Categories
WW2 Italian Prototypes

Corni Half-Track

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

CV.3 Rampa Semovente

Kingdom of 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

Kingdom of Italy (1930-1931)
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

Fiat 3000 Nebbiogeno

Kingdom of Italy (1925-1935)
Smoke Tank – 3 Prototypes Built

Many nations experimented with smoke generators and smoke screening equipment with their early tanks, such as the British with the Medium Mark C ‘Hornet’. The advantages were obvious, whilst a smoke screen cannot stop bullets, it can screen and prevent infantry, in particular those following a tank, from being seen; it is simply harder to shoot a target you cannot see. The same applies to tanks. If a tank was able to either produce its own smoke screen or be screened by a specially converted vehicle in the platoon, this would be a significant tactical advantage, particularly in attack.

Fiat 3000 M.21 registration number ‘R.E.36A’ fitted with smoke generating equipment, circa 1925. Note no armament is fitted.

The 1925 Experiment

The first experiments in Italy with a tank laid smoke screen were in 1925 during military maneuvers conducted at Canavese, north of Turin. A standard Fiat 3000 Model 1921 tank with registration number ‘RE 36A’ was used and was retrofitted with two cylindrical tanks into the cavity in the right-hand side suspension unit with the leading cylinder being about half the length of the second. One of these two containers held the liquid sulphuric acid and the other (presumably the smaller one) held the compressed gas used as a propellant. The left-side suspension cavity was not used for the experiment, although assuming more smoke was needed, a second set of containers could simply be added there too.

Emitting smoke from the left-hand side during the same 1925 maneuvers suggests at least two vehicles tested this equipment.
The large container held a quantity of sulfuric acid which was simply sprayed by means of a nozzle on the back of the tank into the vented exhaust. This is a similar method to that on the Medium Mark C ‘Hornet’ which also used a tank of acid (sulphonic) sprayed into the exhaust. There, it would react with the engine-exhaust gases producing a thick cloud of white smoke. Obviously, the engine would need to be in running order for the system to work, as it was needed to drive the pump. It is not known whether more than one vehicle was prepared in this way or whether these were simply kits which could be added to the tank. Some photographs seem to show smoke being produced from the left-hand side of the vehicle, suggesting that more than one vehicle was modified in this way. Either way, the system was not put into mass production.

Fiat 3000 M.21 fitting with smoke generating equipment circa 1935

Sources

La meccanizzazione dell’Esercito Italiano. (1989). Lucia Ceva and Andrea Curami, Stato Maggiore dell’Esercito, Uffico Storico – Rome
Gli autoveicoli da combattimento dell’esercito Italiano. (2002). Nicola Pignato, Filippo Cappellano. Stato Maggiore dell’Esercito, Uffico Storico – Rome
Italie39-45.com
regioesercito.it/mezzi/fiat3000.htm
Handbook on Italian Military Forces. (1943). US Military Intelligence, Washington D.C.


The 1925 version of the Fiat 3000 Nebbiogeno. Illustrated by Bernard “Escodrion” Baker and paid for with funds from our Patreon campaign.

The 1935 version of the Fiat 3000 Nebbiogeno. Illustrated by Bernard “Escodrion” Baker and paid for with funds from our Patreon campaign.

The 1935 Experiment

With the smoke generators demonstrated in 1925 not having entered mass production, a further attempt was made in 1935 perhaps building on the experience which had gone into the production of a manual on Smoke Training produced in 1933. This time it was for a demonstration of chemical weapons in Rome and involved large numbers of troops simulating fighting in a chemical warfare environment.
This experiment also used the Fiat 3000 Model 1921 and, once again, the liquid containers were placed into the cavity within the suspension on the sides. Photographic evidence clearly shows that each side was fitted with a single longitudinal container running along the suspension support member. The container had a usual shape with a curved outer top edge. The container also projected substantially past the width of the track. The volume of the containers is not known, but the projection system was essentially the same using a nozzle on the back end to inject sulphuric acid into the exhaust to produce smoke.

