Categories
WW2 Italian Prototypes

Ansaldo Light Tank Prototype 1931

Italy Kingdom of Italy (1929-30) Light Tank – 1 Built

Following tests in 1930 with a new and improved light tank to replace the interim CV.29, changes had to be made to the vehicle to improve mobility. Ansaldo had made the prototype in 1930 copying the general arrangement of the CV.29, which was, in turn, a copy of the Carden Loyd Mark VI light tank. The 1930 vehicle had improved armor by virtue of a proper roof plate and better suspension than the CV.29, but it was still not acceptable. The armament was light, just a single Fiat Model 1914 water-cooled 6.5 mm machine-gun, and whilst that would be changed later, the priority was to achieve better mobility by focusing on the suspension system.

The 1930 Light Tank Prototype was modified and from the few available photographs and records on the project, the evolution from CV.29 to CV.3 Series vehicles can be traced directly through this 1930 vehicle modified into the 1931 model.

Ansaldo 1931 Light Tank Prototype

Trial and Development

With the lessons from the trials of the CV.29 and the 1930 Ansaldo Light Tank Prototype available, the evolution of the CV.3 had moved significantly in just a couple of years. The 1930 trials of the Light Tank had been promising, and new trials were ordered for 1931. Giuseppe Rossini, the engineering brains behind the designs at Ansaldo, took this knowledge and experience and replaced the suspension on the 1930 vehicle. It is not clear whether the suspension was changed from the 1930 vehicle to the 1931 vehicle first and then was copied over onto the Ansaldo Light Tractor (for hauling field guns) or vice versa, or indeed if it was done simultaneously, but regardless, the old suspension was gone and a new, improved system fitted.

Layout

As this 1931 vehicle was simply the 1930 vehicle with modifications, it retained the all-welded upper bodywork with bolting and riveting kept to the lower sections. The armament remained weak however, as it retained the same single Fiat model 1914 6.5 mm water-cooled machine-gun mounted behind a large, curved mounting on the front left. This would still be operated by the commander/gunner with the driver sitting on the front right. Movement for the machine-gun was acceptable as it was able to move 20 degrees in each direction horizontally and could be elevated between -12 and +18 degrees, thus permitting a wide field of fire. An estimated 3,800 rounds could have been carried, but as it was a prototype, this is not definitive and is merely an estimate based on the loadout of the CV.3/33 when it was eventually finished.

The engine was at the back and the transmission at the front with the drive shaft running between the two men. The body of the vehicle was mostly welded armor between 8 and 14mm thick with some bolts used to attach sections together. Notably, the vertical front plate on the nose of the vehicle was bolted together and used two vertical reinforcing pieces. On the glacis, above this nose, was a single, wide hatch used for accessing and also for cooling the transmission.

The internal layout of either the 1930 or 1931 version of the prototype tank. The interior layout remained unchanged from the 1930 to 1931 versions with the commander/gunner on the left and the driver on the right. The chequered floor plate gives an idea of the attention to detail which went into the design. Source: Pignato

On the casemate itself was a wide rectangular hatch on the front right for the driver in addition to a large rectangular hatch on the right of the driver for vision. Another two square hatches were provided in the back of the casemate directly behind the driver and gunner respectively. The roof was a single large metal panel attached by two simple hinges at the back of the casemate, being large and awkward to open and close.

At the rear, the engine bay had a flat roof, and ventilation for the engine was provided by means of large louvred grilles on each side of the engine compartment. On the roof of the engine compartment, there were more ventilation louvres. One unusual feature is the addition of ventilation grooves into the cover for the muffler on the exhaust from each side, presumably there to help keep the exhaust cool or assist in air flow.

Ansaldo Light Tank Prototype of 1931. The framework on the rear deck is a folding mount for a machine gun. Source: Pignato

Mobility and Suspension

The suspension was changed from 3 pairs of wheels to the better known 2-1-1-2 arrangement in which the fore and aft pairs of wheels were mounted on a bogie and the central individual wheels mounted on a dog-leg shaped arm. The horizontal supporting bar for the suspension components was retained, although it was shorter and slightly reshaped. The rear idler mount was also changed from a simple bar holding it in place to an integrated mounting holding a small wheel to keep the track from excessive flexing during high-speed movement and especially from being buckled upwards during reversing. As with all of the previous vehicles, the slightly triangular box behind the sprocket was retained and hand tools for the tank were kept in it.

1931 Ansaldo Light Tank prototype during testing in the mountains. The roof has been removed for an unknown purpose. This image provides an excellent view of the flat engine deck of this machine. The tiny silhouette of the machine is also apparent. Source: Private collection and Pignato respectively

The power source for the vehicle is not known for certain, although it is possible, albeit unlikely, that it was still using the same 2.9-litre Ford Model T petrol engine as was being used in the CV.29. That engine produced just 20-22 hp for a vehicle over a tonne lighter. Performance for the 1931 Prototype is not known but had it been using this Ford engine it would have been totally unsatisfactory mobility wise, meaning it is far more likely to have had the same Fiat CV3-type 4 cylinder petrol engine as was later adopted for the production vehicles. That 2.745-litre engine received various improvements and modifications to improve the power output. As the production engine in the formally adopted CV.3/33 delivered 43 hp, it is a reasonable assumption to place the engine output for the 1930 prototype at or about 43hp. In this case, this would have enabled to the tank to manage about 40km/h on a road and about 14 km/h off-road.

Conclusion

The 1931 Prototype with the improved suspension was still not perfect but was superior to its earlier (1930) form and significantly better in every regard than the CV.29 which had been made as an interim tank whilst this new tank was developed. The Fiat model 1914 water-cooled 6.5 mm machine-gun was still not ideal, but that was to be a relatively simple thing to change. The design for the new tank had been set. Able to be transported by truck and capable of good mobility even in mountainous terrain, it was all that had been asked for and, save for the use of a turret, was an ideal light tank. The new suspension was still not perfect but had been sufficiently improved over the rigid 1930 system to form the basis for a new production tank for the army.

The design was thus selected for mass production with a few minor changes and standardized as the Carro Veloce 33 (CV.33). This vehicle, throughout a life of modifications and variants, would be Italy’s most widely produced armored vehicle of WW2.



Illustration of the Ansaldo Light Tank Prototype 1931 produced by Andrei Kirushkin, funded by our Patreon Campaign.

Specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 3.17 x 1.4 x 1.28 meters
Total weight, battle ready 3.2 tonnes
Crew 2 (driver, commander/machine-gunner)
Propulsion 40-43hp Fiat CV.3 petrol
Top speed 40km/h road, 14 km/h off-road
Armament: x1 Fiat Model 1914 Water-Cooled 6.5 mm Machine-Gun
Armor 8 – 14 mm
Total Production 1

Sources

Italie1939-45.com
Pignato, N, Cappellano, F. (2002). Gli Autoveicoli da Combattimento Dell’Esercito Italiano V.2. Stato Maggiore dell’Esercito
Curami, L., Ceva, A. (1994). La Meccanizzazione dell’Esercito Italiano. Arte Della Stampa


Categories
WW2 Italian Prototypes

Semovente Moto-Guzzi

Italy ww2 Kingdom of Italy (1921)
SPG – 1 Built

Mountainous northern Italy was treacherous tank country. Any war fought there on that terrain would be difficult. As well suited to defense as mountains were, any force which could deploy armor there, especially if they could also deploy some mobile artillery, would have a significant advantage. Combine this need with the late 1920’s assessment that the doctrine for new warfare should be highly mobile tactically making full use of light tanks combined with strategic mobility and Italy had a clear requirement for a vehicle able to achieve both goals.

Early work had involved testing the British Carden Loyd Mark VI light tank as well as the Mark V* light tank. Both had some advantages such as their small size and mobility but also some disadvantages in terms of the arrangement of automotive components.

Carden Loyd Mark V* fitted with Schwarzlose machine gun. Source: Ceva and Curami

The Carden-Loyd Mark VI entered service with Italy fitted with a single machine gun as the CV.29. The Mark V* was not assigned an official Italian service number but served as an inspiration for Ansaldo’s design for a 65 mm gun armed vehicle.

