Italian Republic (1946)
Medium Tank – Fake
The popular online game World of Tanks (WoT) published and developed by Wargaming (WG) has many tens of thousands of players and a wide variety of historical and semi-historical armored vehicles to play. It also has a few ‘fake’ tanks as well, that is, tanks that never existed in either drawings or material. The Progetto M35 mod.46 Medium tank is one from the latter category. The tank is very handsomely represented with a 3D model, but it is a fake, as the tank never existed. However, the vehicle in-game is not wholly fabricated, as it has a minuscule basis in fact.
In WoT, the Progetto M35 mod.46 is, as might be expected from its name, represented as a project dating from 1946 for a 35 tonne (hence the ‘M35’) medium tank. There is even a short ‘history’ provided:
“Conceptualization of a draft design developed at the request of General Francesco Rossi who believed that only light vehicles weighing up to 35 tons would be effective in a new war. Such an innovative design was not approved; development was discontinued when Italy joined the Standard Tank project.”
This ‘history’ is a half-truth at best.
In-Game, the Design is as follows
The engine for the Progetto M35 mod.46 in the WoT game is given as a 652 hp ID36S 6V CA engine. Although the manufacturer’s name is not provided, the Italian firm of Isotta Fraschini did make a series of engines known as ID-36. These were 9.72 litre marine diesel engines with 6 cylinders arranged in a ‘V’ shape (hence the 6V in the name for a V6 engine) and producing 500 hp. Measuring just 92.5 cm high, 92 cm wide, and 137.2 cm long, this engine weighs just 890 kg. In WoT, the engine module weight is given as 1,200 kg, more than the actual engine. With an output of 652 hp, the engine in-game it is also much more powerful than the real engine, although static-engine versions of the ID-36 are available which produce in excess of 700 hp, like the Fire-pump version (725 hp)
The engines have only been around since the early 1980s, although the company itself dates back to the early years of the 20th century. Whilst the engine is neither for tanks and was not available in 1946, the engine is essentially genuine. They are still in use today for motorboats for example, as they are valued for their compact size and reliability. Their most notable use is in the Italian Lerici-class minesweeper ships of the Italian Navy. Other versions of this engine with 8 and even up to 16 cylinders are available producing up to 2200 bhp. The ‘CA’ added to the end of the WoT module in-game is simply to denote Carro Armato (tank use), although as already stated this engine was never used for tanks.
Suspension and Tracks
The suspension for the WoT Progetto M35 mod.46 is given in the game as ‘Progetto M35 mod.46’ suspension, although what sort of suspension this is open to question. With six evenly spaced road wheels on each side and a noticeable offset between the wheels on the left and right, it appears to be suggesting the adoption of torsion bar suspension for the tank. No such mention of this type of suspension or any other type of suspension is mentioned by General Rossi so this choice is entirely fictional/speculative on the part of WoT.
Secondly, the choice of tracks for the model is very odd too, as, with three rectangular rubber pads across each link, the tracks bear an uncanny resemblance to the British ‘hush puppy’ type of tracks as used on the British Centurion tank. There is no evidence that Italy ever operated a Centurion tank or the ‘hush puppy’ tracks for it either. Further, those types of tracks were not introduced on the Centurion until the 1960s in an effort to reduce the damage to paved roads. Therefore, even if Italy ever did get some of these tracks for some purpose, they would clearly be unsuitable to model on a tank from 1946.
In WoT, the Progetto M35 mod.46 is shown using what is described as a 90/50 T119E1 main gun. This is a 50-caliber long 90 mm gun with a cylindrical muzzle brake/blast diffuser. The gun is a very interesting choice, as the history of the T119 gun makes it clear that it is entirely inappropriate as an option for this design.
For a start, the gun is American, not Italian. The T119 gun originated from the development of the US T42 Medium Tank which did not even reach the wooden mockup stage until March 1949. When it did, it was fitted with the M3A1 90 mm gun, but this was considered substandard and had to be improved with revised specifications for an improved pressure breech capable of withstanding 47,000 psi (324 MPa) instead of 38,000 psi (262 MPa). It was this revised 90 mm gun which became the T119.
This T119 gun was able to fire the 90 mm ammunition of the M3A1 90 mm gun, but not the other way around, as it was a higher pressure (the cases were even modified to prevent an accident loading on the lower pressure gun with the higher pressure rounds).
The T119 gun fired the T33E7 AP-T shell (mounted in the T24 case) at 3,000 ft/s (914 m/s) as well as the M71 HE round (in the T24 case). At 177.15 inches (4,500 mm) in length, the T119 had a length of 50 calibers.
