Vittorio Veneto helicopter cruiser (1967)

Helicopter cruiser Vittorio Veneto (1967)

Marina Militare In service 1969-2003

The last Italian helicopter missile cruiser

Within the frame of NATO’s ASW policy, Italy developed and launched two helicopter cruisers armed with US Terrier missiles in the early 1960s, following the success of the conversion of the Giuseppe Garibaldi: The Andrea Doria class. They were found successful but soon reports came in service about their small size and limited upgrade capabilities. A new, more modular design was seeked out already as they were just delivered to the Marina Militare.

Design development history

Andrea Doria's stern
Andrea Doria’s stern

The initial design was derived directly from the Andrea Doria class, the first helicopter missile cruisers of the Italian Navy. They had a forward Mk.10 missile ramp and anti-aircraft guns around bridge, plus an aft flight to operate, housed in the associated hangar, two Sikorsky SH-3D Sea King or Agusta-Bell AB 204 heavy helicopters.

But operating only helicopters did not justified the overall cost of the ships, and that force was not efficient enough to justify the whole design. If one helicopter was in maintenance that left only one to operate, the same as any destroyer at the time. Soon the small flight deck and hangar were identified as the main issue to sold with the next design.

The design was therefore revised and expanded, the admiralty being informed that to operate at least six helicopters, a 50% displacement increase was necessary. The Marina Militare wanted to operate indeed six SH-3 Sea King helicopters, or nine light AB-204 ASW helicopters. The new design produced had had the same missile and guns arrangement but a much larger hangar and fligh deck aft, solving the whole cost-effectiveness of the program, but the Vittorio Veneto still cost much more than the first class, and after entering service in 1969, remained unique. Bugdetary constrains just prevented the construction of a siter ship at the time, which was postponed indefinitely after the 1973 crisis.

Launch of Veneto at ItalCantieri, 5 February 1967. Her motto was “Victoria nobis vita”, she had the pennant number C550 and hull number: 639 (790).


Veneto profile 1970
Veneto profile 1970 src navypedia

Vittorio Veneto’s overall standard displacement was 7,500 tons standard (still light compared to her side), and 8,850 tons fully loaded. Unlike the Andrea Doria class and their separate funnels, the new cruiser’s larger machinery space authorized more separaration between the turbines and thus, exhausts were split into two separated macks (combination of mast/funnels).

The second major difference was the location of helicopter facilities, with a raised rear deck aft, in order to moved the hangar below the flight deck, rather than the classic frigate/destroyer superstructure hangar arrangement of te previous ships, which made them cramped. To access the main flight deck, two renctangular elevators were managed, in the axis, to transfer wings-folded helicopters.

The much longer hull authorized better balanced and slightly lower superstrctures to be built, and more space for the electronics. The main bridge supported two forward FCS radars, one for each missile. The main Mack was installed aft of the bridge, supporting the main air search radar, with the main electronic mast at the end of the platform. The space in between superstructures housed notably service boats. The aft superstrcture started at the bas of the aft mack, which carried the remaining radars. These were dedicated FCS for the AA guns, one forward and one aft.


The Vittorio Veneto had a much larger machinery space, and she was propelled by two steam turbines, with an output of 73,000 shp (54,000 kW) total, for 30.5 knots (56.5 km/h; 35.1 mph). She received a set of stabilizing fins to improve stability for helicopter operations, like the previous class, a solution that proved useful.


Originally the same armament of the Andrea Doria class was planned: A Terrier SAM forward with dual role depending of the magazine used, for ASROC ASW missiles or SAMs. The magazines were completed by a third drum, for better capacity, making a total of sixty missiles of all types combined.

The Secondary armament comprised eight dual-purpose 76 mm (3 in) guns, all grouped around the superstructure and two triple 324 mm torpedo launchers, with homing Mk.46 ASW torpedoes. This was “light” for a cruiser of that size, and later additions saw this augmented considerably.

The evolution of technology cast serious doubts about the cruiser’s anti-aircraft and anti-ship defense capabilities, and the cruiser was updated and overhauled, modernized twice during her career at the Taranto Arsenal, notably in 1980-1983. At the time, Veneto had a very powerful and diversified armament suitable for many needs of the fleet and making her righfully the head of any squadron.

