|Manufacturer:||Iveco - Oto Melara Consortium - CIO|
|Product type:||Armoured Vehicles|
In the 1980s, the Italian Army drew up its requirements for a complete new family of tracked and wheeled armoured fighting vehicles to meet its future requirements for the 1990s.
Four vehicles have been developed, the Centauro (8 x 8) tank destroyer, the Ariete MBT, the Dardo HITFIST infantry fighting vehicle and the Puma 4x4 and 6x6 family of multirole light armoured vehicles.
These four vehicles have been developed by the Consortium IVECO - Otobreda based in Rome with IVECO at Bolzano being responsible for the wheeled vehicles and the power packs of all the vehicles and Otobreda at La Spezia for the tracked vehicles and the armament of all the vehicles. The Otobreda Division, Alenia Difesa, also markets this turret for other applications.
Early in 1984, the Italian Army formulated its requirements for a new highly mobile wheeled tank destroyer that was required to have a standard NATO 105 mm rifled tank gun.
It was also required to have high road speed for strategic mobility, long range, good cross-country mobility and a computerised fire-control system which would share many common components with those being developed by Officine Galileo for the Ariete MBT.
The first complete prototype was finished in January
1987 with the second following in mid-1987 and, by December, four complete vehicles were involved in the trials programme. Prototypes 5 to 9 were completed in
1988 and, in addition, a ballistic hull was built.
The prototypes were followed by a preproduction batch of 10 vehicles which were completed from late 1989.
Production of the Centauro commenced late in 1990 with first production vehicles being completed in 1991. The original Italian Army requirement was for a total of 450 Centauro vehicles but this was subsequently cut to 400.
Production Centauro vehicles differ from the prototypes in a number of key areas including improved stowage, a modified turret rear, a door in the hull rear rather than a ramp, improved layout for the crew positions and improvements to the weapon system.
Within IVECO, the Defence Vehicles Division in Bolzano in northern Italy is responsible for the Centauro. IVECO assembles the complete power pack (engine, transmission and cooling system) not only for the Centauro, but also for the Ariete, Dardo HITFIST and Puma.
So far no exports of the Centauro have been confirmed although a contract with Spain is expected to be signed in the near future.
Late in 1992, eight Centauro (8 x 8) 105 mm armed tank destroyers were deployed to Somalia and during the first four months these averaged 8,400 km without any serious problems.
In 1993, following an international competition, Royal Ordnance of the UK designed, developed and built 20 ROMOR-A explosive reactive armour packages for the Centauro vehicles to increase their battlefield survivability against penetration from anti-tank weapons fitted with a High Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) warhead. Ten kits were supplied direct to Italy with the other 10 being supplied direct to Somalia where they were installed on the vehicles.
In addition, Consortium IVECO - Otobreda has developed a new passive armour package for the Centauro to improve its survivability against small arms fire. This armour package is fitted to the hull and turret.
Final deliveries of the Centauro (8 x 8) vehicle were made to the Italian Army late in 1996. Marketing of this vehicle is still being carried out.
The hull and turret of the Centauro are of all-welded steel armour construction which provides the crew with protection from small arms fire and shell splinters. Over the frontal arc, protection is provided against penetration from 20 mm projectiles and against 12.7 mm attack all round.
The driver is seated at the front of the hull offset to the left with the power pack to his right and separated from the remainder of the vehicle by a fireproof bulkhead. He is provided with an adjustable seat, a single-piece hatch cover that opens to the left and three periscopes for forward observation, the centre one of which can be replaced by an MES VG/DIL passive periscope for night driving.
The turret is mounted on the roof of the hull slightly to the rear of the vehicle's centreline, with the commander on the left, gunner on the right and loader forward and below the gunner.
The commander is provided with four periscopes to give observation to the front, sides and rear. The stabilised day sight is mounted forward of the commander's hatch and gives full 360° observation without head movement.
The gunner leaves the vehicle via the loader's single-piece hatch that opens to the rear with five periscopes being provided in the right side of the turret roof for use by the gunner and loader.
The turret of the Centauro is the complete responsibility of Otobreda at La Spezia and is delivered fully integrated and tested and ready for installation on the chassis.
Main armament comprises an Otobreda-designed 105 mm 52 calibre rifled gun with a long recoil system that fires standard NATO tank ammunition as used in the L7 and M68 guns, including APFSDS. The weapon has a vertical sliding breech mechanism that remains open after the empty cartridge case has been ejected and is fitted with a multi-slotted muzzle brake, a thermal sleeve with an integral fume extractor and a muzzle reference system. The ordnance is autofrettaged and has a maximum recoil of 750 mm.
There are 40 rounds of 105 mm ammunition carried, 14 of which are in the turret and the remainder in the hull. A 7.62 mm MG 42/59 machine gun is mounted coaxially to the left of the main armament with a similar weapon being mounted on the turret roof for antiaircraft defence. Mounted either side of the turret is a bank of four electrically operated 76 mm smoke grenade dischargers which fire over the frontal arc of the vehicle.
Turret traverse and weapon elevation are electrohydraulic with manual controls for emergency use with elevation being from -6 to +15°, slightly less than MBTs because of the low turret profile. The centre of the turret roof is raised along the axis of the gun to allow the weapon to have a depression of -6°.
The Centauro is fitted with the same Officine Galileo TURMS fire-control system installed in the Ariete MBT.
Main components of the TURMS (Tank Universal Reconfigurable Modular fire-control System) are the commander's stabilised panoramic day sight, stabilised periscopic day/night laser sight for the gunner, digital ballistic computer, sensors, muzzle reference system and commander's, gunner's and loader's display panels.
