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Reliability of Italian M13/40 Tank?

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  • Reliability of Italian M13/40 Tank?



    I frequently read that the M13/40 was an unreliable tank, but I've never seen any quantifying information, or recorded examples, anecdotes etc. that confirms this.

    Does anyone know if there is any such information available?
    "Looting would not be tolerated within the Division, unless organised with the knowledge of C.O.'s on a unit basis."
    - 15/19 Hussars War Diary, 18th March 1945

  • #2
    Originally posted by Don Juan View Post


    I frequently read that the M13/40 was an unreliable tank, but I've never seen any quantifying information, or recorded examples, anecdotes etc. that confirms this.

    Does anyone know if there is any such information available?
    There were major issues with the tank, but the major failing was that there was only one recovery squad and repair company per tank battalion, and these could not broken up to follow all the tank companies into battle. This meant that an already underpowered tank was required to tow any damaged ones. The extra strain played havoc on the engine/transmission. Source.
    How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic: http://grist.org/series/skeptics/
    Global Warming & Climate Change Myths: https://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php

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    • #3
      Thanks - I think that book will be my first port of call!
      "Looting would not be tolerated within the Division, unless organised with the knowledge of C.O.'s on a unit basis."
      - 15/19 Hussars War Diary, 18th March 1945

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      • #4
        Some of the problems with the M13/40 can be traced back to its design. The lower hull and suspension were almost identical to the M11/39. The same engine (125 HP SPA 8T diesel) was also used. However the new tank had an enlarged superstructure, bigger turret and more armour. Its power to weight ratio suffered and increased strain was put on the mechanics of the tank. There were also reports of its armour plate splitting when hit. One author, Ralph Riccio ,notes that partial remedies to the tank's problems were 'new filters to protect the oil and cooling liquid and by an improved fuel pump, electrical system, engine lubrication system and inertia starter.' (Riccio p 103) It's also noted that with the appearance of M3 Grant, crews started augmenting their frontal armour with sandbags and track links with a resulting decrease in performance and further strain on an already overtaxed engine.

        Sources: Nicola Pignato Italian Armored Vehicles of World War Two
        Ralph A Riccio Italian Tanks and Combat Vehicles of World War Two


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        • #5
          Apparently the fragility of Italian armour plate was due to high sulphur content, a problem that also reputedly affected the Titanic. But this is remembered hearsay, so any confirmation or correction would be appreciated.

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          • #6
            Weirdly the Italian armour plate on their battleships was considered about the best quality going.

            One wonders what might have happened if some of this thousands of tons of high quality armour had ended up on their tanks.

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            • #7
              Still would've had riveted armour. As a general comparison, Italian and British tanks seemed to be at about the same relative generation, with British designs being on average better armed or armoured. The major problem for the Italians was they had a much smaller manufacturing base.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by broderickwells View Post
                Still would've had riveted armour. As a general comparison, Italian and British tanks seemed to be at about the same relative generation, with British designs being on average better armed or armoured. The major problem for the Italians was they had a much smaller manufacturing base.
                When introduced, the M13/40 was on par with British Cruiser tanks as to armor thickness and, more or less, as armor quality. It was slightly better off as to armament, with its 47mm compared to the 2 pounder, which, BTW, could not fire antipersonnel rounds. It was definitely slower than them.

                If compared to British Infantry tanks (basically the Matilda Mk II at this time), what was mentioned above applies as to the armament; the Italian tank's armor was pathetically inferior; off-road speed was roughly the same; and the British tank's reliability was worse.

                The problems were the same as with nearly anything concerning Italian military production in this war, i.e.
                a) that the Italians could not produce anything in significant numbers, and
                b) that everyone else improved its designs, and quickly, while Italy largely did not, and when it did, it always trailed far behind.

                GURPS WWII: Grim Legions includes a description of the M13/40.

                Nicola Pignato, mentioned above, is the Italian expert about WWII-era armor, and he has written many books on the topic. His negative remarks as to the M13/40 are more or less the same mentioned above (underpowered engine, overstrained transmission, problems with the filters, poor-quality armor, rivets); one additional one is that the visor and aiming slits were pretty vulnerable to HE frag (and, therefore, to high volumes of small arms firepower too).
                Michele

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                • #9
                  Poor Italy. They had the right idea with the M11/39 but the Germans probably talked them into the inferior single gun armed tank. M13/40 could have been a contender by reinforcing the chasis and placing their 75mm (L/32?) artillery piece (which had a good AT round) in the hull in place of two machine guns. A machn gun could still have been tucked into a left hull sponson

                  Now you have a forward thinking design!!!

