WW2 ITALIAN ARMORLight, medium & heavy tanks, armoured cars.
Up to 4000 armoured military vehicles by november 1943.
Genesis of Italian armour:As other involved nations, Italian tank development dates back from WW1. Following the observation of Allied effort in 1916, and first success in the field, the initial view was limited in scope because of the landscape where most divisions fought on. Along the entire Austro-Hungarian border, it was mostly an Alpine battleground, which prevented any efficient use of tanks. However, in some areas, like Northern Dalmatia, tanks were ideally suited. Also the general staff ordered a single French Schneider CA-1 for extensive trials by 1916. But the design was ultimately rejected. A similar study for an indigeneous model started the same year when FIAT, by then the industrial giant of Italy, proposed a new design, the FIAT 2000. It was ordered on plans, and the construction of two prototypes began soon. It was a 40 tons, boxy model, which beared some superficial resemblance to the German Sturmpanzerwagen A7V, but was never followed by a production, as the war came to an end. It has innovative features, like a completely separated engine compartment, with the crew beeing posted above. One of these two machines was operationally tested in Libya, and the other displayed in several propaganda shows.
From 1927 to the Ethiopian invasion :By 1918, FIAT and Ansaldo, were the only industrial complex large enough to deal with tank production. The first model produced for the Royal Army (Regia Esercito), was the French Renault FT, largely modified locally and called FIAT 3000 (By 1935 L5/21). But they were ready by 1922, and served well to forge Italian interwar armoured tactics. Another model developed in 1930, was the gun-armed (Vickers-Termi 37mm) serie II or FIAT 3000B). Both formed the bulk of the italian army corp until new models arrived in 1935. Form now on, offical designations incorporated "Carro Armato or "CA" meaning "armored carriage", the Factory name, model, and an abbreviation composed of the army model designation L for "Leggera", here, and the army number, followed (slash) by the year of first production. The FIAT 3000B (later L5/30) was an important step towards a full-scale tank production. But only 153 were built in all, and they never achieved all the expectations placed on them. Despite of this, some were exported, incuding to Eritrea, and other fought during the second Italian-Ethiopian war of 1935. They also soldiered in East Africa, in the Balkans and Greece, and still operated in 1943, when the allied landed in Sicily, at Gela.
Italian Tank development during the thirties.By 1928, an Italian army commission took very seriously the first public demonstrations of the British fast one-man tankette designed by Major Giffard LeQuesne, which later became the first Carden-Loyd tankette design. The Mk.VI, distributed by Vickers, was an instant success, widely selled and produced under licence abroad. It was fast, versatile, and cheap. The tankette fad lasted well until 1936. Ansaldo and FIAT earned contracts for the first Italian design, the CV-33 (For "Carro Veloce"). It was followed by the CV-35, and the CV-38. This was the biggest tank production in Italy so far, a model which found also export successes abroad, as beeing even cheaper than the original Vickers model. Accordingly, these tanketes saw extensive service, despite beeing obsolete in 1940.
World war two light Italian armour.By june 1940, the bulk of the Regio Esercito armoured forces was made of tankettes. These had several limitations like a weak protection, machine-gun armament, and no traversing turret, which all prevented any use against other tanks. This issue was first adressed with a prototype, the Fiat-Ansaldo Carro d'Assalto L/36 or 5-tons modello 36, a CV-35 tankette equipped with a new suspension and a light traversing turret, armed with a L/26 37mm and a coaxial Breda 6.5mm Mg. The amor was raised to 30mm, speed lowered to 32 kph and the range was only 80km. A second prototype had the gun replaced in the hull, and a full traverse light machine-gun turret. Despite some production advantages, the Army choosed a new scaled-up model. The Carro Armato Leggera M6T (1938) was given a stronger chassis, more powerful engine SPA 8-cyl and a reworked suspension, and a light turret bearing a twin 8mm Breda modello 38. It has an impressive 42 kph top speed and far better range (200 km). But despite these performances, the Army insisted for a better armed model. This came only by early 1940 with the L6/40, the first prototype beeing delivered and a preserie soon after by mid-1940. The L6/40 was almost identical to the previous prototype, but with a 20mm 37/26 rapid-fire antitank gun, and a coaxial Breda 8mm. The preseries and serie were armed with a Modelo 35 gun. The L6/40 was fast, but it was barely more than an improved tankette, with 6,8 tons in battle order.
