Germany, Britain, France, the USSR and the USA had their own lines of design of AFVs and tanks. Italy, while industrially capable to some degree behind those four nations, had obsolete vehicles for its soldiers. Zooming into the Axis' equipment, Germany founded the idea of designated vehicles of assault gun and tank destroyer. On the flip side, the Soviet had anti-tank rifles for the Red Army soldiers.

Why the Italian ordnance designers did not have anti-tank rifles for its infantry and devoted into production of the tank destroyer and assault gun hybrid, while knowing its production cannot cope with those of the five nations above? For what it worth, Italy had had a list of semoventes assault guns but they are regarded as intermediates before the P26/40 tank became available. In other words, why not going for battlefield effectiveness before good design? For comparisons, Sherman Firefly became a reality after conversion from the original Sherman.

  • 4
    The content of the post seem to ask a different question than the one in the title. Would make it easier to answer if the question(s) be stated clearly and separately from the background.
    – Boaz
    Apr 20 at 9:36
  • Your listing of nations building tanks is incomplete ; France was ranking among them (Tank builders: Renault, who already build tanks in WWI and Hotchkiss) with around 5000 tanks in 1940! (see here). De Gaulle was colonel in a tank regiment. Apr 22 at 22:58
  • It's unclear what the question is. Are you asking why Italy didn't devote more resources to tanks? Or to anti-tank weapons? Or why they didn't develop better quality tanks? Or why they didn't retrofit their existing tanks (they did)?
    – Schwern
    Apr 29 at 1:23

The Italian government spent a lot on military equipment in 1930-35, and at the end of that period, Italy was well-armed by the standards of the time. However, from 1935, the costs of wars in Ethiopia, Spain, and Albania dominated the military budget, preventing much expenditure on equipment.

This happened at the same time that Germany was demonstrating a new style of armed forces, and Britain, France and the USSR were re-arming in response. The Italian economy could not compete on this scale, and the Italian leadership was unwilling to acknowledge the problem. Italian troops suffered terribly as a result; Italian companies designed some good modern equipment, but the resources were lacking for large-scale production.

  • Alright, so thank you John. Mr. D answer leads to my final question, "if so why Italian just focused on making battlefield effective vehicles. For example, German Sturmgeschütz III had been successful on the cheap to deal with Allied and Soviet tank. Italian Semovente da 75/18 derived from such experience and in the Battle of Gazala, a few 75/18 with M13/40 tanks defended their position against the British armored attack of 30 M3Grant and 5 M3Stuart. The British attack was halved: loss of 15 Grant and 5 Stuart. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semovente_da_75/18#Service
    – Kav
    Apr 28 at 19:17
  • Given that Italy is located in southcentral Europe, having assault gun/tank destroyer hybrid at least would have stemmed the flood of Allies' AFVs and bought precious time. Meanwhile, newer Italian tank can be made. The German example was that the Panther tank was completed, plus Panzerfaust and Panzerschreck. All gun/destroyer hybrid AFV, recoilless and reusable anti-tank rocket launcher would have maximized the Italian infantry performance.
    – Kav
    Apr 28 at 19:19
  • Also, given the battleground is near Italy -- as the Italian forces were squeezed in North Africa from in Tunisia, Libya and Malta, abandoned or destroyed AFV can be recovered when a battleground would have been cleared. Although I agreed the result would have been the same but delayed.
    – Kav
    Apr 28 at 19:25
  • @Kav There's timeline problems with what you propose. The StuG III wasn't fielded as an anti-tank weapon until spring 1942 as an expedient to fit a 75mm anti-tank gun. Prior to that it was an infantry support weapon with a short gun. The Panzerfaust and Panther were not fielded until 1943. These are late war innovations. Italian industry was nothing like German industry, it was not up to the task of rapidly producing new weapons.
    – Schwern
    Apr 29 at 1:31

It's not clear what's being asked, so I'll mostly provide context. Fascist Italy in WW2 is greatly misunderstood.

