Centauro (Family)

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Description

The Centauro is an Italian wheeled tank destroyer put into service in 1992. It served in the Italian armed forces as well as in other armies. Its most modern variants still are in active duty in many armies around the world.

Vehicles

Rank VI

Rank VII

History

The Origins

The Centauro is an Italian wheeled tank destroyer put into service in 1992. It served in the Italian armed forces as well as in other armies. Its most modern variants still are in active duty in many armies around the world. The story of the B1 Centauro would begin during the late stages of the cold war, OTO Melara assisted by Iveco and Fiat would begin to design a new vehicle for the Italian army. They'd closely follow the set of requirements issued, which was for a new vehicle that would have equivalent firepower to the Leopard 1 MBT in Italian service at the time but with greater combat mobility and the ability to reach greater points of strategic control. In response to this, the Italian companies known as Fiat, Iveco and Oto Melara would have joined forces in a 3-way consortium to begin developing the new vehicle requested by the Italian Army. In this joint venture, Fiat and Iveco would develop the vehicle's hull and power supply, whilst Oto Melara took care of the vehicle's turret, optics and weapon systems. The vehicle would need to be light enough to be used for recon but also to allow the installation of the turret to not drag the vehicle down. Due to this the Centauro wouldn't be heavily armoured so it did pose a danger to the crew if they were to be hit by an enemy tank. Thankfully what it lacked in protection, meant it excelled in speed. The B1 Centauro was easily able to reach the speed of up to 105km per hour on road. Due to this feat the vehicle became quite sought after by many countries. In terms of armament the B1 Centauro featured a 105mm cannon made by OTO Melara which was able to fire a multitude of NATO standard munitions, such as APDS, HEAT, HESH and APFSDS. In 1986, the final prototype of the B1 Centauro project was unveiled in Sardinia. Impressed by the B1 Centauro, the Italian Military placed orders for a number of vehicles, going in production in 1991 with the first ones entering service as early as 1992. B1 Centauros would take part in most major conflicts that defined the '90s and early 2000s, most notably in former Yugoslavia, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan and others.

Modifications

Oto Melara would keep upgrading the vehicle during the cold war, to allow it to fit more roles and perhaps allow the vehicle to be picked up by other nations. One of the more well-known modifications would be the Centauro MGS, also known as the B1 Centauro 120. This B1 Centauro would have an entirely new turret applied to it. This new turret would be known as the "HITFACT 105-120 mm (LOW RECOIL FORCE TURRET)", the turret had almost the same weight as the original 105 mm turret of the B1 Centauro series (1/2/3), but with an increase in ballistic protection. The new cannon replaced the standard 105 mm cannon with an Italian-made 120 mm one (this brought the firepower on par with the majority of MBTs). This 120mm wouldn't be the 120/44 installed on the C1 Ariete, but a new 120/45 which a simlar version would later go unto be installed on the B2 Centauro. The Centauro 120 would feature an improved FCS, which included a gunner's self-stabilized day and night IR thermal camera periscope, with an integral eye-safe laser rangefinder. On the turret of there was also numerous periscopes positioned at 360°, which could've be used by both the gunner and the commander. The Centauro 120 was also capable of firing all NATO standard 120 mm munitions, and has shown it could fire rounds such as DM11, a high explosive round with a programmable fuse. One last noteworthy addition were the appliqué screens around the vehicle, which was said could protect the vehicle against low calibre autocannon fire. The new turret was made in such a way that it could easily be installed on pretty much anything that could support it, and since it was lightweight this really allowed it to outclass a lot of what it would face. Another reason it being lightweight helped it was how it had little to no effect to its mobility, which meant the best of both speed and firepower could be achieved. Among other changes, the Hitfact turret would incorporate many advancement that would not be prevalent on many vehicles of its class before. The MGS would first be shown to the public in its official debut, at IDEX 2003. During the course of its development, the MGS's would enter limited production, and be used by the Italian army, mainly for testing, such as how a 120 mm version of the Centauro would be(this later on lead to the development of the B2 Centauro). Due to this, the B1 Centauro MGS would change and be offered for export, and as it was being showed in multiple expos, it ended up getting picked up by the Royal Omani Guard. It is not known how many they currently have in service, but what is known is that they decided to repaint them in a tan/brownish pattern to better suit its operational environment. Other than that, Leonardo has kept on marketing the turret system on multiple different hulls, such as one being on the Patria AMV and another being presented on top of a German Marder.

