Categories
Modern Italian Armor

IVECO Daily Homeland Security

Italy (2010-Present)
Personnel Carrier – Unknown Number Modified

The IVECO Daily Homeland Security is an Italian unarmored personnel carrier for police duty tasks. It was created modifying existing IVECO Daily of the and 5ª Serie by the Italian Sperotto SpA company.

The IVECO Daily Homeland Security is currently in service with the Italian Polizia di Stato (English: State Police), Arma dei Carabinieri (English: Arm of Carabinieri), the Guardia di Finanza (English: Financial Guard) and Corpo Forestale dello Stato (English: State Forestry Corps), with an unknown number of vehicles built.

An IVECO Daily 50C18 5ª Serie Homeland Security of the I° Reparto Mobile of the Polizia di Stato in Rome. Source: flickr.com @Photo Squad

Context

The Italian Republic, which nowadays lives in peace was, for many years, all but calm.

Immediately after the Second World War, the Kingdom of Italy had two serious problems. First of all, Italy was on the border between the NATO and Warsaw Pact blocks. This meant that, in case a war between the communists and NATO forces began, the Italian peninsula would be one of the first nations involved in a large-scale nuclear conflict.

The second and most important reason was that, after the Second World War, there were many people in Italy that wanted a communist revolution. Unsurprisingly, Western forces did not want Italy to fall in the Soviet sphere of influence.

Between 1943 and 1945, 50,000 civilians and former soldiers formed Communist partisan brigades. They had the task of boycotting and fighting the Nazi-Fascist forces. They managed, by April 1945, to liberate many important cities in northern Italy. They became heroes for the Italian population after 20 years of Fascist dictatorship.

After the war, these people had guerrilla experience and most importantly were followed by many workers and peasants that, after 20 years of Fascist regime, wanted a serious change in Italian politics.

To give an example, in the first post-war Italian elections, in 1946, the Partito Comunista d’Italia (English: Italian Communist Party) had 18.93% of the Italian votes, while the Partito Socialista d’Italia (English: Italian Socialist Party) reached 20.68%. Their main opponent, Democrazia Cristiana (English: Christian Democracy) reached 35.21% by getting the votes of the center-right, the center-left, anti-communists and obviously all the Christian votes..

This led to a serious conflict of interest for the West, who both wanted to reduce support for communism, but also wanted to enforce the restrictions imposed by the Paris Peace Treaty, which limited the dimension of the newborn Esercito Italiano (English: Italian Army).

In the end, the British and US decided to maintain restrictions on the Italian Army, but permit the police corps to equip themselves with mortar platoons, machine gun squads, armored car companies and even a few light and medium tanks.

In these years, the police weaponry, when deployed for security duties during strikes, was composed of batons, without shields.

In the first years after the war, the militarized Italian police, additionally formed in large part from former soldiers, was really brutal in repressing strikes. When the worker strikes became violent, during the clashes, the workers more often beat the police forces than not, at least until 1948-49, thanks to the fact that many of them striked with their protective working helmets and gloves on. Police, in some cases, lacked batons and used rifle stocks to disperse the crowd. The presence of too many guns caused less trained or younger police officers to panic and open fire, killing workers or students during the strikes.

Previous Italian Police Vehicles

From 1945 to the 1960s, the police officers usually attacked the strikers with their jeeps to disperse them.

While the driver held his hands on the steering wheel, one police officer on each side of the Jeep whirled their batons outside the vehicle, panicking the workers and, in some cases, breaking their skulls or teeths. In many cases, they ran over them.

Police officers of the 3° Reparto Celere ‘Lombardia’ in Milan in 1946. Four occupants are ready to roll their batons to disperse the demonstrators. Source: Brigate Rosse
Behind the burning FIAT AR51 jeep, two police officers are about to be hit by rocks and sticks. Genoa 1960. Source: Brigate Rosse

For these attacks, in the first years of the Italian Republic’s existence, the police forces usually used Willys Jeeps and WC series Dodges that were abandoned by the Allied armies after the war and delivered to the Italian police forces. Subsequently, these worn-out US-made vehicles were substituted by the Italian-built ALFA Romeo AR51 and the more common FIAT AR51, and subsequent models of the same ALFA and FIAT chassis.

The Italian jeeps were developed as successors of the Willys, but they were very vulnerable (as the Willys and Dodge vehicles) against stone and brick throwing and obviously against Molotov cocktails, due to the absence of a roof.

A FIAT AR jeep of the 1° Reparto Celere ‘Lazio’, attacked by a demonstrator during clashes in Rome on 1st March 1968. Source: Brigate Rosse

The Italian workers and students who participated in the strikes quickly invented a tactic to counter these police attacks. When the jeeps attacked with the “rolling batons”, the strikers took iron scaffolding tubes. When the jeep passed near a worker, he launched the tube inside the vehicle, usually between the cockpit and the driver. This sometimes wounded the vehicle’s occupants, broke the driver’s arm, or simply made the police officers on board panic, with the result that the jeep swerved, sometimes stopping or crashing against walls, street lamps, or other vehicles. Once blocked, the strikers jumped inside, beating the police officers and sometimes setting fire to the jeep after throwing out the occupants.

