The idea of a warship that could not be seen has been around for a long time. Camouflage designs of World War One and Two were designed to either hide the ship (MS21 Navy Blue Scheme) or confuse the observer (Dazzle and First Admiralty Schemes). These measures were of course designed to hide the vessel from visual observation. A fancy coat of paint would not hide the ship from detection by radar. As one of the "Urban Legends" from World War Two, made into the movie, "The Philadelphia Experiment", the USN supposedly found a way to hide a ship from radar and visual observation by enclosing it in some sort of electro-magnetic field. Although it does not quite rank with the stature of Area 51, there are many true believers for this apocryphal story. However, it is undeniably true that the USN has experimented with warships that would be stealthy, not by giving them unusual electro-magnetic fields or time-flux capacitators, but by giving them unusual angular shapes. The F-117 proved that angular shapes could be used to deflect radar impulses away from radar reception. This proven theory has been the basis for naval stealth technology.
Although the United States Navy has only experimented with stealth technology, at least two other navies have put the theory into practice with operational designs. The most widely know example is probably the design for the French La Fayette Class of large frigate. In addition to the French Navy, other countries such as Taiwan and Saudi Arabia are buying their own ships of this sleek design. However, the modern Italian Navy has also come up with its own stealth design. The Cigala Fulgosi Class small frigate at first glance appears to strongly resemble the French La Fayette Class frigates, however they are far smaller and ships of the class have been called Corvettes. The strong visual resemblance between the two designs is in large part due to the requirement to use angular planes in both designs in order to deflect radar emissions.
Actually this class of four are called Nuove Unita Minori Combattenti (NUMC) New Minor Combatant Units. Combat Fleets of the World 2000-2001 lists the class as corvettes (FFL). Although originally said to be replacements for the Sparveiro Class hydrafoils, the ships in the class are in reality supplements for the Minerva Class frigates. A contract was entered in April 1999 with Fincantieri, Muggiano for the construction of four units.
The four are all named after famous commandants of the Italian Navy. Commandante Cigala Fulgosi P490 was the lead ship laid down on October 7, 2000 and launched on July 31, 2001. The other three are Commandante Borsini P491, Commandante Bettica P492, and Commandante Foscari P493.
The class is designed for patrol duties. Armed with a 76mm/62 Breda Super Rapid DP cannon, two 25mm Oerlikon/Breda AA guns and one helicopter, either 1/AB-212 or NH-90 operating from a telescoping single bay hangar, the ships have minimal AA defense and no ASW capabilities, other than that provided by the helicopter. The ships displace 1,450 tons (1,520 tons full load). Power is supplied from two GMT-Wartsilla 18V 26XN diesel engines at 17,370 bhp and a bow thruster. The engines power the twin screws for a maximum speed of 25 knots. Range is 3,500nm at 14 knots. (Bulk of history is from Combat Fleets of the World 2000-2001.)
Most of the lines of the hull have smooth transitions with very few sharp edges with very nice lines. Unlike the design of La Fayette, which has a fully enclosed focísle, the design of the Cigala Fulgosi does not have the focísle enclosed. It is here that you will find a high degree of deck detail. There are bollards, cleats, anchor chains and other features associated with the focísle, that add detail and texture to a model to be found at this location on the Cigala Fulgosi. The solid bulkhead forward would hide these features from surface radar return but not from airborne radars. Even though this deck clutter would make the original Cigala Fulgosi less stealthy than the La Fayette, it does add more visual interest to the model. Inside of the exhaust stack there is another focal point for deck fittings but as is the case with the focísle, the high sides of the stack house cloak this machinery from returning a radar pulse. The quality of the hull casting is excellent but not perfect. There was one pinhole void on the waterline of the model. This was a totally insignificant and easily remedied defect, but a defect none the less.
Since deck clutter returns radar emissions, the design of Cigala Fulgosi minimizes open deck fittings. As mentioned above, the focísle and stack housing have fittings and clutter but both positions are enclosed in a shroud formed by the bulkheads. Other fittings are minimal. The resin parts sprue consists of 14 parts; mast, hangar overhead, two boats, two life raft canister rows, 76mm gun, gun housing, two radars and four other small parts. The small number of parts makes for a simple and fast assembly. Also included is a small sprue with an AB 212 ASW helicopter. No defects were observed in these parts.
The second sheet in the instructions provides 9 color photographs of the actual ship, color guide for the boats and guide for decal placement. A photograph of the decal sheet identifies each decal with an alphanumeric identifier. There is a drawing on the reverse of this sheet, which shows another plan and profile of the ship. The exact locations for the placement of the decals is shown by the use of the alphanumeric designator with a line going to the exact positioning of each decal.
With the Cigala Fulgosi Regia Marina continues with that later aspect of their production philosophy. The Cigala Fulgosi is definitely "off the beaten track". The Cigala Fulgosi is an unusual but very attractive design, a small combatant with cutting edge stealth design features. Regia Marina seems to have covered every detail in their production of this kit. From all of the options possible with the telescoping hangar and side boat positions to the comprehensive decal sheet, Regia Marina has provided all of the ingredients to make a beautiful little model. It only takes the modeler to put them all together. The bottom line is that it is a very fine kit that will be different but yet fit in with any collection of models of modern warship models.