Fiat 3000 M.21 producing a smoke screen during manoeuvres in Rome 1935.
By 1935, it was obvious to the Italian army that the Fiat 3000 was obsolete anyway. Perhaps because of this, the smoke generating modifications on the Fiat 3000 did not see further development. Instead, the Italian army relied upon artillery for smoke barrages and on portable smoke producing equipment. Candles for the troops (Italian: candelotto fumogeno and candela fumogena), portable smoke generators (cloramma barellato) carried on a hand-barrow, a mobile generator (chloramma carrellato) on a handcart, or, for mobile screen, from a 4 or 6 wheeled (Italian: autodovunque yperite 6 and autodovunque yperite) trucks such as the Dovunque which had been designed for use in delivering mustard gas. When used for carrying smoke equipment, the trucks were simply ‘autocarretta nube’. The truck-mounted system, when used for smoke instead of mustard gas, carried two 250 litre (500 litres total) or a single 250 litre drum of chlorosulphonic acid for the 6 and 4 wheeled versions respectively. It could produce smoke for up to 100 and 60 minutes respectively, significantly more than the small system tried on the Fiat 3000.
For tanks though, the problem of a forward screen was not going to be solved by candles or by truck-mounted sprayers. Instead, it was a role taken over by the sturdy CV.3 light tank which was able to be equipped with a trailer (Italian: carro veloce con rimorchio). The trailer contained 240 litres of sulphonic acid (although the same system could also be used for spraying mustard gas with a compressed air cylinder) in two cylinders and could produce a smoke screen for up to 17 minutes. The cylinders took 30 minutes to refill.
Using this information it is possible to speculate that the Nebbiogeno modifications would only have been able to produce smoke for 10-15 minutes given the very small size of the containers. This would not have been very useful considering the anemic speed of the Fiat 3000 in an attack, running out of smoke before actually making contact with an enemy.

Conclusion

It is not known how many of the 1935 version were produced but, just like the 1925 modification, it did not enter mass production. At least two of the 1925 version tanks were made and both would be able to conduct their normal tank roles with this equipment. The 1935 vehicle shows that it still retained its twin 6.5mm SIA machine-guns, although it is unclear what weapons were used on the 1925 version, as the best available image of it shows it with the weapons dismounted from the tank.

Categories
WW2 Italian Prototypes

Fiat 3000 L.f.

Kingdom of Italy (1932)
Light Tank – 1 Prototype Built

By the start of the 1930’s Italy’s tank fleet was seriously outdated. The Italian army (Regio Esercito) had a large number of Fiat 3000’s and a handful of light tanks and just one giant Fiat 2000, which was mostly used for training and display. The army had just embarked on a new program to build/produce light tanks which had brought them Carden-Loyd tanks from Great Britain, which had led to the CV.29.
That was a light tank though and the only tanks serviceable for combat were the machine-gun armed Fiat 3000 (it was not until later that this tank was downgraded to the status of a light tank in Italy). The Fiat 3000 was a slight improvement over the Renault FT which Italy had examined and obtained a small number of at the end of WW1. With minor modifications to the original Renault FT design, the Fiat 3000 had been formally adopted in 1921 as the ‘Carro d’assalto Fiat 3000A’ (Assault Tank Fiat 3000A) or simply the Fiat 3000 Model 1921 and became the mainstay of the Italian tank fleet. Inadequately armed to fight enemy tanks or take on enemy fortifications the Fiat 3000 needed improvements to the armament and one of the ideas to improve the firepower of the Fiat 3000 was the addition of a flamethrower.
The idea of adding a flamethrower was born in 1932 as the brainchild of Major Rodolfo Faronato and Captain Enrico Riccardi. Both were tank officers based in Bologna and proposed to fit one Fiat 3000 Mod.21 with flame-throwing equipment for evaluation.

