the Silurificio dl Fiume and 130 Si la Silurificio di Napoli and had other orders planned for 1450 weapons overall between the two companies.

But in the early days the problem of always having the torpedoes necessary for the use of torpedo bombers available on the main bases of the various sectors was extremely serious and, in some cases, was nevertheless solved with a speed that was prodigious.

Some S. 82 aircraft were equipped for the rapid transport of torpedoes, in whose belly it was possible to stow, in addition to the heavy parts making up the weapon, slings, tripods, cranes, test benches, spare parts, disassembly tools and assembly, compressor, reserve compressed air tank, etc. Sometimes it was possible to ship from Italy to Rhodes or Tobruch on a single S. 82: 3 torpedoes, 3 loaded warheads, 3 torpedo guides, 3 tail ends, 3 loaded pistols, 3 gyroscopes, and relative packaging; all for a total weight of about 4000kg.

Until the production ensured a convenient distribution and allowed establishment of fixed deposits in the various sectors, it was not possible to have torpedoes, or to have a sufficient number of them, on all the air bases in the Mediterranean where the torpedo bombers could, depending on the circumstances, be called to work. So that, at each detection of the movements of the English Gibraltar and Alexandria squadrons, first of all, the few torpedoes that were eventually ready for shipment and for testing at the Schools were immediately sent in flight where they were most needed. Then as the air and naval actions moved following the movement of the convoys, the residual torpedoes were transported by means of the S. 82, for example, from Sardinia to Sicily, from here to Libya and finally, possibly, to the Aegean; and viceversa.

The use of torpedo bombers was linked to the rather complex preparation of the torpedoes on the ground, immediately before the action: preparation that required excellent specialized personnel and appropriate equipment.

In the early days of employment, the Air Force had to rely on the Navy, perfectly expert in the various construction sectors, the preparation and use of the torpedoes. But the Navy could not assign many forces and means to its needs and the Air Force had to partially make up for it with personnel from the torpedo industry to keep its stations active, especially in Libya and the Aegean.

Training courses for aeronautical torpedo specialists were immediately instituted at the manufacturing companies, so that it was possible to gradually free itself from the Navy and industry.

Until, however, in the various Mediterranean fronts had suitably equipped stations established on the main bases, serious difficulties always persisted in completing the delicate operations of storage, preparation and servicing of the weapons, due to the environmental characteristics at the air bases, especially those of Libya, which did not allow the most suitable installation of the various equipment and their appropriate protection against atmospheric conditions. The high temperature, the sand, the poor quality of the oils, the lack of electricity or the non-correspondence of the characteristics of these to the types of compressors very often determined very difficult situations, in which all the initiatives and resolution skills of the staff responsible for preparing these very delicate weapons were involved.
The first school for torpedo bomber personnel arose out of natural necessity in Gorizia, as its [air]field was the closest to the torpedo preparation, mounting and testing source, the Bienne Torpedo Factory.

In November 1940, when it was also possible to obtain a share of the production of the Italian Silurificio in Naples, a second school was established at the Capodichino airport.

At these schools - in each of which the Navy posted an officer observer, with the task of cooperating in the instruction - not only was all the torpedo bomber crews and the specialized torpedo men trained, but all the experiments relating to torpedoes, installation, and aiming instruments were carried out, as well as all the numerous tests to which, since its delivery from the workshop, the torpedo was subjected: tests of the torpedo with exercise heads, launched with an inert warhead, weighted warhead launch, etc.

In the most bitter air and naval battles that took place in the Mediterranean, often the instructor staff and any adequately students, would assist the action of their not so numerous comrades from the operational units using the school’s aircraft.

Besides the S. 79 aircraft, the S. 84 were later equipped for the launch of the torpedo; but, due to the reduced visibility for the pilots and the reduced handling, they did not give good results.

Due to the increase the use of the new weapon, the Torpedo Bomber Office was established in February 1941 at the Air Force Staff, which internally grouped all the technical, logistical, operational and internal activities, previously headed by different Offices. A technical regulation and a regulation for the use of the torpedo were also prepared by this Office.
The aerial torpedo used by the Air Force was a naval torpedo, type M A S, of the caliber of 450 mm, with the appropriate variants imposed by the need for stability during its travel in the air, by the high launch speeds, from the strong impact in water, from the need to avoid the operation of the pistol due to the impact in the water. etc.

The weapon allowed a launch from a maximum 100 m of altitude at 300 km / h of speed. The constant intent of the technicians was of course to improve the weapon, both to increase its intrinsic effectiveness and to put the torpedo bomber crew in the safest position possible; therefore, for the first purpose, there was a tendency to strive to increase the explosive charge and a greater initial running stability; for the second purpose, the possibility of higher altitudes and launch speeds and a longer travel in the air.

At the end of 1941 the construction of a head capable of about 200 kg of explosive, in place of the 170 [kg] of the type W torpedo and 160 [kg] of the type SI torpedo was in progress.

