Semovente 90/53 Self-Propelled Battery

Semovente 90/53 Self-Propelled Battery

Semovente 90/53 Self-Propelled Battery
with Adam Brooker
One of the more interesting vehicles fielded by the Italians was the Semovente 90/53 self-propelled gun. Given the success the German 88 anti-aircraft gun had against Allied armour in the desert, the Italians had a similar weapon, the 90 mm Cannone da 90/53 anti-aircraft gun, which they thought could be used to provide a very powerful mobile anti tank weapon.

The Italians learned about modern warfare the hard way in 1940. Now they are back, showing the world what the Italian soldier can do. Fighting under the famous ‘Desert Fox’, General Rommel, they form a crucial part of the Italian-German Panzer Army. Tough, determined, skilled, and aggressive veterans, the Italians broke through the British Gazala Line to save the trapped German Afrika Korps, held the line at El Alamein, and opened the way at Kasserine Pass, before holding up the American offensive at El Guettar. Fight or die for the new Roman Empire!

Click here to find out more about Avanti...

Avanti: Italian Forces In North Africa 1942-43 

Brief History
This weapon was created in response to the superior Soviet tanks that the Italians were facing on the Eastern Front, eg. the T-34 and KV-1, where the only armour they had available was the light L6/40 tank and the Semovente 47/32 self-propelled gun. Both of these vehicles were wholly insufficient in both terms of both armour and firepower to combat the heavier and more powerful Soviet armour.

The Semovente 90/53 was created by mounting the 90 mm Cannone da 90/53 anti-aircraft gun on top of an enlarged chassis of a M14/41 tank. Only 30 of these vehicles were ever produced, all in 1942. These low production numbers were due to Italy's limited industrial capability at the time, as well as high demand for the 90 mm gun for regular anti-aircraft duties.

Semovente 90/53 Self-Propelled Battery

The choice of the M14/41 chassis while not ideal, was the best they could do at the time.The guns weight and size meant that a revolving turret was out of the question, and mounting the gun in the middle would have been impossible due to stability problems. For balance and weight distribution reasons, the gun was mounted at the rear of the chassis, without its carriage, but retaining a fixed 40 mm (1.57 in) thick gun shield. The chassis was also lowered at the rear to allow the gunners to operate the gun more easily, and the bogies were moved to the rear, in accordance to the new weight distribution. The engine was moved to the centre, with the driver in front, separated from the rest of the crew.

The gun itself, the Cannone da 90/53 modello 1939, with a 53 caliber long barrel, was the best the Italian industry could offer at the time. It was built by Ansaldo, with 539 units being delivered from June 1939 up to the Italian capitulation in November 1943. It had rapid-fire capabilities (19 RPM), a muzzle velocity of 830 m/s (2,723 ft/s), a maximum ceiling of 12,000 m (39,370 ft) and indirect range of 17 km (57,000 ft). In direct fire, it was effective against targets at up to 2500 meters, with AP rounds, which could penetrate 62 mm (2.44 in) of armour at a range of 2,000 meters and 109mm (4.29 in) of armour at ranges of 500m. This gun had already been used in a dual role in North Africa, mounted on Lancia trucks, but on the Eastern Front a tracked vehicle was needed.

Semovente 90/53 Self-Propelled Battery

But given the inadequate M14/41 chassis, there were drawbacks, it was slow and overloaded, the small gun shield did not offer full protection to the crew at the rear of the vehicle, and as it was open topped, it was especially vulnerable to shrapnel and artillery fire. To counter this it was intended to be used at long ranges, where these drawbacks would be minimised. The lack of space also meant that only 6 rounds of ammunition were carried onboard. The rest was carried by a converted turretless L6/40 ammunition carrier, which followed each Semovente 90/53. Each converted L6/40 carried 26 rounds of ammunition, plus an additional 40 rounds in a towed trailer.

With the situation worsening in Russia, they were never deployed there, and were intended to be sent to North Africa. Instead were fielded in Sicily to help defend against the Allied Invasion of Sicily (Operation Husky) in 1943.24 Semovente 90/53 were deployed to the 10° RaggruppamnetoSemoventi, where they were fielded in three groups of 8 vehicles, CLXI, CLXII, & CLXIII.  They fought to destruction in Sicily and the 4 remaining were assigned to the 15thPanzergrenadierDivison on the 17th of July 1943. By the 6th of August there were3 running which was also their last recorded action. Two vehicles made it to Messina, but a lack of barges left them stranded. This is where the one remaining example of this vehicle in Fort Sill (USA) was captured.

The other 6 vehicles produced, were captured by the Germans after the Italian capitulation in September 1943. But given the mountainous terrain they were fighting in, they were often used as long range artillery, rather than their intended anti tank role.

Making a Unit Card
So to field these mobile Italian 90mm monsters,we need to see how their stats will carry over into V4.Their 40mm of angled armour in the gun shield provides them with a decent Front Armour of 4, but they still have a side/rear and top armour of 0. As it is a self propelled gun and a top armour of 0 this also gives additional disadvantages in assault and counter-attack which is why both values are 6. As it was overloaded and slow the tactical movement will be low, so 4”, but has a decent cross check value as it is tracked (4+).

Semovente 90/53 Self-Propelled Battery Semovente 90/53 Self-Propelled Battery

As far as firepower, it would have the same 90mm gun as the Lancia, but as it is a self-propelled gun with no turret, it would have the Forward Firing rule, and also slow firing due to its awkward gun layout.

In terms of crew, you would use a similar crew to the other Semovente in Avanti, but these are no seasoned desert veterans so your To Hit On is 3+, Skill 4+ and Motivation is the is 3+. If you are lucky and roll an elite crew, their Skill can increase to 3+.  But your Counter-attack 6+ and Remount 3+ are slightly worse, as the Semovente 90/53 is an open-topped Self-Propelled Gun and lacked the Protected Ammo that the other Semovente 75/18 had.

To use this unit card in your Avanti force, you would substitute the Semovente 90/53 for the 90mm Lancia Anti-tank Battery in your Formation Support slots. As they are essentially the same weapon but in reality they are units would use either one or the other depending on what they were facing.

These Semovente are excellent against medium to heavy armour, but their AT 14 guns will be wasted on anything smaller. They do have a decent chance of passing a skill or tactics roll, especially if Elite, so they may be able to Blitz to reposition and still have full rate of fire. Their main threat will be from infantry and artillery, so you will need to consider your deployment to reduce this, or keep a unit of infantry or light tanks/armoured cars to help protect them from infantry assault.

But for me the best thing about these vehicles is how cool they look and the additional flavour they add to your Italian Force! (Also AT 14 is great!!) I will definitely have at least 4 of these in my Avanti. Well keep living the Semovente Vita!

Download the pdf files for the cards here:

Semovente 90/53 Self-Propelled Battery (PDF)...

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