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Synopsis

Several factors delayed and greatly hampered the development of an Italian medium tank during World War II. The first was the strategic stance of the country, focussed on a war against neighbouring countries such as France and Yugoslavia, and ill-prepared for a war in the Western Desert. Since these European countries bordered with Italy in mountainous areas, light tanks were preferred as these were deemed much more suitable for the narrow roads and bridges of the Alps. Furthermore, development was hampered by the limited number of Italian industries, whose production was also heavily fragmented. All these factors delayed the development of the first prototype of an Italian medium tank – the M 11 – which would only appear in 1937 and did not enter production until 1939. Although technically inferior to their German and Allied counterparts in 1941–43, the Italian M tanks proved to be quite effective when used by experienced crews with adequate combat tactics. In fact, their major shortcoming actually proved to be their limited production figures. While production was limited, innovation was not and, between 1941 and 1943, several experiments were carried out on the Italian tanks that produced interesting prototypes such as the anti-aircraft semovente.

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