Motoscafo da Turismo: Explosive Motorboats

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.

The Motoscafo da Turismo barchino was designed to explode its warhead under the waterline.

The Motoscafo da Turismo Barchino was designed to explode its warhead under the waterline.

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.

Motoscafo da Turismo

Motoscafo da Turismo

Barchino Operability

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.

The barchino pilot utilizes the back seat as a flotation device.

The Barchino pilot utilizes the back seat as a flotation device.

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 water line.

Italians inspecting the wreckage of HMS York after it was abandoned by the British.

Italians inspecting the wreckage of HMS York after it was abandoned by the British.

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
Speed 33 knots
Armament Warhead: 728 lb (330 kg)
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Jim H

I created Comando Supremo: Italy at War in 2000 because of the limited amount of information on Italian forces in WWII that was available online. Thanks to people like you, this site has grown to what it is today. Thank you for visiting and please bookmark us.

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