Around 200 armored vehicles by November 1918
Italy mostly fought the Great War on a mountainous terrain, impracticable for tanks and armored cars alike. However, for patrols in “short sectors”, subjected to possible incursions by Uhlans and Austrian cavalry units, armored cars were built and operated. FIAT undertook the conception of tanks from 1917, when it became obvious, following the success of the French and British, that it would be the next innovation to break the stalemate. Italian forces also lost considerable forces in fruitless frontal assaults against Austro-Hungarian machine-gun nests, and tanks were more suited to climb these sloped and bring decisive fire support than armored cars.
The FIAT 2000
FIAT was the industrial giant of Northern Italy, the only choice to develop a 100% national tank. In between, French Renault FTs were purchased and tested with success in 1918, ultimately inspiring the first mass produced (interwar) Italian tank, the FIAT 3000. In the meantime, Italy built two prototypes of the FIAT 2000, its first national tank, which was massive and had some similarities with the German A7V like the vertical compartimentation. It was well armed with a 65 mm two-men turret howitzer and six machine guns in sponsons, all served by a crew of 10.
Together with purchased Renault FTs, these two 40 tons tanks formed the 1° Batteria autonoma carri d’assalto used in Libya against local guerrilla tribesmen; However, due to the average cross-country performances of these heavy tanks, the unit was not able to catch up with the more mobile cavalry. The experience gained in this theater of operation will give the general staff the impression that faster, lighter tanks were preferable and this category, also cheaper and technically easier to built, was the focus of the Italian tank industry represented by FIAT-Ansaldo in the 1920s and 1930s. It was not before 1941 that studies for a heavy tank will arrive again, leading eventually to the Carro Armato Pesante P26/40 of 1943, which was even never used by Italian Units, then surrendering. The German forces used it until 1945, and was not even near the 40 tons of the original FIAT 2000, weighing only 26 tons. It would take years before a heavier tank would enter service with the Italians, like the Leopard-based Italian OF-40 in 1980…
The Lancia IZ upon delivery. It boasted an impressive firepower with three machine guns mounted in a twin top turret arrangement, later modified due to stability problems. Surviving IZMs were used until 1945.
Late in the game with Tanks, Italy would instead use with more proficience armoured cars like the Lancia-Ansaldo IZM, certainly one of the best armoured car of the war. Some were captured by the German Empire and Austro-Hungary but these were also used by after the war by Austria, Albania and even Afghanistan. In fact, the IZM were also used for the duration of the interwar for colonial service and in WW2 by Italy, Germany, Hungary and even the Yugoslav insurgents in 1944-45. It could be recognized due to its large two-men turret and twin heavy machine gun, plus third one in a top turret arrangement (on the IZ, later deleted for stability with the IZM), and up-running wire cutters.
The Fiat-Terni Tripoli designed for Colonial service in 1918 was still around in 1941.
At the end of the war, the Libyan conquest and “pacification” required a colonial armored car which was elaborated with Terni, the FIAT-Terni Tripoli. It was also to serve in WW2 in Libya, rearmed as an Anti-Aircraft armoured car.