The Entry of Moto-Guzzi

The Italian firm Società Anonima Moto Guzzi, better known as just ‘Moto Guzzi’, is world famous for motorcycles and is Italy’s oldest motorcycle producer, having started in 1921. They even developed a completely enclosed armored motorcycle mounting a heavy machine gun. Of far more military use though they also worked on a fully tracked vehicle design. This design was a significant departure from anything seen before. It had two versions. The first was just a tractor which served as a test bed and the second was based on the same vehicle, but mounting a gun.

Semovente Moto-Guzzi 65/17. Source: Pignato

Structure

The basic structure of both vehicles was the same as the chassis were the same consisting of two independent track units mounted on arms and driven by an engine in the front. The driver and another crew member would sit at the back to command, drive and service the gun. The cabin seen in the test bed is a roll cage for protection from rolling over and it is unknown whether it was intended to be a permanent feature on either vehicle. Certainly, some sort of protection for the crew would have been required for the Semovente (a self propelled gun for infantry support) should it have been built.

Suspension

The suspension was very unusual and consisted of two tracks completely independent of each other consisting of four wheels on a supporting bar, along with an idler and drive sprocket all suspended on three rotatable arms. As one track moves down, these arms rotated, ensuring that the body of the vehicle remains horizontal and the tracks move at different heights. The arrangement was unlike anything before in Italy and had the significant advantage of allowing movement across the side of a steep slope. The drawing from Moto-Guzzi suggests a side slope of approximately 45 degrees. Drive appears to be provided via the front sprocket as per the prototype vehicle. However, the exact arrangements of the fastenings for the wheels is likely to have differed on the envisaged production vehicle from the test bed.

The drawing of the Semovente shows four road wheels and the test bed also has four wheels but each wheel is paired so as to leave a gap down the centre for the track guide. A large external supporting bar ran from the front sprocket to the rear idler wheel on which were mounted small track support wheels.

Engine

Moto-Guzzi made a lot of motorcycles for the Italian Army and had a lot of experience in small high powered engines but it is not known what engine was used in the design. The cylindrical object at the front of the test bed is unknown but appears to be either the exhaust or possibly a fuel tank, which would have to have been completely rearranged on a production vehicle to permit the gun to be used.

The Moto-Guzzi designed vehicle chassis, during mountain trials, showed off its incredible ability to remain upright even when traversing a steep side slope. This flexibility is shown in the modified image from the outline drawing. Source: Ceva and Curami, and Pignato (modified) respectively
1: The Moto-Guzzi vehicle showing its ability to climb very steep slopes even in snowy alpine conditions. 2: The Moto-Guzzi traversing a steep side slope in snowy conditions. The ability of the tracks to move vertically keeps the body horizontal. 3: The Moto-Guzzi tractor during trials. Note the large logo on the cab. Source for all: Pignato
Enlarged view of the logo on the side of image 3. Source: Pignato

Armament

The Moto Guzzi, as a tractor, would (amongst other duties) be used for towing light guns. As a semovente, it would mount the 65mm Model 1913 mountain gun. This gun was made by the Royal Arsenal in Naples and was 17 calibers long. It was an ideal gun for use in the mountains as it could be broken down easily into 5 loads for transport. It fired the 65mm x 172R rounds just under 5kg in weight and ammunition for the gun was mainly high explosive, but a specific shrapnel shell was also available. Later, an armour piercing (AP) and also a hollow charge shell were available for it.

65mm L.17 Model 1913 Mountain gun. Source: Italian Ministry of Defence

Conclusion

The Semovente Moto-Guzzi was a very advanced design for the time. A design ideally suited to the rigours and demands of mountain warfare and carrying a weapon specifically designed for the job. It was not to be, however. The Moto-Guzzi design, either for work as a tractor or as a semovente, was discontinued by 1930. The Italians would have to look elsewhere for a suitable gun carrier to meet their unusual requirements.



Illustration of the Semovente Moto-Guzzi produced by Andrei Kirushkin, funded by our Patreon Campaign.

Specifications

Crew 2
Armament 65mm L.17 Model 1913 mountain gun

Sources

Italie1939-45.com
Italian Artillery of WWII, Ralph Riccio
Iron Arm: The Mechanization of Mussolini’s Army, 1920-1940, John Sweet
Gli Autoveicoli da Combattimento Dell’Esercito Italiano V.2, Pignato and Cappellano
Italian Armoured Vehicles of World War Two, Nicola Pignato
La Meccanizzazione dell’Esercito Italiano, Ceva and Curami
motoguzzi.com


Categories
WW2 Italian Prototypes

‘Rossini’ CV.3 Light Tank Prototype

Italy Kingdom Of Italy (~1935)
Light tank – 1 built

Giuseppe Rossini was the engineering brains behind the Ansaldo Carro Veloce (Ansaldo Fast Tank) projects. In 1930 and 1931, he had created a prototype based loosely on the general arrangement of the CV.29, which, in turn, was copied from the Carden Loyd Mark VI Light Tanks purchased from Great Britain in 1929. Throughout 1930 and 1931, that design had been refined and tested, which resulted in the 2-1-1-2 bogie suspension system seen on production CV.3 series vehicles from the model of 1933 to the model of 1935.

Whilst it was a robust suspension system, it was not perfect, and various minor changes were made, mostly to the rear idler, but also to the bogies themselves. On top of this, the armament was weak. A single machine-gun had been mounted inside the Prototypes of 1930 and 1931 in a limited-traverse mount. It would not be until 1934 when this was this switched to a double machine-gun but, again, this was in a hull mounting with a limited field of fire. The obvious solution to the underwhelming firepower was the addition of a turret. Rossini clearly saw an opportunity to address both the suspension and firepower limitations and, sometime between 1932 and 1935, created a new vehicle with improvements to both suspension and firepower.

Hull

This new vehicle was using the same welded steel hull, with armor ranging from 8mm to 14mm, as in the CV.3/33 Series I Light Tank (the Series I being distinguished by the air intake for the engine being located centrally at the back of the casemate, flanked by two rectangular hatches which could be opened from inside). Based on the use of this hull (which was discontinued in 1934 when production switched to the Series II vehicles), this would appear to date the design between 1932 and 1934. It is possible, however, that Rossini was simply experimenting with an older body that had been discontinued after this date. By 1935, production had switched from welding the casemate to a bolted structure, so the estimated likely date range is kept at 1932 to 1935 for this reason. The rest of the casemate retained the features of the CV.3/33 Series I production tank, with the same flush-fitting mudguards and casemate mounted headlamps.

The machine gun position cut into the front left was replaced with a new glacis plate which covered the hole all the way up to the nearly vertical driver’s plate. This too was now a single piece without the machine gun opening, and other than the driver’s hatch which had been retained on the right, this was now a clean single plate. The driver’s position remained unchanged. Sat on the right and steering by levers, the driver still had a single large rectangular hatch over his head to get in and out, plus the same small square vision port to his right to see out of. The vision port on the left of the casemate was kept, but instead of a seated weapons position for the commander/gunner, he would now have a turret. He would have to stand up to use this small turret, though he could presumably sit back down in the hull if he wished to when he did not need to maintain observation or man the machine gun in the turret.

Suspension

Other than the obvious addition of a turret, the most significant change to the vehicle was the new suspension system. The normal CV.3/33 used the standard 2-1-1-2 suspension consisting of bogies connected and held together by a stiff outer steel bar. The movement of the wheels was thus limited, which reduced off-road performance. A new type of coiled spring suspension was tested at around this time on a Series I Production CV.3/33 and showed that the wheels had a wider range of movement than the bogies which were held rigidly in place by a horizontal bar.

For this turreted tank, Rossini used a new system. Four large wheels connected by a horizontal flat steel bar sandwiching the wheels. This steel bar was connected to a pivot point on the lower edge of the hull. A leaf spring was at the back of each side of the tank on the horizontal bar, although this was reversed on the rear pair of wheels on each side. This system meant that when the wheels encountered an obstacle or change in ground-height, the wheels could pivot together around this central pivot point and the leaf spring attached to the horizontal bar provided both shock absorbency but also returned the bogey back to its starting position.


‘Rossini’s’ CV.3 prototype showing the effectiveness of the new suspension system. Source: Ansaldo

Turret and Armament

The armament of the Series I vehicle had been weak, consisting of just a single Fiat Model 1914 6.5 mm machine gun (tipo aviazione). This was a much more suitable weapon for a vehicle than the previous water-cooled machine gun used in the prototypes of 1930 and 1931, but was still inadequate for providing sufficient weight-of-fire to support infantry attacks and had insufficient power to penetrate enemy revetments or even light armor. This deficiency was addressed in the production of the Series II vehicles from 1934 when a new mounting was fitted, this time coupling a pair of Fiat 1914/1934 8 mm machine guns together. This firepower increase came at a price.

