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Sister ships: IMPERO, ROMA, VITTORIO VENETO
Notes: These were the first Italian battleships to be built after World War I, and the first battleships to be laid down by a major power since 1922. Design work began in 1930 under the direction of Umberto Pugliese. They contained many novel features, initiated the pre-war development of the fast battleship, and were in response to the French STRASBOURG class battlecruisers. Although the initial intention was to adhere to the 35,000-ton limit set by international treaties, it can safely be assumed that by 1934, when LITTORIO and VITTORIO VENETO were authorized, the designed displacement was at least 40,000 tons -- and even at this figure, the ships were overweight. However, the main battery consisted of 15" guns, and did not reach the 16" allowed; however, a major portion of this could be due to the fact that Italian ordinance factories had no experience with the larger guns, but were quite familiar with the 15" variety. An extended barrel length of 50 calibers, coupled with a mounting giving 35º of elevation gave this class a maximum range of nearly 47,000 yards. And while great care was taken in the design of their armor, in practice, it was not as effective as planned, due to insufficient care in construction of the compartments. A 68' catapult was mounted on the quarterdeck, and three reconnaissance aircraft could be carried. During World War II, some of these aircraft were replaced by fighters. LITTORIO was the first Italian battleship to be fitted with radar (in September, 1941).
LITTORIO was hit by three torpedoes in the British airstrike at Taranto on 11 November 1941, two on the starboard side forward and one on the port side aft. Repairs took five months. She received minor damage at the Battle of Sirte in March, 1942, and in air attacks in June, 1942 and April, 1943. On 30 July, 1943, five days after the overthrow of Mussolini, LITTORIO was renamed ITALIA. While en route to Malta to surrender on 9 September 1943, ITALIA and ROMA were hit by German glider bombs. The single bomb that hit ITALIA passed through the deck and the side and exploded in the sea, causing heavy damage to the hull forward of the "A" turret. Following World War II, ITALIA was given to the United States as a war prize, but was scrapped instead; the process took three years, finishing in 1951.