Italeri 1/35 SLC 200 "Maiale"
Underwater Chariot
by Jose Lucero

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The naval engineers, Captains Teseo Tesei and Elios Toschi developed the “Siluro a Lenta Corsa” (Slow Moving Torpedo) better known as “Maiale” (Pig) in 1935 based on the Mignatta, a hand guided torpedo used in World War I. The idea was to make a medium to arrive with a crew of two men, under the hull of enemy ships at anchor, place a delayed explosive charge to a cable taut between the anti-roll bilge keels. The first prototypes where tested during the Ethiopian campaign.

The Maiale was based on the standard 533mm torpedo, lengthened to 6.7m and later 7.3m. Starting from the bow, the cylindrical body included a detachable warhead containing 230kg of explosives and a time-activated detonator, a maneuvering chamber with the navigation controls. The two operators sat on the center section (which was filled with accumulators), while the rear section held the propulsion system. A 1.6 hp electric motor turned a single propeller, giving de SLC a maximum underwater speed of 3 knots, and a range of 24 km at 2.3 knot speed.

The first successful operation during WWII took place on September 20th, 1941 against Gibraltar. Three SLCs released from the submarine Scire, commanded by LCDR Junio Valerio Borghese, attacked enemy shipping in the bay. All operators landed safely in the Spanish coast and Borghese was awarded a Medaglia d'Oro al Valor Militare for this mission. On December 18th and 19th, 1941 the Maiale’s most famous mission took place. The Scire released three more SLCs outside Alexandria harbour sinking the battleships H.M.S. Valiant and H.M.S. Queen Elizabeth, the tanker Sagona and heavily damaging the destroyer Jarvis. All operators survived and were captured. One of the crews was led by Luigi Durand De La Penne for whom the modern Durand de la Penne class missile destroyers for the Marina Militare is named. During the Second World War, the SLC damaged or sank 16 ships overall, including the two english battleships Valiant and Queen Elizabeth, for tonnage of approx. 200,000.
"The closest that allied war correspondents came to describing any Europeans as 'suicide warriors' was the description of the the Italian underwater chariot raiders ..." WWII Nation by Nation, J. Lee Ready.


The Model
I used the excellent SLC Maiale kit by Italeri in 1/35th scale which has a really good reference booklet with a brief history of the craft, period photos, colour profiles and a walkaround of the Maiale at the Muzeo Nazionale de la Scienza e della Tecnologia Leonardo Da Vinci in Milano. The kit is simple with only 43 plastic and 22 etched brass parts. The fit is good and the instruction manual is very detailed with photos instead of line drawings.

The kit was built with out problems. The only place where care has to be taken is the propulsion system which is comprised mostly of etched brass. The brass is thicker than the normal etched metal we use, but fortunately Italeri provides a a bending template for the ribbed guard that wraps around the dive plane.

The Maiale was painted with Gunze H302 European green FS34092 as suggested in the color profiles. I tried to represent the beat up photos of the Maiali in the reference booklet, so the weathering is a bit heavy. I really enjoyed making this model of a very significant piece of hardware for the Xª Flottiglia MAS. Let’s hope Italeri keeps making this kind of kit, I’m planning on building every kit they realease of the Xª Flottiglia MAS.

S.L.C. "Maiale" photographic reference manual, Italeri S.p.A. 2007. Italy.

Italian SLC (Siluro a Lenta Corsa) - 200 Maiale human torpedo being used to attack Allied ships during World War II.

Technical Data

Manufacturer: ---
Type: Manned Torpedo
Year: 1940
Engine: 1.6 hp electric engine
Range: 24 km
Speed: 3 knots submerged
Length: 6.7 m / 7.3 m
Armament: 533 mm torpedo
Crew: 2

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December, 2011
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