Planned layout of the flame projector and fuel tanks in the Fiat 3000 Model 1921. Source: Pignato

Construction

Given approval for the experiment, an unidentified Fiat 3000 was modified to take the equipment, although the modifications needed were relatively minor. Three fuel tanks were planned – two long rectangular tanks were fitted within the suspension area on either side of the tank, each of which could hold 135 liters of fuel, and a smaller third tank within the actual tail skid area holding an additional 98 liters. This meant that this small vehicle was planned to carry 368 liters of fuel for the flamethrower.
The fuel tanks were connected together within the tank by means of a hose to a central point slightly behind the turret where they met at a pump. The pump then delivered the fuel to a pistol type nozzle held in the turret. By using a pump system there was no need for a large and vulnerable compressed air tank on the outside of the vehicle.

Detail of the two rectangular holes cut in the cheeks of the Fiat 3000 Model 1921 turret. Source: Pignato
The turret, which was made of nine flat panels of steel plate, had two rectangular holes cut into the cheeks, either side of the main armament. Each of these holes was presumably covered with some kind of armored flap and through either of these holes, the flame projector could be placed to spray the target with flame.

The normal rear of the Fiat 3000 with the trench crossing tail fitted.
The only known photograph of the vehicle when converted differ from the plan to have two rectangular tanks under the tracks and a small cylinder at the back, inside the trench crossing tail.

Only known image of a Fiat 3000 Model 1921 fitted with flamethrower equipment showing its large rear fuel tank. Source: Pignato (Lovati collection)
Instead, the actual vehicle (see image above) had a very large angular tank across the back of it and which is assumed to simply be the result of a modification from the original design to carry more fuel.
In addition to this, the turret front, which is out of shot does not have the twin Fiat Model 14 machine-guns raised in salute like the vehicle next to it. Although unclear, the photograph seems to instead show either a different flame-nozzle (similar to the one adopted for the CV.3 L.f.) or perhaps some kind of cover over the weapon. This suggests that the main armament may have been replaced with a dedicated and fixed flame projector similar to that later adopted to the CV.3 Lf. Research on the matter is continuing to determine whether this is a completely different flamethrower variant, a later modification to the original design, or simply that the vehicle was built that way, different to its plans. One theory for the difference is that this large rear tank simply replaced the two rectangular ones planned within the tracks as it could have been too vulnerable. Unfortunately, the photograph does not show whether this vehicle was fitted with the side fuel tanks either.

Fiat 3000 F.l.
Fiat 3000 F.l. with large flamethrower fuel tank on the rear, by AmazingAce on David Bocquelet’s work

Firepower

The Fiat 3000 M.21 converted with this flame projector retained its pair of 6.5mm Societa Anonima Italiana Ansaldo (SIA) machine-guns located in the turret, with fifty 40 round chargers for a total of 2000 rounds. The flame-projector details are not known, but it is likely to have been a converted army model with a range of up to 40m under optimal conditions. This would have been ideal for clearing a trench or dealing with an enemy pillbox where the machine-guns of the tank would have otherwise been mostly useless. The quantity of fuel provided would have been sufficient for several bursts. When not in use, it appears that the flame nozzle could be stowed on the inside of the turret. As this nozzle was not mounted, but held by the commander, it would have seriously hindered any attempts to command the vehicle or use the machine-guns whilst in use and also risked some backwash of heat coming into the tank. It is likely therefore that the commander would have to have been provided with standard equipment such as flame/heat-proof gloves and hood – both of which would have reduced his ability to see and operate.