                  A 47mm AT in a turret and tank buster in the hull all wrapped up in a low profile vehicle. The better engine would come as it did in M14/41 and M15/42 now the Crusaders and Stuarts (also inferior single gun models) would have been over matched by the superior Italian design. M3 Grant would have to have been rushed to Africa to prevent Mussolini from parading past the Sphinx.
                  Last edited by The Purist; 22 May 14, 22:31.
                  The Purist

                  Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking - John Maynard Keynes.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by The Purist View Post
                    Poor Italy. They had the right idea with the M11/39 but the Germans probably talked them into the inferior single gun armed tank. M13/40 could have been a contender by reinforcing the chasis and placing their 75mm (L/32?) artillery piece (which had a good AT round) in the hull in place of two machine guns. A machn gun could still have been tucked into a right hull sponson

                    Now you have a forward thinking design!!!

                    A 47mm AT in a turret and tank buster in the hull all wrapped up in a low profile vehicle. The better engine would come as it did in M14/41 and M15/42 now the Crusaders and Stuarts (also inferior single gun models) would have been over matched by the superior Italian design. M3 Grant would have to have been rushed to African to prevent Mussolini from parading past the Sphinx.
                    And once again the Purist drags the subject around to the stuff of his dreams...

                    Riveted armor is only as strong as the rivets.
                    Any man can hold his place when the bands play and women throw flowers; it is when the enemy presses close and metal shears through the ranks that one can acertain which are soldiers, and which are not.

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                    • #11
                      Where the discussion involves the tank, it can lead only to the lost opportunities to achieve perfection.
                      The Purist

                      Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking - John Maynard Keynes.

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                      • #12
                        The initial problem with Italian tanks was down to a design imperative where they were initially intended to deploy.

                        The Italians designed tanks that were expected to operate in the North, since that was were their neighbours lay. This limited the weight of the tanks to that the bridges on the Alps could handle.

                        This proved to be a design flaw in the desert, but the tank probably would have been decent in its designed role.
                        How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic: http://grist.org/series/skeptics/
                        Global Warming & Climate Change Myths: https://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php

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                        • #13
                          From the photos posted it looks like the place nuts and bolts go to die.
                          Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Nick the Noodle View Post
                            The initial problem with Italian tanks was down to a design imperative where they were initially intended to deploy.

                            The Italians designed tanks that were expected to operate in the North, since that was were their neighbours lay. This limited the weight of the tanks to that the bridges on the Alps could handle.

                            This proved to be a design flaw in the desert, but the tank probably would have been decent in its designed role.
                            Yes, that is right on spot, Nick - but especially as far as the L3 (or CV33/35) was concerned, and to a lesser extent as to the M11.
                            But by the time they put down in writing the specifications for the M13, they knew damn well that they owned deserts in Lybia, and also (it was 1937) that they'd have an immense colony in East Africa.
                            Michele

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by The Purist View Post
                              A 47mm AT in a turret and tank buster in the hull all wrapped up in a low profile vehicle.
                              For the sake of the conversation, let's say I'm considering the proposal seriously.

                              Would the profile really remain no taller? Consider the Semovente 75/18. That was the first 75mm gun that the Italians decided they could install in a tank. Look at the bulk of the superstructure. Would that thing fit in the space that in the M11 was dedicated to the 37mm gun?
                              I think not.

                              Note BTW that "18" means exactly what anybody can guess: the barrel length in calibers. It was a mountain howitzer, the smallest ordnance in 75mm that the Italians could choose. You are proposing something longer (the next step is the 75L27, a pretty short-barrelled field gun) - i.e. something heavier and bulkier. I suspect that if we compare rounds, too, there would be a difference.

                              As an added problem, the M11 had a crew of just three. That was already too little for a main tank, but at least the 37mm rounds were small and light, for one man to be both the loader and gunner. Place a 75mm in there, and a 47mm on top... you'd need five men in that tank. I doubt they would fit without a very substantial increase in the volume.
                              Michele

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