Folding Wings for the Royal Navy



The Macchi M.18 ARs of the Italian Royal Navy

by Gianclaudio Polidori 

After the WWI experience with the Nave (Ship) Elba, the Italian Regia Marina (Royal Navy) wanted to improve the capabilities of her maritime reconnaissance service with up-to-date assets.

In 1925, the railroad carriage civilian ferry ship Città di Messina was purchased and converted into a seaplane-tender ship named Giuseppe Miraglia, in honor of an Italian Navy pilot who had died in 1915.

During the conversion work, the ship was damaged because, due to the water it had collected after heavy rains and the unbalancing of weights created by the ongoing work, it listed and sank in the shipyard.

When the Giuseppe Miraglia was finally completed, it was equipped with two catapults, ample hangars for the aircraft and good defensive armament consisting first in four 102/35 guns, to which twelve mm 13,2 Breda Model 31 were added later.

Nave Giuseppe Miraglia

Twenty-five Macchi M.18 AR (Ali Ripiegabili, i.e. Folding Wings) seaplanes could be boarded, or the ship could also simply transport land aircraft, as it did during the Spanish Civil War and the Ethiopian War.

The M.18 ARs could be recovered when the ship was in motion by means of a Hein Mat.

A M.18 AR that is being lifted from the hangar of the Nave G. Miraglia with its folded wings

The Nave Giuseppe Miraglia survived the Second World War and was finally scrapped in 1950.

The first seaplanes that operated from the Giuseppe Miraglia were the Macchi M.18 ARs, the folding-wing version of the aircraft that was sold in both civilian and military variants. The early versions of the M.18 were powered by an I.F. (Isotta Fraschini) V4B engine and later by an I.F. V6, while the AR variant mounted a cv 250 I.F. Asso engine. The M.18 ARs were armed with a bow machine gun on a swiveling ring and were capable of carrying a small bomb load. The crew consisted of a pilot, an observer and a gunner.

An M.18 positioned on the catapult

A total of about fifty M.18 ARs served in the Italian Royal Navy until they were replaced by CANT 25 ARs.

The M.18 in its various versions also enjoyed a certain success in the export market. Please see my post about the Italian seaplanes that flew in the Spanish Civil War.  

This is a translation of a short article published by the magazine Ali Antiche.

Your comments will always be greatly appreciated.

Thank you,

L. Pavese      


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