Police jeeps ready to storm students during the Battle of Valle Giulia on 1st March 1968. Source: wikipedia.com

The most famous of these actions was a clash between 2,000 police officers of the Polizia di Stato and about 4,000 students in Rome on 1st March 1968. In this skirmish, also known as the Battle of Valle Giulia, the students managed to beat the Italian police, forcing them to retreat and wait for reinforcements. The balance of the skirmish was 228 arrested and 211 wounded, of which 158 police officers.

In that period, Italy was undergoing two different leftist strikes. The student one, related to the worldwide protests of 1968, and that of the workers and common people that wanted the Partito Comunista d’Italia or/and the Partito Socialista d’Italia to participate in the Italian Government. In fact, these two parties had a lot of support, especially in the 1960s, but Washington did not permit the Italian socialists and communists to become part of the Italian government, scared of a possible coup d’état. At the same time, the workers also protested due to rising wages and long shifts that far exceeded the 8 hours allowed by law.

The strikes often ended with violent clashes in many cities of Italy, mainly Milan and Turin, where most of the Italian industries were situated, but also in Genoa, Naples, Padua, and Rome.

In these years, the Italian Police and Carabinieri lacked a proper armored vehicle for troop transport. In the first decades of the Italian Republic, they used Italian military or US produced trucks delivered after the war to the Italian police forces. These included former military FIAT 666Ns, Lancia 3Ros, Bianchi Miles, GMCs, Dodges, Diamonds and even some British and German-produced trucks recovered from everywhere on the peninsula after the end of the war.

In the early-to-mid 1960s, the Italian police signed the first contracts with FIAT to purchase an unknown number of new trucks, such as the FIAT 643N, which were deployed to its units around the peninsula.

Meanwhile, the lack of concrete results of the civil protests of the 1960s caused the proliferation of communist extra-parliamentary political parties, with a few dozen or hundreds of members who chose arms to oppose the Italian state. The most famous of them were the Brigate Rosse (English: Red Brigades), Potere Operaio (English: Workers’ Power), Lotta Continua (English: Continuous Struggle) and many others.

From the early 1970s until the early 1980s, these groups were responsible of many crimes, including murdering and kidnapping of politicians, police commissioners, journalists, trade unionists or other important people. In some cases, these far-left guerrilla men participated in some workers’ strikes, bringing guns with them and opening fire against the police officers.

Giuseppe Memeo, a far-left terrorist of the Proletari Armati per il Comunismo, opening fire against police officers in a Milan street on 14th May 1977. The protest in which he participated was organized after the killing of 19 years old student Giorgiana Masi two days prior by police fire during another strike in Rome. Behind him are some journalists and another two armed protesters. Source: wikipedia.com

New armored vehicles

At the same time, in that period, the Partito Comunista d’Italia strongly increased its support at the parliamentary elections of 1976, with 34.38% of the votes, compared to 38.71% of the Democrazia Cristiana.

This forced the Italian Police to make a rapid change. The jeeps were quickly abandoned, together with the “rolling batons” attacks. In rare cases, in the 1970s, some jeeps were converted, bodyworking them to protect the occupants from stone throwing and bullets.

An ALFA Romeo AR55 modified with a closed crew compartment in 1975. Source: polizianellastoria.com

In 1972, FIAT, the most famous Italian vehicle factory, presented its wheeled armored personnel carrier, the FIAT 6614, developed with Ansaldo of Genoa for military tasks.

This vehicle was bought in 40 examples by the Police, while the Carabinieri bought its armored car variant, the FIAT 6616, which was equipped with a turret armed with a 20 mm gun instead of a single pintle mount on the cupola.

A FIAT 6614 of the Italian Polizia di Stato during a strike, followed by an IVECO VM90 Protetto. Source: pinterest.com

The FIAT 6614s, usually unarmed, were deployed for airport perimeter patrols by the Polizia Aeroportuale (English: Airport Police) and, in case of natural disasters, to rescue Italian civilians. Only rarely were they deployed for public order duties, such as during the Genoa strikes in 2001. In these cases, they were totally disarmed.

Only in the 1980s did the Italian Police and Carabinieri purchase a new protected vehicle, the IVECO VM90 Protetto (Veicolo Multiruolo, English: Multirole Vehicle). It was developed by the Industrial VEhicles COrporation or IVECO in 1978 to fulfill an Italian Army request for a light wheeled armored personnel carrier.

