On Nov.11, 1940 at 2100 hours, the Italian Fleet at Taranto, Italy slept silently under the Mediterranean moonlight. The Italian Fleet, including six battleships was well protected by submarine nets, barrage balloons and anti-aircraft guns at the biggest naval harbor in Italy. 270km away, twelve torpedo bombers flew off the decks of the British aircraft carrier, Illustrious. At 2300 hours and still undetected, the twelve aircraft made a low altitude entrance into the airspace above the harbor and began torpedo bombing the Italian Fleet. At 2400 hours, a second wave of eight torpedo bombers made yet another incursion.
Conte di Cavour, Littorio, and other major warships were either sunk or seriously damaged, dealing a crippling blow to the Italian Fleet. Due to its success at Taranto, the name of Royal Navy's main torpedo bomber, the Fairey Swordfish, was made instantly famous. Making its maiden flight in 1934, the Swordfish was constructed with a two-level main wing and a fixed landing gear. Its fuselage and wings consisted of steel pipe frames covered in cloth. The power plant of the Swordfish, an air-cooled Bristol Pegasus radial engine produced 690hp, for a top speed of only 220km/h.
However, thanks to its superb manueverability, 1700km range, and ability to carry on 18 inch torpedo or two 500 pound bombs or six 250 pound bombs, the Swordfish later contributed in such missions as the downing of the German battleship Bismarck. The Swordfish continued to fly at the frontline until the end of the war.
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