The single machine gun of the Series I was able to move 20 degrees in each direction horizontally and could be elevated between -12 and +18 degrees with space inside for 3,800 rounds of ammunition. The two 8 mm machine guns though, had a reduced traverse, with just 12 degrees to each side, and the elevation was limited too, down from +18 on the Series I to 15 degrees on the Series II. A bigger bullet also meant that fewer rounds could be carried, with just 2,320 8 mm rounds on the Series II compared to the 3,800 6.5 mm rounds carried on the Series I tanks.

Side view of the modified CV.3 showing the turret and new 4-wheel suspension system. Source: Ansaldo

Along with this decrease in ammunition stowage came the further downside of weight. The new machine gun mounting was also significantly heavier. The solution was clearly met with the addition of a turret. A machine gun mounted in a turret atop the machine would be able to provide not 24 total degrees of traverse, but 360. Thus, a small circular turret was added over the commander/gunner’s position. Around the circumference of the turret sides and rear was a series of 4 horizontal vision slits which served to significantly improve visibility from the vehicle too. The front of the turret had a similar style of mounting as was fitted previously in the hull, projecting out of the front of the turret in a box structure, into which a second fitting was installed which could move up and down. Through this second piece, the single machine gun armament was mounted to the right-hand side. Unlike the former hull mount, there does not appear to have been any ability to move the machine gun side to side within this mounting, which would be no surprise as lateral movement was now provided by the turret.

The roof of the turret was formed from a single steel hatch opening backward, but when closed, actually sloped forwards slightly. The exact armament is not clear. Rossini demonstrated his vehicle fitted with just a single machine gun of an unknown type, possibly the Fiat M.26 or M.28 (experimental) 6.5 mm machine guns, although whether a different machine gun was planned is unknown as the 6.5 mm Fiat Model 1914 (tipo aviazione) was already known to be insufficient. With added space inside the tank, it is also likely that there was sufficient room in which to store more ammunition in addition to the 2,320 rounds carried in the Series II vehicle. Photographic evidence shows one extremely useful feature of the design, which was that the machine gun could actually be withdrawn by the commander/gunner and, with the turret roof open, mounted pointing upwards as a defence against low flying aircraft. None of the CV.3 vehicles had, to this point, any capacity for protection against aircraft whatsoever, and a single 8 mm anti-aircraft machine gun was as much as most Italian tanks in WW2 had a few years later, so the flexibility of the firepower on offer was excellent.

Questions arise as to why the fitting of a 20 mm cannon, such as the 20 mm Breda (20/65 Breda M.35), was not attempted, although it is possible that it was considered. Without the original paperwork for the development, designer’s notes, or blueprints though, it can only be speculated. Should such a weapon have been considered however, it would have been a significant increase in firepower, providing just what the Italian troops fighting with Franco’s Nationalists had really needed in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). During that war, the Italian machine gun armed tanks were mostly ineffective against the Soviet-supplied T-26 tanks of the Spanish Republic. Ironically, the Italian Breda 20 mm cannon, being the ideal weapon against the T-26, was mounted on another light tank during that war, the German Panzer I, and on an Italian CV.3 Series vehicle for exactly this purpose.


Illustration of the Rossini CV.3 light tank prototype. Illustrated by Yuvnashva Sharma, funded by our Patreon campaign.


Conclusion

Very little is known about this development. At a time when the CV.3/33 Series II was either starting production or in production, this design was a significant improvement over that tank in all areas from enhanced mobility on and off-road, better visibility, to improved firepower. Even retaining the same CV.3-005 43 hp petrol engine of the Series I and II vehicles, this tank would have had comparable performance in terms of speed, combined with beneficial features, such as greater cross-country ability, better visibility and more flexibility in terms of firepower.

Modified CV.3 showing the elevated position of the main armament for use as an anti-aircraft gun. Source: Ansaldo
It was to come to nothing, however. The potential of this vehicle was never realized, as the development of the CV.3 continued into 1935 and other schemes for a light, turreted tank began. Those plans would improve on the Series I’s suspension as well, but never again was the CV.3 series vehicle to have this big-wheel suspension system fitted.

Sources

Pignato, N, Cappellano, F. (2002). Gli Autoveicoli da Combattimento Dell’Esercito Italiano V.2. Stato Maggiore dell’Esercito
Curami, L., Ceva, A. (1994). La Meccanizzazione dell’Esercito Italiano. Arte Della Stampa

‘Rossini’ CV.3 Light Tank Prototype specifications

Dimensions 3.167 x 1.4 x ~1.7 m
Total weight, battle ready ~3.4 tonnes
Crew 2 (Commander/Machine Gunner, Driver)
Propulsion 2.745 litre 43hp Fiat CV.3-005 4-cylinder petrol
Speed est. 40 km/h road, 14 km/h off-road
Armament Single machine gun (Fiat M.26 or M28) 6.5 mm
Armor 8-14 mm
Total production 1 built
For information about abbreviations check the Lexical Index
Categories
WW2 Italian Prototypes

Corni Half-Track

Italy Kingdom of Italy (1923) Half-Track – Design Only

Guido Corni was an Engineers Major from Modena (Italy) who had served in the Italian Army during World War One (Regio Esercito – RE). Towards the end of the war, he had worked alongside Captain Scognamiglio on armored car designs and their designs were considered by the High Command. The Great War had ended before their work had left the paper design stage and, with a stock of armored cars like the Ansaldo-Lancia 1ZM in stock as well as serious financial problems, the government was not going to spend more money on a new armored car.
That particular vehicle (the Corni-Scognamiglio) had been quite conventional. It was based on a wheeled truck – as were most armored cars of the era – with an armored fighting compartment built behind the driver. With the pressures of war over, Major Corni had lost none of his ingenuity, filing a patent for improvements in combustion engines in August 1920. In 1923, he filed another patent for another armored fighting vehicle. This time it was a half-track with some unusual features.

Corni Halftrack diagram taken from Patent FR588288

Raising the Tracks

The primary purpose of the patent was specifically concerning “some improvements in armored autocars or armed war tanks and, in general, in autocars for heavy loads or in tractors which must be able to move safely and expeditiously both on loose and inconsistent grounds and on common roads” by means of using an endless track system. Wheeled vehicles were obviously preferable for use on roads and tracked vehicles superior for off-road and, amongst many ideas in this era to combine the two means of traction, Major Corni had his own. His vehicle was to solve the problem of tracked vehicles using the road by simply arranging it in such a manner that the track could be lifted from the ground when not in use. Such a system could be, he proposed, useful for all manner of vehicles from tanks, to trucks, and, lastly, to armored cars. The armored car was drawn and the truck was described, but, sadly, Corni did not provide additional information as to how he envisaged these design elements into a tank.

The highlighted area within the structure of the armored car showing the area filled by the mechanicals underneath the armor and the unusual raised driving position. Source: Patent FR588288 as modified by the author

A Monocoque Hull

Most armored cars were based upon a truck chassis, but the Corni vehicle, in order to save weight, did away with this rather inefficient idea. The layout remained inherently ‘truck-like’ but the support of the vehicle was by means of the armor itself, a monocoque hull. The front wheels would remain in place and be used (un-driven) merely for steering. The frame of the truck would be maintained along with the engine and transmission providing drive to the rear axle. The driving cab area though was gone, removed and replaced with a firing position for the forward-firing weapon and a built-up structure roughly in the middle of the load area for the truck. On top of this load area sat the driver perched very high off the ground using a horizontal steering wheel and with his head poking up into a small fixed vision cupola providing 360º of vision. This had the advantage of giving the driver good all-round vision as well as permitting for the rapid change of direction with the seat simply rotating around this central steering column. The pedals and gear lever, however, did not rotate which would have meant a considerable degree of skill would be required to suddenly change around going backward. A large rectangular-shaped door was on each side of the hull drawn in such a way as to show a double opening door. No other fittings or description was provided.