Performance

The ‘Carro d’assalto Fiat Tipo 3000’ M.1921 was a small tank, just 2 crew, commander, and driver and protected by armor only 16mm thick at best. At just 5,500 kg it was light too but even powered by the 6.236 liter Fiat Model 304 4 cylinder petrol engine produced just 50hp and a power to weight ratio of just 9.1 hp/t. Whilst the flame-thrower had no extra armor, it also had no new engine but had to carry the additional load of the fuel and flame equipment. Even with just the original small tanks, this would have been about 500kg and with the large tank at the back perhaps as much as 1000kg. Not only would this additional weight have reduced the performance to below the 20km/h the Fiat 3000 could usually manage but it would also reduce the power to weight ratio to between 8.3 and 7.7 hp/t. Carrying a large weight on the back, whilst providing improved protection for the fuel tank from enemy fire would have also seriously affected the ability to cross obstacles and affected the balance of the tank.

Conclusion

It is possible that the answer as to why the photograph differs from the design may never be known. It could be that the vehicle in the photo is the original or just a modification, or a completely different experiment. What can be concluded, however, is that Italy made at least one modification to a Fiat 3000 for the carriage of flame equipment. Given the widespread use of such equipment from the infantry, to light tanks and even trains, it seems that the experiment must not have met with approval or else would have seen wider manufacturer.

Specifications

Total weight, battle ready 8500 – 9000 kg (9.36 – 9.92 tons)
Propulsion superior to 50hp, four-cylinder engine of at least 75hp desired
Maximum speed (road) 14.2 mph (24 km/h)
Armament Flame projector
2 x 6.5mm SIA machine-guns
Armor 10 – 20 mm (0.39 – 0.78 inches)

Resources & Links

La meccanizzazione dell’Esercito Italiano. (1989). Lucia Ceva and Andrea Curami, Stato Maggiore dell’Esercito, Uffico Storico – Rome
Gli autoveicoli da combattimento dell’esercito Italiano. (2002). Nicola Pignato, Filippo Cappellano. Stato Maggiore dell’Esercito, Uffico Storico – Rome
Italie39-45.com

Categories
WW2 Italian Prototypes

Ansaldo MIAS/MORAS 1935

Kingdom of Italy (1935)
Mobile Shield – 2 Prototypes Built

MIAS and MORAS.
MIAS and MORAS.

Background

The Motomitragliatrice blindata d’assaulto ‘MIAS’ was a vehicle borne out the Italian slaughter in WWI. Instead of the infantry facing withering machine gun fire unprotected, the MIAS would provide them with a mobile shield to cover them from fire. This is what the MIAS really was; a self-propelled mobile armored shield. It was certainly not a tank in the conventional sense despite having some of the same features. It was armored, powered and fully tracked but that was as far as the similarities went. After-all, it only had a single crew member and he didn’t even get a seat.

Technical details

The MIAS was launched by the Ansaldo company in 1935 and came in two possible versions; the MIAS and the MORAS, which differed only in armament. Both vehicles were propelled by a single 250cc Frera petrol engine producing 5 horsepower at 3000 rpm with Magento Marelli ignition. They were capable of up to 5 km/h forwards and 2.2 km/h in reverse. Frera was a brand of Italian racing motorcycle but, by the mid 1930’s, was in serious financial difficulties and eventually went bankrupt.
Frera motorcycle advertising 1930’s - Source ManxNorton.com
Frera motorcycle advertising 1930’s – Source ManxNorton.com
Motomitragliatrice blindata d’assaulto ‘MIAS’ technical layout -Source: MIAS Manual, AnsaldoMotomitragliatrice blindata d’assaulto ‘MIAS’ technical layout - Source: MIAS Manual, Ansaldo
Motomitragliatrice blindata d’assaulto ‘MIAS’ technical layout – Source: MIAS Manual, Ansaldo

Armament

The armor for the vehicle provided protection against the Mauser service rifle firing SMK (7.92mm Spitzergeschoss mit kern – a steel cored armor piercing round) type ammunition at 90 degree impact at a range of 50 metres. The Mauser SMK round was capable of perforating up to 14 mm (0.55 in) of armor plate and saw extensive use in the First World War for use against tanks. The sides, being slightly thinner, were only rated against the Italian Model 1891 service rifle firing the 6.5mm 160 grain ball round from the sides at 90 degrees at 50 metres, which was still fairly respectable. The roof of the machine was hinged as well and could be elevated in order to provide additional cover for the soldier behind.
MIAS showing its diminutive size
MIAS showing its diminutive size and tool arrangement consisting of a pick-axe, spade and a large billhook type cutting tool for clearing obstacles – Source: MIAS Manual, Ansaldo


