WW2 Italian SPG Prototypes

Semovente da 47/32 su Scafo L3

Kingdom of Italy (1939)
Self-Propelled Gun – 1 Prototype Built

The Semovente da 47/32 su Scafo L3 was an Italian prototype self-propelled support gun based on the hull of the Carro Armato L3/35 (English: Light Tank 3-tonne model 1935). It was developed during the Interwar period to provide Italian assault infantry units with a light and mobile vehicle. This Semovente was equipped with the standard gun used by Italian infantry divisions during that era.

The Semovente da 47/32 su Scafo L3 presented at the Centro Studi Motorizzazione (English: Motor Vehicle Study Centre).
Source: Archivio Ansaldo

Origin and Development

Anti-Tank Warfare by the Corpo Truppe Volontarie (English: Volunteer Troop Corps) in Spain

During the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), the Kingdom of Italy dispatched a contingent of troops known as the Corpo Truppe Volontarie (English: Volunteer Troop Corps) to support General Franco’s Nationalist forces.

Republican forces received support from the Soviet Union, which sent T-26 light tanks, BT-5 fast tanks, and BA-6 heavy armored cars to Spain. These vehicles were all armed with 45 mm cannons in a turret, which caused significant issues for Franco’s German and Italian allies during the Battle of Guadalajara in 1937. Following this battle, the Italian High Command requested anti-tank weaponry from Germany and even considered sending some FIAT 3000s armed with Cannoni da 37/40 (English: 37 mm L/40 Cannon) to Spain.

For the duration of the conflict, the Corpo Truppe Volontarie was equipped with 343 older Cannoni da 65/17 Modello 1908/13 (English: 65 mm L/17 Cannon Model 1908/13) mountain guns, 30 Cannoni da 47/32 Modello 1935 (English: 47 mm L/32 Cannon Model 1935) anti-tank/support guns, and 40 Cannoni da 37/45, which was the Italian designation for the German 3.7 cm PaK 36 guns.

As the war continued, Italian troops developed a strategy to deal with the Soviet-made tanks using their light Carri Armati L3/33 (the predecessors of the L3/35). These light tanks towed a gun, and when they spotted a Republican tank, either the tank crew or nearby soldiers would position the gun and open fire. While this strategy may appear obsolete, it proved effective. The guns employed for these actions included the Cannoni da 37/45, a few Cannoni da 47/32, and possibly some Cannoni da 65/17.

However, the Cannoni da 65/17 had suspension problems when towed by vehicles, since they were originally designed for horse towing. Additionally, gun crew were highly vulnerable to enemy fire because they often followed the tanks on foot or rode on them.

Carri Armati L3/33 of the Corpo Truppe Volontarie towing Cannoni da 37/45.
Source: andare contro i carri armati

Other solutions were found. The L3/35 L.f. flamethrowing tank proved to be more successful against Soviet-supplied armor, but would have to get extremely close to be effective. Franco’s forces also developed a L3/35 armed with a 20 mm Breda gun with Italian assistance to overcome this lack of firepower. However, the same solution but on a Panzer I was favored.

The Demand for and Birth of an Anti-Tank Self-Propelled Gun

In 1939, after the Grandi Esercitazioni dell’anno XVII E.F. (English: Great Exercises in the 17th year of the Fascist Era), the Corpo d’Armata Corazzato (English: Armored Army Corps) of General Fidenzo Dall’Ora requested the installation of the Cannone da 47/32 Modello 1935 on a self-propelled gun with armor resistant against machine gun fire.

On 12th August 1939, a prototype self-propelled gun on an L3/35 hull armed with a 47/32 cannon was presented to the Centro Studi Motorizzazione (English: Centre for Motor Vehicle Studies).



The Semovente da 47/32 was built on the chassis of the Carro Armato Leggero da 3 tonnellate Modello 1935 (English: 3 tonnes Light Tank Model 1935).

To make room for the cannon, the casemate was dismantled, and to protect the gun from small arms fire and shrapnel, it was equipped with a foldable shield.

Carro Armato L3/35. Its hull was used as the basis for the new self-propelled gun
Source: la meccanizzazione dell’esercito


The armor of the chassis was the same as that of the L3/35. Frontally, it was 14 mm thick, on the sides and rear it was protected by 8 mm thick armored plates, the engine compartment had 7.5 mm thick armored plates, while the vehicle’s floor was 14 mm thick.

Engine and Suspension

The Semovente da 47/32 had FIAT Tipo CV 3-005 (English: FIAT Type CV 3-005) petrol engine, the same as the Carro Armato L3/35, equipped with a four-speed gearbox and a reverse gear. The engine could be started using a crank, which could be operated from both inside and outside the vehicle.