Arrangement of engine, transmission and track unit for the Corni half-track. Source: Patent FR588288
The track unit itself featured two large wheels, one at each end, with the rear-most one directly driven on the rear axle of the vehicle. Between these wheels were four sets of wheels arranged in 4 rows of three with the three arranged side by side and all connected together by a system of links. These four sets of wheels were connected, in turn, in pars to a single set of elliptical leaf springs to a common, central anchor point. The anchor point, in turn, was fastened to steel armor forming the structure of the suspension unit. The entire affair could pivot upwards from the rear axle to be raised off the ground when moving onto a road. Off-road, the wheel on the rear axle had to be removed as it was of a larger diameter than the rear wheel of the tracked section and likely would simply be stowed on the side of the vehicle.


Illustration of Guido Corni’s half-track produced by Yuvnashva Sharma, funded by our Patreon Campaign.

Other Features

The armored body itself had two large recesses formed within the sides of it to accommodate the raised track units and, although no thickness of plate is specified, as it had to support the entire structure of the vehicle, it would not be thin. The armored body continued underneath the vehicle as well forming a boat-like hull to which the fitting and mechanicals of the vehicle were attached.
Lateral loopholes were on the front and back of the vehicle as were two weapons. One fore, and one aft, which were specified to be either machine-guns or light field guns. Major Corni did not describe these further as the patent was for the design of the hull, driving position, and track system rather than for weapons.

Views of the Corni half-track from the front (left) and behind (right). The structure in the center is the driving position and the rearview shows the recesses into the armor into which the tracked section moves. Source: Patent FR588288

Basic vehicle structure without an armoured body. Source: Patent FR588288 as modified by the author
Major Corni’s half-track design was an unusual design combining elements of wheel-cum-track vehicles, monocoque hulls, and the unusual raised driving positions. Unfortunately for him though, this idea does not seem to have gained any official interest at all despite offering the potential.

Sources

French Patent FR523100 filed 25th August 1920 ‘Dispositif de chauffage préalable pour moteurs à combustion’
French Patent FR588288 filed 14th October 1925 ‘Vehicule automobile blinde pour terrain meubles et routes normales’
British Patent GB223571(A) filed 17th October 1924 ‘Improvements in Armoured Autocars for Travel of Yielding Ground and Common Roads’

Categories
WW2 Italian Prototypes

Autoblindo T.L.37 ‘Autoprotetto S.37’

Italian armour ww2 Kingdom of Italy (1941) Light Armored Car – 1 Prototype

This vehicle started life in early 1941 with the need for a light armored vehicle for use in North Africa. Italy had a long experience in mobile desert warfare having used armored cars in the desert before the First World War. They had in its possession the design of a very mobile heavy artillery tractor, the T.L.37 (Trattore Leggero – Fast tractor). The T.L. 37 was an excellent vehicle with very distinctive oversized pneumatic tires and it was to form the experimental basis for a new light armored car built by Fiat SPA for colonial service. The vehicle would sometimes be referred to as the T.L.37 Autoblindo, but also as the A.S.37. ‘A.S’ stands for Autoblindo Africa Settentrionale (North Africa Armoured Car), although the A.S.37 name was somewhat confusingly later applied to the armored personnel carrier which followed this one.

Italian Trattore Leggero 37 (T.L.37) with large pneumatic tyres used as a tractor for hauling field guns.

Design and Layout

Just like the T.L.37, the engine for the vehicle was at the front, with the driver positioned at the front left. It retained the basic frame from the T.L.37 with the same over-sized pneumatic tyres, but now an armored body enclosed the vehicle. At least one door, consisting of two parts – upper and lower – was on the right-hand side and a second door on the other side. The back of the vehicle sloped off sharply from the roofline and on top was a small turret. As the A.S.37 personnel carrier version followed this vehicle, it can be surmised that there was no second front seat (on the left) and that the fuel tanks were positioned near the back around the rear wheels.
Power for the T.L.37 was provided by a model 18VT 4.053 4 cylinder petrol engine which delivered 52hp at 2000rpm and the later A.S.37 used a modification of this engine delivering 67hp. It is not known whether the Autoblindo T.L.37 used the original 52 hp or the upgraded model.

Autoblindo T.L.37. Photo: Pignato

Protection and Armament

The vehicle was protected by flat steel plate armor up to 8.5 mm thick and probably down to 6 mm thick in places, bolted to a steel frame. This armor would have provided adequate protection to small arms fire and shell splinters. The vehicle was fully enclosed except for the turret. Initially, it had been planned to use the turret of the AB.40 armored car, which would have meant it was armed with a pair of Breda Model 1938 8 mm machine-guns, but for unknown reasons, this turret was not available. Instead, a small open-topped turret based on that used on the L.6 light tank was mounted. The turret had no back or roof and the sides were very short and steeply angled backwards. A large hooped ring, possibly for mounting a machine-gun for protection from aircraft went over the turret. The turret mounted a single Breda Model 1935 20 mm cannon.

Left side view of the Autoblindo T.L.37. Photo: Arms of Breda


Illustration of the Autoblindo T.L.37 ‘Autoprotetto S.37′ produced by Yuvnasva Sharma, funded by our Patreon Campaign.

Fate

Following the requirement in early 1941, Fiat SPA built this single prototype and it was sent to North Africa immediately for trials. Unfortunately, there was no opportunity to effectively evaluate the vehicle under combat conditions. The T.L.37 Autoblindo (A.S.37) is reported to have been lost at Sidi Rezegh (located south of the main road between Tobruk and Bardia, East of El Adem) possibly through a mechanical failure in Autumn 1941.

Autoblindo T.L.37 after it was found by the British showing no sign of battle damage. Photo: Tank Museum, Bovington
Fiat SPA was not to be dismayed by this failure, however. Instead, they further refined the vehicle, abandoned the turret and sloped rear, and by April 1941, had already got plans in hand for an open-topped version for transporting troops and stores or for convoy escort duties. That vehicle was also known as the A.S.37. A vehicle looking very similar to this one but without the turret.

Lince specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 4.95 x 1.92 x 1.8 m (without turret)
Total weight, battle-ready 5 tonnes (est.)
Crew 2-3
Propulsion 4.053 liter 18VT 4 cylinder petrol engine producing 55 – 67hp
Speed 50 km/h
Range 725 km
Armament 2x Breda Model 1938 8mm machine-guns or 1x Breda Model 1935 20mm cannon
Armor 6mm – 8.5mm steel
Total Production 1

Links & Resources

War Wheels.net
A Century of Italian Armoured Cars, Nicola Pignato
Encyclopedia of Armoured Cars, Crow and Icks
Italian Tanks and Combat Vehicles of WW2, Ralph Riccio
Gli autoveicoli da Combattimento dell’Esercito Italiano, Nicola Pignato
Mezzi Corazatti Italiani 1939-1945, Nicole Pignato
Arms of Breda – Oto Melara

Categories
WW2 Italian Prototypes

CV.3 Rampa Semovente

Italy (1938)
Bridge Carrier – 3 Built

The CV.3 (Carro Veloce 3 tonnellate), later known also as the L.3 (3 tonne light tank), was the most widely produced and used Italian tank of the second world war, with production starting prior to the Second World War and continuing throughout. Several thousand were made and it, unsurprisingly, found itself used and converted to fulfill a wide variety of roles, from a recovery vehicle to a mortar carrier. One of the least known variants of the CV.3 series is the self-propelled ramp (Rampe Semovente) version.

Three CV.3 Rampa Semovente driving abreast during the October 1938 parade. Source: Italian Newsreel October 1938

The Name?

It is important to start with the name. This vehicle is so obscure that it is known only as a result of being recorded in footage of a parade in Rome on the 19th October 1938 attended by the Japanese Ambassador and Benito Mussolini who watched whilst on horseback. No formal name for this variant is known and, as far as it is known, no documentation for it seems to have survived the war. As a result, it is being referred to by the author only by a literal description of its role, a self-propelled ramp or, in Italian, ‘Rampa Semovente’, pending discovery of the actual name.

The Churchill ‘ARK’ ramp carrier. Source: IWM H36593

The Role

The most similar vehicle to this unusual-looking machine is the British Churchill ARK. ‘ARK’, or ‘Armoured Ramp Carrier’, could be used in two ways: either to provide a ramp which following tanks could pass over to clear high obstacles, cliffs, wall etcetera; or to create a bridge over a wide gap which would otherwise be impassable without a full-length bridge. There were various versions of the British ARK, but in Italy there had only been some limited tests with bridge layers from the CV.3 and no prior work on an ‘ARK’ type system. As fitted to the CV.3, this would work in exactly the same way.

