sabato 20 settembre 2014

Designing an Italian tank tree for WOT: Part 1 - Main historical WWII designs

Italian tanks have been considered several times for World of Tanks, however their introduction poses several challenges which will be covered in this article series.
Aside from historical hurdles, many tanks have a performance that falls in between that of WOT tiers, making them challenging to balance.

A strictly historical tree provides the basis for further developments, however it highlights the sheer lack of late war Italian projects, especially as even the most advanced tanks were designed with a priority towards ease of manufacture rather than battlefield superiority.

Italian industry did not lack the technical know-how for manufacture of more advanced components like welded armor or torsion bars, however Italian armored forces always had a lower priority in resource allocation than either navy or air force, resulting in most designs hampered by cost cutting measures, which for example meant assembly lines never retooled for casting or welding (both reserved for the navy) and indigenous weapon designs were more often than not little more than unlicensed copies or adaptations of British (Vickers-Terni) and Czech (or captured WWI austro-hungarian) designs, concealed by keeping an obsolete length measurement system for barrels.

Italian tank doctrine also favored lighter tank designs, with heavy tanks viewed as unreliable and hard to drive (Soviet KV tanks failed to impress Italian evaluators, however T-34 was viewed as a design to be copied), resulting in local tank classes that were in the same weight range as a lighter class in foreign designation, especially as the P43 Bis was the heaviest peaking at a mere 35 tonnes.

Classification: (L) for light, (M) for medium, (H) for heavy, (TD) for tank destroyer, (A) for Artillery

Tier I

(L) L5

Tier II (M) M13/40 (L) L6/40 (TD) CDR M12
Tier III (H) P 75 (M) M15/42 (TD) Semovente M41
Tier IV (H) P 26/40 (M) M16/43 Sahariano (TD) Semovente M43
Tier V (H) P43

(TD) Semovente 90/53
Tier VI (H) P43 Bis

(TD) Semovente 120/44
Tier VII


Tier IX

Tier X

 Tier I: Ansaldo L5

The L5 was a 5 ton light tank developed from the L3 series tankettes, which in turn were an evolution of the Carden-Loyd tankette.

Experiments for fitting a turret on top of an L3 tankette started in 1936, with the first trials equipped with twin 8mm Mgs in the turret and later on swapped so that the gun was in the turret and Mgs in the hull.

This design was called “Carro d'assalto 5t”, L5 using the 1940 designation, armed with a 37mm L/26 cannon.

Later developments eventually ended up in the M6 prototype, which went on to become the L6/40.

Technical data:

Weight: 5.8 tonnes

Armor: Front: 13,5mm, side 8,5mm read 13,5mm

L:3,15m W: 1,4m H: approx 1,85-2,15m depending on the turret.

Engine: CV 3-005, petrol 43HP

Ground Pressure: approx 1kg/sq cm

Top speed: 42 km/h is the theoretical speed of both the parent L3 and the later L6, however the much worse HP/ton ratio means lower speed is very likely

Base gun: Cannone da 37mm L/26
Improved gun: 13,2mm Breda 1931 (or 12,7mm Breda/Safat),

 Tier II: M13/40

Rather than trying to fit the M11/39 which would have problems being competitive due to its casemate design and anemic firepower, the M13/40 provides a competitive medium tank design able to go toe to toe with early panzers and Vickers 6 ton derivatives that populates low tiers.
As World of Tanks requires you to upgrade your tank components (often referred as "grinding"), we'll use M11/39 parts for this process.

Fully developed, M13/40 would have decent armor for its tier, not so great agility (unless given M14/41 engine) but with the 47/32 being a killer gun for its tier, able to deal with pretty much anything it meets:

Technical data:

Weight: 13 tonnes
Armor: front 30mm/11° sides and rear 25mm
L: 4,91m W: 2,2m H: 2,37m
Ground Pressure: 0,93 kg/sq cm
Top speed: 32 km/h

Base components from M11/39:
Gun: Cannone da 37mm L/40
Engine: SPA 8T, 105 HP Diesel

M 13/40 configuration:
Gun: Cannone da 47mm L/32
Engine: SPA 8TM40, 125 HP (potentially upgradeable to SPA 15TM41, 145 HP Diesel)

 Tier II: L6/40

 The most advanced Italian light tank in 1940, the L6/40 was a pretty good cavarly tank at its introduction, agile, armed and armored not unlike similar light tank design of the same period.
Its power to weight ratio would limit its performance in hilly terrain while tiny side armor would put it at disadvantage when brawling, however the 20mm Breda will give pause to anything not armored enough to absorb the hits with impunity.

