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Weapons of World War Two

The Allied Invasion of Sicily (Jul 1943)

90/53 self-propelled cannon

90/53 self-propelled cannon

As it is well known, the Italian armored elements often found themselves in conditions of clear inferiority when they had to face the Allied counterparts during the Second World War. The result of these encounters, logically unfavorable to the Italian, was frequently and mistakenly generalized, with that point of masochism which is used as a shield when talking about infortunate or wrong ventures. Actually, the Italian heavy industry had found itself tied by misinterpreted concepts at the beginning of the war, as in the case of the good L 3 reconnaissance tankette, which was produced in large numbers due to its easy construction and low cost, but mistakenly used as a battle tank. When emerging the idea that it would have been better to impulse the studies to solve the lacks and the problems, there was in front a rather "rigid" industry of limited potential. Despite this, numerous prototypes were built by diverse companies. For example, Ansaldo presented a 13.5-ton tank model for the African theater, fitted with a 75-millimeter cannon and capable of reaching 60 kilometers/hour. Unfortunately, even if it had been approved, it would not have been possible to deliver it to the troops in time, so the project was filed. In other cases, such as that of the excellent P 40 26-ton tank, the armistice arrived while the works were being started, so the production was discontinued. When it was retaken, the tanks were delivered to the German Army. But the most interesting realization was not a tank, but a self-propelled anti-tank cannon: the 90/53. Since the first days of the campaign in Russia, the apparition of the Soviet T-34 tank caused a great concern. The Italian did not have any weapons capable of perforating the armor of such tanks, so they had to research a new weapon which could fill that lack. As the German had already done with their 88-millimeter cannon, the Italian resorted to an artillery piece designed for anti-aircraft purposes; the high muzzle velocity that such cannons confer to the projectiles render them ideal for anti-tank purposes. Because of this the excellent Ansaldo 90/53 cannon was chosen, whose performance was equal, if not better, than that of the German 88-millimeter cannon, and it was mounted in the properly modified hull of the M 14/41 tank. The cannon was placed in a very backward position, to obtain the advantage of a long tube which does not protrude from the hull and to grant to the gunners enough space to effectuate in a comfortable way the firing operations, which were obviously carried out only when the vehicle was not in movement. An inconvenience was the limited space available onboard, which allowed to carry on the hull only the driver, the chief gunner and barely six projectiles. The gunners and a reserve of 86 projectiles were carried by a properly modified L 6/40 tank. Born to fight in the Russian plains, the 90/53 self-propelled cannon had instead a rather different destination: the thirty exemplars built in 1942 were organized into two batteries and immediately sent to Sicily in prevision of an Allied landing. Used by the Bedogni Group, the 90/53 obtained excellent results against the Anglo-American, but they succumbed, and their existence, due to both the construction problems and the imminent political-military crisis, had no continuation.

Year: 1942

Weight: 15.7 tonnes

Length: 5.08 meters

Width: 2.28 meters

Height: 2.30 meters

Ground clearance: 30 centimeters

Maximum armor: 30 millimeters

Engine: SPA 15 T of 145 horsepower

Maximum speed: 25 kilometers/hour

Operational range: 150 kilometers

Crew: 4

Armament: One 90-millimeter 53-caliber cannon

Ammunitions: 6 of 90 millimeters (plus 86 in a separate transportation vehicle)

Maximum surmountable trench: 2.10 meters

Maximum surmountable step: 80 centimeters

Maximum surmountable slope: 30 degrees

Fording: 1.00 meters

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