The Design

The design of the bridge/ramp consisted of a single long curved span of framing, presumably made from steel, with the roadway laid over the top. The roadway consisted of a series of transverse steel supporting struts over which was a mesh forming the surface over which following vehicles would pass. A rectangular section right at the apex of the curve was missing, as this was directly over the heads of the two crew positions of the CV.3 and would have prevented them from getting out. It can be inferred that the method of employment would involve the abandonment of the vehicle with the bridge in place and with a separate section of roadway being put over this gap, or else, it would not be useable by wheeled vehicles. It also necessitates the modification of the CV.3 vehicle with the removal of the two roof hatches that would otherwise not be openable. Another modification to the CV.3 was the fastening of supporting brackets for the curved roadway to the body. It is not known if the main armament – a pair of machine-guns – was removed or not. They would not interfere with the bridge, but the use of such a weapon firing through the roadway grille would be very restricted and could damage the roadway.
The curvature of the framework attached to the body of the tank provided sufficient stiffness and strength to bridge or ramp over an obstacle and still bear the weight of passing tanks or trucks. At the front and rear of the design are folding ramps on wheels which can be lifted or lowered into position providing the short span required to cover the gaps between the bridge section and the ground, and to account for undulations in the ground.
A final, and helpful touch is the addition of a longitudinal white stripe painted across the roadway section which would assist vehicles in staying in a straight line as they pass over the vehicle.


Illustration of the ‘Rampa Semovente’ by Bernard ‘Escodrion’ Baker, based on work by David Bocquelet.

Utility

The vehicle clearly retains the original two-man crew of driver (right), and commander/gunner (left), although the status of the armament is unknown. No other modifications are known to the vehicle, but in use – even if just a parade – the vehicle is seen carrying the bridgeway with the end folded up. Upon arrival at an obstacle, the ramps can be released, presumably from inside via a cable release, rather than outside, which under fire would have been extremely hazardous. Once in place, the crew can either get out and leave it in situ for as long as the ramp is in use or simply wait for the one of two vehicles immediately behind to go over the top before withdrawing.

CV.3 Rampa Semovente showing the missing section in the middle to permit crew entry/exit. Source: Italian Newsreel October 1938

Production

With the crew having to abandon out of the top rather than out of the sides, as on the British ARK, they would be dangerously exposed to enemy fire and, with the bridge section curved over the front, any firepower of the vehicle would also be limited. The relatively small size of the bridge carried and the overhang at the front and back severely limited the mobility of the vehicle. Likely, these are these reason that very few (perhaps just the three shown in 1938) were built. None are known to have seen any active deployment and the status of the vehicles is unknown.

An impression of positions for the ramp in use. Top: Carriage, Middle: As a ramp, Bottom: As a bridge

Specifications

Dimensions >5 (est.) x 1.4 x 1.5 (est.) meters
Crew 2 (driver, commander/machine-gunner)
Weight 3.5 – 4 tonnes
Top speed 40 km/h (25 mph)
Total Production 3

Sources

‘Luce’ Italian Newsreel, Rome Parade October 1938
Fiat Ansaldo. Maintenance Manual L.3 Light Tank circa 1938

Categories
WW2 Italian Prototypes

Ansaldo Light Tractor Prototype

Italy Kingdom of Italy (1930-31) Light Tank – 1 Built

By the mid 1920’s, it had become apparent to the Italian military that its existing fleet of armored vehicles was effectively obsolete and that it had a dire need for a small armored vehicle able to haul fields guns and other stores.

Carden Loyd Mark V* with Schwarzlose machine gun tested by the Italians. Source: Ceva and Curami
In 1929, Italian General Ugo Cavallero examined a number of British-built Carden-Loyd Mark V* and VI light tanks which had been purchased and sent to Italy for testing. While the Mark VI was found to be adequate and put into service as the CV.29, the V* was found to be wanting. It was no good as a tank and was not suitable for towing artillery and stores. As a result, a new vehicle would be needed for this role, and as a similar sized vehicle was already under development to replace the temporary use of the CV.29, it made sense that the new tractor should match (as far as possible) the new light tank.

Ansaldo 1931 Light Tank Prototype (right) seen next to the Ansaldo Light Prototype Tractor (left). Source: Archivio Ansaldo

Trial and Development

With the lessons from the trials of the CV.29 being incorporated into an improved vehicle, the Ansaldo Light Tank 1930 Prototype, the same designer, the famous Ansaldo engineer Giuseppe Rossini, designed a second vehicle based on this 1930 design to fulfill the tractor role. As both vehicles shared the same width and approximate performance, in addition to all of their mechanical parts, this was a beneficial idea from the point of view of supply and logistics for the Army. This vehicle would be built at the Ansaldo works at Sestri Ponente, near Genoa.

Ansaldo 1931 Light Tank Prototype (right) seen next to the Ansaldo Light Prototype Tractor (left). A tracked trailer can be seen against the building to the right. Source: Pignato

Layout

The new tractor was very similar to the 1930 Prototype, sharing many of the same features, but whereas the tank version had the casemate which was to be a defining characteristic of the type, this tractor had an open-topped design instead. The open-topped part was shaped like a giant hooper sloping upwards and outwards away from the body and with a rolled lip around the top edge, ensuring bullet splash would not ricochet dangerously upwards. Further, this rim is likely to have formed part of the retention for a weather cover or screen, although this is not known to have been produced or tested. Like the 1930 prototype Light Tank, the upper bodywork was all welded with bolting and riveting kept to the lower sections. The nose plate on both vehicles was noticeably different, with no bolting reinforcement on the tractor version, suggesting that the armor was reduced on this vehicle from a maximum of 14 mm to just 8 mm or so. This was enough to provide indirect protection from shell splinters and indirect rifle fire, but not heavy enough to withstand direct close-range fire like the tank.

Ansaldo Light Tractor towing a tracked trailer. The very low profile is very apparent. Source: Archivio Ansaldo
Both vehicles, however, shared the same distinctive circular tow hook bolted to the center of the nose plate. No armament was carried on the tractor either; its role was not one of combat but one of support. The crew layout remained the same for the driver who was positioned on the right, but as there was no armament needed, the commander/gunner would be able to sit much further forwards in this tractor. However, photographic evidence shows the seating position was retained further back, alongside the driver, which would provide a small space in front of the passenger but no space in the vehicle for a third crew member. Without images of the interior or the original design though, it is not possible to know for sure how many men this vehicle could hold, but its small size suggests that 2 men would be the maximum.

Ansaldo Light Tractor during mountain trials. The two men seated show little additional room is provided for a third man or equipment inside the vehicle. It appears from this photo that a second support wheel has been fitted in front of the track support wheel. The pre-series CV.3/33 also had a pair of support wheels at the back but this arrangement does not appear in other images of the tractor so the final arrangement of these wheels is unclear. Source: Pignato
At the rear of the vehicle, the tractor had a subtle change to the flat-roofed engine bay of the 1930 Light Tank Prototype. The grilles which had been flat were now fitted into the roof which had a slight pitch to it. It is unclear what changes were made inside the bay to necessitate this change, but one simple assumption might be that it was just to increase air-space and the cooling around the engine. The unusual ventilation grooves in the cover for the muffler on the exhaust remained unchanged.


Illustration of the Ansaldo Light Tractor Prototype, produced by Bernard ‘Escodrion’ Baker, funded by our Patreon Campaign.

Mobility and Suspension

The suspension for this tractor was different from the 1930 prototype. It was, in fact, the one used on the 1931 modification to the 1930 prototype light tank, changing from the 3 pairs of wheels to the better known 2-1-1-2 arrangement in which the fore and aft pairs of wheels were on a bogie and the central individual wheels were mounted on a dog-leg shaped arm. The horizontal supporting bar for the suspension components was retained, although it was shorter and slightly reshaped. The rear idler mount was also changed from a simple bar holding it in place to an integrated mounting holding a small wheel to keep the track from excessive flexing during high-speed movement and especially from being buckled up during reversing.
One change was made during testing though. As a result of problems caused by mud being thrown up by the tracks, a pair of mudguards were installed on the tractor. These consisted of a small metal arm at the front and back of the vehicle holding a small scraper to clean off clods of mud. Between the two was suspended a long and rather flimsy steel mudguard supported along its length by two small ‘arms’ sticking out from the body. While the design was clearly a temporary one to prevent mud from being a problem, it would likely not withstand the rigorous use of troops for whom it would be a convenient step to use getting in and out.

