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Mini-competition: fix-a-tank, 1943 Italy edition - FINAL ENTRIES THREAD


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This is the competition entry thread.


Please submit your complete entries here (all entries will be judged complete when judging begins in the first week of November) and keep the other competition thread for discussion and chatter.


Once judging is complete I will make a post here to discuss the entries and announce a winner.


Best of luck!


Update: final submissions should be in hand by the 22nd of November 2020.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Carro Armato P 35/105








Length (hull): 7.44m 

Width: 2.87m (3.52m with skirt)

Height: 2.9m 


Mass: 31.5 tonnes (+3.4 tonnes with applique) 


Armor (additional armor in parenthesis): 

Front Glacis: 45mm @ 53 degrees (+25mm)

Lower Glacis: 30mm @ 23 degrees

Hull Sides: 20mm (+8mm skirt)(+25mm upper hull sides)

Hull Roof: 15mm 

Drivers Front Hatch: 60mm @ 53 degrees (+8mm) 

Drivers Roof Hatch: 15mm 


Turret Front: 60mm (+25mm) 

Forward Turret Sides: 30mm (+25mm) 

Rear Turret Sides: 30mm (+8mm)

Turret Rear: 30mm (+8mm)

Turret roof: 15mm 

Commanders copula: 45mm (+25mm)

Gun Mantle: 45mm 

Roof Hatches: 15mm 



Cannone Ansaldo da 105/25 (34 rounds) 

8mm Breda mod. 38 machine gun (1008 rounds) 

An additional Breda 38 for anti air purposes can be mounted on the roof, operated by one of the loaders (the pole in the center of the turret)

Azimuth: 360 degrees

Elevation: -13 to +25 degrees 





Here's the actually applique, removed from the vehicle




Built in an effort to provide protected, versatile, and heavy firepower for the Regio Esercito, the P 35/105 is a heavily modified T-28 from the Russian army. Removing all previous armament, and widening the turret ring to accommodate a larger, 4 man turret, with commander's copula and radio (a rare luxury in the Italian army) and 105mm howitzer. During trials, it was found that the vehicles armor was far to light to combat the expected Allied tanks that she would be engaging (namely, the M4 Sherman), and an additional ~3.5 tons of spaced armor and armored skirts were added to provide resistance to the 75mm M1 gun. The main armament was the 105mm/25 Ansaldo cannon, the same fitted to the Semovente 105/25 SPG, and serviced by 2 loaders. Additional armament included a 8mm Breda 38 machine gun coaxially mounted with the main gun, and a 2nd 8mm Breda mounted on the roof, for defense against aircraft. The heavy armor and gun caused some stress on the suspension, namely the forward elements, which cause the tank to dip nose first. Regardless, the tank was still fielded in combat, but too late to be used by the Italian army, instead seeing service with the German army. 


P 35's in action!







She's a little heavier than I expected, but that's not a bad thing, because it's mostly all armor, which she'll need fighting M4s. The applique is reminiscent of the very new Pz.3M, while also reinforcing the vulnerable hull sides, similar to the T-28E; after all, "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" :lol:. Either way, Italy was on the ropes by 1943, so these tanks would have been captured by the Germans soon, anyway, and the company might be in a better situation afterwards if the overlords are impressed, or at least pleased, to see such a vehicle ripe and ready to use. 

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Ok, here is my T-28 upgrade.




Mass: ~30 tons

Crew: 4



(angles unchanged compared to original tank, except the side of driver's compartment)


Lower front hull: 30+50mm

Upper front hull: 30+50mm

Sides: 20mm base, 30mm at driver's compartment, 20+10mm suspension area

Top: 10-15mm


Frontal part of turret: 30+50mm

Rear part of turret: 30+30mm

Top: 15mm

Cupola: 100mm 


Main armament:

75mm Pak-97/38, 70 rounds (+optional racks on both sides of driver)

Useable ammunition: AP, HEAT, HE

Secondary armament:

1x DT machine gun, modified to use italian 8x59mm ammo. 2000 rounds.


Observation/aiming devices:

- telescopic sight TOP

- periscopic sight PT-1

- panoramic sight PTK

- 1x periscope for gunner, aimed to side (replacing the vision slit, now covered by armor)

- commander's cupola with 5 vision ports (Panzer IV type)



M-17T/43, gasoline, uprated to 550hp.

Power to weight ratio: ~18.3 hp/ton


Other improvements:

- the removal of MG turrets resulted in a free space on both sides of the driver. It can be used for storing tools for maintenance, personal gear for crew, or extra ammo.

- added fume extractor fan on turret top

- replaced soviet radios

- 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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Carro Armato BT-5-76/43


General specs:
15t nominal, 16 t loaded.
Length, gun forwards: 7m
Width: 2.3 m
Height: 2.3 m to turret roof

Crew: Commander, Gunner/loader, Driver.

Armament: 45mm, 75mm or 76mm gun, roof mounted HMG, coax MG, and grenade projectors.

Mobility: Slightly reduced from BT-5 to cope with added weight, but still excellent. 25 HP/T at 16 tons.

