MANUFACTURER(S): FIAT - Italy
OPERATORS: Kingdom of Italy
Detailing the development and operational history of the FIAT 2000 Prototype Heavy Tank Tracked Combat Vehicle.
Entry last updated on 3/27/2018.
Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com.
Compared to other national powers in the world, Italy was late in adopting a capable armored force. When the nation committed to World War 1 in 1915 on the side of the Allies, the battleground for its military was established in the northern mountainous border territories which were largely unsuitable for any manner of vehicle. Regardless, the Italians finally came to realize the value the armored vehicle and requested an evaluation sample from the French in 1916. This arrived in the form of the Schneider CA1, a slow (5mph), 6-crew, twin-machine gun offering developed atop tractor running gear and ultimately produced across 400 total examples. It was the British that truly led the way in development of tanks concerning World War 1 with their legendary lozenge-shaped hulls and machine gun/cannon armament fitted to side sponsons.
The Italians tested their single Schneider into 1917 and engineers began collecting data and the military began forging its specific set of requirements for fighting on the Italian Front against the forces of Germany and Austria-Hungary. The local concern of FIAT began design and development of an in-house tracked vehicle in what would become the modest beginnings of the indigenous Italian tank industry which would prove important for events leading up to World War 2 (1939-1945).
FIAT produced a gangly, awkward-looking system that was more mobile pillbox than effective combat tank. The design came to be known under the designation of "FIAT 2000" and was generally considered a heavy tank (40 tons) design for the period. The design included a high-profile fixed superstructure with slightly sloped upper panels and broad side skirt armor over the tracks. The tracks were narrow which proved a detriment to cross country travel ad general weight distribution. The superstructure was capped by a dome-like traversing turret housing a 65mm field gun. Defense was through 7 x 6.5mm machine guns mounted about the hull panels. The vehicle was crewed by no fewer than 10 specialists and was protected in armor that ranged from 15mm to 20mm. Propulsion was through a FIAT Aviazone A12 series engine of 240 horsepower which allowed for a top road speed (over ideal even solid terrain) of 4.3 miles per hour. Dimensions included a length of 24 feet, 3 inches, a width of 10 feet, 2 inches and an overall height of 12 feet, 10 inches.
FIAT 2000 (Cont'd)
Prototype Heavy Tank Tracked Combat Vehicle
It bears mention that this point that the combat tank was still essentially regarded and utilized as an "armored fighting vehicle" (AFV) intended to support infantry actions and break through the defenses that created the stagnate fronts of trench warfare across Europe. By definitive, this made the vehicles more akin to "infantry support tanks" - they were slow due and could barely keep pace with walking troops and were lost to cavalry advances altogether. The availability of suitable powerplants also played a key role in their limited design approach - many stemming from existing heavy industry engines. Track systems were usually born of existing farm tractor designs so few components of World War 1 tanks were actually born as "all-new" developments. The end-products, therefore, were slow, ponderous and generally ineffective direct combat systems - which is what the limited FIAT 2000 proved to be.
The FIAT endeavor was honorable though considered by Italian authorities as far too different from what was actually needed in mountain warfare. It was dimensionally too large to cross through the narrow mountain passes being presented and much too heavy to clear Italian countryside bridges. The uneven terrain of the northern region also negated the FIAT 2000 from ever being used in combat during The Great War - this resulted in only two of the type ever being produced throughout 1918 and neither going on to see combat of any kind. World War 1 ended in an armistice during November of that year.
Before the end of the war, however, the Italians received a working example of another French tank design - the Renault FT-17 - a 6-ton light tank with a two-man crew and traversing turret housing the primary armament. It would be this particular vehicle development that would influence Italian tank design into the next decade and beyond for its qualities were more in line with the developing Italian tank doctrine - a small, light-class mobile system. The type was utilized extensively in the post-war years by other major powers including the Americans and Russians and lay the foundation for many designs to follow (the American Expeditionary Force operated the FT-17 in battle as the "M1917" during World War 1). Ironically, the lozenge-shaped British tank approach was ultimately abandoned in favor of turret-minded mobile systems instead - light tanks beginning to take center stage in the years leading up to World War 2. It seems that the French, despite their early forgettable attempts at a fighting tank, had revolutionized warfare once again.