MAS (boat)
Motoscafo Armato Silurante (Italian
Italian language
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

: "Torpedo Armed Motorboat"), commonly abbreviated as MAS was a class of fast torpedo armed vessel
Torpedo boat
A torpedo boat is a relatively small and fast naval vessel designed to carry torpedoes into battle. The first designs rammed enemy ships with explosive spar torpedoes, and later designs launched self-propelled Whitehead torpedoes. They were created to counter battleships and other large, slow and...

 used by the Regia Marina
Regia Marina
The Regia Marina dates from the proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861 after Italian unification...

 (the Royal Navy of Italy) during World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 and World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. Originally, "MAS" referred to Motobarca Armata SVAN ("Armed Motorboat SVAN"), where SVAN stood for Società Veneziana Automobili Navali (Naval Automobiles Society of Venice
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...


MAS were essentially motorboats with displacements of 20-30 tonnes (depending on the class), a 10 man crew, and armament composed of two torpedo
The modern torpedo is a self-propelled missile weapon with an explosive warhead, launched above or below the water surface, propelled underwater towards a target, and designed to detonate either on contact with it or in proximity to it.The term torpedo was originally employed for...

es, machine guns and occasionally a light gun.

The term MAS also came to mean Mezzi d'Assalto, (Assault Vehicle) in the unit name Flottiglia MAS (Assault Vehicle Flotilla
A flotilla , or naval flotilla, is a formation of small warships that may be part of a larger fleet. A flotilla is usually composed of a homogeneous group of the same class of warship, such as frigates, destroyers, torpedo boats, submarines, gunboats, or minesweepers...

), the most famous of which was the Decima MAS of World War II.

World War I

MAS were widely employed by Règia Marina during World War I in 1915-1918. Models used were directly derived from compact civilian motorboats, provided with petrol engines which were compact and reliable (characteristics which were not common at the time) . They were used not only in the anti-submarine patrol role, but also for daring attacks against major units of the Austro-Hungarian Navy
Austro-Hungarian Navy
The Austro-Hungarian Navy was the naval force of Austria-Hungary. Its official name in German was Kaiserliche und Königliche Kriegsmarine , abbreviated as k.u.k. Kriegsmarine....


A significant success came in December 1917, when an MAS boat managed to sink the pre-dreadnought battleship in Trieste harbor. The greatest success of Italian MAS was the sinking of the Austro-Hungarian battleship SMS Szent István
SMS Szent István
SMS Szent István was a dreadnought , the only one built in the Hungarian part of Austria-Hungary. The Ganz & Company's Danubius yard in Hungarian-owned Fiume was awarded the contract to build the battleship in return for the Hungarian government agreeing to the 1910 and 1911 naval budgets...

 off Pula
Pula is the largest city in Istria County, Croatia, situated at the southern tip of the Istria peninsula, with a population of 62,080 .Like the rest of the region, it is known for its mild climate, smooth sea, and unspoiled nature. The city has a long tradition of winemaking, fishing,...

 on June 10, 1918 by a boat commanded by Luigi Rizzo
Luigi Rizzo
Luigi Rizzo, Conte di Grado e di Premuda was an Italian naval officer. He is famous for sinking the Austro-Hungarian battleship SMS Szent István in June 1918.-Biography:...

. MAS boats later engaged in the Second Battle of Durazzo
Battle of Durazzo (1918)
The Second Battle of Durazzo, or the Bombardment of Durazzo was a naval battle fought in the Adriatic Sea during World War I. A large Allied fleet led by the Regia Marina attacked the enemy held naval base at Durazzo, Albania. The fleet destroyed the Austro-Hungarian shore defenses and skirmished...

 in October 1918.

World War II

Italian MAS continued to be improved after the end of World War I, thanks to the availability of Isotta Fraschini engines. The MAS of World War II had a maximum speed of 45 knots, two 450 mm torpedoes and one machine gun for anti-aircraft fire. In 1940 there were 48 MAS500-class units available. Older units were used in secondary theatres, such as the Italian East Africa
Italian East Africa
Italian East Africa was an Italian colonial administrative subdivision established in 1936, resulting from the merger of the Ethiopian Empire with the old colonies of Italian Somaliland and Italian Eritrea. In August 1940, British Somaliland was conquered and annexed to Italian East Africa...


Notable war actions performed by MAS include the torpedoing of the Royal Navy C-class cruiser
C class cruiser
The C class was a group of twenty-eight light cruisers of the Royal Navy, and were built in a sequence of seven classes known as the Caroline , Calliope , Cambrian , Centaur , Caledon , Ceres and Carlisle classes...

 HMS Capetown
HMS Capetown (D88)
HMS Capetown was a C-class light cruiser of the Royal Navy, named after the South African city of Cape Town. So far she has been the only ship of the Royal Navy to bear the name. She was part of the Carlisle group of the C-class of cruisers....

 by MAS 213 of the 21st MAS Squadron working within the Red Sea Flotilla
Red Sea Flotilla
The Red Sea Flotilla was a unit of the Italian Royal Navy based in Massawa, Eritrea, when Massawa was part of Italian East Africa...

 off Massawa
Massawa, also known as Mitsiwa Massawa, also known as Mitsiwa Massawa, also known as Mitsiwa (Ge'ez ምጽዋዕ , formerly ባጽዕ is a city on the Red Sea coast of Eritrea. An important port for many centuries, it was ruled by a succession of polities, including the Axumite Empire, the Umayyad Caliphate,...

