The United States Navy has constructed and operate specialized amphibious combat aircraft carriers since it converted World War Two Essex class carriers into helicopter carrying amphibious assault ships in the 1950s. Marrying marines and helicopters to carry them to a beachhead or further inland, they have provided a great degree of flexibility and speed over the traditional marine sea borne assault. With the Guadalcanal class of the 1960s the USN started building specialized marine assault class designed from keel up for this purpose. With the introduction of the Harrier jump jet Vertical take Off and Landing VTOL) flexibility has further increased with far larger amphibious assault ships carrying helicopters and air cushion craft for troop carriers and Harriers for organic air support, the USMC carries its own air support with the troops. This concept has carried over to other navies as well.

  The Italian Navy built the Giuseppe Garibaldi C551 in the 1980s along the same lines but the ship was limited by her rather small 13,000-ton displacement. In 2000 the Italian Navy decided to provide for a truly first line large carrier that would provide for all of the components necessary for autonomous amphibious assault with organic air support. It was decided to construct the largest warships built by Italy since the Littorio class battleships of the 1930s. One of the great weaknesses of the Italian Navy during World War Two was the lack of naval aviation. The plan was for the Italian airforce to support naval operations just as the Luftwaffe was supposed to support the Kriegsmarine. This concept of one branch supporting another’s operations was more often characterized by its absence, rather than execution. Time and time again promised air support failed to materialize, resulting in a tremendous handicap for the Italian Navy against the Royal Navy with its Fleet Air Arm. Likewise, the other two large naval powers, the USN and IJN both successfully used their dedicated naval aviation in the form of aircraft carriers to become the premier offensive weapons system of the war. 

On November 22, 2000 the Italian Ministry of Naval Defense entered into a contract with Fincantieri to build a 27,100-ton carrier designed to operate helicopters and Harriers. Originally simply called the “New Major Unit” (Nuova Unita Maggiore), the ship tried on various names before a final selection was made. First it was to be Luigi Einaudi, and then Andrea Doria, until the final selection of Conte di Cavour C552 was chosen. The ship was laid down in July 2001. Actually two yards, Riva Trigoso for the stern section and Muggiano for the forward section and superstructure, were used, as the ship was built in modules. In 2004 the two hull sections were linked together at Muggiano and the superstructure added. The official launch date was July 20, 2004 but at the time of launch part of the bow was still missing but this was subsequently added at Muggiano. Lengthy sea trials began in 2006 because the carrier was not commissioned until April 2008. Actual service began in 2009. 

Profile, Plan & Quarter Views
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The Conte di Cavour is 244 m in length with a beam of 39m and draught of 8.7 m. The flight deck is slightly shorter at 232.6 m and width of 34.5 m. The hangar is much shorter at 134 m. The hangar capacity is 2,500 square meters and can be used for aircraft or vehicles. Two access ramps allow driving vehicles directly from the dock to the hangar. Standard displacement is 22,290-tons with full load at 27,100-tons. Four LM2500 gas turbine engines provide 88,000 shp for a top speed of at least 28-knots. The engines are licensed from General Electric and are built by Fiat-Avio and turn two shafts with five bladed propellers. Endurance is 18 days in normal operations (7,000nm) cruising at 16-knots, of course it likely would be far shorter in combat operations when higher speeds are required on a more frequent basis. Diesel fuel consumptions rates dramatically bear out this point as the ship consumes three tons of diesel fuel per hour while cruising but the rate soars to 25 tons per hour at full speed. Ship armament consists of two A43 Sylver VLS for 32 Aster-15 surface-to-air missiles and gun armament consists of two Oto Melara 76-mm Super Rapid guns and three Oerlikon Contraves KBA 25-mm anti-aircraft guns. The Aster 15 missile has a 13kg warhead and a range of 30km with inertial guidance through a data uplink and active homing radar. Other combat systems consist of a mine avoidance radar, two automatic 20-barrel Oto Melara/Selex SCLAR-H decoy launchers for 105mm or 118mm multipurpose rockets to confuse the sensor of incoming enemy missiles and two SLAT torpedo defense systems. There are four elevators. Two are for aircraft with a 30-ton capability and two for armament with 15-ton capability. For maneuvering there are two pairs of active fin stabilizers and bow and stern thrusters. Through over pressure systems the ship can operate in nuclear or chemical contaminated environments. 