Ansaldo Light Tractor Prototype showing the removable mudguards and extra wide track grousers fitted for trials. Source: Private collection
Photographic evidence shows this tractor undergoing testing in 1930, although it is unclear whether this vehicle preceded the 1931 modification to the 1930 Light Tank Prototype or not. Either way, the suspension on show demonstrates that the 1930 tank suspension had already been superseded very quickly within its first year.

The Ansaldo Light Tractor Prototype during testing in 1930 showing the suspension change from the 1930 Light Tank to the 1931 Light Tank. Source: Pignato
Power for the vehicle is not known for certain, but it is likely that it was the same Fiat CV3 type 4 cylinder petrol engine as was later adopted for the production vehicles. That 2.745-liter engine received various improvements and modifications to the power output. As the production engine in the formally adopted CV.3/33 delivered 43 hp, it is a reasonable assumption to place the engine output for this 1930/1 prototype at or about 43 hp. In this case, this would have enabled to the tank to manage about 40 km/h on a road and about 14 km/h off-road, slower if towing a gun, trailer, or sledge.

Ansaldo Light Tractor during testing circa 1930-1931. Source: Private collection

Conclusion

The Ansaldo Light Tractor Prototype never received any orders although it was an acceptable vehicle for its role. It shared a commonality of parts with the CV.3 tank, but in effect, this also left it redundant as the tank could perform almost all of the tractor’s roles in towing guns or trailers whilst the tractor could do none of the tank’s roles. It was not the end of the saga though. Ansaldo would have another attempt at a CV.3 (L.3) based tractor. What happened to the tractor prototype is not known, but it is assumed that it was simply scrapped for parts for the production of other CV.3 vehicles.

Specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 3.17 x 1.4 x 1.00 meters
Total weight, battle ready Aprx. 3 tonnes
Crew 1 +1 (driver/commander, 1 other)
Propulsion 40-43hp Fiat CV.3 petrol
Top speed 40km/h road, 14 km/h off-road
Armor Aprx. 8 mm
Total Production 1

Sources

Italie1939-45.com
Pignato, N, Cappellano, F. (2002). Gli Autoveicoli da Combattimento Dell’Esercito Italiano V.2. Stato Maggiore dell’Esercito
Curami, L., Ceva, A. (1994). La Meccanizzazione dell’Esercito Italiano. Arte Della Stampa

Categories
WW2 Italian Prototypes

Ansaldo Light Tank Prototype 1930 ‘Carro Armato Veloce Ansaldo’

Italy Kingdom of Italy (1929-30) Light Tank – 1 Built

In the mid 1920’s, it had been apparent to the Italian military that their existing fleet of armored vehicles, consisting mainly of tanks like the Fiat 3000, was effectively obsolete. Various programs were undertaken to upgrade, improve, and replace their armored vehicles, although budgets were very tight. The nation was still reeling from the appalling loss of life and financial ruin which had followed World War One.
Armor would have to be small, light, and portable. The main areas for military operations were going to be the colonies in Africa, where armor had to travel long distances, and in the mountains of northern Italy. A new tank needed to be faster than the existing Fiat 3000, transportable in the back of a standard army truck, and capable of carrying machine guns for infantry support.
Looking for modern tanks to replace their obsolete fleet, in 1929, Italian General Ugo Cavellero examined British-built Carden-Loyd Mark V* and VI light tanks, a number of which had been purchased and sent to Italy for testing. Great Britain was seen as being at the forefront of tank technology by the Italians, and so, had a great influence upon their thinking regarding armored vehicles. The CV.29, as the Carden-Loyd Mark VI light tank would eventually be known under Italian service, became the general template from which an Italian vehicle would follow. This Italian designed vehicle would follow the approximate dimensions and layout of the CV.29, but would improve on the design in terms of protection and firepower. It was to become the most widely produced Italian vehicle in service in World War 2, and was subject to numerous upgrades and modifications. That vehicle was the CV.3 Light Tank.

Original Carden Loyd Mark VI light tank with Vickers machine gun. The tripod is stowed on the front of the machine on the left-hand side. This vehicle in Italian service was known as the CV.29. Source: Beamish collection

Trial and Development

The CV.29s had been subjected to trials in 1929 and then further trials over the next three years covering its ability to cross obstacles or to cover long distances in the desert, with a final evaluation carried out in Italian Somaliland in 1933. The tests were not particularly impressive, but in the absence of an alternative light tank, 100 CV.29’s were tentatively scheduled for production following the purchase of a license for that number. The idea was to keep the CV.29 in service whilst the Italians developed their own vehicle. As it happened, only 25 CV.29s were ordered and they were used mainly for training. The lessons from the trials of the CV.29 were then to be incorporated into this improved vehicle designed by the famous Ansaldo engineer, Giuseppe Rossini.
This 1930 prototype is sometimes referred to as the ‘CV.29 Second Version’ and also as the ‘CV.28’, although this seems more to do with the fact that the 1930 prototype had no official name than to any connection to an actual CV.29 other than that already mentioned. In 1928, the hunt for a new tank had begun without a clear name for what it was going to be called, and by 1931, the hunt was officially known as ‘Carro armato da accompagnamento per la Fanteria’ (Infantry Tank). Just a year later though, official documentation clarified the name of the vehicle to ‘Carro Armato Veloce Ansaldo’ (Ansaldo Fast Tank). Because of the changing names for the project overlapping the development of several vehicles within it, it is easier for the sake of clarity to retain ‘1930 Ansaldo Light Tank Prototype’ as the designation.

Ansaldo Light Tank Prototype of 1930 showing its ability to cross a trench. Source: Ceva and Curami

Mobility and Suspension

The replacement had been developed from the original wooden design shown in 1929, which had four wheels on each side and a single machine gun mounted high up in the front. By 1930, that early wooden model had been turned into a metal prototype by the firm of Ansaldo with a much shallower angled front but the same front drive/rear engine layout.


Illustration of the Ansaldo Light Tank Prototype 1930 ‘Carro Armato Veloce Ansaldo’ by Jarosław Janas, funded by our Patreon Campaign.

Layout

The new shape body was the first appearance of the characteristic casemate which is a trademark of the CV.3 series. Armament though, was still feeble, with just a single Fiat model 1914 6.5mm water-cooled machine-gun mounted behind a large curved mounting on the front left for the commander/gunner and the driver sitting on the front right. Movement for the machine-gun was excellent permitting a wide field of fire as it was able to move 20 degrees in each direction horizontally and could be elevated between -12 and +18 degrees. An estimated 3,800 rounds could have been carried, but as it was a prototype, this was not definitive, and this estimate is based on the loadout of the CV.3/33 when it was eventually finished.
The engine was at the back and the transmission at the front with the drive shaft running between the two men. The body of the vehicle was mostly welded armor between 8 and 14mm thick with some bolts used to attach sections together. Notably, the vertical front plate on the nose of the vehicle was bolted together as were the two vertical reinforcing pieces. On the glacis, above this nose, was a single wide hatch used for accessing and also for cooling the transmission.

The internal layout of either the 1930 or 1931 version of the prototype tank. The interior layout has the commander/gunner on the left and the driver on the right. The chequer plate floor gives an idea of the attention to detail which went into the design. Source: Pignato
On the casemate itself was a wide rectangular hatch on the front right for the driver, in addition to a large rectangular hatch on the right of the driver for vision. Another two square hatches were provided in the back of the casemate directly behind the driver and gunner respectively. The roof was a single large metal panel attached by two simple hinges at the back of the casemate, being large and awkward to open and close.
At the rear, the engine bay had a flat roof and ventilation for the engine was provided by means of large louvered grilles on each side of the engine compartment. On the roof of the engine compartment, there were more ventilation louvers. One unusual feature is the addition of ventilation grooves into the cover for the muffler on the exhaust from each side, presumably there to help keep the exhaust cool or assist in air flow.

