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Mini-competition: fix-a-tank, 1943 Italy edition


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You are an engineer at an Italian locomotive and tractor-making company in early 1943. The writing is on the wall for the Italian army in North Africa, with a lot of equipment having been lost and the enemy on the brink of kicking the axis out of Tunisia and then heading across the Mediterranean. In short, things are looking more than a little desperate. 


However, all is not lost. Il Duce himself has stepped in and, with the assistance of the Germans, procured both some of their finest captured vehicles for use in the upcoming defense of the homeland. Since many of these vehicles have been... gently used, and the existing firms like Ansaldo are flooded with orders, your firm has been asked to work on them in order to bring them up to the standards demanded by modern warfare. 


In addition to these vehicles, the Germans have also graciously agreed to sell weapons from their existing stock of captured equipment, as well as providing production licenses for some of their more modern equipment. You have also been given permission to work with local weapons manufacturers in order to modify existing artillery to suit your needs. Italian automotive and engine manufacturers are similarly available to help. Finally; your firm's experience in locomotives and tractors means that you can modify hulls and put together turrets and turret rings. You can also produce castings (although not very large ones) and weld armour plates.


Your job, which you have no choice but to accept, is to choose a vehicle from among the captured stock being offered for sale, and propose a series of plausible fixes in order to give it a fighting chance against the American and British equipment currently in the field (specifically light tanks and light anti-tank weapons).


It is not foreseen that any of these vehicles will be able to plausibly take on modern medium or heavy designs head-on. Instead, what is wanted are general, implementable improvements to the characteristics of the chosen vehicle. These improvements should be aimed at making these vehicles more useful in the initial battles which are foreseen taking place against airborne and landing forces, in general cooperation with infantry, and as scouts.


The submission should include one or more drawings or blueprints (at least a side view of the vehicle, but preferably a 3-point view and isometric view), a description of the modified vehicle, a description of how the modifications would be accomplished and a description of how the modifications would improve the design overall. The text of the submission should short and descriptive rather than long and exhaustive, and should not exceed 1000 words in total. Images may be photoshopped using existing pictures.


Judging will be done on the basis of plausibility and effectiveness, with innovative solutions being encouraged in order to get the most bang for buck out of the base vehicle. Beyond implementation, the fixes should prioritise combat effectiveness while also improving reliability, crew ergonomics, communication, mobility and protection as much as possible.


The foreign vehicles available for modification are:

  • Renault R35 (already in service)
  • Hotchkiss H35/39
  • Somua S35 (already in use for training purposes)
  • T-26
  • BT-5
  • T-28 (only available in very small numbers, so need to be extremely effective)
  • Panzer II Ausf.C


The foreign weapons immediately available for purchase are:

  • 15mm ZB-60
  • 25mm Puteaux and Hotchkiss
  • 3.7cm KPÚV vz. 34/Pak 34 (t)
  • 3.7cm ÚV vz. 38/KwK 38(t)

  • 3.7cm Pak 36
  • 4.0 cm Pak 192 (e)
  • 45mm M1937 (53-K)
  • 4.7cm KPÚV vz. 38/Pak 38 (t)
  • 47mm APX
  • 7.5cm Pak 97/38
  • 7.62 cm F.K.297(r) and  7.62 cm PaK 39(r)
  • 8.8cm Raketenwerfer 43


Licenses are also available for the manufacture of foreign engines (Maybach HL62 TRM, Maybach HL120 TRM and Praga Typ TNHPS/II), periscopes, sights, radios, cupolas and automotive subassemblies. All foreign vehicle weapons, subassemblies and components are available for reverse engineering and manufacture.


IMPORTANT NOTE: This competition hasn't been finalised, and is waiting on your input! Vote to participate by giving this topic a 'controversial' (grapefruit-induced tears being the only currency of value), and if we get enough participants we'll pull the trigger. Ask any questions you want below, and when/if the competition goes forwards I will make a new thread for entries.


Edit: thanks to excellent feedback, the competition proposal has been somewhat edited. If you want an idea of what my mindset is here, read up on the battle of Gela (bearing in mind that the wikipedia entry is shite) and ask how much better the counter-attack could have gone if the Italian vehicles had been equipped with radios and had the ability to move faster than jogging speed.


Edit 2: since I failed to mention this above - this is not a one-man, one-entry sort of competition (although I'm not keen on the ten-men, one entry approach either).

If you have two good ideas then you can submit twice. The only rules are not to test my patience and to keep it within the bounds of good taste.

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As mentioned in the suggestion thread: when considering armament (or other components) you can choose from those provided weapons, plus any Italian equipment you want (so long as there's enough of it to go around) and anything else you can justify. Note that the further you get from off the shelf and commonly available, the more convincing the justification needs to be.

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Done some basic "what do" thinking.

The problem, as posed, is extremely difficult to solve in a satisfactory manner, largely thanks to the (excellently picked) very poor selection of cast-off vehicles upon which to base designs. 

And when the reference point is a Sherman, even just a 75mm one, that's quite the tough nut to crack and quite a lot of gun to stop.

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59 minutes ago, N-L-M said:

Done some basic "what do" thinking.

The problem, as posed, is extremely difficult to solve in a satisfactory manner, largely thanks to the (excellently picked) very poor selection of cast-off vehicles upon which to base designs. 

And when the reference point is a Sherman, even just a 75mm one, that's quite the tough nut to crack and quite a lot of gun to stop.

I agree, I foresee a lot of knock-off Marder or Sturmgeschutz-type designs being submitted. Realistically, there's no way to increase the effectiveness of the armor on any of those designs to the point where it would actually matter. Even a British 6-pdr. would make short work of any of the listed designs. Might I suggest resetting the timeframe to immediately after the fall of France? I feel like that would put whatever monstrosities the myself and the other contestants come up with on a bit more level playing field. 

