The Zara was an Italian heavy cruiser launched in 1930, leader of the homonym class; her sister Fiume was launched the same day, 27th April. The ships of the
Zara class sacrificed speed and operational range for the sake of having better protection than any contemporary foreign cruiser. Still, the Italians had
difficulties for achieving this without exceeding in an excessively obvious way the limit of 10160 tonnes imposed by the Washington Naval Treaty. To save
weight both the stern deck and quarterdeck were left one level below the forecastle deck. The result was however an excellent project, suitable for the
Mediterranean where long operational range was not of prime importance.
A strange singularity of the class, already present in the preceding Trento class, was the catapult placed in the forecastle, with the two seaplanes stored
in a hangar below. This left the catapult exposed to bad weather conditions, but also kept the size of the ships in reasonable terms, leaving space in the
superstructure to distribute adequately the abundant antiaircraft armament. However this would not save the Zara and the Fiume from being sunk during
the Battle of Cape Matapan on 28-29 March 1941.
The poor Italian anticipation and the British utilization of the radar caused the Italian cruisers to become a target even before
they could fire a shot. Still, the quality of the project of the Zara was demonstrated by the difficulty to sink this ship.
The Zara, Fiume and Pola were lost in which was one of the hardest setbacks suffered by the Italians during the Second World War. The Gorizia would not survive the
war either; she was sunk by the Italians themselves the 8th September 1943, rescued by the Germans and sunk again by the Allies the 26th June 1944.
The illustration shows the Zara as she was painted in the battle of Matapan the 28th March 1941; note the scheme of red and white lines for aerial
reconnaissance and the catapult in the forecastle, as well as the RO 43 seaplane. The motto "Tenacemente" is written in the turret Y.
Class: Zara (4 units - Fiume, Gorizia, Pola, Zara)
Type: Heavy cruiser
Length: 182.7 meters
Beam: 20.6 meters
Draught: 5.9 meters
Displacement (standard): 12060 tonnes
Propulsion: 2 x shaft, 2 x steam turbine Parsons, 8 x boiler Thornycroft, 118000 horsepower
Speed: 33.5 knots (62 kilometers/hour)
Range: 4500 nautical miles (8300 kilometers) at 16 knots
Armament (as built): 8 x 203-millimeter 53-caliber cannon, 16 x 100-millimeter 47-caliber cannon, 4 x 40-millimeter 39-caliber cannon,
2 x aircraft
Armament (in 1940): 8 x 203-millimeter 53-caliber cannon, 12 x 100-millimeter 47-caliber cannon, 8 x 37-millimeter 54-caliber cannon,
8 x 13.2-millimeter machine gun, 2 x aircraft
Armor: 100-150 millimeters in belt, 70 millimeters in deck, 140-150 millimeters in barbettes, 120-140 millimeters in main turrets,
150 millimeters in conning tower