In 1935, it had become painfully obvious to Italian authorities that the Italian Navy maintained a weak position in the Mediterranean Sea. The Italian Navy stationed at Taranto was surrounded by the British fleet at Malta, off the coast of Sicily, at Gibraltar by Spain and at Alexandria near the Suez cannel. Additionally, the French Navy maintained a capable fleet at Toulon. Italy was, by default, the third naval power in Mediterranean waters and outnumbered in terms of battleships and did not field any of the all-important aircraft carriers that would prove so critical to the Allied war effort in World War 2. In 1940, British Royal Navy aircraft from its carrier fleet attacked the Italian fleet at Taranto, sinking one battleship and damaging at least two others.