Italian armored vehicles of the First World War

Italian armored vehicles of the First World War
Italian armored vehicles of the First World War
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The name implies that we will talk about armored vehicles and tanks at the same time, and this is true, because there is no other way to tell about armored ground vehicles. Unlike other warring countries, Italy had little equipment, less than others. But this does not mean that she did not leave a definite mark in history. They had their own large automobile firms, and where there are such firms, there will always be armored cars.

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Moreover, the first armored vehicles in Italy appeared before the war, namely in 1911. These were two (only two!) Armored vehicles (Autobliudata), designed and built on a proactive basis by the talented engineer Giustino Cattaneo at the Isotta-Fraschini company, already well-known for its machines, in Milan. The weight of the armored car was about 3 tons. The chassis formula is 4x2. The rear wheels were double, the front wheels were equipped with additional rims to improve cross-country ability, tubeless tires filled with sponge rubber. The maximum speed was about 37 km / h. The armored hull even covered the rear wheels, but the armor was only 4 mm thick. Armament: two machine guns - one in a rotating turret, the other was supposed to shoot through an embrasure in the rear of the hull.

A year later, the Fiat single-turret armored car appeared, and at the same time, the Bianchi company, again from Milan, offered its version of the armored car. Externally, armored cars "Isotta-Fraschini" and "Bianchi" are very similar, including the rounded hood and turret, and differ only in certain details. The weight of the armored car is also about 3 tons. The chassis formula is 4x2. The rear wheels are double. Engine power - 30 HP Reservation up to 6 mm. Armament: two machine guns, which had the same placement as the "Isotta-Fraschini". From 1913 to 1916 at the firm "Bianchi" was built at least four prototypes of armored vehicles, and the options "1915" and "1916" are strikingly different.

Italian armored vehicles of the First World War

But BA "Fiat Terni" (also called "Fiat Legera" or "Tipo Tripoli") in Italy was released … at the end of 1918! And it was named so because it was produced at the metallurgical plant in Terni in Umbria. The design was developed at the Societe Terni steel factory, and I must say that the Italians succeeded in something that no one else was able to do at that time, namely, to create an “absolute” BA for their time. It was they who turned out a simple but durable and reliable car with a reliable chassis and engine from the famous Fiat 15 truck.

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It was a small armored car: 4.54 m in length, 1.70 m in width and 3.07 m in height, armed with one M1914 "Fiat-Revelli" machine gun with a water-cooled caliber of 6.5 mm. At least one car was equipped - probably as an experiment - with a turret from the British BA Lanchester. But with this Italian-British cooperation in this area ended.

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Well, what is its perfection? And here's what - the car consisted of only four armored parts of a very simple shape: an armored hood over the engine, a cylindrical base of the tower, which was at the same time a driver's cabin (no one thought of that!), The tower itself and a "stern module" of very simple outlines … That is, the design of the car was an order of magnitude simpler than that of the same British "Lanchester", and this speaks volumes.

But he didn't have to fight on the fields of the "Great War".12 armored cars were sent to Libya in 1919, where they, together with "Lancia" IZM, fought as part of two divisions of armored vehicles. They were also used as escort vehicles on supply lines, but they also proved to be good scouts, successfully operating in cooperation with aerial reconnaissance. When Italy entered World War II in 1940, about 10 Fiat Terni armored vehicles were still in use in Libya, although some of them had already gone through multiple upgrades.

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However, the most massive Italian armored car, a kind of "visiting card" of the Italian wheeled armored vehicles of the First World War, was the BA "Lancia". Quite a lot of them were built, and they were used against the Austrian and later German troops. Some of them were captured by the Germans and were used to equip their own armored parts, as well as to train and arm American troops in Italy.

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It was made by the firm "Ansaldo" from Turin, based on a light truck on pneumatic tires with a double rear pair. The car was very well armored. The thickness of the armor plates made of chromium-nickel steel at the front reached 12 mm, and along the sides - 8 mm, which not every tank could then boast of. However, the most unusual thing about this BA was its two-story tower. Moreover, in the larger, lower tower there were two machine guns at once, and in the upper, small, with independent rotation - one! This gave him the opportunity for a wide maneuver with fire and made it possible not only to fire at two different targets at the same time, but also to concentrate very strong fire on one! Machine guns were used of two types: the French "Saint-Etienne" caliber 8-mm, which the French supplied to all and sundry on the principle "God forbid that we do not want" and actually Italian "Fiat-Revelli" arr. 1914 of the year.

Another original feature of this BA was "rails" for cutting barbed wire, installed above the hood to pass through the wire obstacles stretched across the road. The crew of the vehicle was large enough and consisted of the vehicle commander, driver, three machine gunners and a mechanic.