Hull Detail
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In operational terms the Conte di Cavour is very close to the same concept as the modern USN amphibious warfare carriers. The crew is rather small with just 486, an air crew of 211, and a ground troop complement of 500, the San Marco Battalion and 140 operation command and staff. An additional 90 troops can be carried if needed. The ship can carry 100 light vehicles or 24 sixty-ton main battle tanks, as well as carrying four LCVP amphibious boats. An additional tweak is the ability to use the ship in a purely Roll-On Roll-Off (RORO) role to carry the above mixture of ground vehicles. Air complement consists of eight VTOL AV-8B Harrier II or a VTOL F-35, if it ever becomes operational, and twelve helicopters or any mixture between VTOL or helicopters, providing flexibility based on mission. Initial helicopter complement consisted of the EH-101, NH-90, SH-3D platforms.

The Delphis Models Conte di Cavour
This is one honking big model. In fact Delphis Models shipped it in two boxes, one for the hull and the other for all of the other parts. The kit is all resin with no photo-etch set, although the instructions do mention that Delphis has a photo-etch set for the modern Italian navy. The resin casting is crisp and clean. Some cleanup of the hull is needed. First there are remnants of the resin pour stubs along the edges on the hull bottom. There are twelve of the stubs and they will need to be sanded off. Other than the time expended to do this, removing the stubs presents no problem because they extend from the bottom of the hull. Also some light sanding along the waterline should be done to eliminate some minor flash at the bow. Two seam lines on either side of the cutwater also needed to be sanded. The seam on the starboard side presents no problem, as there no fittings anywhere near it. Some caution however, should be used with the port seam. This seam runs just forward of an anchor hawse fitting so a little caution in sanding near this fitting should be exercised. 

Hull Detail
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Hull Casting
There is a very significant flare outward on the hull sides. Like a reverse tumblehome, the hull is much wider at flight deck level than at the waterline. Actually, the flare is on the lower hull ending in a prominent knuckle, after which the hull sides rise vertically. This design feature adds a great level of interest, especially since each side is different. The knuckle is significantly higher on the port side than on the starboard. Of course the bow is dominated by the ski jump. There are two anchor hawse fittings. As mentioned earlier, one is on the port side and the other is centerline above the point where the cutwater widens out. Even though the carrier does not have an angled deck, port side hull features are very different from those on the starboard side. Of course the ski jump is on the port side. There are access doors on the forward face of the ski jump, opening to the bow where one of the 76mm gun houses is located. At deck edge is a gun platform for one of the 25mm guns. Aft of that platform is a larger hull side platform for more equipment. There is a catwalk overhanging the side of the hull, just below flight deck level and running almost the length of the flight deck. Catwalk detail includes support bracing underneath. Running almost the entire length of the hull on the port side are a series of small square or rectangular structures that project outward from the hull side. Most of these have small segmented doors that apparently can be raised to provide additional hangar deck ventilation. There are also three additional small platforms on the hull sides one level below the flight deck catwalk. The stern port profile has an almost US carrier appearance with three large oval openings, slightly above hangar deck level. There is no deck edge elevator here so these openings can be used as loading ports in the RORO mission or additionally for providing ventilation, which indicates this must be an additional level for vehicle storage. Additionally, ship’s boats are stored inside these openings. The aft port quarter has one set of the VLS Aster missile system with individual missile canister doors. 

Larger Parts
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The starboard hull side has an entirely different look. At the bow is a hangar deck level platform overhanging the hull sides with the other VLS Aster missile position. Fittings for this platform appear to be another 25mm gun and two pairs of RIB boats and boat cranes. Lower, right above the knuckle there appears to be an interior gallery, as the instructions show an accommodation ladder leading to this opening. Hull side detail amidship is very busy with a series of platforms with support bracing at four different levels. As with the port side there are a number of small structures with sliding segmented doors but also there is a large faired opening that appears to be another RORO port. One of the aircraft elevators is the deck edge variety and that is found starboard aft with a large rectangular opening leading into the hangar deck. Aft of that is another gallery used for personnel as an accommodation leads to it and two more large oval openings slightly above hangar deck level the same as found on the port side. The starboard aft quarter has a platform with a supporting sponson for the stern 76mm gun house. The transom stern has another dose of detail with a walkway running the width of the stern a level below the flight deck with access doors and fittings. The stern is dominated by the door leading to internal well for amphibious assault craft with a series of additional galleries and fittings for towing sonar or anti-torpedo devices. Additional flight deck detail includes the second aircraft elevator off set to the starboard side in front of the bridge. Cable reels, access doors and other fittings are found on the starboard bulkhead of the ski jump. It appears that the cast on galleries are a trifle on the thick side but this makes them sturdy and difficult to accidentally break. 

