French vs Italian navies World War 2, who would win?

It’s a Jutland style battle
It could go either way. A naval battle between Italy and France would probably take place in the Mediterranean where the Italians are stronger, but France would likely have more reliable air cover since Mussolini vetoed the Italian Navy’s air arm. Either way, it would probably be close.
 
Probably, because Germany is still a northern threat.

Did France have better equipment generally? I’ve read that many Italian vessels were of high quality? I’d have thought that they’d be closer to parity here. Either way, the Italian Navy is quite formidable. Especially in the Mediterranean. They had a decent cadre of officers too. They had three primary weaknesses.

1) Lack of fuel.

2) Their sailors were fairly well trained, but they neglected night fighting excercises and they only started fitting their ships with radar later in the war.

3) A lack of reliable air cover due to Mussolini’s veto and their inter service rivalry with the airforce.
 
No other navies are involved
One invoked Jutland, which means other navies are involved. In the RTL case the RN had to maintain presence in the Indian and Mediterranean Oceans to keep an eye on frisky foreign powers like the Austro Hungarians and Ottomans.

In any fight between France and Italy, both of them will be looking over their shoulders, France at Germany and Italy at the British. ATLs have to be realistic.
 
Did France have better equipment generally? I’ve read that many Italian vessels were of high quality? I’d have thought that they’d be closer to parity here. Either way, the Italian Navy is quite formidable. Especially in the Mediterranean. They had a decent cadre of officers too. They had three primary weaknesses.
Summary:
a. The French have better naval artillery.
b. French naval architecture was good. Better than the United States Navy of the era and that is saying a LOT.
c. It would be difficult to judge land based air. Both air forces were good. I have a high respect for the pilot cadres and ground personnel of both services. Aircraft depending on type were "questionable" by 1940 standards but in the early to mid 1930s the Italians have a slight technical edge and a HUGE leadership edge before Bennie the Moose screws everything up around 1937 with his "reorganization" and insistence on favoring his political appointees. France's air ministry is in chaos as well, (politicians both uniformed and civilian) but down at the escadrille level the AdA is first rate. When I said war-worthy aircraft BTW, that means against the 1930s USN baseline, because the American naval air service of the era we cover does not get its act together technically or operationally until 1938. That USNAS is "questionable". The French and Italians might not have the good planes past 1938, but they could RIKKO each other quite well.
d. Fast attack boat tactics and torpedo warfare? Italy hands down. They are the gold standard. They have the second best torpedoes in the world and the best tactics.
e. Naval special forces. Italy again.

Italy's problems.
1) Lack of fuel.
2) Their sailors were fairly well trained, but they neglected night fighting exercises and they only started fitting their ships with radar later in the war.
3) A lack of reliable air cover due to Mussolini’s veto and their inter service rivalry with the air-force.
Not too dissimilar from another navy I know (Cough "Guadalcanal" Cough). France's Marine National gets radar but not in time to matter at least not in this ATL.
 
Summary:
a. The French have better naval artillery.
b. French naval architecture was good. Better than the United States Navy of the era and that is saying a LOT.
c. It would be difficult to judge land based air. Both air forces were good. I have a high respect for the pilot cadres and ground personnel of both services. Aircraft depending on type were "questionable" by 1940 standards but in the early to mid 1930s the Italians have a slight technical edge and a HUGE leadership edge before Bennie the Moose screws everything up around 1937 with his "reorganization" and insistence on favoring his political appointees. France's air ministry is in chaos as well, (politicians both uniformed and civilian) but down at the escadrille level the AdA is first rate. When I said war-worthy aircraft BTW, that means against the 1930s USN baseline, because the American naval air service of the era we cover does not get its act together technically or operationally until 1938. That USNAS is "questionable". The French and Italians might not have the good planes past 1938, but they could RIKKO each other quite well.
d. Fast attack boat tactics and torpedo warfare? Italy hands down. They are the gold standard. They have the second best torpedoes in the world and the best tactics.
e. Naval special forces. Italy again.

Italy's problems.

Not too dissimilar from another navy I know (Cough "Guadalcanal" Cough). France's Marine National gets radar but not in time to matter at least not in this ATL.
1) From what I’ve read, Italian pilots were skilled and experts in flight maneuvers, but they seemed to be less adept tactically and they were often fighting with inferior equipment. By 1942 and 1943, they managed to produce some respectable aircraft, but due to budget constraints and a lack of resources related to the war, they were often unable to produce them in sufficient numbers to make a difference. The Moose probably should have waited until 1942 or 1943.

2) Could you elaborate on Guadalcanal? Are you referring to the Americans or the Japanese here? I haven read enough about the Pacific War, but I’ve recently been getting into it. From what I’ve read, both Navies were first rate. Although the Japanese lacked a well developed convoy system and were weak in anti submarine warfare.