An illustration of the MIAS mobile shield. Not to scale. Illustrator: David Bocquelet
The MIAS version was fitted with a single weapon mounting high and slightly off center in the front. It was fitted with two Isotta-Fraschini (‘Scotti’) 6.5 mm (0.25 in) calibre machine guns with 14 degrees of elevation, 10 degrees of depression and 1000 rounds of ammunition. The MORAS version (Moto-mortaio blindato d’assaulto) had the machine-guns replaced with the 45 mm (1.77 in) Brixia mortar. The mortar in its mounting could depress to -10 degrees and elevate to an impressive 72 degrees. The vehicle carried up to fifty 0.5 kg grenades.
MORAS version showing the extremely high elevation which could be reached with the 45 mm Brixia mortar. MORAS version showing the extremely high elevation which could be reached with the 45 mm Brixia mortar.
MORAS version showing the extremely high elevation which could be reached with the 45 mm Brixia mortar – Source: MIAS Manual, Ansaldo
The 45 mm Brixia mortar was designed by the Tempini company in 1932. It was a strange and complex weapon for such a small vehicle. The mortar was unusual in that in used a magazine of blank rounds to launch an individually loaded 45mm bomb. An earlier design even had a magazine for 5 bombs reloaded by means of a hand crank.

1924 Patent by Tempini for a hand cranked cartridge launched small mortar – Source: Patent GB405159
Brixia mortar as manufactured and mounted on the infantry mount
Brixia mortar as manufactured and mounted on the infantry mount
Breda made model M.1935 high explosive mortar shell for the 45mm Brixia mortarBreda made model M.1935 high explosive mortar shell for the 45mm Brixia mortar
Breda made model M.1935 high explosive mortar shell for the 45mm Brixia mortar – Source: War Office Pamphlet No.4 Handbook of Enemy Ammunition 1940 and an unnamed possibly US Military Manual
The 45mm M.35 HE shell was launched at just 83 m/s at a maximum rate of fire of 1 round every 2 seconds. However, this rate of fire that does not include the time taken to replace the shell magazine. The M.35 shell remained in use through 1940 and a second shell, the M.39 version using an aluminum body instead of a brass one was available.
Work on an armor-piercing shell for the mortar was abandoned in September 1941, meaning the Brixia was only ever fielded with a rather small high explosive shell. The shell was rather useless at range but in the MORAS, it would have allowed the vehicle to very usefully suppress or destroy enemy machine gun positions.

Brixia mortar video

Conclusions

The MIAS and MORAS were interesting designs but totally unsuitable for modern warfare. A mobile shield, no matter how well armed with machine guns or small mortars, was not going to fill the gap which Italy had in the tank department.
Neither vehicle went past the prototype stage and no orders for them are known to have been placed. The machine guns and Brixia mortar saw extensive use in WW2. These powered one-man shields remain an odd quirk, a relic of a bygone type of war.

Links

Italian Racing Motorcycles, Mick Walker
MIAS Manual, Ansaldo
New Giant Tanks, Nov 1935. By Johnson T.M.
Artillery in the Desert 25th November 1942 – US Military Intelligence Service War Department – Appendix D – Italian Artillery – Table of Characteristics
Standard Italian Weapons Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 11, Nov. 5, 1942.
Twentieth Century Artillery, Ian Hogg
War Office Pamphlet No.4 Handbook of Enemy Ammunition 1940
UK Patent GB405159 filed 24th May 1924 by Metallurgica Bresciana Gia Tempini
ManxNorton.com