Background on the Motoscafo da Turismo MT
The Motoscafo da Turismo (MT), also known as a Barchino or Explosive Motor Boat, was a special assault craft used by the Decima MAS (10th Light Flotilla) during World War Two. The MT served in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. Approximately 20 Barchini’s saw action during the war. They were small, cost-efficient and easily replaceable if sunk. Its most impressive feat was sinking the British Heavy Cruiser HMS York.
Related: Decima MAS: Italian Frogmen
Italian Explosive Motorboats were designed for one-way missions against enemy vessels. Its goal is to physically impact the side of an enemy vessel and detonate a warhead strapped to its hull. The Italian pilot was not on a suicide mission. He would bail out immediately prior to impact. However, some missions were so risky that it was implied the pilot would not return.
The crafts’ unique design allowed it to get very close to a target vessel before initiating a strike. The screw and rudder could manually rise out of the water to clear any protective harbor nets. Prior to striking a target vessel, the pilot of the Motoscafo da Turismo would aim his boat, accelerate to full throttle, lock his rudder in place, and jump overboard immediately prior to the Barchino impacting the keel of the ship. As shown in the image below, the navigator stays afloat using the Barchino’s backrest, which acts as a floating device. An awaiting vessel subsequently retrieves the floating pilot or he swims safely to shore.
Devastating Effectiveness of Explosive Motorboats
The impact of the MT against the ship’s keel caused a devastating chain reaction. A ring of explosives separated the fore and aft section of the MT. The hull, containing a 330 kg (728 lb) warhead, sinks to a predetermined level. A water pressure fuse detonates the warhead after the hull reached a depth of one meter. The vacuum created by the detonation tears a huge hole through the side of the ship just under the waterline.
Notable Successes of the MT
- On 25 March 1941, six Barchini launched an attack in Souda Bay, Crete and sank the HMS York and Norwegian tanker Pericles. All six pilots became captured.
- On 16 April 1945, one MT struck and severely damaged French destroyer Trombe off the coast of Genoa.
Motoscafo da Turismo Modificato (MTM): A more seaworthy version of the MT with an included reverse gear.
Motoscafo da Turismo Ridotto (MTR): A compact version of the MTM designed to be carried by submarines to the vicinity of the intended target.
|Type||Motoscafo da Turismo|
|Length||18.4 ft (5.62 m)|
|Beam||5.3 ft (1.62 m)|
|Powerplant||Alfa Romeo AR 6cc Outboard Motor rate at 95 hp|
|Armament||Warhead: 728 lb (330 kg)|