The flight was modernized also at the time, with the replacement of the AB 204 with the AB 212 ASW helicopter. Sea Kings in fact were seldom used due to the fact they were found too high for the cramped space in the hangar, and the few carried were stored permanently on the deck. This was not a problem in the Mediterranean though, to some extent.


RIM-2 Terrier/ASROC

The same weapon system was installed on the converted Garibaldi. A trusted USN and NATO missile system, here used in the classic twin launcher. It used a blast-fragmentation system. The first wing-controlled and beam-riding missile capable of mach 1.8 Mach over 10 nautical miles it was by the time Veneto was completed, tail-controlled, with a semi-active homing radar, mach 3.0 over 40 nautical miles, 80,000 feet ceiling. Carried in two 20-missile barillets (40 missiles), the third reserved with 20 launcher-compatible ASROC ASW missiles. Replaced after 1985 by the more capable Standard SM-1ER and RUR-5 “ASROC”.
For the detail, a dedicated page in the armament section is in writing.

Otomat Mk.2 SSM (after modernization)

Second generation of the anti-ship missile, placed in two pairs of canister either side of the superstructure amidship. The Teseo Mk.2 SSM (1977) weighted 780 kg (1,720 lb) with booster for 6 m (19.7 ft) long,
400 mm (15.7 in) diameter and carried a 210 kg (463 lb) warhead using Impact and proximity fuse. With its turbojet engine the Mk 2 Block IV was capable of reaching 180 km (97 nmi) at 310 m/s (690 mph; 1,100 km/h; Mach 0.91), using Inertial guidance, GPS and active radar homing.


Eight OTO Melara 76mm/62 (1962)

Eight AA guns was unusual for a modern cruiser, as the Veneto had Oto Melara 76/62mm MMI or 76/62 mm Compact guns, all grouped alongside the superstructure, two forward, two amidship, and two elevated on either side of the aft superstructure. They were an inheritance of the 1950s when trust to SAMs was limited, and to constitute a close quarters AA barrage for the area protection against air threats. Against modern mach-2 low-flying jets they were of limited usefulness but were dual-purpose.
In brief: 12 tonnes (26,000 lb), 62 caliber or 4,724.4 mm (186.00 in), one operator inside the turret,
76×636mmR shell caliber 76.2 mm (3.00 in), automatic loading, Elevation -15°/+85° at 40°/sec., Traverse 360° at 70°/sec, 55/60 rpm, Muzzle velocity 900 m/s (3,000 ft/s) and with the HE round at 45° 16,000 m (17,000 yd) range. Connected to a chain and ammo storage below the barbette. This weapon system was standard in the cold war Marina Militare, and cincluded destroyers, frigates, corvettes and OPVs.

Three OTO Melara 40mm/70 rapido (after modernization)

A more modern and smaller weapon system, two twin turrets installed, either side of the hangar lift aft in the 1980s refit and another forward, centerline on an elevated position with its FCS radar behind. The close-in weapon system (CIWS) Dardo was manufactured by Breda and Oto Melara, composed of two Bofors 40 mm firing HE shells, directed with a fire-control radar RTN-10X and the fire-control system RTN-20X/Dardo. Although much slower than 600/900 round per minute it is reputed able to destroy incoming missiles in flight by shrapnels. Its competitors US, Dutch or Russian are 20-30 mm indeed with barelled guns (Gatling system).


324 mm triple torpedo tubes standard US Pattern, firing Mark 48 homing acoustic torpedoes for ASW warfare. They were placed deck aft, close to the aft main 76 mm guns and still there after the modernization.

Onboard Aviation

Vittorio Veneto could operate up to nine light helicopters, of the types Agusta-Bell AB-204 or later AB-212 or six heavy helicopters of the type AB-61 (Sea King under licence) which could be housed in the hangar beneath the long rear deck.

italian sea king
Agusta-Bell 61 Sea King

Agusta Bell 205
Agusta-Bell 205

agusta bell 212
Agusta-Bell 212


The electronics were rather advanced for the time, comprising a three-dimensional AN/SPS-52 B radar and an SPS-768 (RAN 3L) air search radar. For anti-submarine warfare an AN/SQS-23 sonar set was installed.