But they also studied at some torpedo manufacturers (which were called «silurotti») specially designed for aerial use, the main characteristics of which had to be: possibility of launching at much higher altitudes than 100 m and at speeds greater than 500 km / h, large charge, small weight, long air travel, great underwater speed.

The armistice found, however, these weapons are still in the design stage.
The above shows how inaccurate Admiral Inchino is with his statement in his book "Gaudo and Matapan" which states «After the experience of Punta Stilo everyone naturally agreed on the need for us to develop torpedo aircraft and this was accordingly done, but unfortunately precious months had been lost in the meantime ».

It was not, in fact, after the experience of Punta Stilo on 9 July 1940 (which, moreover, as will be seen below, does not prove anything new and spectacular), that the Air Force perceived the importance of torpedo bombers and consequently provided them. If the new Chief of SM. of the Air Force had not placed all its care and concern in the prompt preparation of torpedo aircraft units since November 1939, these [units] could not have acted for the first time in Alexandria on August 16, 1940, this being about a month after the experience of Punta Stilo.

Indeed, it would have been impossible in such a short time to create an ex-novo specialty for which there was a lack of equipment, weapons, crews, training, regulations, etc.
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At the end of 1941 the construction of a head capable of about 200 kg of explosive, in 170 of the length of the type W torpedo W and 160 of the length in the type SI torpedo was in progress.
I don't understand the above.

There was no problems with visibility in S.84. The aircraft was not as good as S.79 manoeuvrability to answer to ship evasive manoeuvres.


Staff member

The original Italian is:

Alla fine del 1941 era in corso la realizzazione di una testa capace di circa 200 kg di explosivo, in lungo di quella da 170 del siluro W e di 160 del siluro SI.
The only translation that made sense is that an additional 170 mm was needed in the type W and 160 mm was needed for the SI. As you can read, the original didn't provide a unit of measurement, so I am assuming mm (it could be cm). I searched the net for any measurements for the Italian torpedoes but could find any.

There was no problems with visibility in S.84. The aircraft was not as good as S.79 manoeuvrability to answer to ship evasive manoeuvres.

I have only translated what was written. :)

Oltre i velivoli S. 79. furono in seguito attrezzati per il lancio del siluro gli S. 84; ma, per la minore visibilità da parte dei piloti e per la minore maneggevolezza, non dettero buona prova.

Pista! Jeff


i think that is "in luogo", lungo may be a missprint,, in italian with "lungo" have not sense
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Staff member
No, it was my error. In luogo - in place of - is correct. So the correct translation is:

At the end of 1941 the construction of a head capable of about 200 kg of explosive, in place of the 170 [kg] of the type W torpedo and 160 [kg] of the type SI torpedo was in progress.

Dili, thank you for questioning the translation. Franco thank you for pointing out the error.
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New Member
As an aside, in 1941 the Germans ordered more aerial torpedoes, and paid in 1,000 2cm AA guns and 10 million rounds.

All the best



Active Member
Of the 50 torpedoes that arrived in August 1940, when were they ordered?
The first convetion between the Germans and the Silurificio Whitehead for 300 aerial torpedoes was signed on April 1st 1939. The second on 27 March 1941 and the third and last on 19 July 1941.


The first convetion between the Germans and the Silurificio Whitehead for 300 aerial torpedoes was signed on April 1st 1939. The second on 27 March 1941 and the third and last on 19 July 1941.
How did Italy have 50 torpedoes delivered in August 1940? The 300 were for Germany. It seems Italy must have ordered 50 torpedoes before August 1940 in order to receive them.


Active Member
Due to the evolution of the war in the Mediterranean, it was reached an Italo-German agreement to allocate to the Regia Aeronautica a batch of aerial torpedoes that had been originally made for the Luftwaffe, but not yet delivered.


"at first, for the most immediate needs, it was possible to obtain a production rate of 4 torpedoes per month."

Any idea when the 4 torpedo production figure began? And if it ever increased? If so, when?


New Member
How were the torpedoes allocated? Were they shared out across the bases or allocated to specialist squadrons? My understanding is that it was the latter but I have no idea how many or where they were deployed.

If there were no torpedoes or insufficient numbers what was the alternative? Assuming bombs were used, what were they and how effective were they?


As memory serves, they were sent where needed versus assigned to all the stormos.

Italy had several different types of bombs (I call them Douhet bombs) but armor piercing (A/P) was not included. They had a 220 pound Semi Armor Piercing (SAP) bomb that could penetrate a destroyer. It would take a 1,100 pound General Purpose (G/P or H/E) bomb to penetrate a standard 70mm British armored deck.


In addition, Italian aircraft torpedoes only used a 441 pound (200 kg) warhead. This compares to a 388 pound (176 kg) warhead for British aircraft torpedoes. Lighter torpedoes were used by aircraft.

Similarly, Italian submarines used a 595 pound (270 kg) warhead and British submarines 722 pounds (327 Kg).


New Member
As memory serves, they were sent where needed versus assigned to all the stormos.

This conforms with my understanding of 'specialist' units for their use but I have no further details on these. I guess they were mainly deployed in attack units against convoys from Gibraltar and Alexandria.