, Eritrea
Eritrea , officially the State of Eritrea, is a country in the Horn of Africa. Eritrea derives it's name from the Greek word Erethria, meaning 'red land'. The capital is Asmara. It is bordered by Sudan in the west, Ethiopia in the south, and Djibouti in the southeast...

; and the failed attack on the harbour of Malta
Malta , officially known as the Republic of Malta , is a Southern European country consisting of an archipelago situated in the centre of the Mediterranean, south of Sicily, east of Tunisia and north of Libya, with Gibraltar to the west and Alexandria to the east.Malta covers just over in...

 in January 1941, which caused the loss of two motorboats, one of them recovered by the British. Five MAS were scuttled
Scuttling is the act of deliberately sinking a ship by allowing water to flow into the hull.This can be achieved in several ways—valves or hatches can be opened to the sea, or holes may be ripped into the hull with brute force or with explosives...

 in Massawa in the first week of April 1941 as a part of the Italian plan for the wrecking of Massawa harbor in the face of British advance. MAS 204, 206, 210, 213, and 216 were sunk in the harbor; four of the boats were in need of mechanical repairs and couldn't be evacuated. On 24 July 1941, MAS 532 torpedoed and crippled the transport Sydney Star, which managed to limp to Malta assisted by the destroyer HMAS Nestor. MAS 554, 554 and 557 also sank three allied freighters on 13 August 1942, in the course of Operation Pedestal
Operation Pedestal
Operation Pedestal was a British operation to get desperately needed supplies to the island of Malta in August 1942, during the Second World War. Malta was the base from which surface ships, submarines and aircraft attacked Axis convoys carrying essential supplies to the Italian and German armies...

, for a total tonnage of 28,500 tn. On 29 August 1942, a smaller type of MAS boat, the MTSM, torpedoed and disabled for the rest of the war the British destroyer HMS Eridge
HMS Eridge (L68)
HMS Eridge was a Hunt class destroyer of the Royal Navy. She was launched in 1940 and served during the Second World War. She was permanently disabled while shelling Axis positions on 29 August 1942 off El Daba, Egypt, at , by a 450mm torpedo fired by a small Italian surface craft and subsequently...

 off El Daba, Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...


Four MAS served at German request as Black Sea
Black Sea
The Black Sea is bounded by Europe, Anatolia and the Caucasus and is ultimately connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Mediterranean and the Aegean seas and various straits. The Bosphorus strait connects it to the Sea of Marmara, and the strait of the Dardanelles connects that sea to the Aegean...

 reinforcement in their intended attack on Sevastopol
Sevastopol is a city on rights of administrative division of Ukraine, located on the Black Sea coast of the Crimea peninsula. It has a population of 342,451 . Sevastopol is the second largest port in Ukraine, after the Port of Odessa....

 in June 1942. The MAS squadron came under intense air attack from Soviet
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

A fighter-bomber is a fixed-wing aircraft with an intended primary role of light tactical bombing and also incorporating certain performance characteristics of a fighter aircraft. This term, although still used, has less significance since the introduction of rockets and guided missiles into aerial...

s and torpedo boats but performed well in the role. They sank a 5,000 ton steamer and disabled a 10,000 ton transport, which was subsequently destroyed by Stuka
Junkers Ju 87
The Junkers Ju 87 or Stuka was a two-man German ground-attack aircraft...

 dive-bombers. MAS boats destroyed troop barges and damaged Soviet warships. One MAS boat commander was killed in battle. One MAS was destroyed and three damaged by fighter-bombers in September 1942 during a heavy attack on Yalta
Yalta is a city in Crimea, southern Ukraine, on the north coast of the Black Sea.The city is located on the site of an ancient Greek colony, said to have been founded by Greek sailors who were looking for a safe shore on which to land. It is situated on a deep bay facing south towards the Black...


The obsolescence
Obsolescence is the state of being which occurs when an object, service or practice is no longer wanted even though it may still be in good working order. Obsolescence frequently occurs because a replacement has become available that is superior in one or more aspects. Obsolete refers to something...

 of small MAS became apparent during the conflict, and they were increasingly replaced by larger Yugoslavian E-boats built in Germany and local copies of them (classified "MS" - Moto Siluranti by the Regia Marina).

A type of anti-submarine craft, based on the MAS design, was developed by the Italian Navy in WWII. This was the Vedetta Anti Sommergibile, or VAS, equipped with a good number of ASW
Anti-submarine warfare
Anti-submarine warfare is a branch of naval warfare that uses surface warships, aircraft, or other submarines to find, track and deter, damage or destroy enemy submarines....

 assets given her small size.

Cultural legacy

The Italian poet Gabriele d'Annunzio
Gabriele D'Annunzio
Gabriele D'Annunzio or d'Annunzio was an Italian poet, journalist, novelist, and dramatist...

, who employed MAS in some of his World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 adventures, used the MAS acronym for his Latin mot: Memento Audere Semper (Remember always to dare).

External links

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