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A brief survey of the seventh Mostra Navale; a gloomy year for Italy's naval industry.

A Brief Survey of the Seventh Mostra Navale

It was perhaps inevitable that the seventh Italian Naval Equipment Exhibition, the Mostra Navale, should have been something of a disappointment. This is not going to be a vintage year, no major programmes are starting or concluding and hence there was no clear theme for the exhibition. But there was more to it than that - an air of gloom caused partly by the demonstrations outside the gates, and partly by the self-defeating attitude of the Italian Government towards its own defence industries.

The legal constraints on arms exports introduced in recent years merely impede legitimate progress in securing export contracts without doing anything to stop the true "merchants of death" from peddling arms to unstable regimes. Even harder to understand is the city of Genoa's apparent wish to see an end to Mostra Navale: a naval equipment exhibition after all is not a vulgar "arms bazaar".

Ing. Enrico Bocchini, Chairman of the organisers EPIN, admitted at a press dinner before the exhibition that we might be seeing the last Mostra Navale held in Genoa. However, he said that both Bologna and Venice had expressed interest in hosting a future show. He also confirmed that the British Defence Export Services Organisation and the UK Ministry of Defence had been enthusiastic about the idea of a joint Franco-British-Italian exhibition to be held in each country on a rotating basis every three years. The French response, however, is believed to be "unfavourable".

The exhibits were as usual well-designated and well-presented, with all the flair that one expects of Italian manufacturers.

Fincantieri dominated the shipbuilding side with many models of current ships and design concepts. It is cooperating with Maritalia to develop the toroidal submarine concept from a midget prototype into a 300-tonne technology demonstrator.

The S300 CC is a new-generation submarine of very low displacement, capable of high speed and long endurance. The toroidal concept relies on cylindrical tube sections containing liquid oxygen (LOX), the oxidant for a closed-cycle diesel. Briefly, as the LOX is consumed it is replaced by seawater ballast, keeping the submarine at constant trim and thereby simplifying the inboard systems. This in turn keeps crew numbers down and makes for low building costs.

More conventional is the S1600 design for a diesel-electric boat (SSK). Clearly it benefits from experience with the Batch 3 Sauro class SSKs for the Italian Navy and from the long-lead work on the S90, which will follow the Sauro design in the next decade.

Maritalia exhibited its 3 GST 9 midget for the first time, a two-man craft capable of maintaining a speed of 8 knots for 400 miles/24 hours. It can deploy four divers or under water swimmers, and if used as a rescue vessel can accommodate 14 people. In its present version it can dive to 620 metres but a 1 500-metre version capable of accomodating 24 people is on the drawing board.

The cooperation with Fincantieri will, it is hoped, lead to GST 100 and GST 200 versions, with greater endurance and all-round capability. The toroidal concept is without doubt one of the most original ideas in submarine design since the development of nuclear power, but we must wait to see if Fincantieri's designers can scale up successfully without losing the simplicity which is such an attractive feature of the Maritalia proposals.

Consorzio Sistemi Navali exhibited the SAAM-1 advanced surface-to-air missile system, which is being developed jointly with France in a consortium called EUROSAM, an industrial grouping made up of Aerospatiale, Selenia and Thomson-CSF. The building blocks include the Empar multi-function radar, the TX uplink, MARA computers, ADA software language, MAGICS displays, the Aster-15 missile, a vertical-launch system and the MIDAS databus. Whatever the merits of SAAM-1 there can be no doubt that the navies of Europe are facing tough decisions. If SAAM-1 does not go ahead as a cooperative project we can be almost sure that there will never be another European SAM project: the United States will become the sole supplier of area-defence weapons.

Another cooperative venture of great interest was the MYRIAD close-in weapon system (CIWS) put forward by Breda Meccanica, Selenia-Elsag and Contraves Italiana. To meet the threat from the next generation of anti-ship missiles the designers have opted for two seven-barrelled Oerlikon KBD Gatling guns mounted side-by-side, firing a total of 10 000 Oerlikon 25 mm KBB rounds per minute. The system incorporates a device to guard against hang-fire; the breechblock senses the hang-fire and clears the jam within two seconds. Being a saboted sub-calibre projectile, the KBB round has a very low drag. This feature, taken with the very high muzzle velocity, reduces time of flight and prediction error. Many of the components and sub-systems draw on experience with Contraves' Seaguard.

To meet demands for CIWS suitable for installation in small ships such as missile boats and for retrofitting to larger warships, Contraves has produced the Sea Shield variant of Seaguard. It does away with deck-penetration by housing the ammunition feed in panniers on either side of the trunnion.

Contraves also exhibited a a new module for the Seaguard system: a tracker operating in X- and Ka bands (TMX/Ka), and two electro-optical trackers (TMEO-2A and TMEO-3A). As their designations suggest, the E-O trackers are stabilised in two and three axes respectively. All three Seaguard trackers now on offer can be fitted with TV, FLIR and laser rangefinders.

In addition to its collaborative work on MYRIAD, Breda highlighted its new single-barrelled Fast Forty and new single and twin 25 mm KBB mountings.

