WW2 Italian Tanks

Carro Armato P26/40

Italy (1943-44)
Heavy tank – 103 built

The last Italian WW2 tank

The irony of the Carro Armato Pesante P26/40 is that it never saw service with Italian forces of the Regio Esercito, but supplemented the Wehrmacht and equipped some RSI units during the bitter fighting of the Italian campaign, from November 1943 to May 1945. It originated from a General Staff (Stato Maggiore) specification of 1939 for a heavy tank with 60 mm (2.36 in) of armor, a 75 mm (2.95 in) gun, 25 ton weight and a diesel engine. It was called the P26/40, for “Pesante, 26 tons, model 1940”. But, by this time, FIAT-Ansaldo was far from being capable of producing a diesel engine powerful enough, nor found it easy to convert an aviation gasoline engine for a tank. Engine development was very slow, and if by 1940 the design was ready, there was no powerplant available.

Hello dear reader! This article is in need of some care and attention and may contain errors or inaccuracies. If you spot anything out of place, please let us know!

Design of the P26/40

The first design was basically an upsized M11/39, with flat armor plates. But, in 1941, when Italian forces in Ukraine first encountered the T-34, the hull design was back on the drawing board, with more sloped plates as a result. The hull was still riveted, but with many welded elements. The 75 mm (2.95 in) Ansaldo cannone da 75/34 was derived from the Model 37 divisional gun, and had a much better muzzle velocity than the 75/18 (700 m/s). The tank’s role shifted from infantry support to anti-tank warfare, requiring a redesign of the interior as well. Secondary armament comprised, at first, twin 8 mm (0.31 in) Breda machine-guns in the hull barbette, and another coaxial. But the twin mount was later replaced by a single machine-gun with 600 rounds.
The crew of 4 comprised the driver and hull machine-gunner/radioman, with the commander/gunner and loader in the turret, which was rather cramped compared to the German standard, with no intercom.
The turret had two periscopes (one for the gunner, one for the loader), a radio, a rear two-piece hatch and two sight slits on the rear side slopes. The rear engine deck had three slopes, the central one, equipped with a ventilation grid being larger at the base, and access hatches on the two side slopes. The rear end slope also had the large exhaust grids. The turret design was similar to a larger M13/40 turret, but still too cramped to accommodate a crew of three. In result, the commander was somewhat overloaded. The drivetrain was similar to previous models, although larger, still reliable, but it did not allow high speeds. The armor was a real improvement, despite still being riveted, with the turret having a 60 mm (2.36 in) frontal plate, 50 mm (1.97 in) on the side and 20 mm (0.79 in) on the top. The hull had 50 mm (1.97 in) thick front and 40 mm (1.57 in) sides and rear, with 14 mm (0.55 in) on the bottom and engine deck. It was tested against the British QF 2 pounder, but failed against the standard 6 pdr (57 mm/2.24 in). A 420 hp (310 kW) petrol engine was first tested in 1941, giving an excellent power-to-weight ratio, but was not approved by the army. Eventually, in 1942, the FIAT company succeeded in providing a reliable V-12 SPA 342 diesel, which was eventually adopted.


By 1943, three prototypes had been successfully tested, and a production order for 1200 units was issued. It took a month to gear up, so much so that only a handful of pre-production models made it out of the factory floor at the time of the Italian armistice, in September 1943. The factory was seized by the German military, and production was resumed until 1944. Eventually, only 100 were delivered, and integrated into the Wehrmacht. It was known as the Panzerkampfwagen P40 737(i). A late Italian project, the P43, was projected to be over 30 tonnes with 100 mm (3.94 in) frontal armor, and a long barrel 75 mm (2.95 in) or even a 90 mm (3.54 in) gun, like that of the Semovente M41 90/53. Only two mockups were built. There was also a paper project for a self-propelled gun, a turretless vehicle mounting a formidable 149 mm (5.86 in)/40 caliber artillery piece with a range of over 23 km. Other projects included a tank-hunter Semovente, with a 100 mm (3.94 in) high velocity gun.

The P26/40 in action

The P40 was intended, originally, to support the mediums, with one company of heavy tanks with three medium companies in each battalion. In 1944, the Germans used the P40 in small Abteilungs, like a regular medium tank. But, apart their engagement at Anzio, they saw little action. Eventually, many turrets were re-used in strongpoints which composed the German defensive lines. Today two vehicles survive, one at the Museo della Motorizz. Militare della Cecchignola in Rome and one in front of the Caserme “Nacci” e “Zappalà” in Lecce.

Links about the P26/40

The P26/40 on Wikipedia

Carro Armato P26/40 specifications

Dimensions 5.795 x 2.800 x 2.522 m (19ft x 9ft 2in x 8ft 2in)
Total weight, battle ready 26 tons
Crew 4 (commander, driver, machine-gunner/radioman, loader)
Propulsion V-12 SPA 342 diesel, 330 hp (243 kW), 11.53 hp/t
Suspension Semi-elliptical leaf spring bogies
Top speed (road/off-road) 40 km/h (25 mph)/ 25 km/h (16 mph)
Operational range 280 km (170 mi)
Armament Ansaldo 75 mm L/34 (2.95 in), 75 rounds
2xBreda-38 8 mm machine-guns (0.31 in), 600 rounds
Armor From 14 to 60 mm (0.55-2.36 in)
Total production 103 (including prototypes)

P26 40
Pre-production vehicle, Genoa, September 1943.

15th Polizei-Panzer Kompanie, Novara, April 1945.

24th Panzer-Kompanie Waffen Gebirgs, 1st platoon, Friul region, April 1945.


carro armato p26/40 Italian tank
Regio Esercito, ww2 italian tanks poster

By David.B

Tank Encyclopedia's Creator, webmaster and illustrator since 2010.

8 replies on “Carro Armato P26/40”

I’m fairly certain the P40 was used by the Italian Social Republic (RSI) as well, so the first line of the article is wrong.

Hello Vander,
By “that it never saw service with Italian forces,” i meant the regular Italian Forces before they capitulated. I can’t find anything on its use by the RSI, but since the Germans did not like the P40 we can speculate about its reversion to their allies indeed.

Cheers for responding, I understand what you meant now. I think at least a couple were used by the RSI’s Gruppo Corazzato Leoncello.
At any rate, I think it would be good to mention its use or, if you like, possible use by the RSI. Especially seeing as the RSI is a fairly unknown entity to the community.

There are tree prototype of this tank, one with a 75/18 howitzer/cannon (long 1,35m),
one with a 75/32 AT cannon (long 2,4m)
And one with the 75/34 AT cannon (long 2,55m)

Hi, all the articles I’ve read about his tank mentions the 75/34 as its main gun. I know the Italians produced the Cannone da 75/32 modello 37, but I’ve never come across any info on a 75/34. Did this tank use a modified version of the 75//32 or was the 75/34 a brand new design?

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