  • 1 × SPS-52 early warning radar
  • 1 × SPS-768 long range radar
  • 1 × SPQ-2 surface radar
  • 2 × SPG-55 missile fire control radar
  • 4 × Orion 10X fire control radar
  • 2 × Orion 20X fire control radar
  • 1 × navigation radar
  • 2 × SCLAR decoy launcher
  • 1 × ECM system
  • 1 × TACAN

Vittorio Veneto (1967)

Dimensions 179.6 x 19.4 m x 6 m (589ft x 64ft x 19.7ft)
Displacement 7,500 tons standard, 8,850 tons FL
Crew 557
Propulsion 2 shafts geared steam turbines, 4 FW boilers 73,000 hp
Speed 30.5 knots (56.5 km/h; 35.1 mph) Range 5,000 nm/16 kts
Armament RIM-2 Terrier/ASROC, 4 OTOMAT SSM, 8×76mm, 3×2 40mm, 2×3 ASW 324mm TTs
Sensors SPS-52, SPS-768, SPQ-2, SPG-55, Orion FCR, nav, ECM, SCLAR, Tacan
Aviation 6-9 ASW helicopters, see notes

Early career of Vittorio Veneto 1969-80

Early career, in Operation with the destroyer Impetuoso and frigate Margottini, 1970s

Sometimes called the third Andrea Doria class ships (the first design was the same with just a large hangar aft) the design was so strongly modified as to constitute a new class of its own. The Cruiser “Vittorio Veneto” was built at the Shipbuilding Yards of Castellammare di Stabia, the concrete result of years of redesign, seraching for the best compromise solution between demands of air defence and anti-submarine operations. It was to be assigned to multiple tasks, which include antiaircraft protection, antisubmarine and antiship protection of naval forces and convoys; antisubmarine warfare; and antiaircraft defense of a zone. The second prospective unit, to be named “Italia” was cancelled in favor of the “Garibaldi” aicraft carrier programme.

Completed at Navalmeccanica, still in Castellammare di Stabia, the cruiser, launched on 5 February 1967 was officially commissioned on 12 July 1969, with captain Vittorio Marulli in command, directing since 1966 the outfitting. Her became admiral in September 1981-January 1984 as well as Commander in Chief of the Naval Squadron. From February 1984 to 15 October 1985 he became also Chief of Navy General Staff. A veteran of WW2 he served already in the battleship Vittorio Veneto.

Veneto reached her operational base in Taranto for he first yearly deployment starting on 30 October. On 4 November, she was certified, receiving the Combat Flag in Trieste donated by the city of Vittorio Veneto. This combat flag was handed over by Countess Maria Francesca Frascara, widow of Admiral Corso Pecori Giraldi (former captain of the battleships Vittorio Veneto and 1955-1962 Chief of Staff).

After a year of service, she left for a long training cruise from April 25 to August 23, 1970 in the North Atlantic, visiting American and European ports along the way. Back to her operating base she trained with the missile cruiser Garibaldi. In 1971 Vittorio Veneto assumed the role of flagship for several years, only ceded to the aircraft carrier Giuseppe Garibaldi in 1987.

During her activity, the cruiser Vittorio Veneto participated in numerous national and international exercises within great NATO coalition manoeuvers always as command ship of escort groups to aircraft carrier units or large convoys. In 1972, (August 16, to October 29) she sailed with two frigates of the Bergamini class in a long training campaign in South America.

Veneto moored as TS in Malaga last years of service

The winter and spring of 1973 saw her teaming with Andrea Doria and the 3rd Helicopter Group in a relief effort towards the Tunisian populations affected by a major flood. She took part in a rescue operation of nationals hit by earthquakes at Friuli in 1976, and Irpinia in 1980. She made a world-cruise in 1977 which took a strain on the ship in general.

In 1978, Vittorio Veneto participated in the summer training cruise, with Livorno Academy’s second year students, replacing San Giorgio still under completion. Her navigation in the Indian Ocean saw hir hit hard by the monsoon. Her hangar was managed as a dormitory for the students during this cruiser and she only had a token provision of helioipters. In the summer of 1979, with Andrea Doria and the refueling vessel Stromboli (VIII Naval Group) she operated in the waters of the Gulf of Thailand , South China Sea, coming to rescue boats people. She carried back to Italy a thousand Vietnamese refugees fleeing their country back to Venice.

