Friday 1 May 2015

WARSHIPS OF THE PAST: Vittorio Veneto helicopter cruiser of the Italian Navy

Written by D-Mitch
Vittorio Veneto, the last cruiser of Italian Navy
Some years after the commissioning of the two helicopter cruisers of Andrea Doria class, the Italian Navy ordered an enlarged version of a helicopter cruiser. The new 180-meter cruiser received the name Vittorio Veneto (C550) and she entered in service with the Italian Navy in 1969. A second ship of the same design, the Italia, was cancelled. Instead, Italy proceeded later in the construction of Giuseppe Garibaldi light aircraft carrier, an aircraft carrying cruiser as it was classified in the early years of its service. Vittorio Veneto had a similar layout as the smaller Andrea Doria class helicopter cruisers, but with two elevators in the large (40x18.5-metre) flight deck and the hangar positioned below the flight deck. The ship was built from the keel up as guided missile cruiser forward and helicopter carrier aft. Unlike the Andrea Doria class ships, Vittorio Veneto had two combination mast/funnels, rather than separate funnels like the ships of the Andrea Doria class. Vittorio Veneto was a fast ship especially for her size as she was propelled by two steam turbines providing 73,000 shp, for a maximum speed of 32 knots. Similarly to Andrea Doria class vessels, she had a sets of stabilizing fins to improve stability for helicopter operations.

Sea King helicopter aboard C550 Vittorio Veneto (after the modernization)

Vittorio Veneto prior the modernization
Vittorio Veneto prior the modernization
The new Italian helicopter cruiser could carry up to nine (9) AB 204 (later the more modern AB212) helicopters or six (6) ASH-3H Sea King helicopters in comparison with four (4) and two (2) respectively for the Andrea Doria class ships. All nine AB212 helicopters could be accommodated in the spacious hangar (27.4m x 15.2m) but this was not the case for the larger Sea King helicopters which had to stay on the flight deck.
Vittorio Veneto prior her modernization with four AB204 helicopters aboard.
Vittorio Veneto after the modernization with all of her Otomat SSM and
two AB212 helicopters aboard. Photo: Chris Howell

Vittorio Veneto in final configuration
Vittorio Veneto in final configuration
With her AN/SQS-23 sonar, the two triple torpedo launchers, the ASROC missiles that could be fired also from the Terrier launcher and the most important with the nine ASW helicopters that the ship was carrying, this cruiser was definitely one of the best ships in the ASW operations. Vittorio Veneto, was also "fitted for but not with" four Polaris missile launchers. During refit periods in 1980-1983, these facilities were removed and used for other weapons and systems.

Vittorio Veneto helicopter cruiser of the Italian Navy. For a higher resolution image click here.
Both Andrea Doria class and Vittorio Veneto helicopter cruisers of the Italian Navy in a single graph here.
Vittorio Veneto helicopter cruiser of the Italian Navy. For a higher resolution image click here.
Front view of Vittorio Veneto. Photo: S.C. Cagliari
Vittorio Veneto
In the early '80s, Vittorio Veneto received an extensive modernization on her electronic equipment and weapon systems. Three twin 40mm gun turrets were added, one forward and two aft, placed on either side of the hangar to strengthen ship's anti-aircraft / missile short-range defensive ability (CIWS), together with their fire control radars. The three twin gun turrets in addition to the eight 76mm guns brought to a total of 14 guns! In addition to that, four single launchers where installed amidships for the Teseo anti-ship missiles. The AB212 could provide mid-course guidance for the Otomat anti-ship missiles. 
The flight operations control room
The SM-1ER launcher
The superstructure

The Mk10 launcher was upgraded, the Terrier missiles were removed and replaced by 40 SM-1ER (Extended Range) SAM and 20 anti-submarine rockets (ASROC) and at the same time the missile fire control radars were also upgraded. The ship, after these several upgrades could perform any kind of role given with great success.

View from the flightdeck
Vittorio Veneto prior the modernization
Front view of the vessel
Vittorio Veneto fully armed
Vittorio Veneto in Sevastopol (2003)
Photo: Vitaliy Kostrichenko
Front view of the cruiser

Close-up photo of the equipment
The cruiser firing SAM
Vittorio Veneto was the flagship of Italian Navy from 1969 until 1985, the year when the light aircraft carrier Giuseppe Garibaldi that was mentioned earlier, was commissioned. After 1985, Vittorio Veneto was mainly if not exclusively operated as a training ship for annual 2-3 month long deployments to different parts of the world. She was for many years one of the most powerful surface combatants in the world!

Close-up infographic of Vittorio Veneto helicopter cruiser of the Italian Navy. For a high resolution image click here.

The cruiser remained in active service for more than 30 years when finally she was placed in a reduced availability status in the year 2003. Vittorio Veneto, the last cruiser of Italian Navy (and one of my favorite warships of all time) was officially disarmed in 2006.

Vittorio Veneto (C550) helicopter cruiser with her unique layout


  1. Nice ship & commentary. If the front layout of the ship could be modified to accommodate 1 x 76 mm gun & 24 or 32 MK41 VLS, it's radars upgraded with new Thales units & if it replaced it's old helos with 2xAW159 Wildcats, 1xAH-1Z Cobra & 1xMH-60R helicopter, then I'm sure it can still take care of business today..

  2. Honestly they could probably manage at least 32 mk41 VLS where the arm launcher was and at least 24 mk57 PVLS in place of 2 76mm mounts.

    That’s honestly probably what they should have done, at least the mk41 in the 90s-00s (I don’t think PVLS was available until 2010ish) if they really wanted to keep the ship fairly modern and relevant.