The commander's stabilised panoramic sight has magnifications of x 2.5 and x 10 and for night vision the thermal image from the gunner's sight is displayed at the commander's station on a separate TV monitor. Traverse is a full 360° with elevation from -10 to +60°.
The gunner's roof-mounted sight integrates the four main modules (the primary stabilised head mirror, visual unit, laser transceiver and thermal image unit) in a single housing. The daylight ( x 5 magnification) and thermal night vision sights with two fields of view, wide and narrow, are all routed via the common head mirror.
The ballistic digital computer performs all the fire computations, controls and manages the operation of all ballistic units (optical sight, laser range-finder and servos) as well as the sensors, BITE (Built-in Test Equipment) and training. It also permits the reconfiguration of system operation from the normal level to back-up modes in case of partial failures.
The three key sensors are meteorological, vehicle attitude and gun wear.
The gunner also has an Officine Galileo OG C-102 coaxial telescope with a magnification of x 8 and three aiming graticules which are selectable manually.
Although the main armament is stabilised, the Italian Army would normally come to the halt to open fire.
The Centauro is powered by an IVECO MTCA V-6 turbocharged diesel developing 520 hp at 2,300 rpm which, with a combat weight of 25 tonnes, gives a good power-to-weight ratio of 20.8 hp/t.
The engine is coupled to a German ZF 5 HP 1500 fully automatic transmission with five forward and two reverse gears which in turn provides power to a ZF transfer case. The ZF transmission and transfer case are manufactured under licence in Bolzano. The complete Centauro power pack can be replaced in 20 minutes.
From the transmission, power goes to the differential which distributes power to either side of the vehicle via a propeller shaft. Each of the latter then engages a series of shafts and conic couplings (one for each wheel).
Suspension is of the hydropneumatic type with powered steering on the front four and last two roadwheels, with the latter only operating at speeds of under 20 km/h.
A central tyre-pressure regulation system is fitted as" standard which allows the driver to adjust the tyre pressure to suit the ground being crossed while the vehicle is still moving. The tyres are of the run-flat type.
If a tracked vehicle runs over a mine it is usually immobilised and a repair team has to be brought forward to replace the damaged suspension components, or the vehicle is returned to the rear. If a wheeled vehicle such as the (8 x 8) Centauro runs over a mine a roadwheel is normally blown off but it still retains some mobility. According to IVECO the Centauro can remain mobile with two of its eight wheels blown off.
Mounted in the turret bustle is the Sekur NBC system which is of a similar design to that installed in the Ariete MBT and is of the overpressure type. An integrated air conditioning system is installed allowing the crew to operate the vehicle with the outside temperature ranging from -30 to +44°C.
Standard equipment includes a front-mounted winch, a fire detection and suppression system for the engine compartment and afire and explosion detection and suppression system for the crew compartment. A winch is located in the forward part of the hull.
A roof-mounted laser warning device may also be installed to warn the crew of any laser range-finders or weapons.
The standard production Centauro vehicles weigh 24 tonnes combat ready, but additional armour protection could be provided for improved battlefield survivability and in this case maximum combat weight could rise to 28 tonnes.
Standard Italian Army Centauro vehicles have a computerised day/night control system developed by Officine Galileo, but a more austere fire-control system is now being considered for the export market to reduce the overall cost of the vehicle.
- IFOR vehicles
The Italian Army deployed a number of IVECO -Otobreda Centauro (8 x 8) tank destroyers to Bosnia as part of IFOR (Peace Implementation Force) and these were fitted with the passive armour package as shown in some of the illustrations.
In addition, roof-mounted 7.62 mm machine guns with shields for added protection from-small arms fire, were supplied to the right and left respectively of the commander's and loader's hatch covers.
Centauro with close defence section Of the total 400 Centauro vehicles delivered to the Italian Army, the last batch of 150 vehicles have the capability of carrying a close defence section of four men and using the rear door.
These vehicles were delivered to the Italian Army with four seats which are part of the Centauro kit of tools and accessories. These seats are installed at unit level as required after the removal of the two rearmost ammunition racks. When fitted with these seats this version of the Centauro carries a total of 16 rounds of 105 mm ammunition of which 14 are in the turret and two in the hull.
The area for the section of four men carried is fitted with spall liners while the NBC air conditioning system is slightly modified to provide purified air to the increased crew.
- Centauro with 60 mm turret
It has been proposed that the Centauro could be fitted with the new Otobreda OTO T60/70A turret armed with a 60 mm gun. Details of this turret are given in the entry for the Italian Dardo HITFIST ICV covered under Italy in the Armoured personnel carriers (tracked) section.
- Centauro VBC APC
This is a Centauro with its three-man turret removed and fitted with a two-man power-operated turret armed with a 25 mm gun and 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun. It was first shown in public in 1996. Full details are given in the Armoured personnel carriers (wheeled) section.
- Recovery vehicle
This is currently being studied.
- NBC reconnaissance
- Air defence
Gun and missile air defence versions have been proposed.
- Armoured bridgelayer
- 155 mm self-propelled gun
Under a programme funded by the Italian Army, one of the prototypes of the Centauro has been rebuilt as a testbed for a 155 mm self-propelled artillery system with the elevating mass and ordnance being provided by the Italian Army. It is not expected that production systems will use the Centauro (8 x 8) chassis on cost grounds. It is expected that an 8 x 8 truck chassis will be used.
Production complete. In service with Italian Army (400 vehicles).