An AS.42 desert patrol vehicle of the Auto-Saharan Company
|Place of origin||Italy|
|Used by||Royal Italian Army|
|Wars||World War II|
|Weight||4,500 kg (9,900 lb)|
|Length||5.620 m (18 ft 5.3 in)|
|Width||2.260 m (7 ft 5.0 in)|
|Height||1.800 m (5 ft 10.9 in)|
|Engine||4,995 cc 6-cylinder petrol|
|Transmission||6 forward 1 reverse|
|300 km, with spare cans 1500 km|
|Speed||84 km/h (52 mph)|
The SPA-Viberti AS.42 Sahariana was an Italian reconnaissance car of World War II. The AS 42 Sahariana was developed by SPA-Viberti using the same chassis as the AB 41 armoured car, including its four-wheel steering, but with a 2x4 transmission specifically for desert operations, primarily in a reconnaissance role. Its origins trace back to requests stemming from units operating on the North African Front for a long range, highly manoeuvrable vehicle, similar to those widely used by the highly successful British reconnaissance forces, the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG).
The Camionetta Desertica AS.42 Sahariana was a 4x2 unarmoured vehicle with a boat hull based on the chassis of the AB 41 armoured car, but with a 2x4 transmission. The 100 Horse Power SPA ABM 3 6 cylinder petrol engine was located in the rear which gave enough space in the middle of the hull to accommodate up to five fully equipped men and weapons, though the mission crew seldom exceeded three or four. The open compartment's only overhead protection was a waterproof canvas sheet. Besides the driver’s seat, the crew that served the on board weapons were seated on four folding seats on the sides. The AS 42 had internal fuel tanks of 145 liters with an additional 20 jerrycans externally mounted on both sides between the wheels plus 4 on the front fenders, holding a total of 80 liters of water and 400 liters of fuel. A full fuel tank and the additional fuel canisters allowed a maximum range of 1,500 km (930 mi).
A second model, called Camionetta II or Metropolitana, entered service in Italy in 1943. It differed from the first model by the absence of the two upper side rows of gasoline jerrycans, replaced by two large caissons for ammunition, and the presence of a canvas top. In addition, this version was fitted with new Pirelli Artiglio tires adapted to mud and snow of the mainland, unlike the previous Pirelli Tipo Libia or Superflex sand tires.
Various armament combinations were used, which included:
- one or two 8 mm Breda model 37 machine-gun
- 20 mm Breda model 35 gun
- 20 mm Solothurn S18/1000 anti-tank rifle
- 47 mm Breda 47/32 gun
The AS 42 Sahariana's performance was very good. From September to November 1942, the first batch of 14 vehicles was delivered to the Regio Esercito. The unit that gave the AS 42 its baptism of fire in November of 1942 was the “Raggruppamento Sahariano AS” (Africa Settentrionale, North Africa). The good results achieved by the “Raggruppamento Sahariano AS” quickly led to the formation of at least four more “Compagnia Arditi Camionettisti”: the 103rd, 112th, 113th, and 123rd.
The “Sahariana” was completely dedicated to desert raiding parties operating against the LRDG. Its low-profile allowed it to hide behind the dunes and wait for the arrival of the enemy unseen, and its great autonomy allowed it to chase enemy forces for long periods. Entering service in December 1942, the AS.42 participated in the final stages of the African campaign of Libya and the whole campaign of Tunisia, mainly assigned to aviation companies of the Auto-Saharan Company and the 103rd Battalion.
Surviving vehicles were later used by the 2nd Battalion of the 10th Regiment in the defence of Sicily and southern Italy. The same unit and the Motorized Assault Battalion employed the “Sahariana” and “Metropolitana” models in the defence of Rome on 8 September 1943. After that, a few Sahariana stayed in Northern Italy with Mussolini’s Italian Social Republic. Seven vehicles fought on the Eastern Front in the ranks of the 2. Fallschirmjäger Division. They soldiered throughout 1944 and 1945 as reconnaissance vehicles on the Eastern Front, in France, Belgium and the Netherlands. Some of the vehicles were recovered and used by the Free Italian Battalion “Barbarigo” Xª MAS Flotilla. The end of the war didn't mean the end of the AS 42’s service, as a dozen of these vehicles were supplied to the Italian Police, and, painted cherry red, were integrated into the ranks of the Department Celeri and Departments of Public Security, seeing service until 1954. The AS 42 was fast and dependable, but nevertheless complicated to build.
- Vanderveen, beard: The Observer's Fighting Vehicles directory (World War II)