Ansaldo prototype during testing in 1930. Source: Ansaldo

Conclusion

Many of the features of this 1930 prototype would be carried over into an improved version, such as the general layout and shape, but the suspension had still been shown to need improvement, and the use of the water-cooled Fiat model 1914 machine-gun was cumbersome. An improved, less cumbersome machine gun would later be used, but the immediate need was improved mobility. This required changes to the suspension.
Nevertheless, the 1930 Light Tank prototype was an effective little vehicle, and in tests, it showed a lot of promise. Enough promise that further trials were ordered for 1931. It was small enough to fit in a truck and agile enough to traverse the terrain Italy was expecting to have to fight over in the 1930’s. It had mobility and could support infantry attacks with the machine gun. Although it was not ideal, it marked the first homegrown tank since the production of the CV.29. Development of the 1930 Prototype would continue perfecting elements of the design to create a capable and flexible armored platform. Before it could be ready for production there was still work to do. This 1930 Prototype was changed by the end of 1930 to a new vehicle incorporating improvements.

Specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 3.17 x 1.4 x 1.28 meters
Total weight, battle ready 3.2 tonnes
Crew 2 (driver, commander/machine-gunner)
Propulsion 40-43hp Fiat CV.3 petrol
Top speed 40km/h road, 14 km/h off-road
Armament: x1 Fiat Model 1914 Water-Cooled 6.5mm Machine-Gun
Armor 8 – 14 mm
Total Production 1

Sources

Italie1939-45.com
Pignato, N, Cappellano, F. (2002). Gli Autoveicoli da Combattimento Dell’Esercito Italiano V.2. Stato Maggiore dell’Esercito
Curami, L., Ceva, A. (1994). La Meccanizzazione dell’Esercito Italiano. Arte Della Stampa

Categories
WW2 Italian Prototypes

Camionette Cingolate ‘Cingolette’ CVP-4 (Fiat 2800)

Italy ww2 Kingdom of Italy (1941) Tankette – 300 Ordered

Development of the Camionetta Cingolate began by copying the example laid down by the British. The British design for a machine-gun carrier had been presented to the British War Office in 1935, and at this time, the Italian military was in close relationship with the British military. Certainly, they had ordered a number of light vehicles such as the Carden-Loyd Mk.VI and V* from Great Britain already, which had served as starting points for various Italian tank developments.

The state of development of the CVP-4 in December 1941 – a wooden mockup

Fiat 2800 ‘CVP-4’
Having turned their backs on their traditional British allies and going to war with them in the North African desert, the Italians once again found themselves able to examine British equipment. Not purchased this time, but captured. One of the most notable vehicles captured was also one of the most widely produced armored vehicles ever, the ubiquitous ‘Universal Carrier’. Various types were captured in the Western Desert and returned to Italy in 1941 for examination and testing. As a result, two Italian vehicles were spawned , the CVP-4 and the CVP-5. In a secret memo dated  24th May 1941, amongst other studies being conducted for light armored vehicles and personnel carriers, was a comment questioning whether a vehicle such as the British Universal Carrier would be appropriate.

Competition

The Italians then, had decided to manufacture two competing designs of armored carriers, the CVP-5 from Ansaldo and a rival design from Fiat, the CVP-4. The CVP-5 was produced first and was submitted to CSEM (Centro Studi ed Esperienze della Motorizzazione) on 2nd February 1942 for trials and evaluation. Despite being produced first, testing was stopped awaiting this second design. The requirements had been for a small tracked vehicle using, as far as possible, commercial parts so as to speed up production.
To this end, the Fiat design used a commercial engine, the Fiat 2800 (hence the reason the vehicle is sometimes called the Fiat 2800) connected to the gearbox of the L37 prime mover and delivering drive through the rear axle of an SPA 38R truck. This design proved problematic however, due to insufficient cooling of the engine which led to a redesign of the unit. The suspension was a direct copy of that used on the British Universal carriers.

Early prototype fitted with Fiat 2800 engine – note the lack of grille in the rear as was amended to improve air flow for cooling
For a name, this small vehicle actually had many. It was known variously as the Cingoletta Fiat 43, Fiat 2800, CVP-4 Camionetta, and ‘the Model 42’. Why it took so many names to develop what is effectively a direct copy of the British Universal Carrier is not clear, but is perhaps an indication of the convoluted and troublesome nature of its development. Either way, the delays meant that the CVP-4 was not delivered for trials until December 1942. It is remarkable that the CVP-4 took so long to be ready for tests considering not just that they had captured British vehicles to examine, but the CVP-4 was only marginally better than the British original. The armor on the CVP extended slightly further back than the Universal Carrier. It was also a little heavier and lower to the ground.
Armament was limited to a single 8mm Breda machine gun fitted into a ball mount in the front of the vehicle to the left of the driver, who sat at the front right hand side.

Testing

The CVP-4 was eventually tested against the CVP-5 and the differences were marginal. Both had acceptable performance off-road and there was some debate over whether to replace the Fiat 2800 engine with the larger, more powerful Astura 3000 engine coupled to a new selective gearbox although this was not actually done.
Regardless, the CVP-4, like the CVP-5, was accepted into service. It was 1943 and the war was not going well for Italy so they needed vehicles urgently. All the delays for testing only managed to deny the Italian Army the vehicles it needed for various support roles, hauling guns, scouting, and transport.
Upon adoption in February 1943, the CVP-4 was standardised as the Cingolette 43 and 300 of them were ordered from Fiat.

‘Ambulance’ version seen from the rear left-hand side. The spring mounted clamps hold a stretcher in place for the patient, who is hopefully strapped in for a precarious ride. Note the difference at the back in this production vehicle to the prototype with a new large cooling grille.


Illustration of the Camionette Cingolate ‘Cingolette’ CVP-4 (Fiat 2800). Produced by Jarosław Janas, funded by our Patreon Campaign.

Role

The role of the CVP-4 was primarily the same as the role fulfilled by the Universal Carrier in British service, transporting a machine gun or anti-tank team, and for towing light guns. A trailer was available to help carry stores and ammunition, although it was limited to a combined (trailer and load) weight of 1000kg.


1st and 2nd pattern ammunition trailers made by Viberti for the CVP-4 and CVP-5
An ambulance version was also postulated to evacuate injured troops. A vehicle was modified to demonstrate the means of carrying stretchers mounted above the protection of the vehicle, but this concept had not been completed before the September 1943 armistice and was abandoned.

Captured Bren carrier on the left with the CVP-4 centre and CVP-5 on the right. Image date December 1941. It can be seen that the CVP-4 is not yet ready.
At the time of the armistice in September 1943, the military value of such a vehicle was so low that it was not worth disrupting the production of tanks and other arms. The Germans, in effective control of northern Italy, abandoned production and focussed on other vehicles already in production. The exact number of vehicle finished is unknown and likely extremely low, and none are known to have seen service with either the Regio Esercito (Royal Army), the Germans, the Repubblica Sociale Italiana (RSI), or partisans.

Specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 4.23 x 1.98 x 1.35 meters
Total weight, battle ready 4.76 tonnes
Crew 2 + 6 (Driver, Machine gunner, up to 6 troops)
Propulsion Fiat 2800 6 cylinder 80-82hp petrol, or Fiat Astura 3000
Speed 61 km/h (38 mph)
Range/consumption 420-500km
Armament 1 x 8mm Breda Model 38 machine gun
Armour glacis 8.5mm, front plate 14mm, sides 9mm, rear 9mm, floor 6.5mm

Sources

Pignato, N, Cappellano, F. (2002). Gli Autoveicoli da Combattimento Dell’Esercito Italiano V.2. Stato Maggiore dell’Esercito
Curami, L., Ceva, A. (1994). La Meccanizzazione dell’Esercito Italiano. Arte Della Stampa

Categories
WW2 Italian Prototypes

Semovente M.6

Kingdom of Italy (1939)
Self-propelled gun – Mockup built, no prototype

Italy had a shortage of armor, guns and of just about everything they needed to wage a modern war against a modern, well equipped, and well-disciplined opponent. As World War Two beckoned in Europe, the Italians, under the leadership of Benito Mussolini, were far behind in their modernisations with the majority of funding going to the Navy rather than the Army or Air Force. The result was that the Army, despite having requirements for tanks and support guns, was not getting what it needed, namely armor in quantity.
One particular shortfall in planning was the lack of a gun of an adequate calibre to fire high explosive and smoke shells to support the infantry during their attacks.
The small CV.3 series of tanks could provide machine gun fire support but even the tanks which were available in 1939 with a proper cannon, such as the Fiat 3000, were horribly out of date, slow, and poorly protected, and with just a 47mm gun which lacked the firepower needed to smash an enemy defensive structure. What was needed was a larger caliber gun.

