L3/35

The L3/35 or Carro Veloce CV-35 was an Italian tankette that saw combat before and during World War II. Although designated a light tank by the Italian Army, its turretless configuration, weight and firepower make it closer to contemporary tankettes. It was the most numerous Italian armoured fighting vehicle and saw service almost everywhere the Italians fought in World War II but proved inadequate for modern warfare having too thin armour and weak armament of only machine guns.

Country Name Origin Year
Italy 1940
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
Austria View
Brazil View
Bulgaria View
China View
Croatia View
Hungary View
Italy 1935 1944 View
Spain View

The L3/35 was developed from the Carden Loyd Mark VI tankette, four of which were imported from Britain in 1929. The first vehicle developed by the Italians from the Carden Lloyd tankette was designated CV-29; "CV" being an abbreviation of Carro Veloce (Italian: "fast tank") and "29" as the year of adoption. Only twenty-one CV-29s were built.

L3/33

In 1933, a new design was built jointly by the Fiat Company of Turin and the Ansaldo Company of Genoa. This vehicle was introduced as the Fiat-Ansaldo CV-33. About 300 CV-33s were built.

L3/35

In 1935, a slightly improved model of the CV-33 was introduced and designated CV-35. The primary differences were that the armour was bolted rather than riveted and the single 6.5 mm machine gun was replaced with twin 8 mm machine guns. Many older CV-33s were retrofitted to meet the specifications of the CV-35. In 1938, the vehicles were redesignated L3/33 ("L" for Leggero or 'light') and the L3/35.

L3/38

In 1938, a further development of the L3 design was designated L3/38. The L3/38 had torsion bar suspension and two versions of a single mounted 13.2 mm machine gun. In 1937 Brazil bought 24 L3/38s which arrived in 1938. The L3/38s exported to Brazil were designated "CV33/II". The Roman numeral "II" represents the second version of the original L3/33 version. The L3/35 version exported to Brazil would be "CV33/I" (the CV33 or L3/33 and the CV33/I or L3/35 export versions to Brazil had no torsion bar suspension). The CV33/II Brazilian export was armed with a single 13.2 mm Madsen machine gun.

Italy retrofitted at least 12 L3/35s to meet the specifications of the L3/38. The converted L3/35s with the L3/38's torsion bar suspension saw limited service in September 1943 until June 1944. These L3/38s versions of the L3/35s were armed with a single 13.2 mm Breda M31 machine gun.

Layout

The L3/35 was a lightly armoured two-man vehicle typically armed with twin 8 mm machine guns, though variants were developed with other armament. Other than the number and type of machine guns, the differences between the L3/35 and the L3/33 were few. Both featured riveted and welded construction.

The vehicle's commander/gunner sat on the left and the driver sat on the right. The engine was mounted transversely in the rear. A circular radiator was mounted behind the engine. The transmission went to the front to the final drive. The Vickers-Carden-Lloyd type suspension had two three-wheel bogies on leaf spring and a single unsprung wheel on each side. There was an acacia wood rail that the top run of the tracks went on.

In addition to seeing action in the Second Italo-Abyssinian War, the Second Sino-Japanese War, the Spanish Civil War, the Slovak-Hungarian War, and the Anglo-Iraqi War, the L3 was used almost everywhere that Italian troops fought during World War II. L3s were found on the Italian/French border, North Africa, Italian East Africa, the Balkans, USSR, Sicily, and Italy.

The combat performance of the L3s during the interwar period was poor. On at least two occasions during the Italian invasion of Ethiopia, L3s were put out of action by massed infantry attacks. In the Spanish Civil War, L3s of the Corps of Volunteer Troops (Corpo Truppe Volontarie, or CTV) were totally out-classed by the T-26 and BT-5 tanks provided to the Republican forces by the Soviet Union. Fortunately for the Hungarians, the L3s were not a factor in their brief war with Slovakia.

On 10 June 1940, when Italy entered World War II, the Royal Italian Army (Regio Esercito) possessed only about one-hundred M11/39 medium tanks in two tank battalions. L3 tankettes still equipped all three Italian armoured divisions, the tank battalions in the motorized divisions, the light tank squadron group in each "Fast" (Celere) division, and numerous independent tank battalions.

On 22 March 1941, two Iraqi L3s were reported to have been put out of action near Fallujah during the Anglo-Iraqi War.

More than 40 captured L3 tankettes were used by the Greek Army during the Greco-Italian War, fought from 1940 to 1941, and were used to equip the 19th Mechanized Division, although they did not take part in combat with the latter. After the invasion of Yugoslavia and Greece in April 1941, L3 tankettes were also captured by the Yugoslav and Greek resistance forces. From 1941, some L3 tankettes were given to the German puppet government of the Independent State of Croatia (Nezavisna Država Hrvatska, or NDH).

Though numerous, Italy's tankettes proved to be outclassed from the start and also proved to be of low tactical value. They were vulnerable to the British Boys anti-tank rifles. Other than those used for occupation duties in the Balkans and elsewhere, few L3s remained in front line service past the end of 1940. After the Italian armistice with the Allies in 1943, L3 tankettes were used by German Army forces and by the pro-Nazi National Republican Army of the Italian Social Republic. Hungarian L3s had by this point been issued to the Gendarmerie and 10 saw combat in Budapest and were destroyed in the fighting to reclaim the Racecourse Airfield.

L3/35s also joined the Chinese Nationalist Army and fought against the Japanese Imperial Army during the Second Sino-Japanese War.

GENERAL DATA
Formal DesignationL3/35 [prior designation CV35]
Manufacturer(s)n.a.
Production Quantityn.a.Production Period1940
Typen.a.Crewn.a.
Length hull/overall (m)n.a.Barrel Overhang (m)n.a.
Width (m)n.a.Height (m)n.a.
Combat Weight (kg)n.a.Radio Equipmentn.a.
FIREPOWER
Primary Armamentn.a.Ammunition Carriedn.a.
Traverse (degrees)n.a.Elevation (degrees)n.a.
Traverse speed (360°)-Sightn.a.
Secondary Armamentn.a.Ammunition Carriedn.a.


MOBILITY CHARACTERISTICS
Engine Make & Modeln.a.No. of Links/Trackn.a.
Type & Displacementn.a.Track Widthn.a.
Horsepower (max.)n.a.Track Ground Contactn.a.
Power/Weight Ration.a.Ground Pressuren.a.
Gearboxn.a.Ground Clearance (m)n.a.
Fueln.a.Turning Radius (m)n.a.
Range on/off road (km)n.a.Gradient (degrees)n.a.
Mileage (liters/100km)n.a.Vertical Obstacle (m)n.a.
Fuel Capacity (liters)n.a.Fording (m)n.a.
Speed on/off roadn.a.Trench Crossing (m)n.a.
ARMOR PROTECTION
Armor (mm@degrees)FrontSideRearTop/Bottom
Hulln.a.n.a.n.a.n.a.
Superstructuren.a.n.a.n.a.n.a.
Mantletn.a.---

End notes