Carro Armato L6/40 Italian light tank
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Light infantry Tank (1939)
283 built total 1939-44.

A new light tank design:

By 1938, the last light tank design available for the Regio Esercito was the CV38. By 1936, a specification for a new turret design tankette was passed. The Carro Armato (armored vehicle) L6 (L for Leggera, "light" and 6 for the standard weight, 6-tons in battle order) model 1940 wasn't designed from scratch. Prior to this, the 5-ton Carro D'Assalto modello 1936 based on the previous CV35 tankettes was tested with a short barrel L26 37mm gun and coaxial Breda 6.5mm. The suspensions were redesigned, with two bogie arms and one rear independant bogie, like the tankette. The central superstructure was higher and a small one-man turret fitted. The Carro Canone 5t modello 1936 was another prototype, testing a 37mm L/26 gun mounted in the hull, and a turret Breda Mg. and the same suspensions. Since the suspensions needed to be reworked, a new Ansaldo-Fiat prototype was tested by the m6T, featuring the definitive hull design and the light turret mounted on the Autoblinda AB40, with a twin Breda 6.5mm, and a sponson-mounted 37mm, in 1938. The definitive prototype was reequipped with the larger turret of the Autoblinda 41, sporting first a short barrel Vickers-Termi L/21 37mm, and on production models, a 20mm Breda Autocannon modello 35, with good antitank capabilities, and a coaxial Breda M38 8mm machine-gun on the preserie design.

Design and Production.

L6/40 photoThe L6/40, first introduced in 1940 was produced from early 1941 to the fall of 1942. This was the latest light tank design in Italy, althought seemingly obsolete by 1942 standards. The bolted hull was derivated from the M6T and the suspension, a revamped model of the one used in 1936, the hull was short and max armor, 40mm, only found on the gun mantlet and frontal glacis, thought capable to stop 37mm fire, and 20 to 6mm elsewhere. This was a cramped tank, with the gunner/commander on the left side, which sat under the main turret, and a driver on the right. The overall weight, in battle order, was 6.8 tons. The main turret, similar to the Autoblinda 41 model, has a 360° traverse and -12° to +20° elevation (manual). The Fiat SPD 18D petrol four-cylinder developed 70bhp@2500 rpm, with a 10.3hp/ton ratio. The gearbox was 4 forward-1 reverse, and Steering by clutch brake. Fuel Capacity was 200L Gasoline. The suspensions used a modern torsion-bar system, with front drive sprocket and rear idler wheels, two rubberized pairs of road wheels, and three return roller on each side. The 89 links shoe tracks had a 2.69 m contact surface. Consumption was 100 Liters/100 km on road and 250 liters off-road. On trials, the L6/40 was found capable of climbing 31° slopes, 1,7m wide trenches and 0.7m high obstacles, with a maximum 80cm fording depht. The preserie production started in may 1941.

L6/40 variants :

Fiat-Ansalso has initially designed for the export market, as a response to the earlier Vickers 6-ton. The army shown such interest in it, thet the production was initiated in early 1941. The first variant was equipped with a new transmission, by 1943 (late production), with no exterior differences. The Radio version was open-turret, and the L6LF (Lancia-flamme) was equipped with a 200L gasoline fuel tank. The best-known and most sucessful variant was the Semovente 47/32 tank-hunter, without turret and a 47mm in the hull. This derivative was produced to around 300 units and formed the bulk of Italian AVFs during the eastern campaign. The latest version was the ammunition carrier used alongside the Semovente 90/53, carrying additional ammo for the howitzer (only 6 coud be carried by the Semovente 90/53). It was open-topped and only carried a 8mm Breda Mg.

The L6/40 in action :

Although efficient as a scout tank, deployed amongst cavalry and reconnaissance units, the L6/40 was quickly put in regular units due to the shortages of medium tanks the Italian army experienced by 1941. The L6/40 saw its baptism of fire in the Balkans (april-may), and formed a large part of available Italian Armor during Operation Barbarossa. By the beginning of 1943, the survivors or the Russian Stalingrad offensive retreated across Ukraine steppes. In North Africa, some L6/40 took part in operations through the summer to the fall of 1942 with the Ariete division and Bersagliers independent companies. They still soldiered in Tunisia, Sicily and Italy. After november 1943, the German took over all extant vehicles and the production of the final version. They saw service with the Wehrmacht and Italian forces of Salo, but also in France, Albania and Greece by 1944.

Links about L6/40

The L6/40 on Wikipedia
The L6/40 on Comando Supremo
An L6/40 technical 3 view drawing
Specifications L6/40.
Dimensions (L-W-H): 3,78 x 1,92 x 2,03 m ()
Total weight, battle ready : 6,8 Tons
Crew : 2 (driver - gunner)
Propulsion : SPA 180 4 cyl 70hp (52kw)
Speed (road): 42 km/h (26 mph)
Range (road) 200 km (120 mi)
Armament (see notes): 1xBreda 35 20mm (395 rds)
1xBreda 38 8mm Mg (1560 rds)
Armour : 6-40mm (0.24-0.6in)
Total production 283
Carro Armato L6/40 prototype, 1940
Carro Armato L6/40 prototype, northern Italy, march 1940. Notice the model 1932 gun.

Carro Armato L6/40 preserie
Carro Armato L6/40, preserie, LXVII battalion of Armored "Bersaglieri", Celere Division, Armir, southern Russia, summer 1941.

Carro Armato L6/40 Radio tank
Carro Armato L6/40, radio version, Bersaglieri recce unit, Eastern front, summer 1942.

L6/40 serie 1942
L6/40 1941 series, Vth Regiment "Lancieri di Novara" - North Africa, Summer 1942.

L6/40 supply version
L6/40, supply version, attached to the 90/53 self propelled howitzers, "Bedogni" artillery group, Sicily, september 1943.

Pzkpfw L6/40 733(i)
Pzkpfw L6/40 733(i), SS polizei division, Athens, 1944.
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