An IVECO VM90 Protetto deployed by the Polizia di Stato, probably in Genoa in 2001. Source: polizianellastoria.it

The IVECO VM90 Protetto, derived from the most successful IVECO truck, the civil Daily light commercial vehicle, could carry on board 5 police officers and 1 driver and its armor was capable of withstanding 7.62 mm bullets. The Carabinieri also bought the VM90 Protetto, together with some M113 tracked armored personnel carriers and their Italian-licensed copy, the VCC-2.

An unarmed VCC-2 equipped with a dozer blade in Genoa during the clashes in 2001. Source: reddit.com

The FIAT 6614 and the IVECO VM90 were more than adequate to protect the police officers in case of clashes with strikers in Italian cities, but they needed a lot of maintenance and had a high rate of fuel consumption. This made them expensive for the Italian police. After the mid-1980s, due to the fading of the communist-terrorist groups, the Italian Government started to cut the funds of the Italian police and Carabinieri. The funds decreased again, especially in early 1990s, when the Soviet Union collapsed and the risk of a war between NATO and Warsaw Pact dissolved.

The state in which some FIAT 6614s are lying today due to poor maintenance. Behind them are some FIAT Ducato trucks. Source: polizianellastoria.it

The lack of funds forced the Italian police and Carabinieri to abandon the majority of these armored vehicles in their depots without maintenance for a long time. This was not a serious problem. From the late 1980s to the late 1990s, the Italian Republic had a period of calm, with the strikes becoming peaceful and only rare clashes with strikers occurred in this decade. Between 1980 and 1999, no police or Carabinieri officers nor protesters died during demonstrations, compared to over a hundred striker deaths between 1948 to 1979.

In the last decades, only a single episode saw the presence of heavily equipped police forces to maintain public order, in 2001, in Genoa, during the G8 meeting, where the latest victim of a demonstration was recorded in Italy.

Image taken during the clashes between the police and demonstrators during the G8 in Genoa in 2001. In the background, an FIAT 6614, an IVECO Trakker water carrier and an unknown truck, probably a Daily. Source: facebook.com

However, the Italian Arma dei Carabinieri, Polizia di Stato and Guardia di Finanza were equipped with old armored personnel carriers or simple transport trucks from the 1980s until the early 2010s, such as the FIAT Ducato 1ª Serie (1981), the IVECO Daily 1ª Serie (1978) and 2ª Serie (1989).

A FIAT Ducato 1ª Serie of the Italian Polizia di Stato. Source: polizianellastoria.it

These trucks were simply civilian trucks with police livery and license plates and were deployed to transport the police officers from the barracks to where the protests would take place.

IVECO TurboDaily 2ª Serie in minibus configuration, with a total weight of 4,000 kg and a 100 hp engine. This was a rare 4×4 vehicle, probably produced especially for the Italian police forces. Source: passioneauto.it

As said before, usually nothing happened, but on rare occasions protesters launched stones at the police, easily damaging the trucks or breaking their windshields. Another problem was that these vehicles, after many years of service, started to be heavily worn out and, being old, their spare parts were expensive, even for the Italian Government.

The Italian police forces decided to adopt a new civilian medium truck without armament or armor, but protected with wire mesh on the windscreens, headlights and sirens to protect the occupants. The vehicle had to be fast in order to quickly reach any part of the area in which the police unit operated and had to be spacious enough to transport as many police officers as possible.

The Italian Government hoped this solution would also be cheap due its civilian origin and due to fewer modifications to the original chassis.

The IVECO Daily Truck Family

The IVECO brand was born in 1975 from the merger of Italian (FIAT Veicoli Industriali, Lancia Veicoli Speciali and Officine Meccaniche), French (Unic), and German (Magirus-Deutz) brands. It has production facilities in Italy, Spain, Serbia, China, Russia, Australia, Libya, Argentina, and Brazil and is present in more than 160 countries, with about 5,000 sales and service outlets. Worldwide production is around 150,000 commercial vehicles a year, with sales of about 10 billion euros. The Daily is produced under license by the Leomar-ZK company under the name ZK Rival and by Styer-STI, which produced a variant of its military version, the VM90, with the name Light Tactical Vehicle (LTV).

A fun fact about the IVECO Daily is that it was chosen by the Activision video game company as one of the vehicles in the maps of Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3. In the single-player campaign mission ‘Bag and Drag’ in Paris, the user and his squad request an IVECO Daily of the Gendarmerie Nationale (English: National Gendarmerie), the French police force.

The design of the IVECO Daily began in 1973 at FIAT. The basic concept lay in transferring the structural configuration of a real truck to a small vehicle. The separate chassis and rear-wheel drive gave this lightweight vehicle the same characteristics as a heavy duty truck.