Survivability: Excellent against 37mm, acceptable vs 75mm, borderline against 57mm, none against 76mm.
Detailed description:


1. Of the available tanks, the BT-5 is, IMO, the only reasonable choice.
1.1. The T-28 cannot be reasonably made a real opponent to the Sherman and is rare, with a spares issue just waiting to happen.
1.2. The various French light tanks and T-26 are disasters on tracks, with no armor, no real option to improve armament, and very poor automotives (low power to weight and low speed suspension).
1.3. Of the guns available, only the 7.62 cm PaK 39(r) can reliably kill a Sherman with AP, and that is neither in service nor will the Germans willingly part with them or their ammo in large quantities; Also, the case is that of the PaK 40, which cannot fit into any of these turrets anyway. Therefore any Sherman killing must require HEAT or some other means of defeating the tank without getting through the armor directly.

2. Why the BT-5 is a good choice
2.1. Most of what made the BT-5 a poor tank IRL are "soft" factors which can be fixed fairly cheaply and quickly, if the goal isn't to go up against Shermans.
2.2. The BT-5 is uniquely suited to being weighted down, owing to the frankly ludicrously over-specced drivetrain.
2.3. The added weight of the BT-7 vs the -5 did not by any source I've found adversely affect reliability, and again as far as I can tell the suspension was not heavily modified.
2.4. For going up against light tanks, the 45mm is quite good and perhaps does not require replacement at all, for a low-end option.
2.5. The sheer number taken intact by the Germans, as well as the large number of spares salvageable from disabled ones, allows a large and capable fleet.

3. Proposed BT-5 upgrade:
3.1. Mobility:
This is in fact a bit of a downgrade, to cope with the increased weight to be mentioned later.
3.1.1. Increasing the preload of the springs by spacers in the spring wells, to retain ground clearance.
3.1.2. Installing volute bump stops on first and last road wheel stations to prevent over-stressing springs, at cost of some of the very generous travel.
3.1.3. Installing drive wheels with 5 rather than 6 drive nubs to raise final drive ratio  - prevents over-stressing drivetrain at the cost of reduced speed at all gears. Even at a 5:6 reduced speed, the BT-5 is silly fast.
3.1.4. Delete wheeled drive feature as irrelevant.
All in all, very easy to do, requires light welding work to install bump stops and requires fabricating new drive wheels - not hard at all. Should allow a weight of around 15T vs the original 12T or so. Ground pressure in Italian terrain is also not that big of an issue, and the BT-5 has silly low MMP ground pressure anyway thanks to the massive track pitch.

3.2 Firepower:
While the firepower of the BT-5 is downright good for a prewar light tank, by the year 1943 we have learned a thing or two about armored warfare and the mechanical means needed to support such warfare.
3.2.1 Weapons Main gun options
Not one, but 2 main gun options are offered! 45mm. Simplest, quickest, economy option. Fully compatible with the augmentations mentioned later. 76mm M1936 field gun or French 75mm refit with a vertical semi-auto breech. These guns are not held at the center of gravity, but rather the trunnions are biased aft on the tube, leaving most of the gun outside the turret and leaving sufficient room to load the longer rounds. The extra weight and imbalance caused by putting a larger gun farther out in front of the turret are compensated by welding on an extra box to the rear end of the turret, for carrying extra ammunition (only accessible from the outside).
The gun is also fitted with a large spring equilibrator to ease the manual elevation and depression.
The 75/76mm is to be fitted to carry HEAT based on the German Hl.38C or WP rounds for use against enemy tanks, as well as straight HE for general purpose use.
The 76mm gun can elevate to +10 degrees or depress to -5 degrees.
r8LhoQ9.png mechanical ram/eject
Replacing the spent case basket behind and under the breech, a recoil cocked spring operated trapeze mechanism for ejecting spent cases out through a tube over the gun barrel and a flick rammer are added to the 45mm or 76mm gun. This mechanism, inspired by the auto feed of 37mm AA guns but much simpler (owing to not being clip fed nor fully automatic) allows a much more comfortable operation despite the relatively cramped turret. Likewise, it allows the crew reorganization mentioned later. Roof MG +modes of operation
A 12.7mm (Breda-SAFAT or Browning) or 13.2mm (Hotchkiss) HMG is added to the roof on a centreline pintle mount. In addition, there is a linkage tying the elevation of the roof MG to that of the main gun, and pointing it straight forwards. The gun is intended to fire straight API-T ammunition, and to be fired by the gunner from his position, thus acting as a spotting MG for the main gun.
As a secondary mode, the linkage and trigger have a quick detach, and the commander can operate the gun from his cupola in an anti-ground or anti-air role. The straight API load will provide quite a deterrent to aircraft, and the ability to punch through armor only rated for rifle caliber ammunition. HE/WP projectors
Inspired by the British smoke projectors on the Matilda tanks, and using captured rifles, projectors are fitted to the sides of the turret to carry both WP smoke grenades and HE hand grenades. These provide good close in protection against bazooka teams and instantaneous smoke screening ability if heavy enemy forces are encountered. These grenades, standard in use with the Italian infantry, are impact fuzed, and the tubes are designed such that they only arm after leaving the tube. Main gun mechanical ready rack
Behind the main gun rammer and the loader, a gravity fed hopper for two kinds of ammunition is fitted. By pulling on the relevant handle, the gunner pulls a round into the ramming tray of the mechanical rammer, and then presses the release to ram it in. This system allows the gunner to function as the loader, without ever taking his eyes off the sights, for as long as the relevant ammo type remains available in the hopper. Expected load - 3-4 rounds per type for 76mm, 5-6 rounds per type for 45mm. Coax
In both 45mm and 76mm variants, the 7.62 DT coax MG is retained.
3.2.2 Optics
A major factor in improving firepower is increasing the ability of the tanks crew to locate, identify, and engage enemies before they do the same. To that end, the following improvements have been made to the to the BT-5: Cupola
A wide vision cupola of armored glass windows (with steel shutters) topped with a hatch equipped with an open-protected position is installed on the right side of the turret, allowing good all-around vision.
The cupola also supports the use of ranging binoculars, should such be available. Periscopes
The panoramic periscope at the gunners position is retained, and another, scavenged from damaged captured vehicles (including T-26, as they use the same model), is installed on the right side.
Likewise, a periscope is added to the left edge of the roof to replace the deleted viewport in the turret side.
3.2.3 FCS The functionality of an RMG and commander’s independent sight as previously mentioned. power traverse
An electric power traverse motor is installed to aid the gunner in his duty. Owing to the small size of the turret, even with added armor, a small unit is sufficient, even one scavenged from destroyed T-34s. An override control handle is also provided on the right for the commander.
3.3 Survivability
The most objectionable part of the BT-5, as provided, is definitely the armor, which is only really sufficient against HMGs from the front at range and rifle caliber AP and frag elsewhere. Therefore, in order to increase the combat utility against an enemy more than willing to shoot back, a significant improvement in protection is desired.
In order to bring about this improvement at a minimum cost in weight, as the BT-5 cannot support very much, highly efficient armor must be used.
We do, however note that the common types of ammunition in use, fullbore AP and APC, do not function efficiently against highly sloped armor, nor against spaced armor. Therefore, the up-armor scheme focuses on both these elements in order to provide reasonable protection at reasonable weight. Spaced armor of this type would also effectively prevent 75mm HE from just wrecking the tank, as the inner skin would likely remain intact.
Likewise, there are reports of Bazooka rounds failing to fuze properly upon impact with highly sloped armor, and the spaced effect would prevent an improper detonation from wrecking the tank anyway.