World war two Italian medium tanks.The need for a medium infantry tank urged FIAT and Ansaldo to design a brand new hull in 1938. Army specifications included a 37mm gun, two machine-guns and a good armor. At first, the M11/39 came with strong influences from the British Vickers Matilda I and Cruiser I. But still, there was no turret design strong enough to support the designed M40 37mm gun, and it was fitted in the hull. The light turret was equipped with a twin Breda 8mm. For the first time, this was a three-man crew design. The armour was 30mm thick, and the engine was a 105 bhp V6 diesel, sufficient to a 32 kph max speed and 200km range. It was a 11-ton model, hence its denomination. The next step was the M13/40, a 13-14 tons medium tank fitted with a gun turret (47 mm Cannone da 47/32 M35) and a four-men crew. This gun has armor-piercing capabilities.
After a single prototype, a serie began in late 1940. The late production (by 1941) had a 42mm armour, similar to the next model, the M14/41, almost identical. The last evolution of the type was the M15/42, equipped with a much powerful petrol engine, FIAT SPA 145 bhp. But all these designs were limited by a rather obsolete suspension system, dating back from the Vickers 6-ton. By 1942 the Italian army tried to develop a true "cruiser tank". This could only be achieved with a Christie style suspensions system. This led to the M16/43, better known as the Carro Celere Sahariano, which bears some resemblance to the British Crusader. It has a very low profile, long hull, and the same armament as before, probably a 40mm armor, and a powerful FIAT SPA (275 hp). It was capable of a sustained speed of 71 kph (44 mph). But it also came too late. Production was cancelled as the Axis was driven out of Tunisia...
Italian heavy tanks.Since ww1 FIAT 2000, no heavy model was ever studied, mostly due to the lack of funds, industrial capabilities or priorities. However this has to change by 1939, with some german assistance. The Carro Armato Pesante P26/40 was equipped with a powerful 420 hp FIAT V12 diesel, and had a welded hull protected with a 50-60mm armor of hardened steel. The large two-man turret housed an efficient 75mm L/34 which has armor-piercing capabilities. Because of the lack of resources the first single prototype was not ready before 1942, and production really started by 1943. In november, only 70-80 has been delivered so far. The production was then taken in hands by the new German authorities, and ultimately 103 would be completed. Most served with the Wehrmacht in Italy until the armistice.
Light tanks:Light tanks were developed first, like many other nations following the two leading countries in the 1920s and 1930. France provided first the wartime Renault FT, that Italy copied and refined as the Fiat 3000, and later adopted the Britush Carden loyd tankette concept to the full. Tankettes, although of limited value on the battlefield, were cost-effective and cheap to produce en masse, enough for filling reviews and for Mussolini to boast after his power to foreign journalists not keen on military matters. But as it was learnt the hard way in Africa, these vehicles were easy preys and were found only suitable at the end for scouting and auxiliaries. Nevertheless, they formed the precious industrial experience basis upon which the Italian medium tanks were developed.
L5/21 100 units - Light infantry tank, designed in 1919, armed with twin Breda 6.5mm Mgs.
L5/30 52 units - Light infantry tank, modified in 1930, armed with a single 37mm +coaxial 6.5mm Mg.
L3/33 1200 units - Tankette, twin Breda 7,9mm.
L3/35 1300 units - Tankette (improved), twin Breda 7,9mm.
L3/38 200 units - Upgraded tankette with a new suspensions system, twin Breda 7,9mm.
L6/40 283 units - New light tank, One 20mm +coaxial Breda 8mm. Several derivatives.
Medium tanks:Medium tanks (Carro Armato Medio) were first developed after scaled-up tankettes and the example of the British Mark E or 6-ton tank. After a first small serie of stogap vehicles armed with a hull main gun (a solution also favoured by France and USA), the bulk of the production was centered around an homogeneous serie, the M13/40 and its followers which were very closely related. Together, they formed a 1800-strong tank force, quite an achievement for Italy at that time, but certainly not impressive compared to the industrial muscle of Great Britain, morover the United States. Although their protection was relatively strong, a bolted assembly screwed this advantage. Firepower was adequate with a very good 45 mm and a tandem of machine-guns, but their diesel engines suffered from the heat in North Africa, and their old-fashioned suspensions did not favoured the great speeds required in desert warfare.
M11/39 100 units, built 1939. 37mm Vickers-Termi hull +twin Breda 8mm turret.
M13/40 779 units, built 1940-41. 45 mm Breda gun turret +twin Breda 8mm hull, better engine and armor.
M14/41 800 units, built 1941-42. 45 mm Breda gun turret +twin Breda 8mm hull.