Thanks to these features, the Daily is one of the leading vehicles in strength and durability, as well as extensive conversion and outfitting possibilities. This is thanks to the bodywork being devoid of any load-bearing functions. This is an opposite feature, for example, to the FIAT Ducato, where in the majority of the vehicles produced, the body and chassis are connected (unibody frame).

The physical separation of bodywork and mechanics allows for better vibration isolation, while the rear-wheel drive provides excellent grip under all load conditions.

The IVECO Daily first appeared in the market in 1978, as a substitute of the old FIAT 616N, at the time already 23 years old, and the younger FIAT 40. The IVECO Daily uses a separate ladder frame typical of heavier commercial vehicles. It is the most successful IVECO vehicle, with a service career of over 40 years and 3 millions vehicles sold in a total of 110 nations of the world.

Its particularity is that, until 1983, IVECO, FIAT, OM and ALFA Romeo produced the vehicle with different names: FIAT Daily, OM Grinta, and ALFA Romeo AR8.

1ª Serie

The first series was greatly appreciated by the customers for its robustness, speed and cross country characteristics. It was also appreciated due to all the special bodywork that the Daily could be equipped with.

The first series was produced in two variants: IVECO Daily 35 with a truck + cargo weight of 3,500 kg and the Daily 50 with a total weight of 5,000 kg. In 1985, a version with a turbocharged engine was presented, called Turbodaily, produced in 35 and 50 versions. The Turbodaily had engine power increased by 28% and torque increased by 42% compared to the standard Daily. The 1ª Serie was produced until 1990.

An IVECO Daily 1ª Serie produced by FIAT in the first years of production in minibus configuration. Source: iveco.com

2ª Serie

The Daily was one of the best trucks in the Italian market but, in 1989, it was 12 years old and IVECO decided to upgrade it to compete with newer vehicles. The new version entered production in 1990 and featured the same characteristics as the 1ª Serie. The new modifications were various, including a 3,000 kg IVECO Daily 30 version and a 6,000 kg Daily 59 variant, apart from the already existing 35 and 50 versions.

In 1998, methane engined Dailies and optional automatic gearboxes appeared for the first time. The 2ª Serie was produced until 2000. During the same year, it won the ‘International van of the year’ prize for its robustness.

IVECO Daily 30 2ª Serie in van version. Source: iveco.com

3ª Serie

The IVECO Daily 3ª Serie replaced the earlier series after 1999. With this series, the ‘Turbo’ designation was removed because all the vehicles were equipped with turbocharged diesel engines. Another great improvement was the optional 6 speed gearbox or the CNG automatic gearbox that could be fitted at the request of the customer.

IVECO Daily 35 3ª Serie in van version. Source: iveco.com

With this series, two new variants were proposed. Apart from the already produced Daily 35, 50 and 59 (now renamed 60), the 3ª Serie also introduced the Daily 28 with a total weight of 2,800 kg and Daily 65 with a total weight of 6,500 kg. The 3ª Serie was produced until 2006.

A 3rd series IVECO Daily in pick-up truck version with a 7-seater cab and custom loading bay sides. Source: author

4ª Serie

This version, produced after 2006, was mechanically identical to the 3ª Serie, but received a bodywork restyling, with redesigned cabs and interiors. The engines were also the same as on the 3ª Serie, even if IVECO homologated the Daily 4ª Serie for more powerful Methane gas engines, petrol engines and electric engines. The diesel engines fitted on previous series received new filters that permitted the engine to meet the European laws of emission level 5 (Euro 5). One of the big changes was the addition of new and more efficient brakes.

In 2009, the first electric engined Daily was presented. It had a 60 kW engine and a fully loaded range of 120 km.

Even if the Daily was still at the top of the Italian market, IVECO presented the new Daily 70 with a total weight of 7,000 kg with the 4ª Serie, allowing the vehicle to become even more versatile and attracting new buyers, who needed vehicles with greater maximum capacity. The Daily 4ª Serie was also produced in a minibus version with 20 seats by the IVECO subsidiary Iribus. This was the first variant of the Daily to be produced by this company. The 4ª Serie was produced until 2014. In 2010, a milestone was reached when 2 millions Dailies had been sold all over the world.

IVECO Daily 4ª Serie in service with the Corpo Nazionale Vigili Del Fuoco, the Italian firefighter national corp in Chieti, southern Italy. 115 is the Italian firefighter emergency number. Source: autocentroindivisa.it

The IVECO Daily 3rd and 4th series were also deployed as Véhicule de Transport de Groupe de Gendarmerie Mobile or VTGGM (English: Transport Vehicle for the Mobile Gendarmerie Groups) for the Gendarmerie Nationale, the French police force.