3) There was a book that I was reading years ago when I was in college about the major Navies of World War 2. It was mentioned that as early as 1923 there was a desire among Italian Admirals about constructing aircraft carriers and 1936, Marconi gave a demonstration of early radar for Mussolini.
 
Honestly, I’d only say the Dunks and Riche sisters are worth anything for French BBs. The Courbets and Bretagnes are bad. They were utter garbage as built (horrible guns, terrible armor, slow/small) and the modernizations...didn’t do a whole lot to help. French shells also have some issues.

(IIRC, weak bases because of the need for poison gas shells. Yes, really, this was a thing)

Meanwhile, depending on the period, the Italian rebuilds are vastly superior if they have them. I’d call the guns better (fire control is very much better, on the equivalent rebuilds), armor is about even, and they’re far faster. Those ships would suffer against British ships mostly because the Brits has the excellent BL 15in. French...not so much.

Dunk and Riche are issues, though. I personally prefer Littorio, but that’s me.

(Relatedly: Italian guns and gunnery are quite good, if a tad too high velocity. The issue was quality control on the shells. You never knew what batch was good or not. One of the Littorio sisters (VV?) had much better performance because her crew was picky and tried to get the best shells possible)
 
2) Could you elaborate on Guadalcanal? Are you referring to the Americans or the Japanese here? I haven read enough about the Pacific War, but I’ve recently been getting into it. From what I’ve read, both Navies were first rate. Although the Japanese lacked a well developed convoy system and were weak in anti submarine warfare.
That goes off topic. Let me just say that in the context of this topic, the Italians have the strengths of and the weaknesses of the AMERICANS as shown at Guadalcanal. They will learn rapidly how to anti-ship through airpower, do excellent reconnaissance, become DEADLY at ASW and already are DEADLY at motor torpedo boat warfare. The major problems the Italians really have (besides the fuel shortage, which plagued the Americans. [no tankers].) are that their surface action groups (cruiser destroyer forces) are not trained up to where they should be. Unlike the Americans, though, the Italian ordnance works. Once Italy quit fighting for the Germans in WWII, they become America's teachers in special naval operations and play a major unsung role in fixing the American torpedo crisis.
 
Honestly, I’d only say the Dunks and Riche sisters are worth anything for French BBs. The Courbets and Bretagnes are bad. They were utter garbage as built (horrible guns, terrible armor, slow/small) and the modernizations...didn’t do a whole lot to help. French shells also have some issues.
The WWI battleship built stuff is bad. Once you look at their cruiser and destroyer forces and subs, it gets much better and that is where the MN shines.
(IIRC, weak bases because of the need for poison gas shells. Yes, really, this was a thing)
Goes to French naval tactics. They expected to debilitate an enemy who outnumbered them.

Meanwhile, depending on the period, the Italian rebuilds are vastly superior if they have them. I’d call the guns better (fire control is very much better, on the equivalent rebuilds), armor is about even, and they’re far faster. Those ships would suffer against British ships mostly because the Brits has the excellent BL 15in. French...not so much.
I would rate the French armor plate as far superior and their underwater protection schemes likewise. The Pugilese shock absorber system, the Italians used was a horrendous mistake in applied hydrodynamics.

Dunk and Riche are issues, though. I personally prefer Littorio, but that’s me.
Depends. In a SAG brawl I would not want to fight the French gun platforms in a gun action.

(Relatedly: Italian guns and gunnery are quite good, if a tad too high velocity. The issue was quality control on the shells. You never knew what batch was good or not. One of the Littorio sisters (VV?) had much better performance because her crew was picky and tried to get the best shells possible)
Those were the chief complaints. Italian guns' tube liners wore quickly and introduced uncertain ballistics profiles and the shell manufacture was CRAP as to armor piercing performance, though they would fuse properly and explode when they hit.
 
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The WWI battleship built stuff is bad. Once you look at their cruiser and destroyer forces and subs, it gets much better and that is where the MN shines.


Goes to French naval tactics. They expected to debilitate an enemy who outnumbered them.



I would rate the French armor plate as far superior and their underwater protection schemes likewise. The Pugilese shock absorber system, the Italians used was a horrendous mistake in applied hydrodynamics.



Depends. In a SAG brawl I would not want to fight the French gun platforms in a gun action.



Those were the chief complaints. Italian guns' tube liners wore quickly and introduced uncertain ballistics profiles and the shell manufacture was CRAP as to armor piercing performance, though they would fuse properly and explode when they hit.
While Italy without a doubt has better torpedo boats, how about submarines? Who has better submarines?
 
Ehhhh.