Larger Parts
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Smaller Resin Parts
island is rather large and includes a wealth of cast on detail. The forward face is dominated by two levels of large bridge windows. Below the lower level of windows is a large platform, which supports a radar dome. At deck level there is an access door and some fittings. The starboard side of the island has a series of ventilation louvers forward and aft with five access doors (with portholes) and what appears to be two underway replenishment stations. The port side of the island has four air operations stations projecting over the flight deck, each of which has observation windows. At deck level there are only three access doors opening to the flight deck but there are a lot of square windows. The aft face is covered with fittings as well as two platforms for electronic array. Other large island pieces include the two stacks, which slant out from the starboard side of the island in a manner similar to that used in later IJN carrier designs. These stacks are covered with cooling louvers. A huge tower provides the support for the very large radar dome of the main array. A small communication tower part is attached to the aft portion of the tower, aft of which is a rectangular radar array.  

The deck edge elevator is a separate part with intricate support bracing underneath. Since it is a separate part it can be attached at deck or hangar level. There are a large number of resin runners, which provide a cornucopia of smaller parts. Many of these have been mentioned but since there is no photo-etch Delphis provides the smallest details in resin. Among these parts are the armament systems, ship’s boats, RIBs, radar domes, life raft canisters, various shape cranes, non-dome radar arrays, a plethora of smaller masts, separate platforms, and an assortment of smaller equipment and fittings. 

Smaller Parts
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One problem with 1:700 scale resin carrier releases is that they often come with no deck equipment or aircraft. That is definitely not true with the DelphisConte di Cavour, which comes loaded for bear with a full assortment of flight deck candy. First of all there is the deck equipment, which includes four large deck tractors and eight small ones. Delphis provides almost the entire Harrier II complement with six of the eight actually carried by the ship. You also get four of the helicopter complement with two medium SH-3D and two large choppers EH-101. Be careful in removing the resin rotors from their protective casting frames, as rotor blades are admirably thin and hence fragile. Equipment and aircraft detail is excellent. Cleanup will be required to remove the remnants of resin pour stubs but the resin small part runners are remarkably flash free. 

Smaller Parts
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Delphis provides seven pages of instructions with this kit. They are presented in the traditional Delphis format. If there is a weak spot with this kit, it is with the instructions. Smaller parts are designated with an alphanumeric designator, which is given in a matrix. Because the instructions don’t show drawings of the smaller parts, just the alphanumeric designators, always double check that you are attaching the right part to the right location. Page one is just the statistics of the ship and is in Italian and English. Page two has six expanded blow ups for the island aft face, stern, communication tower, port ski jump armament detail, and boat positioning. Page three has the matrix in which each small resin parts is given an alphanumeric designator and which gives a schematic drawing of each resin part runner. The first of a number of starboard profiles is present. Oddly enough, although the instructions have multiple starboard profiles, there is no port profile. Page four has painting instructions with a plan view and the second of the starboard profiles. Humbrol color numbers are provided for the flight deck (112), platform decks (27) and hull superstructure (127). Page five starts the assembly diagrams with the third starboard profile and a blowup of the starboard island. Delphis lists the alphanumeric part designator with a line leading to the point of attachment. Page six has a color guide for the aircraft. The last page has plan views, following the same alphanumeric assembly process. 

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Verdict – If you want a excellent model of the flagship of the modern Italian Navy and the largest warship built in Italy since the battleship Roma was completed in World War Two, then the Delphis Models 1:700 scale Conte di Cavour is for you. This is a large hull carrier done all in resin with no photo-etch parts. Instead smaller parts are provided in resin, which can be difficult, but Delphis pulls it off successfully.