5ª Serie

The 5ª Serie, produced from July 2014 until nowadays (mid-2022), shows how the IVECO Daily chassis is multifunctional thanks to recently made investments to renew the production lines. The Daily was totally redesigned, with only the chassis unchanged. All the engines are now equipped with two turbochargers, the cab is totally redesigned with new aerodynamic shapes and has a better-designed interior with a new driver’s seat improving comfort during driving. It also has a 5, 6 or 8-speed gearbox or an automatic gearbox (Daily Hi-matic variant) that improves the driving comfort and decreases fuel consumption. These improvements earned it, for the second time in its history, the coveted ‘International van of the year’ in 2015.

The IVECO Daily 5ª Serie van version is available with three different wheelbases, five different lengths and three different heights for an internal volume from 7.3 m³ to 19.6 m³, increasing the number of possible new buyers even more. In 2016, a version was introduced with improved engines and filters, which reduced fuel consumption by 12% and reduced CO2 emissions, permitting the IVECO Daily to meet the European laws of emission level 6 (Euro 6). In 2018, on the completion of its 40th anniversary of production, the new lower emissions series Daily Blue Power won the ‘International van of the year’ again.

New IVECO Daily 35 Blue Power. Source: iveco.com

This Daily fifth series is sold on the Italian market in various variants. The lightest one is the Daily 33 with a total weight of 3,300 kg, while the heaviest civilian one is the Daily 70, with a total weight of 7,000 kg. According to an official statement from IVECO, the IVECO Daily 5ª Serie can be bodyworked in a total of over 8,000 versions thanks to its design. The Daily frame can be equipped with different cabs equipped with 2, 3 or 7 seats and different heights. Also, the bodywork can be for vans, minibuses, pick-up trucks, campers, water or fuel carriers, tow trucks, fireworks trucks, dump trucks, ambulances and so on.

IVECO Daily 70 5ª Serie in truck configuration. Source: omnifurgone.it

The prices for the IVECO Daily 5ª Serie pick-up truck version range between 39,000€ for a Daily 35 with a 116 hp diesel engine, 3 seats and a payload capacity of 1,669 kg to a maximum of 56,000€ for a Daily 35 with a 211 hp diesel engine, 7 seats and a payload capacity of 1,142 kg. For the van versions, the prices for the 3,500 kg variant range from 46,000€ to 56,100€ depending on the engine power, maximum payload and crew seats.

IVECO Daily 35 5ª Serie in refrigerated cargo truck configuration for carrying edibles. Source: author

In all, for IVECO Daily vehicles produced after 2006, on the left side, near the driver’s door, a small code is always written. This permits any person to recognise the model exactly. This can be something like 35-15, and was recently upgraded by adding a letter, like 40C18. The first number means the weight in quintals, the letter means the type of version, for example, C for Cabinato (English: Cab-equipped), while the last two numbers are the first two numbers of the maximum output of the engine, 15 for 150 hp, 18 for 180 hp etc. The latest models with automatic gearboxes also have the name Hi-matic written near this code. On the IVECO Daily Homeland Security the codes are: 50C17 and 50C18, depending on the version.

IVECO VM90 and IVECO 40E

One of the many derivations from the IVECO Daily chassis is the IVECO VM90, a square-shaped vehicle, developed for military tasks and produced between the mid-1980s to 2010 as a substitute of the FIAT AR76. It is a hybrid between a truck and an SUV. It can be simply described as an IVECO Daily with off-road capabilities.

IVECO VM90 Torpedo previously in service with the Esercito Italiano in an unspecified UN peacekeeping mission. Source: demolizioneecologica.it

IVECO had developed an unarmored transport troop version called Torpedo for the Esercito Italiano. It had a capacity of 9 fully equipped soldiers plus a driver. This variant could be equipped with a wide range of guns on a pintle mount on the roof, from a 5.56 mm machine gun to a 40 mm automatic grenade launcher.

In its production history, it was upgraded in many ways, of which the main one was the engines. The second version was the VM90T2, while the third one, still in production nowadays, is the VM90T3. It is also used to tow small artillery pieces, as a light supply truck or as a tactical command post.

The IVECO VM90 Protetto or VM90P is the armored variant that can withstand 7.62 mm bullets (NATO protection level STANAG B6) with a capacity of 5 soldiers plus a driver. With the armor, its total weight is about 7 tonnes. This variant is not appreciated by the troops due to the light armor that caused the death of 5 Italian soldiers in 2006.

Another version is the Ambulanza (English: Ambulance). The VM90 Ambulanza is produced on a standard VM90 (and subsequent T2 and T3) chassis and is in service with the army as an off-road ambulance equipped with all the systems commonly on board a standard civil ambulance. It can carry 2 wounded soldiers plus medics and a driver. The Light Ambulance has a capacity of 4 wounded in foldable stretchers.

The VM90 and its Chinese copy, the NJ2046, are in service in the armies or in the police forces of 25 nations, including Ukraine, which received 4 from Portugal and another one from volunteers in 2022 during Russian invasion.

Based on the VM90, various civilian models were developed, called IVECO 40E, of which a wide range of versions are produced, from firefighters truck to off-road light lorries.