Technical data:

Weight:6,8 tonnes
Armor: front 30mm, sides and rear 14,5mm
L: 3,78m W: 1,92m H: 2,03m
Ground Pressure: 0,44 kg/sq cm
Top speed:42 km/h

Base components:
Gun: Cannone da 37mm L/26
Engine: SPA 18VT 67HP

Improved gun: 20mm L/65 Breda
Improved engine: SPA 18D 70HP

Tier II: M12

Although not technically a tank destroyer, the M12 was the "breakthrough tank" concept that eventually evolved in the M11/39.
Conceived for mountain warfare it was reasonably protected and armed with the same howitzer as the mythical Fiat 2000, it could serve as starting point for the semovente line, as L3 and L6 based designs unfortunately don't have suitable gun choices.

All in all, in WOT it would play like a more agile but less armored T18, preying on poorly protected targets using mostly high explosive shells.

Technical data:

Weight: 12 tonnes
Armor: Front  30mm, Sides and rear 14,5mm
L: 4,73m W:2,18m H: 1,9m approximately
Ground Pressure:approx 0,8 kg/sq cm
Top speed: 33km/h
Engine: SPA 8T, 105 HP Diesel

Base Gun: Cannone da 37mm L/40
Improved Gun: Cannone da 65mm L/17 (AP ammo was actually available, unknown effectiveness)

 Tier III: P75

The P75 was the earliest draft of a WWII Italian heavy tank.
Clearly inspired by the German Neubaufahrzeug, it was a massive tank although under-armed and under-armored just like similar designs.

Technical data:

Weight: 30.5 tonnes
Armor: 40mm front, 20mm sides and rear
L: 7,53m W:3m H: 3,5m
Top speed: 32 km/h

Base Engine: SPA Prototipo 420 HP
Improved Engine: SPA P. Celere 480 HP

Gun: Cannone da 75mm L/18

Tier III: M15/42

The most advanced Italian serially produced medium tank, the M15/42 is perhaps almost too strong compared to its WOT peers.
Strong frontal armor and a pretty good gun for its tier makes it a powerful opponent, although high ground pressure and not so stellar power to weight ratio weakens its performance on slopes and soft terrain, while the two man turret means that target acquisition and rate of fire would suffer as well.

Technical data:

Weight: 15,5 tonnes
Armor: Front 42mm, sides and rear 14,5mm
L: 5,04m W:2,23m H: 2,38m
Top speed: 40 km/h
Ground Pressure: 0,96 kg/sq cm
Base Engine: SPA 15TM41, 145 HP Diesel
Improved Engine:  SPA 15TBM42, 192HP

Base Gun: Cannone da 47mm L/32
Improved Gun: Cannone da 47mm L/40

Tier III: Semovente M41
A source of nasty surprises for the british in Africa, the Semovente M41 is usually known as Semovente da 75/18, from its main production cannon.
It was the only vehicle able to pierce all allied armor in the Italian army at its introduction thanks to its powerful but extremely scarce "Effetto Pronto" hollow charge rounds.
The 75/32 cannon was also fitted to the chassis in very limited series, giving it an upgraded gun able to keep pace with its main targets although not as powerful as the ones on the German Marder.

Technical data:

Weight: 14 tonnes
Armor:  front 30mm/11° sides and rear 25mm
L: 4,9m W: 2,3m H: 1,9m
Top speed: 31km/h
Base Engine: SPA 8TM40, 125 HP
Improved Engine: SPA 15TM41, 145 HP Diesel

Base Gun: Cannone da 75mm L/18
Improved Gun: Cannone da 75mm L/32

 Tier IV: P26/40

The most powerful tank fielded by the WWII Italian army, the P26/40 would be extremely powerful for its level, perhaps almost too strong, giving the British Matilda a worthy rival.
A combination of strong frontal armor, good gun and decent speed makes it very strong against same tier but the limited penetration greatly hampers it against armored designs.
Historically the design suffered from a lack of engine production, which led the Germans tinker with it and planning the use of spare Maybach HL 100 engines.

Technical data:

Weight: 26 tonnes
Armor: 50mm front, 40mm sides and rear
L: 5,7m W: 2,75m H: 2,5m
Ground Pressure: 0,94 kg/sq cm
Top speed: 40 km/h
Base Engine: MB HL 100 300 HP
Improved Engine: SPA 342 330 HP (Diesel)

Base Gun: Cannone da 75mm L/18
Improved Guns: Cannone da 47mm L/40, Cannone da 75mm L/34

Tier IV: M43 Sahariano

Perhaps the most advanced Italian WWII tank prototype, the Carro Medio Celere M43 was a direct answer to the british cruiser tanks and an innovative design for the Italian army.
While not an improvement on armor or armament from the M15, the ability of reaching up to 60 kilometers per hour will still guarantee a very dynamic and fun tank for flanking actions.

