Weapons of World War Two
90/53 self-propelled cannon
As it is known, the Italian armored elements during the Second World War often found themselves in conditions of clear inferiority when they had to face the Allies. The result of these encounters, logically unfavorable for the Italians, with frequency and mistake was generalized, with that point of masochism used as shield when talking about infortunate or wrong ventures. Actually, the Italian heavy industry had found itself at the outbreak of the war linked by misinterpreted concepts, as in the case of the good reconnaissance tankette L 3, produced in large number due to its easy construction and low cost, but mistakenly used as battle tank.
When it emerged the idea that it would have been better to impulse the studies to solve the lacks and the problems, there was in front a rather "rigid" industry of limited potential. Despite of this, numerous prototypes were built by diverse companies. For example, Ansaldo presented a model of tank of 13.5 tonnes for the African theater, fitted with a 75-millimeter cannon and able to reach 60 kilometers/hour. Unfortunately, even if it had been approved, it would not have been possible to deliver it to the troops in time, so the project was filed. In other cases, such as the excellent tank P 40 of 26 tonnes, the Armistice arrived while the works were started, being so discontinued the production. When it was retaken, the tanks were delivered to the German Army.
But the most interesting realization was not a tank, but a self-propelled antitank cannon: the 90/53. Since the first days of the campaign in Russia, the apparition of the Soviet tank T-34 caused great concern. The Italians had not weapons able to perforate the armor of those tanks, so it was studied a new weapon that could fill that gap. As the Germans had already done with the 88-millimeter cannon, the Italians resorted as well to a piece studied for antiaircraft use; the high muzzle velocity that such cannons confer to the projectiles make them ideal for antitank usage. Because of this it was chosen the excellent piece Ansaldo 90/53, of equal if not better performance than the German 88 millimeters, and it was mounted in the properly modified hull of the tank M 14/41.
The cannon was placed in a very backwards position, obtaining so the advantage of not protruding the long tube from the hull and granting the gunners enough space to comfortably effectuate the firing operations, which obviously were made only with the vehicle being stationed. An inconvenience was the scarcity of space onboard, which allowed to carry on the hull only the driver, the chief gunner and barely six projectiles. The gunners and a reserve of 86 projectiles were carried by a properly modified tank L 6/40.
Born to fight in the Russian plains, the self-propelled 90/53 rather had another utilization: the thirty exemplars built in 1942 were organized into two batteries and immediately destined to Sicily in prevision of an Allied disembarkment. Used by the Bedogni Group, the 90/53 obtained excellent results against the Anglo-Americans, but they succumbed to both construction problems and the imminent political and military crisis, and their existence had no continuation.
Weight: 15.7 tonnes
Length: 5.08 meters
Width: 2.28 meters
Height: 2.30 meters
Ground clearance: 30 centimeters
Maximum armor: 30 millimeters
Engine: SPA 15 T of 145 horsepower
Maximum speed: 25 kilometers/hour
Operational range: 150 kilometers
Armament: One 90-millimeter cannon
Ammunitions: 6 of 90 millimeters (plus 86 in separate transporter vehicle)
Maximum surmountable trench: 2.10 meters
Maximum surmountable step: 0.80 meters
Maximum surmountable slope: 30 degrees
Fording: 1.00 meters
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