IVECO E40 of the Corpo Nazionale Vigili Del Fuoco of Belluno. Source: autocentroindivisa.it

Multirole Military Utility Vehicle MUV 70.20

The MUV 70.20 was officially presented at Eurosatory 2016. It is the substitute for the now-old VM90 and its new design maintained the rounded shapes of the civilian Daily 5ª Serie, with an obviously heavily strengthened chassis, cab and 4×4 traction. It has an empty weight of 3.35 tonnes and a payload capacity of 3.65 tonnes, but there are also 5 and 8 tonne versions. Its towing capacity is 3,500 kg.

IVECO MUV 70.20 cargo truck with soft top and 6 seat cab exhibited at Eurosatory 2018. Source: infodifesa.com

It can carry 11 soldiers and a driver in the unarmored two-seat cab version, but it can also be equipped with a cab equipped with two rows of seats for 6 persons, including the driver, obviously decreasing payload or rear troop transport compartment.

Various options for the IVECO MUV presented by IVECO Defence Vehicles. Source: idvgroup.com

Its off-road capabilities are ensured thanks to various diesel engines of the FIAT PowerTrain (FTP) company. In some cases, these are produced under license by IVECO. The MUV can be equipped with a IVECO-FTP giving out 146 hp and a maximum torque of 350 Nm or a 175 hp engine with a maximum torque of 430 Nm. Optionally, it can also be equipped with a powerful 195 hp engine.

IVECO Defence Vehicles also developed armored versions with various levels of armor, so as to meet various tasks of law enforcement and NATO armies.

For now, only three armies had officially adopted the MUV 70: Italy, in various variants, has ordered a total of 3,750 MUVs to be delivered until 2025. The Czech Republic has bought 19 MUVs in off-road ambulance variants designed by Variel. Another 60 off-road ambulances are on order.

An IVECO MUV 70.20 off-road ambulance for the Czech Army. Source: rid.it

The Dutch company DMV has developed a special light tactical vehicle on the MUV 70.20 chassis. It seems to have been tested in Morocco until 2021, but its status is unknown. A police duty vehicle was also developed by the Dutch company. This is the Homeland Security Concept, which has nothing in common with the Homeland Security of the Sperotto SpA company, and for now is only a concept.

Design

Sperotto SpA is an Italian bodyworker founded in 1958 in Sarcedo, near Vicenza. It is a company specialized in truck bodyworks, such as for public order, food trucks, mobile clinics, campers, mobile kitchens and so on. In the 2010s, it began work on a troop transporter for the police.

Engine and Suspension

The engine of the IVECO Daily Homeland Security version is a powerful IVECO-FTP F1C turbo diesel, also utilized in some civilian versions of the 4×4 IVECO Daily. It gives out a maximum of 170 hp or 180 hp at 3,500 rpm (depending on the version), while the maximum torque is 430 Nm at 3,000 rpm. Its European emission level is EURO 4 thanks to the particle filter in the muffler. The suspension is independent on the front axle, while at the rear, there is a rigid axle connected with air-sprung shock absorbers and twin tires. The Homeland Security version can be equipped with a 6-speed gearbox or with an automatic gearbox. It is equipped with a differential lock.

FIAT Powertrain F1C turbo diesel engine. This engine is produced under license by IVECO for its heavy duty Dailies. Source: fptindustrial.com

It has a displacement of 3,000 cm3 with 4 cylinders and 4 valves per piston. Each cylinder has a bore and stroke of 96 x 104 mm and is connected to an ECR injection system. The IVECO F1C has a low fuel consumption rate and it guarantees a maximum velocity of 130 km/h to a fully loaded 5-tonne IVECO Daily Homeland Security. Many of the Dailies are assigned to quick-intervention units of the Italian police forces that need troop transport vehicles that can quickly reach cities or areas where protests break out. Its maximum torque permits the Homeland Security to reach mountain areas where there are only dirt roads, even with very steep slopes. A perfect example of these characteristics is their presence in many of the skirmishes in the Val di Susa against the No TAV movement, a group of protesters demonstrating, sometimes violently, against the construction of a rail tunnel that will connect Italy to France.

IVECO Dailies Homeland Security of the II Reparto Mobile of Padova in Val di Susa, in Piemonte, in action during some clashes with some No TAV Activists on Highway A32, Turin-Bardonecchia, 30th July 2022. Source: padovaoggi.com

Structure and Interior

The exterior of the IVECO Daily Homeland Security is identical to some civilian minibus variants. It has a sliding door on the right side or, on some vehicles, two doors on the rear and standard side doors for the cab.

The front is equipped with a standard 4ª Serie or 5ª Serie cab with towing hooks. The minibus bodywork is identical to the civilian one apart for the height, increased in this version, and other features on the roof.

