The CV 33-35 / L 3 tankette
Italy’s Reluctant Tankette… the AFV they had, not the AFV they needed…
Volumes have been written, and too many jokes told, about how unprepared Italy was for World War 2. We don’t need to rehash that here, but we can quickly review how a small interwar training tankette became the mainstay Italian armoured vehicle, seeing service with Italian troops in Spain, North and East Africa, Greece, the Balkans, the East Front, and later mainland Italy itself. As well, while it wasn’t a battlefield success, its small size and low cost made it an export hit, and it saw service in militaries across the globe in the 1930s and early WW2.
The CV33 was developed in the late 1920s as Italy sought to increase its military capacity. The appeal of a light tankette machine gun carrier was based on the Italian experience in the Great War, as it was then known. The narrow mountain passes that Italy shared with the Austrians had been the scene of savage fighting in that war, and a large tank or a wheeled AFV would not be able to deal with the terrain. A narrow, light tankette could. As well, it was a simple and inexpensive design. The Italian army was a poor cousin to the Navy in funding, and the low cost mattered.
The tiny tankette – it weighed just over 3 tons and stood just over 4’ high – was designed based on the Carden Loyd tankette designs, of which Italy had acquired from Britain in the late 1920s. This transfer of military technology isn’t was odd at hindsight would indicate, as Italy had been allied with Britain in the Great War and, fascism aside, was still seen as part of an alliance with France and Britain.
The CV 33 model was a great export success, as it not only adopted by the Italian army but was sold to many countries, including Brazil, Venezuela, Bolivia, Iraq, China, Bulgaria, Austria, Albania (ironically, since Italy later invaded that country) and by the Nationalists in the Spanish Civil War. A slightly modified version – the CV 35 – was introduced in 1936 and was used alongside the earlier CV-33 model. The main difference was the CV-35 had bolted as opposed to the riveted armour of the CV-33.
The later CV-35 model was exported to Hungary and other Axis allies.
Italy used these vehicles with its own troops in the 1935 invasion of Abyssinia, in the Spanish Civil War (Italy had a full Corps fighting on the side of the fascists) and in the 1939 occupation of Albania.
The CV33 was the most numerous Italian armored vehicle at the time Italy declared war in June 1940 and commenced fighting against the French in South East France and against the British on the Libyan – Egyptian border. The CV 33 was immediately found to be lacking in every capacity – armour protection, armament, crew comfort and communication, as its small size made radio installation a non-starter for all but some command versions.
None the less, necessity lead to its continued front-line use in the in the Italian invasion of Greece, in Italian contribution to Operation Barbarossa, and right up until the Italian armistice in the summer of 1943. German and other Axis armies continued to employ it until the end of the war, most often in anti-partisan actions.
The initial armament of the CV-33 was a single MMG, but later models had dual MMGS in the forward-facing mount.
To combat the lack of any anti-tank capacity, some models were converted to carry the 20mm Solothurn Anti-Tank rifle.
An interesting variant was the Lanciaflamme, a flame throwing version which featured a towed wheeled trailer of flame fuel. This was first used in the Spanish Civil War and continued in use throughout WW2.
I started with the Bergman 1-100th scale .stl, and did the following
- Upsized it to 1/56th – 28mm scale
- Sliced the tracks off into separate files and created a fitting notch for them
- Removed the weapons (MMGs, ATR, FT) and made them into separate files that fit into a recess in the hull front
- Reworked the flame trailer into a package of separate files; the trailer, which fits with a plug into the rear of the CV-33 hull, and separate wheels for the trailer.
Printing should be done, on an FDM printer, at 0.1mm layers, with supports.
There are two hulls, one for the standard model and one for the flame throwing model.
I chose to just make one model; while Bergman has a separate series of models for the CV-33 and CV-35, but the bolt protrusions he has for the CV-35 are just too large when upscaled to 1-56th scale. When you look at photographs, the visual difference between the CV-33 and CV-35 is minimal. On a game table even a rivet counter will not be able to differentiate what model this print is.
Please note I did not both to do a single MMG mount for this vehicle. I figure if you are going to play this AFV, you would certainly pony up the extra 10 points for the two MMG variant.
Use the CV-33 / CV-35 in Bolt Action
The Bolt Action rules offer this tankette in several armies- Italian, Chinese, Hungarian, Bulgarian, Greek and others. It is lightly armoured – 7+ armour – but is closed top. It has no turret so can only fire to its frontal arc. A single MMG model is 60 points as a regular, 70 points for the dual MMG option. Switching out the MMG armament for an ATR will result in a 65-point total cost. The fun one is the Flame thrower, which costs 95 points but includes a coaxial MMG. That is one of the most inexpensive closed top armoured flame throwing AFVs in the game. The coaxial MMG ensure that even if you roll a “1” on the fuel roll you still have a fighting vehicle on the table.
The model is available here for a free download, with the normal licensing restrictions.