In service modifications

In service with the Italian army, the B1 Centauro would recieve quite a lot of different modifications during its years of service. In the begining the Italian army would modify the preserie batches of the B1 Centauro, bringing it to the official First serial variant. What it brought to the table included a different hatch at the back and the introduction to a LWS and APFSDS rounds. In 1993 following a competition between firms to develop an ERA package for Centauros based in Somalia. The winner would be the British Royal Ordnance company which proposed the ROMOR-A ERA. 10 sets of the ERA armour were sent directly to Somalia to equip the Centauro's stationed there and 10 sets to Italy for further testing. The ROMOR-A ERA had the unique advantage of being easy to attach in the field, having no risk of exploding when handled, and only being triggered by large projectiles. These factors gave the Italian army significant flexibility in the application of the ERA. When the Serie 2 of the Centauro began to be shown, part of the upgrade Introduced additional Kevlar armour around the turret which allowed the Centauro's to be better protected against things such as shell splinters and bigger caliber machine gun fire. They also had the bonus of making the Centauro look cooler. Another change that was introduced to the serie 2 was a modification to the hull, which made the B1 Centauro a bit longer. This change was made to allow more ammunition to be stored, or even allow up to 2 people to be transported. Some of these series 2 in service would be spotted with additional wheel protection in the form of of some steel side-skirts installed unto the hull. Now when it comes to the series 3, which is what the Italian army currently fields, not much is actually known, what we do know is that Italy would modify some of these Centauro's with the SICCONA battle management system. Some claim better munitions and an improvement to the optics was also something which featured on the series 3 batches.

Export and testing by foriegn nations

Many nations would test the B1 Centauro, some of which would include Brazil, America, Russia and also Indonesia. From this testing, only positive results would emerge but would ultimately not lead to any orders for several reasons. For example in America, testing of the B1 Centauro went smoothly but they were only being tested to allow the crews of the at the time upcoming Stryker to familiarize themselves with an MGS style vehicle. The crews liked the Centauro and ultimately said that they should've gone with that rather than the stryker. Brazil would also test the B1 Centauro during the early 2000's, although they were very interested in the vehicle they ultimately didn't purchase any units due to budget constraints. Now export wise one of the second largest users of the B1 Centauro is Spain. The Spanish government showed interest in purchasing the vehicle to allow the Spanish army to finally retire their AMX-30 tanks. In total the Spanish army bought 84 units, which would be delivered from 2001-2006 in separate batches. The first batch was fully made in Italy, however the second would have mechanical and electronic parts made in Spain, built by the Spanish CIO consortium subsidiaries (OTO-Melara Iberica and IVECO-Pegaso and Amper). Spain also would contract several of their companies to create dedicated munitions for their Centauros. Other modifications fitted also include the time Spain had upgraded their FCS of their Centauros to allow the crew to have access to Gen 2 optics. Another modification although not as common would be the addition of an add-on armour plate in front on the hull. Other than that these Centauros are virtually identical to their Italian counterparts. These Centauro's would be used by the following Spanish regiments; Regimiento de Caballería "Pavía", Regimiento de Caballería "Lusitania" and finally Regimiento de Caballería "España" . For now the Spanish Centauros will remain in service however they may be interested in the evolution of it, the B2 Centauro, to replace them similarly to how the Italian army is doing. Other exports included Oman, which i discussed earlier. One other notable Centauro user would be Jordan, they bought several surplus Centauros from the Italian army and would also upgrade their optics thanks to a Spanish company. Its not known where they've been deployed or what type of munitions they bought for them.

The incomplete prototypes

What many regard as the precursor to the B1 Centauro, is known as the Iveco-Fiat AVH 6636. This vehicle would be designed around the 1970's, it would be a private venture but did actually get the attention of the Italian army. The vehicle's purpose was to support infantry troops whilst also acting as a fast vehicle which could deploy at a moments notice. The hull was fully completed, and would share many design aspects which would then be applied to the B1 Centauro years later. More interestingly, the vehicle was amphibious and could traverse bodies of water, although likely not the fastest at doing so. The planned turret which was installed in mock-up form on the hull, envisioned a 90mm cannon which originated from France. Although this vehicle was never fully completed, what was gained during the design and testing phases would be re-used to design the VBL Puma 4x4,6x6 and the B1 Centauro years later.

