The launching ceremony of the “Emilio Bianchi” (F589) frigate, the tenth and last FREMM vessel – Multi Mission European Frigates, took place on 25th January at the integrated shipyard of Riva Trigoso (Genoa) in the presence of the Italian Minister of Defence, Lorenzo Guerini. The 10 vessels have been commissioned to Fincantieri by the Italian Navy within the framework of an Italo-French cooperation program under the coordination of OCCAR (Organisation Conjointe de Cooperation sur l’Armement, the international organization for cooperation on arms).
Godmother of the ceremony was Mrs. Maria Elisabetta Bianchi, first daughter of Emilio Bianchi, Golden Medal for Military Value.
After the launching, fitting activities will continue in the integrated naval shipyard of Muggiano (La Spezia), with delivery scheduled in 2021. The “Emilio Bianchi” vessel, like the other units, will feature a high degree of flexibility, capable of operating in all tactical situations. 144 metres long with a beam of 19.7 metres, the ship will have a displacement at full load of approximately 6,700 tonnes. The vessel will have a maximum speed of over 27 knots and will have a maximum accommodation capacity for a 200-person crew.
The FREMM program, representing the European and Italian defence state of the art, stems from the renewal need of the Italian Navy line “Lupo” (already removed) and “Maestrale” (some of them already decommissioned, the remaining close to the attainment of operational limit) class frigates, both built by Fincantieri in the 1970s.
The vessels “Carlo Bergamini” and “Virginio Fasan” have been delivered in 2013, the “Carlo Margottini” in 2014, the “Carabiniere” in 2015, the “Alpino” in 2016, the “Luigi Rizzo” in 2017, the “Federico Martinengo” in 2018, and the “Antonio Marceglia” in 2019. The Italian program has been fully implemented with the option exercised in April 2015, regarding the construction of the ninth and tenth vessel, whose delivery is scheduled after 2020. Orizzonte Sistemi Navali (51% Fincantieri, 49% Leonardo) acts as prime contractor for Italy in the initiative, while Armaris (Naval Group + Thales) is prime contractor for France.
Head of the 3rd Palombaro Class Emilio Bianchi – Golden Medal for Military Value
He was born in Sondalo (Sondrio) on the 22nd October 1912. Volunteer for the Royal Navy since March 1932 and designated to the Palombari category, he attended the specialization course at the Varignano (La Spezia) C.R.E.M. school and at the end he boarded the hydrographic ship Admiral Magnaghi, on which he made two hydrographic cruises in the Aegean and the Red Sea.
In 1934, he embarked on the Fiume cruiser, where he was promoted to petty officer, and in 1936 he was assigned to the 1st Submarine Group of La Spezia. After the promotion to sergeant in 1937, he moved on the 1st MAS fleet, starting the training to become an underwater assault ships operator.
During the war he participated, as 2nd Chief, in the two attempts to force the English base in Gibraltar (October and November 1940), then in the audacious forcing of the base in Alexandria as 2nd operator of the SLC (“maiale”) n. 221 led by vessel commander Luigi Durand de La Penne. He departed from the Sciré submarine in the night of December 18, and after overcoming the barriers, he entered the port with the chief operator taking his explosive craft under the keel of the English battleship Valiant. It sank after the explosion at dawn on December 19. Due to the hard effort he made during the 5-hour diving, he was struck by oxygen intoxication during the journey, and forced to come back to the surface. He was spotted by the watchmen and, together with his commander, confined in separate cabins below the waterline. Saved by chance after the burst of the mine, which caused the sinking of the ship, he was taken to a prison camp and repatriated at the end of the war. He was promoted to Head of 3rd and 2nd Class in 1954 for war credits, and to Head of 1st Palombaro Class.
As officer of the C.E.M.M., he then served at the Varignano Diving Center, at the Nucleo Sminamento of Genoa and in the end at the Naval Academy of Livorno, ending his career as lieutenant commander.