Whitehead was slightly more forthcoming than usual, with a model of its A-290 324-mm lightweight torpedo on show for the first time. With the company's experience in designing seekers optimised for the shallow waters of the Mediterranean it is clearly challenging the French Murene, the British Sting Ray and the US Mk. 50 Barracuda with a potential successor to the venerable Mk. 44 and M46 lightweights in foreign navies' inventories. The A-290 is claimed to be as good as the Murene and Sting Ray, and also uses a shaped charge to enhance lethality against Soviet titanium double-hulled submarines. Many navies already use the ILAS-3 triple launcher and the A-244; the A-290 will be compatible with this launcher or the American Mk. 32 and British STWS. The A-290 is planned to be operational by 1992, and is specified as the payload for the Italian version of the MILAS long-range ASW missile under joint development by Matra and OTO-Melara. Whitehead is also developing a successor to the A-184 heavyweight torpedo, but this is some years away.

Elettronica SpA exhibited various projects under way, including the company's involvement in the NH-90 helicopter and the NFR-90 frigate, the in-service Nettuno and Newton systems, new naval threat-warners and mid-life updating of various EW systems.

On show for the first time was the New Integrated computerised ESM system (NICE). In addition to the typical ESM receiver functions it also performs emitter location and detection of intrapulse codes. NICE is intended for maritime patrol aircraft and naval helicopters. Associated with it is the Naval Colibri automatic test station, now in a transportable shelter version. The Naval Colibri performs functional checkout of the Line Replaceable Units (LRUs) of NICE, with fully automatic identification of failed sub-assemblies.

Also shown on the stand was the effect of active electronic countermeasures (ECM) on an incoming anti-ship missile, using an Elettronica EW simulator.

Elettronica Comunicazioni (ELTCOM) SpA exhibited for the first time, and showed a full range of communications EW equipment. This included the new G-100 direction-finder in a mini-ESM configuration, and the D-1000 family of communications jammers. Also shown was an advanced doppler D/F set for civil and military applications such as search and rescue and management of shipping. The special ELIARGO heliborne TV camera is proposed for the new Landing Platform Dock (LPD) "San Marco" for long-range surveillance.

FIAR showed a range of airborne radars, notably the Grifo ASV (Anti-Ship Variant) intended for the Italo-Brazilian AMX aircraft, and the MM/APS-784 for the Italian Navy's version of the EH-101 helicopter. The company is also active in the sonar field, making dipping sonars for ASW helicopters. The American AN/SQQ-14 minehunting sonar was made under licence from General Electric for many years, but the has been totally upgraded with new electronics and in particular modern signal processing. The new sonar, designated SQQ-14/IT, is in production, six units being due to equip the new Gaeta class minehunters and four to be retrofitted to the Lerici class. Under development is the P2095 for the next generation of mine countermeasures craft, the Italian Navy's MHSO project for the 1990s.

Intermarine is expected to start construction of the first of the new Gaeta class GRP minehunters in September. They will be about one metre longer than the original Lerici design, and with the new FIAR sonar will be more effective. The yard has been very successful in export markets, two Lericis having been sold to Nigeria and four to Malaysia. Financial problems forced the Italian Navy to postpone the order for the six Gaeta class by two years, but the programme is now back on course.

Systems engineering is unglamorous but nonetheless essential in the design of modern warships. CIS-DEG was created in 1974 by six leading Italian naval suppliers: Elettronica, Elmer, Elsag, OTO-Melara, Selenia and SMA. It took its name from Consorzi Italiani Sistemi-DEG (DEG was the NATO acronym for a missile-armed destroyer escort), and its first assignment was to design the combat system for the Lupo class frigates. Since its inception 15 years ago CIS-DEG has been awarded contracts for all major Italian warships, either through Navalcostarmi, the Italian Navy's Technical Department, or indirectly through the shipyards. The experience gained qualifies CIS-DEG as a consultant and supplier for navies trying to grapple with lifecycle cost problems. The company offers integrated support, including writing operating and maintenance manuals, definition and supply of spares, supply and installation of automated systems for troubleshooting, and the organization of shoreside support, training and spares management.

To sum up, the seventh Mostra Navale had much of interest for the visitor but little that was new. Some of the interesting themes of the past now look slightly dated, including the effort put into marketing missile-armed hydrofoils and the one-off strike craft "Saettia". These may have been ideas whose time had not yet come, but the Italians have always been bold innovators, and hopefully we can look forward to future exhibitions which will be more memorable.

PHOTO : The Aster missile is the common element of the new Franco-Italian air defence system.

PHOTO : The Italian Whitehead A-290 is to enter service in 1992. It will complete against the the Murene, the Stingray and the MK. 50.

PHOTO : MYRIAD, the Breda/Selenia/Contraves twin-Gatling CIWS will knock out any missile under a shower of 25 mm KBB rounds.

PHOTO : The Contraves Sea Shield, a derivative of the Seaguard for small ships, dispenses with a through-deck installation.

PHOTO : An interesting development of the SCLAR presented by Breda, this unit is surmounted by two sets of Mistral launchers.

PHOTO : In addition to the new single-barrel Fast Forty, Breda presented a new series of single and twin 25 mm KBB gun mountings.

PHOTO : Literally an airborne taxi for the A-290 and the Murene, the Otomat-based Milas will stretch the range of the torpedoes.

PHOTO : FIAR is developing the P2095 dipping sonar for the Italian Navy MHSO minehunters.

PHOTO : The Grifo ASV anti-ship radar for the AMX fighter aircraft is a FIAR product.

PHOTO : The one-off "Saettia" was built by Fincantieri as a technology demonstrator with stealth characteristics.
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Title Annotation:Italian Naval Equipment Exhibition
Author:Preston, Antony
Publication:Armada International
Date:Aug 1, 1989
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