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Operation Hercules

Operation Hercules was the German/axis codename for a planned invasion of Malta.
Operation Herkules (German naming) - Operazione C3 (Italian naming)

The Germans laid plans to invade Malta & put an end to the sinking of axis convoys supplying Rommel's Afrika Corps. It is not well documented but probes did land on Malta in an intelligence gathering operation. Italian frogmen from submarines did land on southern beaches. It is reported in 'Cross & Ensign' that they achieved 'little'. Two German beach reconnaissance parties were landed but one was captured & the other 'achieved nothing'.
Although the generals were all for the invasion Hitler intervened & considered the airborne losses inflicted on the German paratroopers in Crete to be not worth repeating. This was to be yet another major blunder by the Fuehrer.
If Malta had been captured a great many axis merchantmen would have been able to supply Rommels push through to the Suez. The allied Operation Torch, seaborne landings on the North African coast would have inevitably happened though may have been postponed.

Malta was to be 'softened up' with heavy bombing raids prior to the planned invasion.Grand Harbour was again to be the target & within a 6 week period 6,700 tons of bombs were dropped in this small area. To give perspective Coventry in the UK was subjected to a heavy blitz to try & wipe out the city but only 250 tons of bombs were dropped. During these raids some 21 Royal Navy ships were sunk in Grand Harbour & its approaches with a further 13 damaged.
In this period March suffered 275 raids, May had 283 with only 11 nights raid free in 3 months.

This was to be accomplished in 2 phases -

Phase 1
Parachute landings in the south of the island with an objective to capture the airfields of Luqa, Hal Far & Kalafrana. On securing Luqa & Hal Far gliders would land with more troops & heavier equipment.
Italian forces would land at Marsaxlokk Bay with 52 ton tanks captured from the Russians.

References This is a Google group link. The page gives detailed information on the Italin Fleet in the planning of the operation -
The Cross & the Ensign. A Naval History of Malta 1798 - 1979.

Book by Peter Elliott