The Astore-class Light Carrier was a class of light aircraft carriers in service with the Lutetiian Navy from 1933 to 1966.
The Carrier Doctrine of the Lutetiian Navy dictates the need for many small aircraft carriers to provide as much air cover for convois and own fleet units in as many places as possible (as well as for amphibious forces). They were built from keel-up as an aircraft carrier, based on a design for a seaplane tender.
The Astore-class Light Carriers were based on that principle: Light Carriers for escorts and less for direct fleet combat, that was still seen as the mission of the battleships and battlecruisers at the time of her construction. Time would prove that doctrine wrong.
One of the most distinctive features of the Astore-class Light Carrier was the lack of an island, the bridge being located at the bow, with the wooden flight deck above them. Two elevators allowed aircraft to be moved up and down between hangar and flight deck, four arrestor wires allowed aircraft to land, a singular aircraft catapult enabled even heavier planes, like fully armed fighter-bombers, to take off.
The standard aircraft complement consisted of 34 aircraft, 24 for direct operational use and ten spares:
- 15 fighter-bombers, 6 spares: Cellule Repubblicane CR-15 Gabbiano Fighter-Bombers.
- 9 dive/torpedo bombers, 4 spares: Cellule Repubblicane CR-11 Avvoltoio Dive-Bombers.
By 1945, the air group had changed to 30 aircraft, 22 for direct operational use and eight spares, all of which were Braccio B-26 Interceptors. The Astore-class Light Carriers were simply too small for the newer and larger Cellule Repubblicane CR-18 Libellula Torpedo Bombers. After their refit in 1951, they carried 20 helicopters, OdI-15 Frusta Multi-Purpose Helicopters, which were supposed to be replaced by 1970, but the decommissioning prevented that.
Passero was built by the Lutetiian Naval Arsenal in Zara, commissioned in 1935 and assigned her own carrier group, together with the Fieno-class Destroyers Pelle and Cotechino as well as the fleet oiler Spruzzo. She spent most of her first years in Lutetiian Home Waters, testing out new planes and escorting trading convoys until 1942. Then, Operation Spriocearcaitheoir started as submarines of unknown origin attacked Selkie Trading Vessels in the Great Sea.
Fearing armed confrontation, the Lutetiian Navy readied its vessels and... waited. And waited.
And waited some more, with nothing coming. Passero spent 1943 and 1944 escorting convoys and training new pilots on new planes in 1945.
In 1946, the Lutetiian submarine Squalo was forced to surface by the SDF-Navy and the tension began anew, especially since some parties [i]wanted[/i] a war. During the aftermath, when the SDF-cruiser SDFS Aeval repatriated the crew of the submarine, Passero and her Captain were on the side of the hawks crying for war, even flying two mock air-attacks on the Aeval to provoke a shooting-war.
It didn't work and by 1948, Operation Spriocearcaitheoir ended with no war between the Selkie and the Lutetiians. In 1951, Passero found herself in refit to a helicopter carrier, serving in her navy until 1964 in that capacity. She was then used as a training ship until 1970, decommissioned and is now a museum ship in Zara. In 1976, a fire ravaged the museum, but by 1978, she was rebuilt by private donations.
Like all Lutetiian Light Carriers, Passero is named after a bird, in her case the Sparrow.