Friday 24 April 2015

WARSHIPS OF THE PAST: Andrea Doria class helicopter cruisers of the Italian Navy

Written by D-Mitch 

Andrea Doria, the lead-ship of the class, after its
modernization in the late '70s
Determined to provide high quality and accurate information on naval warfare in an easy understandable manner to a broad audience I created my first personal webpage, the Naval Analyses. However, Naval Analyses is not limited only to the naval warfare of today as I have already included in this page since its inception about 10 months ago, Fleets, Photos and Infographics of navies and warships of the past. So with this new post, I begin a new category of short articles where I summarize the main features of some very important former naval classes. The Sachsen class, which was the most selected class in the poll (the poll closed on April 1st)  for the Analysis of this month, it will be published before the end of April or the latest in the first weeks of May (I am really sorry about that!). In this article, I summarize the Andrea Doria class cruisers, the first class of helicopters cruisers of the Italian Navy.

Caio Duilio cruiser with its original armament and hangar prior the modernization

Caio Duilio after its conversion
to a "training cruiser"
The two ships of the class.
Photo: Stefano Cioglia Cagliari
In the middle '50s the United States Navy began a massive conversion of WWII gun cruisers (Baltimore, Cleveland and Oregon City classes) to guided missile cruisers, warships with the main task to provide air-defence (anti-aircraft warfare - AAW) to the fleet. Inspired by this conversions, Italy was the first European country to convert (1957-1961) a WWII Duca degli Abruzzi class light cruiser, Giuseppe Garibaldi, to a guided missile cruiser. In 1957 the Italian Navy decided to order its first new major warships after WWII, the Andrea Doria class guided missile helicopter cruisers. The hull was based on the Impavido-class, the first Italian guided missile destroyers. Two ships were built while the third ship, C555 Enrico Dandolo, was cancelled in favor of a more advanced and enlarged design, the Vittorio Veneto (C550).

Andrea Doria class helicopter cruiser of the Italian Navy. For a high resolution image click here.
Andrea Doria launching a Terrier SAM
during an exercise off Sardinia in 1985
Launching a Terrier SAM
The design was very innovative. The main weapon system of the class was a twin-arm Terrier launcher for AAW accompanied by a large number of dual-purpose 3in guns (eight in total) while the aft part of the ships had a large flight deck (30m x 16m) and hangar to accommodate up to four anti-submarine warfare helicopters. Therefore, these ships were not just the typical AAW cruisers of that era but they were also quite capable in the anti-submarine warfare (ASW). The ASW capabilities were increased with the installation of triple torpedo launchers.

Italian cruiser Andrea Doria
The two cruisers were also "fitted for but not with" two Polaris missile launchers per ship. All four launchers were built but not installed, and were stored at the La Spezia naval facility. Elegant, fast and heavily armed, the two cruisers, Andrea Doria (C553) and Caio Duilio (C554) were some of the best naval units to operate in the Mediterranean Sea.

Caio Duilio after its conversion to a "training cruiser"
Caio Duilio after its conversion to a "training cruiser"
In the late '70s the two vessels received an extensive upgrade on their electronic package but also on their armament were they replaced the obsolete Terrier missiles with the new Standard Missiles.The Caio Duilio was modified to become a training ship and thus its the ship's original hangar was turned into classrooms and additional accommodation, with a new, smaller, hangar being built on the forward part on the helicopter deck, reducing the ship's aviation capacity to two helicopters. The aft two guns were also removed together with their associated fire control radar.

View of the cruisers' armament
Vertical landing test by a Royal Navy
Harrier on the flight deck of
Andrea Doria in 1967
Andrea Doria after its modernization

Caio Duilio prior her modernization
Andrea Doria prior its modernization

Andrea Doria prior its modernization
The end for Andrea Doria
The two anti-aircraft helicopter cruisers served successfully with the Italian Navy till 1992 in both active and training capacities. The Andrea Doria was the last ship in the class that was decommissioned that year after a successful career.

Andrea Doria's hangar
Andrea Doria helicopter cruiser of the Italian Navy in 1985

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