Weapons of World War Two
Marine Fahr Prahm
A series of fortuitous causes led the Allied navies to the necessity of solve the problem of amphibious landings, either from a military standpoint, because nobody had experience in this new kind of operations, or from a practical standpoint, since the equipment required to carry out them did not materially exist. On the side of the Axis there were similar problems but, at least initially, there was a lack of will to truly solve them. There was a big difference in the German and British modus operandi. In 1940, when Great Britain was not in the best conditions, the British requested from Lord Mountbatten a plan to invade the continent.
The Germans, victors in every front, did not take any decision in favor or against their own landing, and in the end, after having passed a certain time and being lost the Battle of Britain, the Operation Seelowe was left as dead letters. On the Italian side sufficient preparations for the landing in Malta had been carried, but Mussolini was stopped by Hitler, and the invading force was sent to attrition on the sands of The Alamein. But technically, from the perspective of the Navy, what had been done? On the Italian part, little, but with a reason. The coasts of Malta, the only point that could be interesting for a landing, were not suitable for the use of LCT elements, and the technicians had been resorted to other more or less artesanal solutions.
But the Germans had more favorable beaches in the British coasts so they tried other solutions. The first one, which was as well the hastiest and most compromised one, consisted of reuniting a large number of barges and pontons, sufficiently light and low in draft, to install on them an aircraft engine with propeller in a frame astern. This would have given as result a sort of flying hydroskis which should allow the troops of the Wehrmacht to cross the Channel rather fast and disembark directly on the beaches. Clearly this was a momentary solution, and as soon as they had chance, the projectists of the Kriegsmarine returned to the matter, because apart from the Operation Seelowe they needed elements which allowed amphibious movements of troops.
Between 1942 and 1944 were built 2000 MFP (Marine Fahr Prahm or Marine Motor Barge), in two different series that differed only in some constructive dimensions. They had an iron hull and were structurally simple but very robust, adequate for transporting troops and vehicles, including the armored ones. Load capacity was about 150-170 tonnes depending on the series. The vehicles entered through the fore gate which allowed then the exit directly to the beach. Impulsed by three Diesel engines, the MFP had an operational range of 1500-1600 kilometers.
They were used almost entirely as light and medium cabotage barges, but also as minesweepers, minelayers and workshop ships. It was developed as well a more heavily armed version to be used as antiaircraft battery or auxiliary gunship, fitted with two 100-millimeter cannons, two 37-millimeter cannons and eight 20-millimeter cannons. Overall they were constructions of rather satisfying prestations that accomplished perfectly their tasks.
Length: 50 meters
Width: 6.5 meters
Draught: 1.8 meters
Displacement: 200 tonnes
Engines: Three Diesel Deutz of 505 horsepower actuating in three propellers
Maximum speed: 10.25 knots
Operational range: 1600 kilometers
Armament: One 88-millimeter cannon; one 37-millimeter cannon; two 20-millimeter cannons
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