Italian tankettes

Published on 21 March 2021 at 20:50

Recording of the Italian army manoeuvres in Rome, Italy, 1936.

Italian manoeuvres of war

Held in 1936 the tank demonstration was part of the almost yearly army manoeuvres held under Benito Mussolini to show-of the Italian army to the world and more importantly the Italian people. This year's army manoeuvres were particularly special as they revealed their newest tank the L3-Lf a flamethrower variant of their tankettes. The 1937 edition of the magazine of POPULAR MECHANICS described them as:

POPULAR MECHANICS article click to enlarge

''This modern tank ..... Preforms its destructive job in an awe-inspiring manner'' - POPULAR MECHANICS

The tankettes

Most Italian tanks throughout the war were based on the British Carden Loyd tankette produced as the L3/33 or CV-33 in Italy. Now with hindsight, we can tell that these tanks would not stand up to even the early war tanks from other nations. But that was not their purpose as when the armour wing of the Italian army started domestic production in the 1920s the weak Italian industry could not support complex and big tanks nor were they practical in the Italian mountainside. 

British Carden Loyd Mark IV tankette.

One of the advantages of the tankettes was manoeuvrability and speed.


L3/33 CV-33

The L3/33 was the domestically produced variant of the Carden Loyd Mark IV crewed by two man which were protected by 12 mm of welded armour and armed with a single 6.5 mm machine gun. The L3/33 saw action in China, Spain, France, the Balkans, North Africa, Italian East Africa, Italy, and Russia.

L3/33(CV-33)s moving down a hill


The L3-Lf or Flame tank was a variant of the L3 placing a flamethrower nozzle and machinegun combination in the armament port. the flame fuel was carried in an armoured trailer behind the tankette later versions would have the fuel on top of the engine compartment the flamethrower had a max range of 40-100 m (130-330 ft). The L3 Lf saw action in the Second Italo–Abyssinian War, China, Spain, France, Russia, the Balkans, Italian Africa.

L3-Lfs most likely during an demonstration

L3/35 CV-35

The L3/35 was a slightly improved version of the L3/33 mainly changing the armour scheme from welded to bolted and replacing the 6.5 mm machine gun with twin 8 mm machine guns. Many older L3/33s were converted to L3/35s a later model the L3/38 would make additional changes and replaced the twin 8mm with a single 13.2 mm machinegun.

A L3/35 CV-35 as seen by the dual machinegun setup

Other variants

Based on the L3 model there were others such as the L3 cc an anti-tank variant, The L3 Centro Radio a command version, The L3 Passerella a bridge layer version as seen in the demonstrations of 1936 (video above). Experimental versions included an L3/33 version that would be attached to a plane for aerial deployment, the Carro Veloce Recupero an experimental recovery vehicle. And there are a lot more some of which can be seen in the video below!

Recordings of the Italian army reviewing and demonstrating their tankettes ability in the Italian countryside.

Their performance and use

The tankettes saw action everywhere the Italians fought. Having the spotlight in the Second Italo-Abyssinian War and the Spanish Civil War notably in Battle of Guadalajara. Were their performance was poor against the mass infantry assaults in Abyssinia and the Soviet tanks of the republican army in Spain. After the end of the Spanish civil war in 1939, the tankettes were mostly retired from frontline service. Many were given to smaller Axis states and gendarmeries. But like many such outdated tanks near the end of the war, they were used again in mostly desperate defences. for example 10 were used in the defence of Budapest.

L3/35s led by an L3-Lf heading towards the Battle of Guadalajara.

Surviving examples

At least five survived to this day with a flamethrower version on display at The Tank Museum in Bovington.

The L3-Lf flame tank displayed at the Bovington Tank Museum.

A L3/35 displayed in South Africa.


Would you crew one of these tankettes?

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Thank You for reading!

Thank you for reading my article, I would never enter one of these especially the L3-Lf version that has the FUEL TANK ON TOP OF THE ENGINE which just baffles me since the armour couldn't stop anything even remotely anti-tank related. In the future, I will create an article about the battle of Guadalajara and the Italians in Abyssinia in case that interests you sign up for our email list to receive updates and notifications (there is a pop up if you reach the bottom and to the right if you scroll up a bit). But I hope you enjoyed this piece if you did you can let me know by rating the article or commenting your thoughts!

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