3.3.1 Hull armor front of the hull is 13mm thick and angled at 60 degrees. Adding a 20mm plate at the same angle, but spaced as far as the vision slit allows, allows protection against 37mm point blank (0 yd vs M51B1 APC), 57mm at combat ranges (600 yd vs M70 AP-T, 250 yd vs M86 APC-T), and 75mm at combat ranges (250 yd vs M61 APC-T), but no protection against 76mm guns is offered (effective penetrations up to 1750 yd). The hull side is 15mm vertical. 15mm skirts along the sides of the hull provide protection against 37mm in a roughly 90 degree frontal arc, and against 57mm or 75mm in around a 60 degree arc (at the ranges listed above for the frontal armor), as well as .50 AP point blank to the side and heavy fragments from 5”-6” shells. Turret ring armor is added to the roof of the hull too, and is overhung by the turret armor packages, to avoid forming a shot trap. Hull floor, roof, and rear are not modified.
3.3.2 Turret armor
Much like the hull front armor along the frontal arc in a wedge-shape form 25mm thick at 60 degrees, with vertical 15mm plates along the flanks like the hull side. Owing to the turret flanks being “angled in” at 17.5 degrees from the centreline each, the protected arc for the turret is wider by 35 degrees (125 degrees vs 37mm, 95 degrees vs 57mm or 75mm).
3.3.3 Smoke projectors
The smoke projectors mentioned in the firepower section are controlled from within the vehicle and provide quick obscuration to protect the vehicle.

Overall weight of the armor package: 2.5 tons, leaving 0.5 tons for the armament upgrade while remaining within 3 tons.

3.4 Fightability
In addition to improving “paper stats”, some changes have been made to how the vehicle is arranged for actually being used.
3.4.1 Crew arrangement
As designed, the BT-5 gunner is also supposed to be the commander, while the other turret crewmember is the loader. By providing a semi-automatic loading system, whereby the gunner (on the left) can also be the loader (while ready rounds last) without detracting from his role as a gunner, the right side of the turret can be remodelled into a commander’s position, where he can focus on his job (plus acting as loader for the machine guns).
This change should greatly increase the efficiency of individual tanks as well as that of the entire unit.
3.4.2 Vision
As mentioned in the firepower section, the addition and reorganization of optics allows much better visibility out of the vehicle, improving situational awareness and therefore combat effectiveness.

3.4.3 Communications The right side of the turret bustle is occupied by a radio for the commander’s use. An infantry telephone is fitted at the right rear. The port for signal flags was deleted in favour of a panoramic periscope. To compensate, the hatch in the new cupola has a similar hole for flags or signal flare pistols.

