The MAS-15 Italian Navy Torpedo-armed Motorboat

The limited basin of the Adriatic Sea favoured the operation of the light ships and various types of “microorganisms”.

The Italian naval command at the end of 1914 already drew attention to the combat capabilities of motor torpedo boats. The design of such a unit was presented in November, 1914, by the Italian company Maccia Marchini. The cutter had a displacement of 7–8 tons, a length of 15 meters and was propelled by two engines, 200 HP each. It was supposed to reach a speed of 30 knots. The armament was two torpedoes dropped from both sides. However, the Italian Navy decided not to work with a small and not very well-known company.

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The fate of the project proposed in February, 1915, by the Venetian company SVAN (Società Veneziana Automobili Nautiche – Venetian Society of Self-Propelled Sea Boats) was different. Torpedo boat designed by engineer Atillia Bisio was somewhat reminiscent of the design of the Maccia Marchini company. It had a similar displacement (7.8 tons) and a length of 15 meters. The drive consisted of four engines with a power of 100 HP each, working on two propeller shafts. The armament was limited to two 450 mm torpedoes and one 37 mm gun.
After making corrections to the design, the fleet ordered two torpedo boats on 5th of March, 1915. They received the designation MAS (Motobarca Armata SVAN – SVAN armed motor boat). The boats were to be ready the same year. To meet the requirements of the fleet, the dimensions and displacement were enlarged, also engine power was increased to 220 HP. These were 6-cylinder Isotta-Fraschini L-56 petrol engines. Torpedoes were fired from the stern’s channel launchers.
Two experimental boats: MAS-1 and MAS-2 had better seaworthiness and a longer range of operation. However, the test results of these units did not satisfy the Italian naval command. As a result, it gave up the idea of ​​building torpedo boats, and the two above-mentioned units were converted into miners with four mines, a 47 mm gun and two machine guns.

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Without waiting for the completion of the tests of the first two MAS-1 and MAS-2 torpedo boats, the Italian fleet command entrusted SVAN with the design and construction of an anti-submarine motor boat. The requirements were as follows: speed of not less than 25 knots and armament consisting of a 57 mm caliber cannon and depth charges. The SVAN company quickly developed a project of a cutter with a displacement of 4.8 tons and an engine power of 150 HP. This design was rejected due to its low seaworthiness and small size hampering the effective use of the weapon.

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At the same time, the fleet gave the constructors specific requirements: a strong 15-meter hull (similar to the flat-bottomed hull of the MAS-1 and MAS-2), good seaworthiness, a strong and reliable engine ensuring a speed of not less than 25 knots, fuel supply ensuring a 200-mile range cruising at maximum speed. The armament consisted of one 57 mm cannon with a 360° firing sector, two 6.5 mm machine guns and 6 depth charges. The project was approved by the fleet command and on 16th of July, 1915, SVAN received an order to build 20 cutters. The displacement of these wooden hulls units was 9.25 tons, and the propulsion was provided by airline gasoline L-56 engines from the already known company Isotta – Fraschini. Despite the approval, the design was subject to constant changes, which led to an increase in the displacement to 11.4 tons. This in turn resulted in a reduction of the maximum speed to 21–22 knots. In order to meet the timely delivery of the boats, several other Venetian shipyards had to be involved in their construction. Nevertheless, the entire series of 20 units (MAS-3–MAS-22) was not completed until the end of 1916. The first five cutters (MAS-3–MAS-7) were completed in anti-submarine version (Motobarca anti-sommergibili – anti-submarine motorboat).


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In the spring of 1916, after the completion of the MAS-3 marching tests, the attitude of the Italian command changed and the idea of ​​a torpedo boat was abandoned. It was decided to use some of the boats of this series as a torpedo units. The proximity of the main bases of the Austro-Hungarian fleet (Pula, Trieste and Cattaro) to the Italian military ports encouraged attempts to attack the enemy ships stationed there. The next boats of this series: MAS-8–MAS-22 have already been completed in the torpedo version (Motobarca Armata Silurante – motorized armoured torpedo boat). It coincided with the study by engineer Bisio of a new method of side-dropping the torpedoes (called ring). With this method, the torpedoes were held by gripper holders located on both sides. In the marching position, the torpedoes were lying on the cutter’s deck, along the sides.

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