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 CV29, 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 CV29, 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 CV3 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 CV29. Source: Beamish collection
Trial and Development
The CV29s 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 CV29’s were tentatively scheduled for production following the purchase of a license for that number. The idea was to keep the CV29 in service whilst the Italians developed their own vehicle. As it happened, only 25 CV29s were ordered and they were used mainly for training. The lessons from the trials of the CV29 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 ‘CV29 Second Version’ and also as the ‘CV28’, although this seems more to do with the fact that the 1930 prototype had no official name than to any connection to an actual CV29 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.
The new shape body was the first appearance of the characteristic casemate which is a trademark of the CV3 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 CV3/33 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
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 CV29. 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.
|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 CV3 petrol|
|Top speed||40km/h road, 14 km/h off-road|
|Armament:||1x FIAT Model 1914 Water-Cooled 6.5mm Machine-Gun|
|Armor||8 – 14 mm|
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