Like all police vehicles, the vehicle is equipped with four flashing lights, one on each side of the roof, a siren and a rectangular hatch openable on the rear or, in newer models, on 5ª Serie chassis, with two side doors. From this hatch, a police officer can check the demonstrators, shout with a megaphone or fire tear gas with a grenade launcher.

Also mounted on the roof is the air intake of the air conditioning on vehicles equipped with air conditioning for the transport compartment.

The driving compartment, with two seats, has a cockpit identical to that of regular civilian ones. The steering wheel is on the left side, with the gear shift and passenger’ seat on the right side.

Installed in the center are a radio, navigation system, and, on the last series produced, a complex system that regulates the vehicle’s sirens and sounds. Vehicles of the 5ª Serie are equipped with grille flashers near the headlights.


 
Cockpit of an early Homeland Security IVECO Daily (top) and cockpit of a later Homeland Security IVECO Daily (lower). Source: fiammeblu.org

The driving compartment is connected to the troop compartment. Behind the driver seat is a foldable 2-step iron ladder that can be opened in the center to reach the roof hatch.


 
The folded ladder behind the driver seat (top) and opened in the center of the entrances that, in this case, are on both sides. Near the hatch are some air conditioning holes used to cool the transport compartment, a smoke grenade launcher support and a sling for the commander. Sources: fiammeblu.org

In the center and rear, there are two rows of 4 seats for the police officers. The right row is offset backwards by a few dozen centimeters due the presence of the sliding door. In the vehicles with two side doors, all the rows of seats are offset backwards, with only 4 seats per side.

On the rear left side is a small compartment to store part of the equipment of the transported unit. The rest of the equipment is transported in the upper storage compartment, as on a standard bus.


 
Rear side of the passenger compartment with 4 seats per side (top) and the rear of a 10 seat Daily (bottom). Sources: fiammeblu.org and autocentroindivisa.it

In the last series of Homeland Security vehicles, the front and central-rear compartments are equipped with air conditioning systems. The earliest versions only included air conditioning for the cab.

The side windows are equipped with curtains to give more comfort to the police officers during driving or in case they need to sleep in the vehicle. Only the top of the side windows of the transport compartment can be opened, as on a normal bus, by sliding windows. The cabin door windows can be lowered fully, as on a normal vehicle.

Protection and anti-riot features

The IVECO Daily Homeland Security is equipped with various protections that permit it to be deployed in the most violent riots and demonstrations, which rarely appear nowadays in Italy.

Wire mesh grilles are mounted on the side and rear windows of the vehicles, while on the front is a particular wire mesh grille that can be lowered by sliding on rails mounted on the sides. This guarantees great visibility during driving and, in case of a violent riot, the protection can be electrically lowered from the inside or manually from the outside by means of two handles.

These wire mesh grilles are enough to protect the occupants when demonstrators throw stones, bottles, sticks, tear gas grenades or cherry bombs at the windows. Thanks to the frontal grille, it is more difficult to hit the windscreen with paint, flour, glue or eggs to cover the glass and not allow the driver to see. This is cleared, in most cases, by the wipers that can work with the grille lowered, cleaning the windscreen.

The last series of Dailies delivered to the Carabinieri are equipped with modified grilles on the sides that permit the police officers to open the upper part of the windows.

On the lower side, the frontal wire mesh grille is equipped with a plastic protection to prevent the demonstrators from climbing on the vehicle or slipping objects between the grille and the windshield.

Only the windows on the side doors of the cab are not equipped with wire meshes grilles. They are the only armored windows of the vehicle.

Other wire mesh grilles protect the sirens and lights on the roof. The front headlights, rear stop light and grille flashers are covered with more wire mesh grilles.

In case the demonstrators launch cherry bombs under the vehicle, the engine compartment is protected by a plate that deflects the explosion outside. The wheels are equipped with run flat tires that permit the vehicle to move with all 4 tires pierced.

Regular wheel rims have coolant holes. In a police vehicle like the Homeland Security, these holes can be really dangerous because the demonstrators can slip a iron tube that will stop the vehicle by blocking the brake caliper or could be used to overturn the vehicle using the tube as lever.

In order to avoid this problem, on the Homeland Security vehicles adopted after 2014, the rear rim is covered with a rounded armored protection that protects all the rim. On newer vehicles, the holes of the wheel rims are capped with plates with smaller holes. It seems that only the Homeland Security of the Carabinieri units are equipped with this protection. The vehicles deployed by the other police corps are equipped with oval holes with a small diameter which make it difficult to insert tubes.