3.5 Other variants
Though a battle tank was requested, it is known that tanks function best when they do not operate alone. It is therefore advised that brigade or division sized combat units be formed, and for the sake of cohesion it’s best if they are all of equal mobility and ideally based on the same chassis. The following vehicles are recommended to also be converted from the same chassis. Many of them may be built on hulls without functioning turrets, thus expanding the pool of captured vehicles recoverable.
3.5.1 SPG
The inability of the BT-5 to kill Shermans or other medium-heavy tanks from the front with high velocity AP is not ideal, and it is recommended to fit a PaK 39(r) in a fixed low profile superstructure either facing forwards or aft like an Archer. Such an SPG would also be useful for blasting landing craft out of the water.
3.5.2 SPH
A highly mobile unit requires highly mobile artillery to support it. For this purpose, it is recommended to install recoil spades on the nose of the BT-5, reinforce the hull, and install either a 105mm Mle 1913 Schneider captured from the French, or an Italian 4”/35 naval gun. Both are already in service in substantial numbers. It is further recommended to fit them with direct fire sights and gunshields for use against landing ships and for emergency use as anti-tank guns, where they are capable of defeating the armor of medium-heavy tanks, should the need arise.
3.5.3 SPAA
In this option, the turret roof and mantlet are cut open and a medium caliber 37mm or 40mm AA gun is installed. This gun not only offers local defense against aircraft, but is also extremely effective against light armored vehicles, landing craft, and troops in the open.
3.5.4 command
The Italian Army does not possess any command assets which are sufficiently mobile, and so a command tank wherein the gun is removed (dummy welded on), map tables installed, and an extra radio installed in the bustle (where the ammo is in the battle tank). Coax and roof MGs are retained for self-defense.
3.5.5 ARV
Replace the turret with a small crane, install a couple earth spades, and a winch for recovering disabled vehicles.
3.5.6 APC
Tank desant can carry the bulk of the infantry into combat, but for assaulting well-defended positions, there is a clear requirement for a vehicle which can transport troops in high threat areas. As there is not much room inside a BT-5, a superstructure is built up around the fighting compartment, armored at least enough to stop .50 AP, ideally with the full armor of the battle tank. Rear superstructure door for dismounting over the engine deck, one MG in a ball mount in the front, roof hatches, one roof HMG with gunshield, and firing ports for personal weapons completes this variant.

4. Conclusions.
The above proposal allows for a robust, highly mobile, and capable reaction force to any amphibious landing, while not requiring much in the way of industry to accomplish – No large or complex parts need to be produced (no large ring bearings, no complex curves), and no parts of extreme precision are required either (flame cut plates are sufficient for most parts). This means the existing industrial base may be put to good use quickly, and brigade sized units could be made available very quickly (while captured vehicle stocks last).
Armor numbers taken from US BRL charts avaliable here.


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Setting the scene:

It is January 1943, and things are looking dire. 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. 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 defence of the homeland. The reconstituted Victor Emmanuel Railway company, now an Italian locomotive service and repair company located in Palermo, has been tasked with undertaking work to modify the captured equipment for Italian use in the defence of the homeland.


To aid them in this endeavour, VER staff have been given permission to work with local weapons, automotive and engine manufacturers. Specialised equipment for welding, cutting circular apertures and the like has been rushed in and installed into the VER workshops and factory floor. The floor itself, a 30x10m space designed to service the largest Italian locomotives and rolling stock side by side, has been converted into an impromptu production line to remanufacture tanks.  


Preliminary notes:

I was very impressed by all three entries, which each bring something different to the table in terms of fulfilling the requirements. This proved a challenge, as there is no obvious winner here. So, to determine the outcome, I’ve decided to run each tank through a manufacturing and combat scenario, centred around Sicily in early 1943 and culminating in a re-run of the battle of Gela. In the scenario I had the VER acting as earnest and committed – with issues (as I perceive them) being solved to the best of their ability rather than having the factory staff throw up their hands. In terms of the battle, I’m playing out the scenario as it would have been if the available tanks had been rushed to the defence of Gela in July 1943. These vehicles would be given on a priority basis to Mobile Group E and, specifically, captain Giuseppe Granieri’s group of (historically) 12 vehicles. These vehicles would then be available to take part in Granieri’s death ride along highway 117. Tanks would then be divided out amongst the rest of the Italian forces which operated out of Niscemi during that battle, with the remainder replacing the ~120 R-35s that were used in the defence of Sicily historically.

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Scenario 1: T-28/43






In late February 1943 captured T-28 tanks, 75mm guns and various other components start arriving at the harbour in Palermo. The assorted cargo has come the long way to the island, having been sourced at depots and scrap yards in Germany and the occupied countries before being taken by rail to the Italian mainland. From there the cargo had been shipped to Sicily, where it was now filling up dock and warehouse space at the harbour and railyard. Roughly 70 tanks in various states of disrepair are slated to be remanufactured by the VER at their newly-upgraded facility in the Southwestern end of town. The main factory floor, which had been designed (rather optimistically) to service up to four Class 691 locomotives at a time, was quickly reconfigured at the end of the previous year to work on six of the ex-soviet vehicles in parallel. At, the workshops began the fabrication and assembly of the applique armour plates which were to be rivetted to the hulls and turrets in preparation for the arrival of the vehicles. The vehicles are triaged as they come in, with the most decrepit specimens being cannibalised to provide parts for the least. All in all, the factory fully expects to eventually be able to produce 40 working vehicles from the stock they have available. 


With the winnowing done, the chosen tanks are placed onto platforms and moved on rails into the factory floor. Once there they are stripped, cleaned, reassembled and painted. The mini-turrets and part of the hull front are removed, with new plates being riveted and welded in to produce a v-shaped turret platform. The turrets, meanwhile, are worked on in parallel to the hulls, with the original mantlet being replaced by a new one designed to accommodate the 75mm Pak-97/38 guns chosen to rearm the tank. 


