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Even before they had entered the war in 1940, the Italian army recognised that it would need a new, heavier tank to keep up with foreign designs. At 26 tonnes, the new tank was planned to be twice as heavy as the M13/40 medium tank about to enter service. Faced with numerous specification changes and no suitable engine, Fiat Ansaldo, the company that designed all Italian tanks, took until late 1942 to complete the prototype.
The new P40 heavy tank matched any tank on the drawing boards in 1941 and was similar to the latest medium tanks in service in late 1942—the M4 Sherman, T-34 and Panzer IV tanks.
Still, with nothing better in sight, full-scale production began in early 1943. Unfortunately the SPA engine factory in Turin had been bombed, and this combined with a shortage of electrical parts and optics, meant that although parts for more than 70 tanks were available when Italy surrendered in September 1943, only 22 tanks had been completed.
Hypothetical Combat Service
With victory in sight at El Alamein, a small pre-production batch of P40 heavy tanks joined the armoured divisions in the desert. The first companies of P40 heavy tanks arrived in Africa just in time for the pivotal Second Battle of El Alamein. These were split up to support the medium tanks as they counterattacked the British armoured divisions. More of these tanks fought in the Tunisian campaign where they allowed the Italian carristi to take on US and British tankers on equal terms for the first time.
Designation: Carro Pesante P40
Crew: 4 (cdr/gnr, ldr, rdo, dvr)
Armament: 1 x 75/34 gun; 1x 8mm Breda modello 38 machine-gun
Ammunition Stowage: 65 x 75mm; 600x 8mm
Armour Thickness: 20mm to 50mm
Engine: Fiat-SPA 342 V12 petrol, 1525cu in/25 litre, 330hp
Maximum Speed: 25mph/40km/h
Road Radius: 93 miles/150km
In Flames Of War
Despite its heavy tank label, the P40 is a conventional medium tank. Its 50mm-thick armour and 75mm gun match that of other participants and far outstrips the 30mm armour and 47mm guns of the older Italian medium tanks. With its powerful new motor, it is considerably faster as well.
Equipment & Notes
Co-ax MG, Limtied vison, Unreliable
In German Service
When Italy surrendered, the Germans seized the P40 heavy tanks and ordered another 75. Due to the engine shortage, half of the total were to be delivered without engines. These were mounted in the Gothic Line as bunkers in 1944. The rest were issued to the SS for anti-partisan work.