The Italian Navy’s Submarine Warfare Capability

The Italian Navy currently operates a submarine flotilla comprised of four improved Sauro-class vessels and four modern Type 212A Todaro-class units. The Italian Peninsula hosts several naval bases for the Italian Navy, such as La Spezia, as well as bases for NATO forces. Out of eight Diesel-electric attack submarines (SSKs), four of them equipped with Air-independent propulsion (AIP).

Italy first developed the Sauro-class submarines in the 1970s as a tool to counter the underwater threat of the Soviet Union. Italian shipbuilding company Fincantieri built these vessels in Monfalcone. In 2005, two of the original six submarines were retired and the remaining four—the Salvatore Pelosi (S522), Giuliano Prini (S523), Primo Longobardo (S524), and Gianfranco Gazzana Priaroggia (S525)—were upgraded. These upgrades included replacement of the acoustic sensors and weapons control system, improvements in the communications system, and extension of the service lines.

In cooperation with Germany’s HDW, Fincantieri built Italy’s four new Type 212A Todaro-class submarines. These vessels contain a fuel cell air-independent propulsion (AIP) system that is based on the Siemens PEM fuel cell technology. The first Type 212A vessel, Salvatore Todaro (S526l), was commissioned in January 2005 and entered into service in May 2006. The second boat, Scirè (S527), was commissioned in January 2007 and entered into service in 2008. Two additional Type 212A vessels were ordered in August 2008. The third Todaro-class, the Pietro Venuti, was launched in October 2014 and entered into service in June 2016. The fourth, the Romeo Romei, was launched on July 2015 and started sea trials in mid-July 2015 and entered into service in May 2017.

In July 2019, Fincantieri announced that it would build four more U-212 submarines under license from Germany’s Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems (TKMS). The first of these new vessels is set to enter into service in 2025, which will then allow Italy to retire its older Sauro-class submarines.

Sauro-Class

Italy possesses four improved Sauro-class submarines. The new Sauro-class vessels are between 64.4 and 66.4 meters long with a 6.8-meter-wide-beam and can travel up to 19 knots when submerged. They can remain submerged for about 45 days without surfacing. Their weapons systems are capable of firing torpedoes and anti-ship missiles.

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Todaro-Class (Type 212)

Italy possesses four Todaro-class diesel-electric submarines. These vessels are hybrid diesel‐electric/fuel cell submarines with Air Independent Propulsion (AIP). They are 55.9 meters long with a 7-meter-wide beam and can travel up to 20 knots when submerged. They can remain submerged for about 30 days without surfacing. Their weapons systems are capable of firing BlackShark torpedoes.

Italy has traditionally constructed its own submarines. However, in 1996 the German and Italian defense ministries concluded a Memorandum of Understanding initiating cooperation in the construction of a new generation of submarines. Italy’s Fincantieri Shipyard is currently manufacturing Type 212A submarines based on designs from Germany’s Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft (HDW).

Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri SpA carries out the bulk of the state’s naval constructions at the Muggiano and Riva Trigoso shipyards in Italy. The firm cooperates with Germany’s Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft (HDW) to offer submarines with air-independent propulsion (AIP) technology. The two main vessels that Fincantieri offers for export are the Todaro-class (U212A) diesel-electric submarines and the S1000 vessel.

The Todaro-class submarines are constructed as part of the German-Italian Submarine Programme. The S1000 vessels are the result of a 2005 joint venture with Russia’s Rubin Naval Design Bureau. These submarines are based on the Russian Amur SSK but feature Italian AIP technology. In 2013, Russia and Italy announced plans to upgrade the S1000 but in 2014 Italy indefinitely suspended this plan over the Russian government’s involvement in the Ukraine crisis.

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