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My general opinion is that trying to make one of these machines, most of which were outdated even during their time in frontline service, into an effective fighting vehicle in 1943 would be quite the uphill battle. Perhaps a tank destroyer or reconnaissance vehicle would be more plausible, but you'd have to sacrifice so much space and weight just to fit a viable gun on the thing you would have extremely little room for anything else, let alone trying to add additional armor.

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These are all good comments, so I've had the a think on the underlying purpose of the competition.


The inspiration was the battle of Gela, where R35s were pressed into Italian service and, used quickly and en mass, managed to punch well above their weight. Partly this was because the heavy stuff wasn't available to the allies - the counter-attack was launched quickly enough so that the Renaults were facing 37mm guns and bazookas. And partly it was due to the sheer balls-to-the wall bravery of the tank crews, who drove unsupported through naval gunfire and into the town armed with half loads of short 37mm and machine gun ammo.


So I think the core here would be less about making a panzerjager knock-off and more about just generally improving the vehicles so that, in that moment where they can be used, they can operate more like proper light tanks and less like suicide weapons.


I'll amend the contest entry to reflect this.

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6 hours ago, Beer said:

I was thinking about a scout vehicle based on BT-5 but I don't think I would have time to prepare anything meaningful for the contest :(  

This isn't intended to be a days-long exercise. You should be able to knock together a quick picture (even just a rough shoop) and description within an hour or two.

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13 hours ago, N-L-M said:

Done some basic "what do" thinking.

The problem, as posed, is extremely difficult to solve in a satisfactory manner, largely thanks to the (excellently picked) very poor selection of cast-off vehicles upon which to base designs. 

And when the reference point is a Sherman, even just a 75mm one, that's quite the tough nut to crack and quite a lot of gun to stop.

Under the clarified criteria, the tank to beat is now the M3 Stuart and the role is shifted towards a light tank rather than a tank hunter. The weapons to defend against are principally the 37mm guns M3 and M6, M1 Bazooka, M2 Browning and M1 75mm Pack Howitzer.


Edit: I do expect anyone ballsy enough to pick the T-28 to make a Sherman-equivalent though.

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1 hour ago, CharlieAlphaVictor said:

Would the 5cm Kw.K 39 L/60 be considered available for license production?

Licenced production yes, sale no.


Production licences are also available for all ammunition currently in German use (ie: non-experimental), although no strategic materials (copper, tungsten) or products will be sold to Italy.

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21 minutes ago, N-L-M said:


How about ZiS-2s?

I think production only re-started in 1943 (only around 1000 were produced before then), and it's too obviously useful for the Germans to just sell off captured stock. Same goes for the 76mm M1936, the reworked version thereof (7.62 cm FK 36(r)) and and the ZIS-3. 


The meta reason, of course, is that I don't want you all to have access to an 'easy' upgunning option ;).


Edit: and before anyone asks, Pak 40, KwK 40 and up are off limits as being "too modern" to either sell or licence, although you are welcome to the ammo designs.

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I think we have enough to get this train wreck arolling...



Good luck gents - I'll leave this thread open for discussion/WIP entries and make a thread for final entries. Judging will happen on the first week of November, and any entries you have in the final entry thread will count so don't be shy to put something up there.

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2 minutes ago, N-L-M said:


I have a fairly clear battle plan, I'll probably knock it out this weekend.

I have... Several silly ideas and a few moderately sensible ones.

Go wild - there is no limit on entries (beyond my patience and the bounds of good taste), so put your sensible idea up with your wacky one.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I do not have much time for 3d modeling or professional image editing, so I made a rather primitive photoshopped line drawing :)


So, my choice was the T-28, despite its limited availability.

French stuff werent considered at all, they are hopeless junk. Panzer II is a nice tank with lots of good properties, but its crew compartment is too compact for a bigger gun. So only the soviet tanks left. Sadly both the BT-5 and T-26 are too lightly armored, and the BT is also too narrow inside thanks to christie suspension, so I chose the T-28.


The first thing I did, is to get rid of the stupid mini turrets. Then, I reshaped the area near the driver's position, added two sharply angled, 30mm thick plates where the turrets were. This also created more space for the driver, and also optionally more ammo/stuff for crew/maintenance tools can be stored in the new free space.

Next, I improved the armor protection. The nearly vertical surfaces of the front hull (upper & lower) received 50mm add-on plates. Turret front and frontal part of side also received an 50mm add-on, rear part got a thinner 30mm plate, but this was just to keep the whole turret (somewhat) balanced. Frontally, the tank became immune to 37 and 40mm guns, and resistant to 6pdr.


Firepower: Both L-10 and KT-28 guns had to go, first because the poor performance, and second, the not guaranteed supply of ammo. The replacement is the 7.5cm Pak 97/38. The reasons of this decision: this gun is still quite compact, will not make the life of the crew miserable inside. It is also already in service in the army, so ammo supply is secured. Muzzle velocity isnt much better than the L-10, but the performance of AP shells are better, and good HEAT rounds are also available.


Mobility: I didnt change much. The original M-17T engine is barely more than a slightly modified BMW VI, so nothing wrong here. I only tuned it a bit, so performance increased by 50hp, I think it is enough, and also do not cause problems with reliability and service life. 


Other improvements:

- Panzer IV style commander's cupola, for good vision. 

- added fume extractor fan on turret top

- replaced soviet radios

- add-on armor now covers side vision slits, so the gunner received a replacement periscope

- modified, smaller hatch for loader, since the commander's cupola is quite big.

- turret became quite heavy (and probbly imbalanced to a degree) with add-on armor, so a reinforced traverse mechanism is added.

- old radio antenna rails retained, useful for attaching camouflage. 



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