For well over a century, the mine has been a significant weapon system in naval combat. In the American Civil War, the only monitor lost to confederate activity was the USS Tecumseh, lost at the Battle of Mobile Bay, when she struck a mine. In World War One the only British battleship lost because of the activity of the German fleet was HMS Audacious, lost in 1914, when she struck a mine. Mine warfare continues to be a favored weapon system used by powers with minimal naval strength. Its attraction is cost. It’s a cheap system that promises to attrit the stronger naval power. In the Gulf War of 1990-1991, Iraq’s mines posed the greatest threat to coalition naval forces. Mine warfare ships lack the glamour of larger combatants but provide an essential ability for any modern naval force. Modern craft designed for mine warfare a very specialized. 

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European naval powers have occupied a leading place in the development of mine warfare ships. The French have developed the Tripartite Class of minehunters, built in France, Belgium and the Netherlands. Italy developed its own design for a minehunter/minesweeper. The first of four Lerici Class minehunters was ordered by the Italian Navy in April 1978. The four ships in the class were built by Intermarine of Sarzana, were laid down from 1982 to April 1985 and were all in service by December 1985. Sisters were built for Nigeria and Malaysia. 

Lerici Class Vital Statistics

DIMENSIONS: Length- 49.98 m; Beam- 9.56 m; Draught- 2.70 m; DISPLACEMENT: 488 tons standard, 520 tons full load; ARMAMENT- one 20mm

MACHINERY: 1 GMT B-230-8M diesel; One Prop; 1’840 bhp; 2 retractable auxiliary thrusters (470 hp for 7 knots): RANGE: 1,500 nm @ 14 kts; 2,500 nm @ 12 kts:

COMPLEMENT: 4 officers, 43 crewmen

SISTERSHIPS: Lerici M 5550; Sapri M 5551; Milazzo M 5552; Vieste M 5553

 

The Lerici Class proved to be very successful. The follow on Gaeta Class was a direct development of the Lerici. Gaeta, longer, beamier and heavier than Lerici, was laid down in August 1988 and was in service by 1993. Seven more sisters have joined her. Six other sisters have been built for the Royal Australian Navy as the Huon Class, as a result of the Gaeta design winning the RAN design competition, and are still going into service. The 6th minehunter, HMAS Yarra is scheduled to go into service in 2002. 

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The Lerici inspired another, larger design for the United States Navy. The twelve Osprey Class, coastal minehunters are the largest and heaviest of the three related designs. Twenty –three feet longer and over 300 tons heavier than the original Lerici, the Ospreys, named after birds, entered service between 1993 and 1998. Not surprisingly, given their mission, all three classes are designed to minimize their magnetic signature with glass reinforced, plastic hulls. These ships are designed for precise maneuvering and are given bow thrusters. Since they operate with a component of divers and small submersibles, they are accordingly equipped with decompression chambers. (History and Class statistics from Combat Fleets of the World, 1998-1999, Compiled by A.D.Baker, III) 

Gaeta Class Vital Statistics

DIMENSIONS: Length- 52.45 m; Beam- 9.87 m; Draught- 2.95 m: DISPLACEMENT: 665 tons standard, 697 tons full load: ARMAMENT: one 20mm

MACHINERY: 1 GMT BL230-BN diesel, One Prop; 1,985 bhp; 3 retractable 120-hp Riva Calzoni thrusters, 360 hp for 6 kts hunting speed: RANGE: 1,500 nm @ 14 kt, 2,500 nm @ 12 kts: COMPLEMENT: 4 officers, 43 crewmen

SISTERSHIPS: Gaeta M 5554; Termoli M 5555; Alghero M 5556; Numana M 5557; Crotone M 5558; Viareggio M 5559; Chioggia M 5560; Rimini M 5561

 

RESIN CASTING
As usual, Regia Marina provides a product with outstanding castings. With this kit Regia Marina gives you three kits in one box. You get one Lerici, one Gaeta and one Osprey. The similarities as well as the differences among the three classes are obvious with the three models. These three small gems are easy to build. Each one has three main components (hull, superstructure and mast) and various small resin detail fittings. The quality is uniformly high with minute detail cast with every part. Only the largest of the deck fittings are represented by the smaller resin fittings. Most detail is cast integral to the hull and superstructure. The masts are very finely cast, so take care in removing them from the runner. They have yardarms and platforms cast as part of the mast. However, no parts were broken when I received the kit and none were broken during the building. About the only thing that you have to add are the bridge wing supports and life canister platform supports, made from stretched sprue. 

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PHOTO-ETCH
This kit comes with two stainless steel frets of photo-etched parts. Parts provided are railings, inclined ladders, 20mm Oerlikon cannons for the Lerici and Gaeta, and anchors. There is more than enough railing and inclined ladder to outfit all three models. I like the stainless steel frets provided by Regia Marina. Although marginally more difficult to cut than brass, I have never encountered any problem in cutting the Regia Marina product. Since it is stainless steel, this photo-etch is much more rugged and sturdy than a comparable brass fret. The frets are complete and there is no need to buy another fret to supplement those provided in the box. About the only suggestion that I have, is to cut off the stocks of the anchors, so that the anchors will snugly fit in the hull recesses. 

Osprey Class Vital Statistics

DIMENSIONS: Length- 57.25 m; Beam- 10.95 m; Draught- 2.84 m: DISPLACEMENT: 803 tons standard, 918 tons full load: ARMAMENT: two 12.7mm

MACHINERY: 2 Isotta-Fraschini ID 36 SS 6V-AM diesels; 2 Voith-Schneider vertical cycloid props; 1,160 bhp; two 180 shp hydraulic motors for quiet running; one 180 shp bow thruster: RANGE: 2,500 nm @ 12 kts: COMPLEMENT: 5 officers, 46 crewmen

SISTERSHIPS: Osprey MHC-51; Heron MHC-52; Pelican HMC-53; Robin MHC-54; Oriole MHC-55; Kingfisher MHC-56; Cormorant MHC-57; Black Hawk MHC-58; Falcon MHC-59; Cardinal MHC-60; Raven MHC-61; Shrike MHC-62

 

INSTRUCTIONS
As usual, the instructions of Regia Marina need to be analyzed before assembly. The instructions are back-printed. The front side has the history and statistics of the ships, with a parts matrix and color guide. The reverse side has assembly/parts locations with painting and decal placement guide. Also provided is a back-printed sheet with color photos of ships of the three classes. Rather than show a picture of each part, Regia Marina identifies each part by an alpha-numeric designator. The locations for all resin parts are clearly shown. However, I didn’t find the locations for the inclined ladders, except for the one on Lerici, from quarter-deck to main deck. I found it necessary to study photographs of the ships to gage their locations. Locations seem to be the same on all three classes. One running from quarter-deck to main deck on the starboard side and one from the main deck to 01 deck on the starboard side of the stack. This was the only significant problem that I encountered in the instructions.  

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VERDICT
Regia Marina again provides unusual subject matter produced to extremely fine standards. To make this kit even more unusual, are the inclusion of three different models, each one of the same exacting quality. This kit provides everything that you look for in an enjoyable build(s) and perhaps a little bit more. 


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