So far as the rebuilds go, I'm more specifically talking the rebuild vs rebuild fight. I tend to consider the WW1-era French BBs as death traps in any WW2 fight, and the Italians did a lot to improve their own ships. I'd much rather be in Cesare than Bretagne, as these things go. Relatedly, Italian plate was some of the best armor plate of the period. When quality control was up to snuff, anyway, which is a perennial issue with Italy at the time.

When it worked, they had excellent plate and better shells. One can argue the armor layout, though that's an entirely different question*

So far as underwater protection goes, I find the Pugilese system to be knocked on a lot. But the Italians never lost a BB to a torp hit on the thing. When they took torp hits in combat, the ships were hit in places that no ship would have their torpedo defense system installed. Be it the stern (ironically surviving a hit more or less where PoW was crippled) or the bow. The only time they got sunk by torpedoes was at Taranto, when the ships were caught flat-footed in harbor. In combat? They managed quite well, regardless of whatever issues the system may have had**.

I'd also call Italian cruisers, as a whole, superior to French cruisers. Both have ships with paper armor, but the Italians have more ships with better armor in the form of the Zara sisters. Unless I'm misremembering my French naval trivia (which I may, it's late here) the only French heavy (or light) cruiser with any armor worth a damn was Algerie. Otherwise they have paper armor, even compared to the Italians. I don't think we know enough about how French cruisers- without any influence from the Allies -perform to say how they compared to the Italians, which we have a wealth of information on since the Italians didn't have any allies hijacking their ships and doctrines (to the same extent, anyway). It may be the French are better, doctrinally, it may be they're worse. Hard to say. At least for what I can recall when I really should be in bed. >.>

Depending on the time frame, at any rate, the French have the rather large issue of only having a couple modern battleships and those ships being the Dunk sisters, which I would really not want to take against a Littorio. It's hard to say when Riche and Jean Bart would be finished in the event of no Germany knocking on the gates, but the same could be said for Italy not needing to cart Roma off to a different yard to finish her. At bare minimum, you'd have two Littorios to one Riche for a while. While I'd generally not want to be in a rebuild against a Dunk, it's not a terrible matchup if the Italians are smart. The same can't be said for the reverse.

(I generally find the Littorio very underrated, but that's me. I've done a lot of research into them and find them knocked on a lot.)

Now, this could easily be reversed if you took France and Italy from a few years later, when you've got multiple Riche around, even if the latter two of that class might as well be new classes and we don't know about when Alsace could feasibly show up. For that matter, we don't know what the Italians could- or would -build to counter the latter.

*I find there to be a lot of argument on the Italian layered-scheme. It generally comes down to how you value shell decapping. I tend to find it underrated, but see above. French ships aren't really the plunging fire type, so I don't think the deck armor weakness is as relevant here as it would be against Americans. Or British, ironically, considering the BL-15 being a belt-puncher not a deck-puncher.

**The main issue was, again, construction faults more than the design itself. It's inefficent as all hell, no arguments there, but the main issue it had in practice was the connection to the hull and crumpling too much. Again, though, we can't say for sure how it would react to a dead center hit. Because the Italians never actually had a dead-center torp hit on one of their modern (the rebuilds are different in practice) BBs. And what hits they did take, they survived when the crew was able to actually do something about it.


Who has better submarines?
Italy, hands down. They had a surprisingly very good submarine arm. One of their subs- Leonardo da Vinci -is the highest scoring, non-German, sub of the war.
 
Just been reading the Osprey book on Italian Cruisers . Apparently their guns were too close together that caused issues .

Didnt the Italians have quite a good reputation for aerial torpedoes . I know germans ordered italian ones but not sure if this was due to their being more of them rather than better
 
When? Two of the Italian rebuilt Battleships and all of their new build battleships weren't operational until late 1940... So, before October 1940 the French win hands down in a Jutland style battle (5 slow plus 2-3 fast BBs vs 2 fast BBs).
 
Note the French were unable to deploy all their forces in the Mediterannean, due to geopolitical demands elsewhere. They needed a significant part of their naval forces in the Atlantic an a smaller part in the oversea SE Asian region as well. This would remove about 30 % of overall naval strength at least, given that the Mediterranean was the core of the French Fleet operational territory. Italy had no such restrictions to start with and dominated the region simply due to geographical positioning.

In a millitary way, the French were possessing a good number of fairly modern warships, which in theory could be effective, though the Italian Navy was mostly composed of relatively modern ships as well, backed up by a very potent Regia Aeronautica, or airforce which the French lacked completely. This is where things go bad for the French, as they fleet at sea could not depend on aircover, while the Italian fleet could.

So in any direct confrontation between the two, much would depend on where it was to take place, as the Italians could choose where to fight and the French mostly could not. It would surprise me to see the Marine National come out victorious here, as the Italians had all the major advantages in this, just as the Royal Navy had in the Great War, as it could dictate terms where to strike under what circumstances it desired, which the germans could not.
 
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