Conversion of the former field and anti-tank guns has proceeded relatively smoothly, with the result being that the supplier for the factory is able to keep pace with production. Conversion of the existing coaxial DT machineguns to operate with 8x59mm ammunition, however, is slow. As a result, some vehicles leave the factory floor with their DT machinegun replaced with an 8mm Breda M38. Cutting, riveting and addition of the commander’s cupola, periscopes and the like proceeds smoothly, although hold-ups of a few cupolas and radios from Germany result in some delays. 


All in all, the remanufacturing process is completed well before the due date, with the initial batch of 40 vehicles being given over to the army for familiarisation at the end of May. The factory than turns itself over to maintenance and a slower, ongoing effort to wring out a few more useable vehicles from the picked-over hulls that still sit in storage.




With just under a month’s worth of rest and training behind them, the soldiers of Mobile Group E felt confident in their new mounts. The 12 tanks (formally indexed as "Carro Armato P.T-28/43") comprise a large proportion of a fleet that, to tankers used to 13-tonne vehicles, seems truly imposing. The 40-odd R-35s that make up the rest of the Italian heavy armour on the island look comical and sad by comparison. So it is that, confident in their vehicles, they set out on the tenth of July 1943 to push back the Americans from their beachhead near Gela. Setting off at 07:30 down highway 117, Captain Giuseppe Granieri feels glad for the supporting fire provided by their small battery of 75mm howitzers, which managed to set up in stealth and then open fire on unprepared US 105mm gun teams. Almost immediately, however, elements of the mobile group begin to get into trouble. The motorised MG company, which had moved ahead to engage US infantry, finds itself under attack by naval gunfire and is forced to withdraw. The accompanying motorised AT gun company, meanwhile, manages to push into range of US mortar teams and takes a beating. One tank, which is a bit balky to begin with, retires immediately due to mechanical issues. The rest, racing down the road at top speed, comes under fire from the ships offshore. By some sort of miracle, only one of the vehicles is damaged by a near miss from a 5-inch shell, and is left by its crew to burn at the side of the road. The ten survivors of Granieri’s wild ride make it to the town, where they sorely surprise the Americans there and touch off a series of running battles. In the ensuing chaos, US rangers fling grenades and satchel charges down from windows onto the vehicles as they race by. The tanks, moving in small groups, move and fight as they are able amongst the narrow confines of Gela’s streets, heading towards the town square and the beaches beyond.


The Americans are at this point throwing everything they have at the beasts – engaging them with mortars, bazookas and a 37mm gun hurriedly brought up from the beach. The front of the T-28/43 proves remarkably effective against all of these measures, shrugging off rockets and 37mm shells. One engages in a direct duel with the AT gun, destroying it after an unequal exchange of fire. The rangers are persistent, however, and manage to flank several tanks to put rockets, grenades and rifle grenades into their less protected sides and rears. In all, seven vehicles make it to the square and begin to push out of the buildings there engage with forces on the beach directly before being driven off. This continues for most of the rest of the afternoon, with follow-up forces trickling in to retake the town.


The T-28/43s remain mostly confined to Gela during the fighting that follows, finally meeting their match when M4 Sherman tanks are brought ashore and engage the survivors from amongst the packed streets and alleyways of the town. At such close ranges the low-velocity guns the Italian tanks are armed with hardly matter, and they give as good as they get.


In the end, the battle of Gela becomes a little-remembered but bloody chapter in US military history, as the town changes hands multiple times and becomes the target for naval gunfire and a bombing raid intended to drive the Italians out of the Northern strip of buildings. The T-28/43, which US infantrymen initially mistake for some sort of Pz-IV variant, becomes one of the little-known oddities of the war. Its service is limited to the Sicilian campaign itself, with the entire production run being thrown into the fight. In the final analysis, the few score of vehicles that are produced manages to substantially even the odds on a 1-to-1 basis, but fails to solve the essential problems of numbers and quality that the Italians faced throughout the war.

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Scenario 2: Carro Armato P.35/105






In late February 1943 captured T-28 tanks, 105mm guns and various other components start arriving at the harbour in Palermo. The hulls come originally from Germany and the occupied territories – the fruit of the first, furious years of the war in the East. There were maybe a hundred T-28s captured amongst the thousands of Soviet vehicles netted in the first year of the campaign there, but time and the exigencies of war mean that only around 70 are available to serve as hulls and component donors for the VER’s work. The lead designer on the committee which birthed the P.35/105 project, one Giacomo Signore, has set the VER a hard task. Each tank chosen for re-manufacture is to have its hull radically remodelled, with the front being cut away completely and the turret ring re-cut to accommodate a massive new turret fabricated from welded sections of 30 and 60mm plate. The gun chosen for this behemoth is equally impressive: a 105mm Ansaldo gun modified to fit into a large, square mantlet. The gun, which is normally issued with HE, has been recently modified by Fiat-Ansaldo (as part of the project which produced the Semovente da 105/25) to use both a capped AP round and a HEAT round. Both of these options give respectable performance against armoured vehicles, with the HEAT round proving especially devastating when presented with targets which allow it to fuse easily.


