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The role of aircraft carriers was undervalued by the Regia Marina, as the navy was expected to operate in the Mediterranean, close to Italian air bases. This attitude was best expressed by Mussolini who said, “Italy itself is an aircraft carrier laid over the Mediterranean.” Accordingly, the fleet air coverage was the responsibility of the Regia Aeronautica.
The Regia Marina would request, on a case-by-case basis, air coverage to Regia Aeronautica, which would fulfil these requests if aircraft were available. Unsurprisingly, this arrangement often left the fleet without air cover, or with the aircraft arriving to late, or, worse, the aircraft mistakenly attacking Italian ships (as during the battle of Calabria). When the necessity for an air component travelling with the fleet was clear, it was decided to convert the ocean liner Roma into an aircraft carrier.
As there was already a battleship under construction named Roma, the new carrier was renamed Aquila. She was nearly complete at the time of the armistice in September 1943, after which she was seized by Germany. Before anything could be done with her, the Aquila was damaged by a series of Allied air attacks and soon after she was partially scuttled by Italian frogmen.
Models supplied unassembled and unpainted