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Weapons of World War Two

The Italian Campaign in East Africa (Jun-Aug 1940)

CV 33/35 light tank

CV 33/35 light tank

Among the images of the Second World War, one of the most known ones, even for those who did not live the tragic events of those years, is surely that of the CV 33 (Carro Veloce 33 or Fast Tank 33) or L 3 (Leggero 3 or Light 3). Nicknamed as "sardine can" or with other more or less ironical adjectives, it has been often used as an example of the bad Italian armament during the war. But its performance should be reconsidered, as well as that of other Italian weapons, for it was not a bad instrument, but a good one within its genre which was however badly used. When in 1929 the armored forces of the Italian Regio Esercito were being formed, it had not been yet determined how the model of the new tank would be. Many of the high officers lacked clear ideas due to prejudices caused by wrong concepts about the utilization of armored vehicles. However, the operational utilization of those which had been built until then had demonstrated without any doubt that, for a modern army, they were a nuisance rather than a valid support weapon. In this climate of uncertainty, a small and original British tank of 1.7 tonnes, the Carden Loyd, made apparition. Italy acquired 25 exemplars which were attentively studied and tested. From these experiences it was born the project for a new light tank built by Ansaldo with a Fiat engine, whose serial production started in 1933. It had been born the CV 33, which would be bought by the armies of several countries, such as Hungary, Austria, Bulgaria, Brasil and China. Of very small dimensions, it had a hull made of steel sheets which granted protection against light infantry weapons. The armament, initially consisting of a machine gun and later two of caliber 8 millimeters, was installed in a fixed mounting, which limited the firing arcs. It had over the engine cover a tripod which allowed, if necessary, to use one of the two onboard weapons to fight on the ground. The Fiat CV 3 engine, with four cylinders in line and start up by electric generator, was one of gasoline; its total power (43 horsepower) allowed to reach 43 kilometers/hour on road. The suspension, fitted with bogies of half leaf spring, granted a safe travel even on rough terrain. In any case, it had a very good price, an attribute of indubitable importance. Unfortunately, it was used for the first time in Ethiopia, where, fighting against an enemy practically devoid of anti-tank means, it showed prestations superior to the real ones. This led to appreciation mistakes which determined its utilization against much more powerful means, forcing it to operate if not as a heavy tank at least as a medium one, when it should have been limited to reconnaissance missions. When it was understood that the small L could not compete against the enemy tanks, it was already too late: the CV 33 was literally torn into pieces without having had almost any possibility to defend itself, and the heroism of its crews did not suffice to compensate its shortcomings. In total, it was built in three basic versions: 33, 35 and 38. The L tanks were not withdrawn from the front until 1943 and, after the sad events of September, they ended their career with the armored forces of the Italian Social Republic, which would use them to serve with the police and the counterinsurgency until the last days of the war.

Year: 1935

Weight: 3.4 tonnes

Length: 3.17 meters

Width: 1.40 meters

Height: 1.29 meters

Ground clearance: 25 centimeters

Maximum armor: 13.5 millimeters

Engine: Fiat CV 3 of 43 horsepower

Maximum speed in road: 42 kilometers/hour

Maximum speed in countryside: 14.4 kilometers/hour

Operational range in road: 120 kilometers

Operational range in countryside: 80 kilometers

Consumption for 100 kilometers in road: 40 liters

Crew: 2

Armament: Two Breda 35 8-millimeter machine guns

Ammunitions: 3200 of 8 millimeters

Maximum surmountable trench: 1.45 meters

Maximum surmountable step: 70 centimeters

Maximum surmountable slope: 45 degrees

Fording: 70 centimeters

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