Technical data:

Weight: 13,5 tonnes
Armor: 30mm front, 25mm sides and rear
L: 5,8m W:2,8m H:2m
Top speed: 60 km/h

Gun: Cannone da 47mm L/40

Base engine: SPA 15TBM42, 192HP
Improved Engine: SPA 18TBM43, 275 HP

Tier IV: Semovente M43

Affectionately called the "Bassotto"(or dachshund), the M43 resembles the German STUG III, both in shape and effectiveness. Armed and armored adequately to deal with any allied tank it faced, there were never enough tanks available due to a very short production run.

Technical data:

Weight: 16 tonnes
Armor: 70mm front, 45mm casemate sides, 25mm hull sides and rear
L: 5,07m, W: 2,4m, H: 1,74m
Top speed: 38 km/h

Base gun: Cannone da 75mm L/34
Improved guns: Cannone da 75mm L/46, cannone da 105mm L/25

Base engine: SPA 15TM41, 145 HP Diesel
Improved engine: SPA 15TBM42, 192HP

Tier V: P30/43
Note: P43 is the middle design, compared to P26 and Panther

A more advanced design and pretty close to the limit of the 1943 Italian industry, the P43 was considered by the Germans  an imitation of their own Panther as it had a similar armor layout and power to weight ratio, although with a firepower comparable to late model Panzer IV.
The design reached mock-up stage and RSI under German control considered actually producing it but allied bombing and logistical issues prevented any follow-up on the plan.

Technical data:

Weight: 30 tonnes
Armor: 80mm front, 50mm sides and rear (Spielberger, needs further checks)
Base Engine: SPA 342 330 HP (Diesel)
Improved Engine:  SPA 343 420 HP

Base Gun: Cannone da 75mm L/34
Improved Guns: Cannone da 75mm L/46

Tier V: Semovente 90/53

The most powerful production self propelled gun fielded by the Italian army, the semovente da 90/53 would be pretty similar to the German waffentragers, basically no armor, poor mobility and a gun as strong as possible for the platform.
Armed with a cannon slightly more powerful than the famous German 88mm L/56, few targets would be able to approach it with impunity as long as its properly camouflaged, while otherwise expecting a quick demise given its glass cannon nature.

Technical data:

Weight: 15,4 tonnes
Armor: 30mm front hull, 8,5mm gun shield, 14mm sides and rear
L:5,2m W:2,3m H: 2,3m
Top speed: 25 km/h

Base gun: Cannone da 90mm L/42
Improved gun: Cannone da 90mm L/53

Base engine:  SPA 8TM40, 125 HP
Improved engine:  SPA 15TM41, 145 HP Diesel

Tier VI: P43 bis
The ultimate P26 evolution, the P43 bis was the very limit of what the italian industrial system could theoretically provide for mass production in 1943.
With a good enough balance of firepower, protection and mobility to rival mid-war heavy tanks it would have been able to go toe to toe with all medium tanks deployed during the war and earlier heavy designs.
Sadly, the gun while more powerful than anything mounted on a tank before, was a cost cutting measure, being a WWI navy surplus design.

Technical data:

Weight: 35 tonnes
Armor: 100mm front, 50mm sides and rear (needs further checks)
Ground Pressure:
Top speed:
Base Engine: SPA 343 420 HP
Improved Engine:  SPA 344 700 HP

Base Gun: Cannone da 75mm L/46
Improved Guns: Cannone da 90mm L/42, Cannone da 105mm L/23

Tier VI:  Semovente 120/44

Unfortunately no pictures are available as the data is made by mostly mentions of a 1943 project, however it's likely the base chassis would be the same or very similar to Semovente 149/40, although the smaller and lighter gun could allow for some casemate and on board ammunition storage.
It is also likely that  the 120/44 is either a typing error or a redesignation of the 120/45 cannon as even Pignato is unsure of its designation.

To further support this, the 120/45 cannon was actually employed on land inside armored trains:

In a configuration similar to German waffentragers the gun could provide very good firepower for its tier although on a relatively slow and very fragile platform.

Base Gun: Cannone da 90mm L/53
Improved Gun: Cannone da 120mm L/45

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