1980s refits

Veneto in 1985
Veneto in 1985

The ship underwent an extensive update for three years at Castellamare di Stabia. Electronics were of course updated, Otomat Mk.2 missiles launchers for antiship warfare installed and a SPS-40 radar to go with these. Three OTO Melara twin 40 mm/70 Bread Compact (1.6 in) DARDO CIWS compact guns were also added for mixed AA/AM warfare. Her powerplant was modernized, using a new feeding system, without heavy oil but now diesel fuel.

Her improvements were suited to her multiple roles as anti-aircraft, anti-submarine protection and anti-ship, plus convoy escort and anti-submarine warfare, command and area air defence tasks. In hand from 1981 to early 1984 for modernisation which included the installation of four Teseo launchers and the three twin Breda compact 40 mm. Terrier missiles were removed, replaced by 40 Standard SM1 and 20 ASROC ASM – SM-1ER SAM/ASROC (40 RIM-67A, 20 RUR-5)- SAM/ASW twin missile launcher. Two SPG-55C Standard fire control systems were added, and Italian-built RAN-3L (SPS-768) and two RTN-20X (SPG-74) radars were installed to manage the new systems.

profile Veneto 1985
Profile of the Veneto in 1985. Src navypedia

Operations in Lebanon and Achille Lauro assault

In February 1984, she covered Italian troops operating under supervision of a UN operation to the second phase of “Lebano Due”, escorting convoys to and from Italy and with her helicopter, covering and transporting national contingents deployed in Beirut. In February 1985 she carried the italian president of the Republic Pertini during an official visit to Egypt. In October she took part in Operation Margherita, shadowing the transatlantic Achille Lauro seized by Palestinian terrorists. The whole operation was coordinated by Vittorio Veneto, using for the first time COMSUBIN paratroopers.

The 1990s: No longer a flagship

Veneto in Malaga 2001
Veneto in Malaga, Spain, 2001

As the new aircraft carrier Giuseppe Garibaldi entere service on 30 September 1985, Vittorio Veneto lost her flagship role, but still went on participating in the most important national and international exercises of the Mediterranean, like Operation Ibis (1992-1993) in which she was the command ship of the 24th Naval Group with the Frigate Grecale, the fleet refueller Vesuvio, landing ships San Giorgio and San Marco carrying the “San Marco” Battalion in a large landing exercize.

In April-September 1993, Vittorio Veneto became the HQ Ship for STANAVFORMED, NATO permanent naval force in the Mediterranean. She took part in Operation Maritime Guard in the Adriatic.
Vittorio Veneto ran aground in bad weather off Vlorë on 22 April 1997, as flagship of a multinational task-force protectin a humanitarian relief operation to Albania. Four tugboats pulled free but she suffered no serious damage nor injuries.

After 1985 the guided-missile helicopter-carrying cruiser Vittorio Veneto was mainly -if not exclusively- operated as a training ship for 2-3 month yearly during her deployments to different parts of the world. At the time of her decommission in November 2003, she was not the last European cruiser in service, as the French cruiser Jeanne d’Arc (2010) remained longer. Her ASW air support role was assumed by the new generation V/STOL aircraft carrier Conte di Cavour. After lingering for some time in a mothball she was eventually stricken formally on 29 June 2006, but not sold yet. She was eventually purchased to be scrapped at Aliaga, Turkey, in 2021, so very recently indeed.

Veneto in Taranto
Veneto in Taranto

About the name:

Veneto in taranto after decommission.

Veneto at sunset in taranto’s mothball, waiting to be sold for scrap, 2010s

The battle of Vittorio-Veneto was the largest Italian-Austro-Hungarian fight of the Great War, the Verdun on Italy. Engaging nearly two million combatants on a front of about 250 km in snow, from marshes in the south to icy fields in the plains and among lofty peaks and sometimes above the clouds in the Alps, it was planned and prepared in secret and executed on schedule like a vast tactical exercise, resulting on a crushing victory that erased the bad souvenir of Capporetto.

Read More/Src

stern Veneto 1970s


J. Gardiner, Conway’s all the world’s fighting ships 1947-95
John Moore, ed. (1981). Jane’s Fighting Ships, 1981-1982. New York: Jane’s Information Group.
Gardiner & Chumbly, p.205


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