Manufacture of the T119 90 mm gun was not even authorized by the Ordnance Technical Committee for production at Watervliet Arsenal until 20th October 1948. This gun was still considered ‘new’ and experimental (hence the ‘T’ designation) in January 1950, when it was modified into the T119E1 and finally became the T125 gun (later standardized as M36) as part of the development of the M56 Scorpion (then the ‘Carriage, Motor, 90 mm Gun, T101). This T119 gun was originally fitted with a single baffle muzzle brake, but this was later replaced with a cylindrical blast deflector by the time it was mounted on the T42 Medium Tank. The gun on the Progetto M35 mod.46 is certainly a real gun, but it is neither an Italian gun nor in existence at the time of the vehicle. This is before even taking into account considerations of when a brand new and experimental American gun could even have got to Italy and certainly not an autoloader for that gun for Italy.
Other points of consideration for the Progetto M35 mod.46 include the armor. Data given by WoT states that the hull armor is supposed to be 60 mm thick frontally with 30 mm on the sides and rear for the hull, and 80 mm, 60 mm, and 25 mm on the turret front, sides and rear respectively. These figures are not based on any design but are purely a function of balance for the game.
Having dissected the tank as claimed by WG, it is important to consider the man, General Franceso Rossi, claimed as the source and what he really wrote. General Rossi is certainly a real person. Born on 6th December 1885, Rossi was a professional soldier who was a Lieutenant Colonel by 1926. Through the 1930s, he rose through the senior ranks with appoints in Rome as Chief of Military Transport and then as the Commanding officer of various artillery regiments. By 1939, he was the Commanding Officer of an Artillery Corps and then Intendant of the Italian 1st Army. Through World War Two, he continued his rise going from the Commander of II Corps to Deputy Chief of the Army General Staff in March 1941. He was made a Lieutenant General in October 1942 and, in March 1943, Deputy Chief of Staff to the Chief of the Supreme General Staff of the Italian Royal Army (Regio Esercito – RE). It was in this capacity that Gen. Rossi was to play a crucial role during the Italian Armistice of September 1943 (the Armistice of Cassibile).
The Source of the Claim
The origin for the WoT claim is from a book written by Gen. Rossi, published in 1946, entitled “La Ricostruzione dell’ Esercito” – the reconstruction of the army. Written in 1946, this paper predates the Paris Peace Treaty of February 1947 and was outlining how a new Italian Army should be organized and the sort of equipment it needed. WW2 had been utterly devastating for Italy with a large but ill-prepared and usually rather poorly led army suffering severe defeats at the hands of the British and Americans. Germany, Italy’s ally in WW2, was not a particularly gracious ally at times either and, following the armistice with the Allies in September 1943, Italy basically collapsed into a civil war with some of the military remaining loyal to the Axis and the rest joining the Allies. This second half had suffered harsh reprisals from the Germans, who from then on had acted as an occupying power. Such a split in Italy required a lot of mending after the war. In this sense, Gen. Rossi’s short book was very well-timed. The Army was totally broken by the war and was still operating a few Italian vehicles left over from the war along with a mishmash of tanks and armored cars provided by the British and Americans. A total reorganization was certainly required. It is worth bearing in mind though, that Article 54 of the Paris Treaty of February 1947 strictly limited the Italian military to not more than 200 heavy and medium tanks and, through Article 61, a total of 250,000 personnel (Army and Carabinieri combined). The likelihood of authorizing the expensive and time-consuming development of a home-grown tank by Italy was simply neither likely nor realistic. It is hard to imagine that Gen. Rossi, from his senior position in the Italian military, would not have been aware of the parlous state of the Italian economy and military post-war.
In his book, “La Ricostruzione dell’Esercito” Gen. Rossi wrote:
“Accenno anche alle caratteristiche che dovrebbe avere un carro armato di produzione nazionale, unicamente per completare la visione dei mezzi meccanici, per il caso sia giudicato possibile ed opportuno, come io ritengo, procedere a studi ed anche all’approntamento del prototipo.”
“Carro armato veloce, ben corazzato, non mastodontico, perchè resti nei limiti consentiti dalle nostre ferrovie e dalle nostre opere d’arte, ma tale da tener testa ai più progrediti carri esteri: peso dalle 30 alle 35 tonn., cannone di calibro intorno ai 75 mm, motore di 5-600 H.P. di tipo appositamente ad iniezione per la minor facilità di incendio del gasolio rispetto alla benzina.
Dal carro armato potrà trarsi il cannone semovente, utilizzando lo stesso scafo per un cannone da 90, od un obice di calibro maggiore”
– La Ricostruzione dell’Esercito, 1946
“I mention the characteristics a national production tank should have solely to complete the vision of the mechanic vehicles, if it is considered viable and appropriate, as I think, proceed to studies and the preparation of a prototype.