The process of arranging the turret ring cutting equipment proves to be especially difficult, with VER engineers eventually managing to rig up a dedicated station for the task. While they solve the problem, the machinists and welders work diligently on modifying the hulls and fabricating the turrets. Here welders, brought in all the way from the shipyards of Trieste, initially have problems in mating the cut plates together without cracking or defects. The end result is that assembly only really begins in earnest in April, with five vehicles being worked on at a time on the factory floor while a sixth has its old turret removed and a new hole cut for the turret race bearing (which ended up being produced by a subcontractor for one of the Trieste shipyards).


By July, a bare 20 vehicles in total have been remanufactured to the new standard, with more trickling in slowly as the kinks in the production process are worked out. At some point the VER hopes to produce perhaps 40 vehicles from the stock it has available.




With a nearly-full complement of 10 of the new behemoth P.35/105s in hand, Mobile Group E is possibly (and unexpectedly) the most heavily-armed unit in Sicily. The tanks are brand-new, with a few crews having been introduced to their mounts the previous day as they formed up in Niscemi. Even so, the crews are all eager to get into the fray.

At 07:30, the attack is announced by the 75mm howitzers, which begin pounding away at their contemporaries on the American side of the line. The vehicles move off down the road as the motorised elements start their fateful engagements. Almost immediately the crew’s inexperience with their mounts begins to show, as one driver manages to ditch his vehicle and render it hors de combat before the fight even starts. Through the bursting shells called in from the ships lying offshore, all of the vehicles miraculously make it through (although Captain Granieri’s vehicle is rocked by an explosion and peppered with shrapnel). 


Nine tanks make it to town, where one of the vehicles promptly breaks down and acts as an impromptu pillbox until being abandoned later in the day. The remaining eight then go on to fight a furious battle with the Americans they find there – demolishing structures that rangers are sheltering inside while explosives rain down from the roofs above. One is rendered immobile by a lucky hit to the engine deck, and then proceeds to mount a heroic last stand as mortar fire is called in on top of it and the surrounding infantry shower it with rockets and grenades to little effect. Another, encountering a 37mm gun run up from the beaches, has its gun jammed by a shot which pierces the mantlet but fails to find its way inside the thick turret face. The tank then runs over the gun before going on a rampage across the length of the town. It survives long enough to make it back to its lines that afternoon. Captain Granieri’s vehicle, which had sprung a leak from the battering it took, sputters to a stop just inside the market square. It too becomes a fortification, sweeping the surrounding area free of infantry until a few brave rangers manage to hurl a satchel charge under the hull. Lacking fuel it does not really burn, but the shaken crew exits the smoking vehicle and runs to seek shelter amongst the nearby buildings.


The five final survivors storm the roads leading to the beaches and pour withering fire on the equipment and vehicles huddled there. They then manage to retire in good order to the Northern outskirts and meet up with a follow-on wave of troops later that afternoon. From there the town becomes a site of furious fighting as the Americans take it for a second time, and the hulks of that initial wild advance end up being used as stout cover for advancing infantrymen. Over the coming weeks there end up being a few, inconclusive clashes of surviving P.35/105s with American forces. None ever fires its gun in anger at an M4, but the general consensus is that it would probably have fared well had such an event ever come to pass.


In the end, the P.35/105 earns a reputation all out of proportion to its limited numbers and impact on the campaign. The vehicle is promptly (and lazily) nicknamed the “Italian Tiger”, and becomes an object of fascination for future military historians. In time, a lot of rancorous internet debate springs amongst the dimly-lit corners of the internet about whether such a drastic modification of an early-war tank was really worth it from use of resources point of view. Meanwhile, Italian army enthusiasts (all five of them) point to the vehicle as an example of the ingenuity and skill of Italian engineering during the war. 

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Scenario 3: Carro Armato BT-5-76/43






In late February 1943 captured tanks, guns and various other components begin to stream into Palermo from all points of the compass. The stock is being used as part of an ambitious project, by one Nicola Leonardo Mancini, to rework and upgrade the copious amounts of equipment that the Germans captured in the first years of the war, and which has been since sitting idle at depots and scrap yards across Western Europe. Nicola, who had reputedly suffered a mild stroke (which he later jokingly called his ‘stroke of genius’) a few months before, has come up with a design whose looks and features are both highly unusual. Over the lean, angular frame of a captured BT-5 tank, there were now multiple faceted plates which produced a bulky, wedge-shaped profile.


The VER, which spent time late in the previous year preparing for just this moment, promptly gets to work on converting the vehicles to the designer’s scheme. The main factory floor is soon humming as eight tanks at a time are worked on: stripped, cleaned, reassembled, repaired, added onto and generally attended to. As the tanks are expected to be fielded in two configurations (a 45mm and 76mm version), the work is split to allow six or seven 45mm vehicles to be produced for every one or two 76mm ones. In the event the modifications to the 45mm tanks are extensive but not particularly taxing, and proceeded more or less at pace. The 76mm tanks, on the other hand, initially suffer a bit from production and calibration defects related to the innovative cartridge ejection system and auto-rammer. These take a few weeks to sort out, with the result being that only a comparatively few 76mm tanks were ready by July.