1939 Fascist Italy was very weak industrially. They were stretched thin and heavily in debt from multiple military adventures. Mussolini ignored his advisors. And they thought they had at least three years before war with France and Britain.

Tanks and aircraft evolved rapidly during WW2

First, it must be acknowledged that the late 1930s saw tanks and aircraft evolve at a hectic pace. In 1937 biplanes such as the British Gloster Gladiator were still front line aircraft. Tanks were light and armor was thin. Pre-war Panzer IIIs, Germany's early war medium tank intended to fight other tanks, had a 37mm gun and 15mm of armor (later upgraded to 30mm).

Which is to say, you can't compare pre-war Italy with wartime vehicles like the StuG III and M4 Sherman. The M4 Sherman design began in 1940 and the first prototype was not ready until 1941. The Sturmgeschütz (StuG) concept began as self-propelled artillery to support infantry. It was only existing German anti-tank guns were found to be inadequate against Soviet tanks in 1941 that the StuG was armed with an anti-tank gun and found to be an effective tank destroyer.

Italian industry

Italy wasn't just a little behind the other major powers, they had a fraction of their industrial capability. Especially when it came to automotive work vital to mechanized warfare. They lacked coal, oil, iron, and steel. Italy was more of an agrarian nation than an industrial one.

The Italian population, being largely unfamiliar with engines and mechanical devices, would need to be trained in their basic use and maintenance.

Even so, Italy was trying to modernize as fast as it could. A large part of its 1939 budget was devoted to military spending. They were developing a modern tank, the P40, but their industry could not produce the thick armor and high performance engines in sufficient quantities. As silly as Italian tankettes seem today, they were what Italy was capable of producing in quantity. At the start of the war tanks were still relatively lightly armed and armored.

In contrast, the Regia Aeronautica (Royal Air Force) and particularly the Regia Marina (Royal Navy) were well equipped and gave the British no end of trouble in the Mediterranean.

Italy's costly pre-war wars

Between World War 1 and World War 2, Fascist Italy was involved in many wars and conflicts which drained its meager resources and scattered its armies.

All of this military adventurism and delusions of a new Roman Empire left Italy heavily in debt with vast territories to garrison. Training was limited. Fuel and transport was short.

Überraschung! Germany starts the war three years too soon.

When Italy negotiated the Pact of Steel with Germany in May 1939 they thought they had a tacit agreement with Germany that war was not coming for at least three years. They got six months. Germany invaded Poland in September 1939 sparking war with France and Germany. Still, Italy did not declare war.

Italy waited until June 1940 when the Battle of France was all but over to declare war so they could claim a slice of the pie. With the surrender of France, it seemed Britain would fall shortly (spoiler: they did not). They did not expect to do much fighting in Europe (spoiler: they did).


It did not help matters that at the start of the war Italy lacked a structure to develop and carry out long term plans. Instead, Mussolini was in charge. Mussolini, in addition to being Prime Minister, was also Minster of War (Army), Navy, Air Forces, and later "Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces". The Stato Maggiore Generale (Supreme General Staff) was seven advisors to Mussolini which he freely ignored.

Despite dire warnings that their military was not prepared, Mussolini focused on his Mediterranean ambitions with a sluggish invasion of Egypt only to be sent into full retreat a few months later.

It wasn't until June 1941 that the ministries were unified into Comando Supremo (High Command).

  • Thank you. For this, "In contrast, the Regia Aeronautica (Royal Air Force) and particularly the Regia Marina (Royal Navy) were well equipped and gave the British no end of trouble in the Mediterranean.", When El Duche declared war, would or should Italy have first attacked and occupied Malta? If yes why, if not why not. It would be an interesting question on history stackexchange
    – Kav
    Apr 29 at 7:02
  • @Kav Yes, and you should ask it. Link it in a comment here when you do. And you should clarify what you're asking in this question.
    – Schwern
    Apr 29 at 17:24

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