Wooden mockup of the Semovente M.6. Source: Pignato

Ansaldo’s Venture

The M.6 (later L.6) was a private venture by Ansaldo and Fiat which built forth on the success of the CV.3 (L.3) light tank. A working prototype of the vehicle was ready by 1936 albeit with a small cannon instead of the later 20mm commonly associated with it. The CV.3 had been a successful design, small, rugged and adaptable, it was ideally suited to many of the needs of the military but it lacked a turret mounted gun to function effectively as a tank. The M.6 was a logical step up, with improved suspension and a 360-degree arc of fire, it was superior in every way to the CV.3 while still being transportable easily by truck due to its small size. The development of the M.6’s improved suspension allowed it to take more weight and be better off road than the CV.3 series of vehicles which made it an ideal platform for a larger gun.

Mockup of the M.6 medium tank with the 47mm L.32 cannon mounted behind a gun shield on top. Source: Ceva and Curami

Selection of a Cannon

If you need to fire a high explosive shell with enough explosive to make a difference, then the 47mm gun in widespread use was simply not sufficient. The CV.3 mounting a 47mm gun, for this reason, was clearly not sufficient for the infantry support role and was abandoned. The next common gun, a step up, would be 65mm. Several years before-hand, the attempt to put a 65mm gun on a small vehicle – work done by the firm of Moto-Guzzi, had also failed. The 65mm gun had been used on the enormous Fiat 2000 but that was a generation earlier and redundant, and to add to the issue, the 65mm L/17 was already effectively obsolete. It had been relegated to infantry use in the 1920’s and replaced in the mountain gun role by a 70mm gun.
It is important to note that the 47mm gun option was not abandoned for the M.6 (L.6) hull. At the same time as this 75mm plan was developed, a scheme was produced with the 47mm L/32 cannon mounted on top of the casemate of an L.6 hull in place of the turret. Although that idea was abandoned, that design morphed into the Semovente L.6/40 with the 47mm gun mounted in the front of the vehicle instead.
By 1935, the venerable 65mm had been replaced in the infantry support role by the 47mm so it was a poor choice for any future support gun, or ‘Semovente’ as it is known in Italy. The obvious choice, therefore, was a 75mm calibre. Italy already had a huge stockpile of 75mm field guns and on the 26th October 1939 General Pariani (Chief of the General Staff) listed a series of decisions on tank development programs. The M.6 featured heavily within those plans including a study to modify an M.6 hull to transform it into a carrier for a 75 mm gun. He noted that it must also have an anti-aircraft machine gun fitted. The choice of the M.6 for this project was logical if for no other reason than that there was nothing else available. At this time, the only medium-sized vehicle in production (just) was the M.11/39. Those hulls were urgently needed for the Medium tank program so none were going to be available for a Semovente.
The commonplace CV.3 hull was in plentiful supply but was too small. The work on putting a 65mm on a machine that size had already shown that. The best option therefore was the new projected 6 or 7 tonne medium tank which was just entering production itself. This new vehicle was ideal, small and light enough to be easily transported on the back of trucks but large and rugged enough to deal with the weight of the gun, ammunition and the necessary crew to serve it.
The decision by Pariani confirmed the 75mm gun as the choice for infantry support and the M.6 was the vehicle to carry it. He had other plans for the M.6 including as a platform for an anti-aircraft vehicle but concerned about air defence was requesting all new vehicles to come with some protection from the air.
It was not until a letter from a delegation of industry to General Pariani on the 30th of October 1939 though that a final decision as to which 75mm gun was going to be used. The gun selected was a 75mm L.18 and, as an aside, it was also mentioned that the 20mm cannon selected for the ‘tank’ version of the M.6 was also suitable for use in an anti-aircraft role as well as an anti-tank role.

The vehicle which was to serve as the hull for the Semovente M.6. This is the production L.6/40 light tank. Source: Public Domain

Front view of the Semovente M.6


Illustration on the Semovente M.6 by Yuvnashva Sharma, funded by our Patreon campaign.

Modifications

The M.6 was reclassified as a light tank L.6 in 1940 (as the new M.13/40 design was available for the medium tank role) and was a very mobile vehicle with the transmission at the front. A large hatch openable for the inspection and maintenance of the transmission and brakes was retained on the glacis as was the whole rear of the hull, allowing access to the engine and suspension components. The difference between the two came in the body of the vehicle at roughly track level. In place of the M.6’s squarish body and vertical driver’s plate with a small turret on top (for a 20mm cannon or 37mm gun) was a large open-topped, open-backed rotating turret with the large 75mm gun mounted prominently in the center, although it is not known exactly how far this turret could rotate. A large order for 583 examples of the L.6 was placed in March 1940 and this seems to have killed off the Semovente M.6 project. Ansaldo and Fiat had won a large order and production would focus on that vehicle for the time being. A new Semovente on the hull of the L.6 would appear shortly afterward but, for the time, the turreted M.6 idea was over.

From approximately the same angle the modifications to the M.6 are apparent.

Automotive

Like the M.6 (L.6/40) from which it was made, the Semovente M.6 used two pairs of bogies on each side of the hull attached to torsion bars. The track was supported on the return run by two small rollers. Drive was from the front and the rear wheel was in contact with the ground. Power came from the same SPA model 18 68-70hp petrol engine as on the early L.6 light tank although the L.6 had not yet been formally standardized. This engine allowed the L.6 to reach 25km/h off road and up to 42 km/h on road.

Semovente M.6 with 75mm gun turret turned to the left showing a single crew position (driver) through the front of the turret presumably where a large hatch would go in a production version.

Crew

The previous Semovente version based on the CV.3 had two crew, and the L.6 light tank on which the Semovente M.6 was based also had two crew members. It is therefore highly likely that this vehicle continued the trend. The Semovente da 47/32, also based on the L.6, which later was approved, operated the much smaller 47mm gun, had a crew of three and was very cramped. This adds to the evidence that there was very little room inside the Semovente M.6, especially considering the size of the 75mm shells it would have to carry.

Semovente M.6 mockup showing the elevation of the 75mm gun in the turret.

Armament

The only gun known to have been planned for this vehicle is of 75mm calibre. A caliber which Italy had in no short supply. The gun selected was the Anslado 75mm L.18 gun, as this was already in production at the time by the makers of the designers of the vehicle. The gun would see use in later Semovente too. The 75mm L.18 was a howitzer standardized in 1934 and was actually just under 21 calibers long (20.75) despite being an ‘L.18’ thanks to an older Italian convention regarding how to measure the length of a barrel. It could fire a 6.4 kilogram shell out to nearly 10 km. Although the elevation and depression figures for this gun are not known when fitted to the M.6 it did have a range of elevation from -10 to +45 when mounted normally as a field gun and the available photograph of it elevated would indicate 45 degrees was still probable. Various ammunition was available weighing between 4.5kg up to just over 8kg depending on ammunition type. Available ammunition for the 75mm gun at the time included several models of High Explosive shell, Armor Piercing (AP), Armour Piercing High Explosive, and the Effetto Pronto (EP) shaped charge round.

Conclusion

The Semovente M.6 was a very good attempt by Italy pre-World War Two to field a large calibre gun onto a tracked chassis to support the infantry in the attack. It is not clear why this project was not adopted as the L.6/40 was produced in large numbers, but the most likely explanations are that by this time the Carro Medio hull was already coming into production for the M.11/39 and later the M.13 series. This chassis was bigger, stronger and more adaptable so would be a better choice for a large-caliber Semovente than the L.6. Within just a few months after the termination of this turretted M.6 project, a new Semovente mounting the 47mm gun using the same L.6 chassis began.

Semovente M.6 specifications

Weight 7 tonnes
Propulsion likely SPA model 18 68- 70 hp petrol
Speed est. 25km/h off road / 42km/h on road
Armament 75mm L.18 and 8mm anti-aircraft machine gun
Armor est. 6 to 30mm
Production Mockup only

Sources

Curami, L., Ceva, A. (1994). La Meccanizzazione dal Regio Esercito. Arte Della Stampa
Pignato, N., Cappellano, F. (2002) Gli autoveicoli da combattimento dell’Esercito Italiano. Stato Maggiore dell’Esercito