M15/42 118 units, built 1942-43. Same characteristics but better armour.
M16/43: The "corazzate", an Italian fast cruiser tank with Christie style suspensions. 1 prototype, 1943.
Heavy tanks:Due to progressive technological advances in manufacturing, Italy only developed a heavy tank by 1942 (Not counting the early Fiat 2000), when German engines were made available. Bult in small quantities and too late, this excellent tank was mostly used by German crews after the Italian armistice.
Carrro Armato Pesante P26/40 103 units. 75mm armed, good armor. Developed too late, by 1943.
Tank destroyers & SPGsUnder the name "Semovente", Italian self propelled guns were inspired by the success of the German STUG-III on the Eastern front. A wide variety of these tanks were derived from chiefly the standard medium tank chassis, and the light tank L3 as well. Their names (Semovente) sigtnified "self propelled") were formed after the main gun caliber carried, followed by its barrel length ratio. Ex. 75/18 meant 75 mm - 18 caliber (The barrel was 18x the bore diameter).
Semovente Da 47/32 The lightest of the serie, built on the L6/40 chassis, with a 47 mm AT gun.
Semovente Da 75/18 The regular SPG inspired by the STUG-III, based on the M13/40 and M14/41
Semovente Da 75/34 A tank hunter based on the M15/42 chassis.
Semovente Da 75/46 Tank hunter based on the M15/42 model 1943 chassis, mostly used by German Forces
Semovente Da 90/53 Formidable tank hunter equipped with a 90 mm converted AA gun.
Semovente Da 105/25 The heaviest and last tank hunter, based on the heavy P26/40 chassis.
Armoured cars :Although these kind of vehicles gave speed and firepower at affordable cost, Italy did not developed much the concept of armoured cars (AutoBlinda or AB) as did the British Forces, especially in North Africa. The IZM and AB611 were old and heavy machines unsuitable for reconnaissance but more for colonial patrol. However in 1940, the AB40 serie provided the bulk of Italian armoured cars with an excellent model, declined into the AB41 and AB43. British models were found as a source of inspiration both for the LRDG concept with the AS.42 and the Lince in 1942-43.
Lancia-Ansaldo IZM Only a handful of these ww1-era armoured cars were used in Colonial aeras.
Autoblinda Fiat AB 611 The standard late 1930s 4x6 colonial armoured car
Autoblinda AB.41 A rather successful 4x4, well-armed design, which strived in North Africa.
Camioneta AS42 A conversion of the former as a long range vehicle equivalent to the British LRDG patrol cars. Depending on their posting, these were the "Sahariana" or the "metropolitana".
Autoblinda Lince A virtual copy of the British Daimler scout car built to 250 copies in 1943-45 and used by the Italian Social Republic and German Forces.
The FIAT 2000 in evaluation exercizes, rear view.
Some M13/40 and other vehicles at the final assembly line in Ansaldo Fossati Factory of Genoa, one of the main industrial center were these tanks were built.
The CV 33 Tankette, the best-seller and biggest tank production in Italy so far.
The L6/40 was the next generation of light tanks, initially developped on the basis of the CV35 tankette. It has a new suspensions system and a 20mm in a traversing turret. It was the Italian equivalent of the Panzer II.
Some Captured M11/39 by Australian troops after British counter-offensive of early 1941. This medium tank was strongly influenced by 1938 British designs like the Matilda I and Cruiser I.
Some M13/40 in manoeuvers. This medium tank derived from the M11/39 has a long lineage and was built since 1940 to 1943, in several versions. With a 30-42mm protection and a high-velocity 47mm gun, it was the mainstay of Italian armour.
A Captured M14/41 formerly used by the Wehrmacht to deal with Polish insurgents, here in Warsaw in 1945. The M14/41 was one of the last evolution of the M11/39.
The Autoblinda AB40 to 43 was the main armoured car in the Regia Esercito. It was a sturdy and well-armed design, with off-road capabilities.
The Semovente 47/32 was a derivative of the L13/40, strongly influenced by the German STUG design. It was used as a tank hunter as well for close infantry support.
The Semovente M75/18 was also a self-propelled artillery based on the M11/39 but equipped with a fixed 75mm.
The Semovente 90/53 was the heaviest adaptation of the M11/39 chassis, and was used as artillery support as well as tank hunting.
The Carro Armato P40, the last evolution of Italian tanks, was a good design armed with a high-velocity 75mm. However it came too late.
A Semovente 75/34 captured by British troops in 1944.