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Weapons of World War Two

M 13/40 medium tank

M 13/40 medium tank

The armored forces of the Italian Army comprised, in the interwar period, three main types of tanks: light tanks, breakthrough tanks and heavy tanks. Leaving apart the heavy tanks Fiat 2000, of which only two exemplars were built, the remaining units were based practically in only two realizations: the tank 3 and the breakthrough tank M 11/39. While the first one was no more than a protected and self-propelled machine gun position, the latter had as purpose to break the enemy lines to allow access to the assault infantry. Because of this it had been fitted with an armament that until then seemed adequate: a 37/40 cannon and two 8-millimeter machine guns. But soon it was evident that the cannon was not sufficient to develop the required volume of fire, and because of that it was decided to replace it by a more powerful one which, besides, were not in fixed position as it was in the M 11/39.

From these premises it was born in the Ansaldo factory the tank M 13/40, presented in February 1940 as prototype and serially produced from the summer of the same year. The tank, which had the same mechanics that its predecessor, differentiated itself by the enhanced engine and the upper part of the hull, totally renovated; armament and blindage saw as well a notable enhancement. To start, the cannon, replaced by a 47/32, was installed in a turret, while in the hull there were, to the right of the driver, two 8 millimeters Breda 38 machine guns, installed in swivel mounting. A third machine gun was installed in the turret, coaxially to the cannon, while a fourth one could be installed in the top of the turret for antiaircraft purposes.

The hull was formed by steel plates riveted on a framework of rigid profiles. The turret, orientable in 360 degrees, could be maneuvered either by hand or by an oleodynamic servomechanism. In the interior there was a transmitter-receiver Marelli RF-1-CA. It should be mentioned that when this tank entered service in North Africa in the autumn of 1940, it could resist perfectly the encounter with the enemy tanks, keeping this balance of forces for about twelve months. Only with the entrance into service of the heavier American tanks obtained by the British with the Lend and Lease Law, the M 13 resulted unavoidably overtaken.

Of these tanks were developed also other two models: the M 14/41 and the M 15/42. The first one differed from the M 13/40 only by the enhanced engine, while the second one would be fitted with a gasoline engine instead of a Diesel one, and the 47/32 cannon would be replaced by the 47/40, gifted with higher muzzle velocity and, hence, higher piercing power. Unfortunately, the armor would always show itself as excessively light against the enemy antitanks (of higher caliber than the Italian ones) and the tank crewmen would try to compensate this lack by covering the front of the hulls with sand bags and fragments of spare tracks.

After having fought in Africa, where in overall they showed themselves as an effective weapon, the M 13/40 took part in the defense of Roma after the 8th September 1943, date of the Italian Armistice. On the other hand, the remaining exemplars equipped the armored troops of the Italian Social Republic. After the war, some tanks served with the new Italian Army and in the police, in this case with the cannon being replaced by an 8-millimeter machine gun.

Year: 1940

Weight: 14 tonnes

Length: 4.915 meters

Width: 2.22 meters

Height: 2.37 meters

Ground clearance: 38 centimeters

Maximum armor: 42 millimeters

Engine: Fiat 8TM-40 Diesel of 125 horsepower

Maximum speed in road: 31 kilometers/hour

Maximum speed in countryside: 12 kilometers/hour

Operational range: 200 kilometers

Crew: 4

Armament: One 47-millimeter cannon; three or four 8-millimeter machine guns

Ammunitions: 87 of 47 millimeters; 3048 of 8 millimeters

Maximum surmountable trench: 2.10 meters

Maximum surmountable step: 0.80 meters

Maximum surmountable slope: 40 degrees

Fording: 1.00 meters

Also in Weapons of World War Two:

Torpednijkater G5Messerschmitt Bf 109EAdmiral Graf Spee pocket battleship