The Semovente da 47/32 su Scafo L3 was equipped with two fuel tanks, each with a capacity of 40.5 liters, positioned on the sides of the engine, above the mudguards. This configuration provided the vehicle with a road autonomy of approximately 7 hours, whereas the Carro Armato L3/35 had an autonomy of only 5 hours due to its heavier weight.

This increased autonomy was made possible by the reduced weight of the self-propelled gun version which weighed about 150 kilograms less than the Carro Armato L3/35. The vehicle could theoretically achieve a maximum on-road speed of 38 km/h.

In order to address a significant issue with track breakage that was experienced with the Carri Armati L3, the Semovente da 47/32 su Scafo L3 was equipped with a new suspension.

This featured four coil springs, with one for each bogie, while the tracks were constructed using single and short links, totaling 72 links made of pressed steel.

Tipo CV 3-005 petrol-powered engine. It powered all the L3 series tanks.
Source: italie 1935-45
Engine starting crank used from inside the Carro Armato L3/35.


The vehicle was armed with the Cannone da 47/32 Modello 1935, which was first introduced in 1935 in Austria by Böhler and later produced under license in Italy and the Netherlands. In the Regio Esercito (English: Royal Italian Army), it was deployed for use both as an infantry support gun and as an anti-tank gun, earning the nickname Elefantino (English: Little Elephant) among the troops.

Initially, the cannon was mounted on a pedestal carriage at the front of the vehicle. However, after initial tests, a shield was added to protect the gun crew from grenade shrapnel and enemy bullets.

The cannon had a traverse of 30°, 15° to either side, while the elevation ranged from -18° to +30°.

Experimental installation of the Cannone da 47/32 Modello 1935 on an L3 hull.
Source: andare contro i carri armati
Front view of the Semovente da 47/32 su Scafo L3 with the shield that protected the crew from shrapnel and enemy bullets.
Source:Archivio Ansaldo
Three-quarter view of the Semovente da 47/32 su Scafo L3.
Source: Archivio Ansaldo


The Semovente da 47/32 carried 53 rounds of 47 mm ammunition, which were stored in a metal case located at the rear of the driver’s compartment.

While specific details about the types of ammunition carried are not available, the Cannone da 47/32 had the capability to fire various types of rounds, including:

Ammunition for the Cannone da 47/32 Modello 1935
Name Type Muzzle velocity (m/s) Weight of complete ammunition (kg) Penetration (mm)
@500 m @750 m
Cartoccio Granata Modello 1935 High-Explosive 250 2.860 // //
Granata Perforante Modello 1935 Armor Piercing 630 2.035 25 //
Granata Perforante Modello 1939 Armor Piercing 630 2.055 40 35
The ammunition of the Cannone da 47/32 (from left to right): Cartoccio Granata Modello 1935 (with percussion fuse model 1939), Granata Perforante Modello 1939 (with percussion fuse model 1909), Cartoccio Granata Modello 1935 (with percussion fuse model 1935), and Cartoccio Granata Perforante Modello 1935


The crew of the Semovente da 47/32 su Scafo L3 consisted of only two, a gunner and a driver. However, after initial tests, a significant issue became apparent – the vulnerability of the crew members. They were exposed and unprotected, even from enemy light weapons fire, leaving them vulnerable to artillery barrages and air attacks.

Due to the limited space within the vehicle, there was no room to accommodate additional weaponry, such as an anti-aircraft machine gun or rifles for self-defense. The cramped interior forced the designers to maintain a crew of just two, which posed serious problems.

The gunner had to take on multiple roles. He not only served as the gunner, but also assumed the role of commander. This meant they had to perform a wide range of tasks, including battlefield observation, target identification, aiming, firing, and simultaneously giving orders to the driver, who also served as the loader.

When the driver was engaged in operating the vehicle, the commander had to load the gun on his own, which significantly reduced the rate of fire and overall combat effectiveness of the Semovente da 47/32.

Photograph showing the crew of the Semovente da 47/32 su Scafo L3 in action with the Cannone da 47/32.
Source: Archivio Ansaldo

Operational Use

The Semovente da 47/32 su Scafo L3 never entered production. It was presented to the Centro Studi della Motorizzazione on 12th August 1939 for evaluation purposes.

On 26th October 1939, the vehicle was showcased to Benito Mussolini, the Head of Government and Duce of Italy. On the same day, General Alberto Pariani, Chief of Staff of the Regio Esercito, sent a letter to General Manera in which he expressed his opinion that the new 47/32 self-propelled gun was suitable for its intended role. However, he recommended that it be equipped with a Breda machine gun for anti-aircraft defense.

Gen. Manera emphasized that an order for 300 units should be placed with Italian factories, but only if production started immediately and the modifications suggested by him and the Centro Studi della Motorizzazione were implemented.