Fast tank, well armored, not too big and heavy [like an elephant], provided it stays within the limits allowed by our railway and artwork [bridges, tunnels, etc.], but able to stand up to the most advanced tank of foreign countries: weight between 30 to 35 tons, cannon of a calibre around 75 mm, 500/600 HP engine specifically of injection type due to lower risk of fire compared to a gasoline engine.
From the tank, a self-propelled gun might be derived using the same hull for a 90 mm cannon or a howitzer of a larger caliber”
Despite the obviously weakened state of the Italian economy in 1946, Gen. Rossi was still hoping, perhaps vainly, for a new nationally produced tank at least to the level of the production of a prototype. To this end, he outlined the features it should have.
Firstly, powered by a fuel-injected diesel engine (due to the lower fire risk than a petrol engine) producing between 500 and 600 hp. The vehicle had to be quick, able to keep up with the most advanced foreign tanks. At the time of writing, the primary foreign tanks Rossi was likely familiar with would be the American Sherman, British Cromwell, Russian T-34-85, or even the German WW2 Panther with top speeds under ideal conditions of about 48 km/h, 64 km/h, 38 km/h, and 55 km/h respectively. Quite how much Gen. Rossi might have known about the most modern tanks from Britain, American, and Russian though is questionable, but he would certainly have been familiar with at least these WW2 tanks.
Weight-wise, Rossi was very clear, a tank of between 30 and 35 tonnes in weight and of sufficiently modest dimensions to be transported by rail. Armor-wise, the tank was supposed to be well armored yet not too large, hardly a thorough description but then that is because this was not a design – it was a concept of what tank Italy needed for a new army.
At 35 tonnes, this would still be heavier than the heaviest tank Italy produced during the war, the 26-tonne P.26/40 and around 10-tonnes lighter than the German Panther. The weight range given actually closely matches that of the American M4 Sherman. This is not the only similarity either. The gun called for by Gen. Rossi was one of a caliber of 75 mm or thereabouts. The British Cromwell was using the QF 75 mm gun, the American M4 used the M3 75 mm gun or the 76 mm M1A1 series. The British Comet had the 77 mm HV, whilst the German Panther had used the 75 mm KwK 42. Which, if any of these, Gen. Rossi might had been considering is unknown – perhaps he was considering an Italian gun in that caliber range, but he was clear on what he considered a suitable caliber – 75 mm or thereabouts. Bigger guns, like a 90 mm piece, were destined to be on a tank destroyer preferably based on the same chassis.
That then, is literally ‘it’. There is no design, no model or plans and not a lot of specifics. This was 1946 too, so options were very limited for Italy. Gen. Rossi may have wished for a new tank to be produced in Italy- it would, afterall, be very good for Italian industrial rebuilding as well as for an independent army, but in 1946 this was wishful thinking. WoT’s “such an innovative design…” claim is simply false. There is no design and none of the features he mentioned were in any way innovative.
There was also no need at all for a new and expensive tank for Italy, especially a tank which, after all, would offer nothing that existing available and cheaper designs did not already offer. By the end of the 1940’s, the Italian Army had tanks and tank destroyers which matched what Gen. Rossi had been calling for in the form of Sherman tanks of various types armed with 75 mm, 76 mm and 105 mm guns, Sherman Fireflys armed with the British 17 pounder gun, and the American-supplied M36 Jacksons as tank destroyers armed with a 90 mm gun – a tank destroyer based on the chassis of a Sherman tank, just as Gen. Rossi had wanted back in 1946.
The Progetto M35 mod.46 is a fake. Not a completely made-up-from-nothing fake, but without doubt still a fake. The call from Gen. Rossi for a new tank made it clear that the 90 mm gun was not for this tank, but for a different vehicle. Not only that, but the 90 mm gun selected by WoT was simply not possible to be fitted to a tank in 1946, let alone one in Italy. The tracks, assuming they are ‘hush puppy’ tracks are neither Italian nor available in 1946. The engine certainly is a real thing, but it was not used in tanks and was not around in 1946. All this predated the attempts to develop a single tank as a ‘standard panzer’, sometimes known as the ‘Europanzer’ project.
Whatever Gen. Rossi might have been considering as a tank is unclear, but certainly what he wrote cannot be described as a design. The vehicle, as represented in the WoT game is simply not possible and purely invented.
Illustration of the Progetto M35 Mod. 46, produced by Ardhya Anargha, funded by our Patreon campaign.
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Data Sheet ‘Motore termico/ciclo Diesel/a quattro tempi/6 cilindri a V a 90: Isotta Fraschini Motori
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World of Tanks Wiki
Biography of Lt. General Rossi