One thing that the factory does not have to worry about was numbers. There are many hundreds of BT-5s available, and at least hundred 76mm guns to put into them in place of the 45mm weapons they come with. With the factory running at full tilt, the VER can expect to produce around 6 vehicles a week indefinitely. In the event, by July around 70 vehicles have been converted (59 of the 45mm versions, and 10 of the 76mm versions). 




The soldiers of Mobile Group E were initially somewhat befuddled by their new mounts. With more than enough time to get familiar with them, however, a suspicion had begun to form that the Russians had been onto a good thing with their cavalry tanks from the get-go. The angular vehicles were fast, reliable, clad in an impressive-looking coat of plates and armed with guns that were either equal to or better than anything they had hitherto experienced. The turret crews of the two “big gun” tanks found their stations to be unbelievably cramped and strange to work with, but rapidly acclimated to the quirks of their new vehicles. On the 10th of July, at 07:30, they set out to attempt to push the Americans back into the sea. Almost immediately, one vehicle drops out – a victim of fuel shortages.


Even moving out gingerly, the BT-5-76/43 is phenomenally quick. When shells began to fall beside the road, Captain Granieri gives the order to gun it and the tanks begin to race away. They hit the town at nearly 50km/h, and are through the initial line of defence almost before the befuddled Americans know what is happening. One, failing to judge a turn, manages to ditch itself on the outskirts of town and then spends some time engaging with it’s 45mm gun, coax and roof-mounted HMG. The highly spaced armour proves to be very resistant to explosives and bazooka rockets, and as a result the crew manages to expend its ammunition before jumping out and retiring in good order. The ten vehicles that remain, moving more slowly now, push towards the town square. Here things start to unravel at bit for the two 76mm tanks, as their very limited elevation makes aiming at the upper stories of houses impossible. In one tank the commander exits to disconnect the linkage on the HMG, and uses it successfully in this role for a time before being shot out of his hatch. The other, commanded by sub-lieutenant Angiolino Navari presses on to look for targets on more open ground. One 45mm tank blunders into a 37mm gun and sustains two hits to the turret and hull. Undeterred, it then proceeds to wreck the gun and scatter the crew. Another tank becomes the unlucky recipient of a satchel charge thrown from above, which lodges in the gap created by the rear radiator housing and the hull. The resulting explosion wrecks the vehicle. With enemies to the front and rear, a third tank finds itself engaged from behind by American soldiers armed with rifle grenades and bazookas. They succeed, after a time, in hitting the rear hull and setting the tank alight. The crew, trying to exit the burning vehicle, are shot down as they do so.


With eight tanks having made the square, captain Granieri decides to split his forces. Navari, leading three 45mm tanks, moves to the East to find a good location to shoot at the beach from. Granieri then heads directly for the landing zone. The eight tanks open fire on the men and equipment from two directions, stopping to dart back into cover as the ships covering the landing open up on the town. The ranges still holding the town begin moving towards them, before heading back to deal with a follow-on attack. In the end only Navari’s vehicle, which heads back after an ill-timed jolt manages to jam the ramming mechanism against an unfired cartridge, survives the day. The rest are slowly picked off in ones and twos, but serve to weaken the defences of the town in the process. Captain Granieri survives his tank being knocked out, and manages to make his way across the town to friendly lines.


Gela ends up becoming a see-saw battle which draws in forces on both sides. By the end, the town is more or less a wreck, and the Allies have established a secure beachhead at a higher cost than expected. The campaign goes on a few weeks longer than it otherwise would have, which gives the staff at the VER enough time to evacuate with their plans and some of their tooling. The last Sicilian-manufactured BT-5-76/43, a 45mm model, goes into battle unpainted and armed only with machinegun ammunition.


When the Germans take over the remains of the Italian industrial base later in the year, they re-start BT-5-76 production under the incomprehensible name of Panzerkampfwagen BT-5-745 (r)(i). This didn’t amount to much in the grand scheme of things, with only perhaps a 150 such vehicles produced. The American experience with the unusual tank did have some unexpected effects, though. Firstly, it got the inevitable nickname of “Musso’s Funnies”. Secondly, inspection of the novel auto-loader system kicked off a slow-burning interest in autoloaders that eventually culminated in the adoption of a turret bustle autoloading system in the then-new M1 tank many decades later. The add-on armour, quickly dubbed 'wedge' or 'razor blade' armour, arouses interest due to it's unusual resistance to shaped charge attack. The sight of rockets futilely bouncing off of sharply-angled turrets and hulls infuriates the rangers who took part in the action at Sicily, and results in a crash program to improve the fusing of the weapon (eventually an piezo-electric fuze with good characteristics comes into service to arm the Super Bazooka). The final effect of the BT-5-76 is to cast Nicola Mancini as an unsung, iconoclastic genius. His unorthodox vehicle, which proved to look eerily like vehicles that would only be developed decades later, earns him a spot in the pantheon of lesser-known designers who should be more appreciated.


Fittingly, and like its creator, the BT-5-76 defies its overall negligible impact on the wider war and becomes a relatively well-known vehicle amongst military history nerds.

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Final Judgement


Third place: Carro Armato P.35/105


I hate having to place this vehicle third, as it's the most impressive in terms of paper stats and just looks so... right. It looks like exactly the sort of late-war (for them, anyway) prototype that the Italians would have produced, only for it to become forgotten under a fountain of "hurr durr pasta tank" memes. And talk about performance! What @Lord_James has managed to do here is wring a Tiger-analogue out of a 28-tonne pre-war vehicle.