Another set of incomplete prototypes would be the set of 2 different designs first shown during an Italian military parade in 2011. The first one being the B1 Draco, which was a proposal backed by the Italian army for a self propelled anti-air vehicle based on the B1 Centauro. The armament would be very similar to another vehicle designed by Italy, the OTOMATIC. The Draco featured a 76mm cannon, although its unknown what variant as the mock-up was shown with several different types during the time it was being marketed. Its main defining feature was the introduction of guided weaponary, in the form on the 76mm 'Dart' rounds designed by OTO Melara. Although at first many would consider it to be a modern OTOMATIC turret, in reality the Draco didn't actually have anything other than the armament caliber in common with the OTOMATIC. The turret for the Draco would sadly remain as a mock-up, ultimately development of the Draco would cease once the Italian army didn't see the need for such a system anymore. The next design proposed was the B1 Centauro 155LW, also known as 'Tapiro' by OTO Melara employees. This was a proposal for a modern SPH based on Centauro, armed with a 155mm artillery cannon. Not much is known about this system besides that it was likely planned to use the 155mm Vulcano guided Artillery rounds. This design although interesting, was likely not picked up because the Italian army already had access to the PzH 2000 system.

The B2 Centauro/Centauro II

The story of the B2 Centauro would begin around the year 2010, the Italian army knew that the B1 Centauro needed to get replaced by the next decades, although the design is still useful the Italian army wanted something which could feature modern systems and improved firepower. CIO (Consorzio Iveco-OTO Melara) would design the B2 Centauro, also known as the Centauro II. It would be a brand new design which featured the most modern systems and improvements in survivability, firepower and vehicle handling. It's the best if not one of the best mobile gun systems in the world, part of the features include an autoloading system, modern third generation optics, blast pannels and overall much better survivability when compared to the B1 Centauro. In July of 2018 a contract was signed for the purchase 136 Centauro II's which will go unto replace the B1 variant currently in service with the Italian army. The first serial batches have entered service with the Italian army and crews are undergoing a series of programs to be able to properly field the vehicle. The B2 Centauro has officially been ordered by Brazil, 2 test vehicles will be sent to them and production is already underway. It is also likely going to be exported to Qatar, whilst other nations such as Argentina, Mexico, Colombia and Spain also show interest in fielding the system in the near future.

Variants

  • AVH 6636G - Centauro precursor, remained as an unfinished prototype. Meant to use 90 mm cannon.
  • B1 Centauro Preserie - First ones to enter service, had a different hatch at the back of the hull.
  • B1 Centauro ADATS - Proposed variant which the Italian army was interested in fielding, studies done but not made.
  • B1 Centauro SIDAM - Proposed variant which was going to use the SIDAM-25 anti-air turret, not made.
  • B1 Centauro Bridge-layer - Proposed variant with bridge-laying equipment, not made.
  • B1 Centauro ARV - Proposed recovery variant, not made but later incorporated on Freccia series of vehicles.
  • B1 Centauro Amphibious - Proposed variant with modified hull and TC-25 Hitfist turret, not made.
  • B1 Centauro troop transport - Proposed variant for troop transport, no turret besides a 12.7mm machinegun, not made.
  • B1 Centauro troop transport and fighting vehicle - Prototype armed with TC-25 Hitfist, used in VBC program and a stepping stone to Freccia IFV.
  • B1 Centauro N.B.C detector - proposed N.B.C detector variant, no turret besides a 12.7mm machinegun, not made.
  • B1 Centauro serie 1 - First serial variant, different hatch at the back and had access to LWS and APFSDS rounds.
  • B1 Centauro 'Romor' - Series 1 Centauro modified to be able to mount ERA known as ROMOR. No smoke launchers.
  • B1 Centauro Serie 2 - Introduction of additional armour around the turret, longer hull. Some with wheel protection.
  • B1 Centauro serie 3 - Some modified to use SICCONA battle management system.
  • B1 Centauro (120 mm) - Uses Hitfact MK1 120 mm turret, used mainly as a test bed for OTO Melara and the Italian army, exported to Oman.
  • B1 Centauro Draco - Unfinished Prototype, proposed SPAA vehicle which would've been able to fire guided 76 mm rounds.
  • B1 Centauro Pegaso - Prototype of an SPH with a 155 mm gun based on Centauro, was tested but never entered service.
  • B1 Centauro 155LW - Unfinished prototype of a modern SPH based on Centauro.
  • B2 Centauro Prototype - First prototype of B2 Centauro.
  • B2 Centauro Preserie - Preserie batch which featured H3 Jammers installed in front of the turret.
  • B2 Centauro (serial) - B2 Centauro with new smoke grenades, no H3 Jammers (replaced with better systems).

Media

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