The car weighed about 3950 kg, including 25,000 rounds of ammunition. 70 hp engine made it possible to develop a maximum speed of about 70 km / h. The range was about 500 km. The length of the car was 5, 24 m, width 1, 9 m, height 2.89 m, wheelbase 3, 57 m.

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The IZM model was almost identical to the first model, except that the small turret was eliminated, and the third machine gun was installed in the rear of the hull and turned to the rear. It is interesting that in place of the upper turret there was a hatch through which it was possible to shoot even at planes from the third machine gun! Both models were used by the Italian army for a long time, both during the civil war in Spain and Ethiopia, and in East Africa during the Second World War.

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What about the tanks? With tanks, the Italians were both lucky and unlucky at the same time. Considering the fact that the Italian army fought the main battle in the highlands on the border with Austria-Hungary, tanks were unnecessary for it. However, in 1916, Captain Luigi Cassali proposed building armored vehicles capable of moving over rough terrain and cutting barbed wire. The vehicle received two machine-gun turrets and a cutter similar to the French Breton-Preto device. But the project was abandoned after tests proved its practical unsuitability. But the Italians did not despair, and immediately took up a new project called Fiat 2000. Work began in August 1916, and the first tank was ready in June 1917. (Hence its alternative name "Type 17".)

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And it was then that it turned out that the Italians succeeded in something that neither the British, nor the French, nor the Germans succeeded in, namely, to create the most perfect and well-armed tank of the First World War! Let's start with the fact that it was the first heavy tank with a gun turret, and, moreover, a hemispherical shape.The driver had an excellent view, and could conduct observation either through the hatch or through the periscope - a level of care for a person that was never achieved on the tanks of the French and British! The engine was placed at the rear, making it less prone to damage. The crew had a lot of space inside, since most of the mechanisms were under the floor. It was much more practical than British, German and French designs.

In addition, the tank was heavily armed. It had a 65mm short cannon (L / 17) that could fire 360 ​​°. At the same time, its trunk had angles of declination and elevation from -10 ° to + 75 °. That is, the possibilities of maneuvering fire from this tank were very wide. He carried at least seven 6, 5-mm Fiat-Revelli machine guns (6 in the embrasures and 1 spare), installed in such a way that each of them had a horizontal angle of fire of 100 °. Three machine guns fired at the stern and sides at once, and two forward.

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The undercarriage consisted of ten road wheels, eight of which were grouped in pairs. The tank used elliptical leaf springs. The thickness of the armor varied from 15 to 20 mm. True, the tank weighed 40 tons. The power of the 12-cylinder Fiat engine was about 240 horsepower, which allowed it to reach a top speed of about 7 km / h, which is a pretty good indicator compared to other tanks of that time. True, the fuel supply was only enough for 75 km along the highway. He easily overcame obstacles and, thanks to the wide tracks, had good maneuverability on soft soils. The length was 7, 378 m, width - 3.092 m, height - 3, 785 m. The tank overcame slopes at 35 ° - 40 °, ditches 3 - 3.5 m wide. Ford and vertical obstacles up to 1 m.

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Until the end of the war in 1918, only two of these tanks were made, but it is unclear if they were ever used in battle.

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In Libya, it was found that the average speed of the tank was only 4 km / h, so they soon abandoned their use there. One of them stayed in Libya, and the other returned to Italy in the spring of 1919, where he was shown to the public in the presence of the king at the Roman stadium. The tank showed a number of tricks: drove onto a 1, 1-meter wall, then broke through a 3, 5-meter-high wall, crossed a 3-meter wide trench and knocked down several trees. However, this impressive performance did not arouse public interest, and this tank was soon forgotten. In 1934, he again took part in the parade, for which he was re-painted and even rearmed: the two front machine guns were replaced with 37 mm L / 40 guns. Later, it was erected in Bologna as a monument, but its further fate, as well as the fate of the tank that ended up in Libya, is unknown.

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In 1918 France supplied Italy with one Schneider and several light Renault FT-17s. The Italians made an additional order for the last car, but at that time France could barely provide tanks for its own army and could not satisfy the Italians' request. For this reason, they decided to independently build a tank similar to the Renault FT-17, but using components and parts of domestic production. The development of the tank was carried out by the firms "Ansaldo" and "Breda", and the order for the production of 1400 vehicles was placed with the firm "Fiat". However, due to the end of the First World War in 1918, the order was reduced to 100 units. And again it turned out that the Italian Fiat 3000 tank turned out to be more perfect than the French one in all respects. It was smaller and lighter on the same booking. The engine on it stood across the hull, and the armament was more powerful, especially the cannon - the same 37-mm cannon as the French, but with more muzzle energy. But the time for such tanks soon passed, and the Italians had nothing to say: they were late for the distribution of prizes for the best tanks of the First World War!

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