Unfortunately, when I try to game this thing out the numbers end up being stark. As something closer to a ground-level rebuild there would never have been more than a handful of these things around by the time that the Allies hit the beaches on Sicily. In combat, of course, this thing is a beast - a fully-equipped force riding in at the right moment would have easily made it to the outskirts of town and perhaps to hitting the beaches beyond. So I gave it its moment in the sun. From there, however, you're left with only a handful of these things pootling around amidst an ever-worsening spares situation. Which is a recipe for expensive bunkers.


Second place: T-28/43


As with the previous entry, I hate having to place this vehicle second. @heretic88did a great job in terms of coming up with a vehicle that required the absolute minimum amount of fabrication, but still materially added to the effectiveness of the tank. His additions were all well-chosen with the task in mind, and would have resulted in a very workable vehicle for an Italian army and industrial system that was rapidly backpedaling. Unfortunately he also chose the vehicle that I left in as a poison pill - the one which could only ever have been produced in miniscule numbers. I ran the math on all the vehicles captured by the Germans over the course of their first year on Soviet soil, and there's no way that they ever got ahold of more than a hundred T-28s in total. Add in a year and a half of back and forth warfare, neglect, wastage and (most likely) some tanks being fed into steel mills and you're never going to produce a fleet of these things worth talking about. This version of an up-gunned T-28 would, I feel, be destined to become an unfairly-forgotten curiosity that Allied crews chalked up as some sort of lesser-known German tank that somehow ended up being confined to a single island campaign.


Winner: Carro Armato BT-5-76/43


Yet again I have qualms about this one, not least because N-L-M is my eternal rival (flattering myself). I'm also decidedly leery of the look of the thing and his (admittedly brilliant) solution to up-gunning it. In the end the thing that swung it for me was this: the Germans probably had more BT-5s than they knew what to do with, and once you take away the 76mm autoloader thingy (and maybe the gun-linked HMG) all the changes N-L-M is proposing are eminently sensible. I feel that the BT series of tanks was and is criminally underrated, and its reputation for poor performance probably had more to do with how many of the damn things were captured in depots rather than in fighting. In my mind, the BT-5-76/43, with its horrific (and probably accurate) name, comes the closest to giving the Italians a foreign-derived vehicle that they can actually use effectively and in numbers.


To @N-L-M: congratulations and please contact me about your $25 prize! To the rest of the contestants: well done, and damn you for making me work so hard to pick out a winner :)


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3 hours ago, Toxn said:



The process of arranging the turret ring cutting equipment proves to be especially difficult, with VER engineers eventually managing to rig up a dedicated station for the task. While they solve the problem, the machinists and welders work diligently on modifying the hulls and fabricating the turrets. Here welders, brought in all the way from the shipyards of Trieste, initially have problems in mating the cut plates together without cracking or defects. The end result is that assembly only really begins in earnest in April, with five vehicles being worked on at a time on the factory floor while a sixth has its old turret removed and a new hole cut for the turret race bearing (which ended up being produced by a subcontractor for one of the Trieste shipyards).


I suppose I should have specified that the tank was to have been riveted, because of the difficulty the Italians had with welding; my bad. 

3 hours ago, Toxn said:


and just looks so... right. It looks like exactly the sort of late-war (for them, anyway) prototype that the Italians would have produced,


That was my whole rationale when building her: “what did the Italians (and the axis in general) historically do to their vehicles, and how can I apply that to the T-28?” I took a couple pages from Alfred Becker and all the modified beutepanzers his workshop pumped out, as well as (previously mentioned) the late, uparmored Semoventes and the Pz.3M (copy what works). 

3 hours ago, Toxn said:

From there, however, you're left with only a handful of these things pootling around amidst an ever-worsening spares situation. Which is a recipe for expensive bunkers.

Midway through, I though about replacing/ modifiying the old T-28 suspension with that employed by the M13 or 14, considering they look similar, but I stopped myself because I was fearing that too much heavy modification would make the vehicle less appealing. 

3 hours ago, Toxn said:

The vehicle is promptly (and lazily) nicknamed the “Italian Tiger”, and becomes an object of fascination for future military historians. In time, a lot of rancorous internet debate springs amongst the dimly-lit corners of the internet about whether such a drastic modification of an early-war tank was really worth it from use of resources point of view. Meanwhile, Italian army enthusiasts (all five of them) point to the vehicle as an example of the ingenuity and skill of Italian engineering during the war. 

This is the real prize, and you all know it :lol:

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3 hours ago, Toxn said:

Unfortunately he also chose the vehicle that I left in as a poison pill - the one which could only ever have been produced in miniscule numbers.

Yep, this was definitely a trap I fell into :D But the T-28 was just too attractive compared to the rest, so couldnt resist! Anyway, well deserved victory for N-L-M, his design is really brilliant, especially the armor upgrade!

I had two problems with this competition: 

1, that there were only 3 of us. It would have been good to see some T-26, Panzer II or french tank upgrades :)

2, now I want to buy Zvezda's new 1/35 T-28 model kit, and want to build both my design and the Carro Armato P.35/105 :D 


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