However, despite the initial interest and evaluations, the development of the vehicle was halted on 21st October 1940. This decision was made following a discussion between General Mario Roatta, who was then the Deputy Chief of the General Staff, and General Mario Caracciolo di Feroleto, the Ispettore Superiore dei Servizi Tecnici (English: Senior Inspector of Technical Services). They jointly decided to abandon the design of the Semovente da 47/32 su Scafo L3 and instead focus on the development of a new 75 mm self-propelled gun, taking inspiration from the German Sturmgeschütz III (StuG III).

The Semovente da 47/32 su Scafo L3 was still at the Centro Studi della Motorizzazione in spring 1941. However, beyond this date, information about its fate becomes uncertain, and it is unclear what ultimately happened to the vehicle.

Benito Mussolini, wearing civilian clothes, seated in the gunner’s position of the Semovente da 47/32 su Scafo L3 while talking with the driver.
Source: via Andrew Hills
Vehicles under study at the Centro Studi della Motorizzazione in spring 1941. The Semovente da 47/32 su Scafo L3 is visible as the third vehicle from the right.
Source: la meccanizzazione dell’esercito

The Other Semovente da 47/32

At the beginning of 1941, a new light tank, the Carro Armato L6/40, entered production. A new version of a support self-propelled gun was designed based on this new chassis. This vehicle was known as the Semovente L40 da 47/32 (English: L40 Self-propelled gun equipped with a 47 mm L/32 Cannon) and was presented at the Centro Studi della Motorizzazione on 10th May of the same year.

Similar to the earlier Semovente da 47/32 su Scafo L3, the cannon was mounted on the tank’s hull. However, in this case, the gun was positioned inside a casemate, providing protection to the crew from shrapnel and enemy bullets, although it lacked a roof, like its predecessor. To protect the crew from the elements, such as rain, sand, and snow, a tarpaulin could be added.

The cannon was mounted on the left side of the fighting compartment, with a horizontal traverse of 27°, a depression of -17° and an elevation of +20°. Ammunition was stored in two boxes, with one located at the back of the driver’s seat, providing a total capacity of 70 rounds.

A total of 402 of these small self-propelled guns were produced until 1943. Initially, it was used for anti-tank support within the Bersaglieri regiments assigned to armored divisions. However, as the war progressed, it was deployed for support roles in various divisions, including the scouting divisions of the Army Corps, infantry divisions, and motorized divisions. Additionally, it continued to serve in support roles within armored car units.

After the armistice signed by the Kingdom of Italy with the Allies on 8th September 1943, many of these vehicles were captured by the Germans. The Germans continued production, resulting in a total of an additional 74 until 1944.

A Semovente da 47/32 L40 and its crew.
A Semovente da 47/32 L40 used by the Germans in Croatia in 1944. The vehicle is also armed with a FIAT-Revelli Model 1914/35 machine gun.


The Semovente da 47/32 su Scafo L3 was nothing more than a useless prototype that, even if it had been mass-produced, would not have efficiently supported the Italian armored forces in countering enemy armored units. This was mainly due to the self-propelled gun’s vulnerability to air attacks. In fact, the inclusion of the Breda anti-aircraft machine gun would not have been very effective defending against fast enemy fighters, infantry, or tank attacks, as the vehicle had weak armor and the gun crew lacked protection other than a light shield.

Semovente da 47/32 su Scafo L3. Illustration done by Godzilla, funded by our Patreon campaign.

Specifications Semovente da 47/32 su Scafo L3

Dimensions 3.66 x 1.41 x 1.31 m
Weight 3.3 tonnes
Crew 2 (Driver and gunner)
Engine Tipo CV 3-005 petrol 42 hp
Maximum road speed 38 km/h
Autonomy 7 hours on road
Armament 1 Cannone da 47/32 Modello 1935
Armor Hull: 14 mm front and floor. sides and rear 8 mm. engine compartment 7.5 mm
Production 1 prototype


Filippo Cappellano e Nicola Pignato “Andare contro i carri armati – l’evoluzione della difesa controcarro nell’esercito italiano dal 1918 al 1945” Gaspari Editore 2007

Lucio Ceva and Andrea Curami “La meccanizzazione dell’Esercito fino al 1943” Tomo I e II Roma 1994

Nicola Pignato e Filippo Cappellano “Gli autoveicoli da combattimento dell’Esercito Italiano, Volume I” Roma 2002

Nicola Pignato e Filippo Cappellano “Gli autoveicoli da combattimento dell’Esercito Italiano, Volume II” Roma 2002

T. L. Jentz and W. Regenberg “Panzer Tracts No.19-2. Beute-Panzerkampfwagen British, American, Russian and Italian Tanks Captured from 1940 to 1945” Panzer Tracts 2008

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