 
Early IVECO Daily 5ª Serie 50C17 Homeland Security with full rounded plate (top) and a Daily 5ª Serie 50C17 Homeland Security with smaller plates (lower). These two vehicles are deployed by the Battaglioni Mobili of the Arma dei Carabinieri in Rome. Sources: sicurezzaesoccorso.com

Another tactic used by demonstrators to stop a vehicle is to put objects in the exhaust pipe of the muffler. This can cause the engine to turn off. The Daily Homeland Security is equipped with a cap with holes, preventing protesters from inserting objects into the muffler, but at the same time, allowing exhaust gasses to escape.

The IVECO Daily Homeland Security also had a bull bar on the front, fixed to the vehicle’s chassis. It protects the frontal grille from stone throwing and is useful in case the demonstrators create barricades to stop the police vehicle.

In the last series of Homeland Security produced, the vehicles are equipped with an automatic external fire extinguisher system which automatically operates in less then a second.

IVECO MUV 70.20 Homeland Security

After its official presentation at the Eurosatory 2016, the MUV in truck configuration was exhibited again at the Eurosatory 2018. This time, it was accompanied by another new prototype, the MUV Homeland Security. During its world premiere, it was only equipped with bull bar and beacon protections and was powered by the FIAT Powertrain F1C giving out 175 hp.

The MUV 70.20s exhibited at the Eurosatory 2018. Source: infodifesa.com

In 2020, a prototype of a MUV 70.20 in Homeland Security configuration was seen with the Arma dei Carabinieri livery. It shares the same characteristics of the latest series of the IVECO Daily Homeland Security of 5ª Serie, but it is visibly higher due to the 4×4 drivetrain and independent suspension on each wheel. For this reason, each door is equipped with a step. Another visible difference is the presence of two lights on the side walls of the transport troop compartment and the absence of the air conditioning system on the roof, probably substituted with new generation ones that do not need such a big air intake or simply, not mounted on the prototype.

IVECO MUV 70.20 Homeland Security with Arma dei Carabinieri livery in 2020. Source: twitter.com @cironappi

In the next two years, no MUV 70.20 in Homeland Security configuration have been seen, either on parade or during demonstrations. This probably means that the Italian Police corps did not adopt it. There are two conceivable reasons for this: either the COVID pandemic diverted funds from the purchase the new vehicles for the police or Italian law enforcement agencies are more than satisfied with the IVECO Daily in Homeland Security configuration and do not need more powerful and expensive vehicles to replace them in the next years.

The same vehicle showing off the rear side. From this image, the rim hole caps are visible. Source: fiammeblu.org

Crew

The crew of the IVECO Daily Homeland Security is composed of a squad with an officer and 9 police officers, of whom one is also the driver.

The vehicle is comfortable enough to carry all the policemen fully equipped in anti-riot gear, bulletproof vest, riot shield and helmet. The latter two are carried in the upper storage compartment along with every kind of other equipment.

Police officers of the Polizia di Stato on board of an IVECO Daily Homeland Security. Source: difesaonline.it

According to the Italian traffic code, all drivers with standard driving license, code B, can drive vehicles with a total weight (vehicle + payload) of 3,500 kg and a maximum of 9 seats (including the driver).

To drive a vehicle with 10 (including the driver) to 16 seats, it is necessary to get the D1 driving license for minibusses. In order to drive the Homeland Security version of the Daily, a police officer needs to get the civilian D1 driving license and a special police driving license Level 2 released after going through a tough practical and theoretical examination.

Versions

IVECO Daily 4ª Serie 50C17 Homeland Security and Daily 4ª Serie 50C18

Standard 5-tonnes IVECO Daily 4ª Serie with riot-protection, air conditioning only for the cab and 170 hp or 180 hp FTP engine produced by IVECO.

An IVECO Daily IVECO Daily Homeland Security 50C17 4ª Serie, 6.3 m long early version produced by Sperotto SPA for the Corpo Forestale dello Stato. Source: fiammeblu.org

IVECO Daily 5ª Serie 50C17 Homeland Security and Daily 5ª Serie 50C18

Standard 5-tonne IVECO Daily 5ª Serie with riot protection, air conditioning for all the troops and 170 hp or 180 hp FTP engine, improved controls and new hatches produced by IVECO.

Early IVECO Daily Homeland Security 50C17 5ª Serie, 6.3 m long, with the Guardia di Finanza. Rome, April 2014. Source: autocentroindivisa.it

For these two series the vehicles can be on two different wheelbases, with a total length of 6,300 and 7,470 mm. Another difference between the two variants is the rear. On the 6,300 mm version, the distance between the rear wheel and the rear bumper is 3,520 mm, while on the 7,470 mm version, the distance is 4,100 mm.

IVECO MUV 70.20 Homeland Security

5-tonne IVECO MUV 70.20 with the same riot-protections of the Dailies, 4×4 driving system and 175 hp FTP engine. It was officially shown at Eurosatory 2018, but seems to not have been purchased by the Italian police forces.

IVECO MUV 70.20 in Homeland Configuration of the Arma dei Carabinieri near an IVECO RG-12 riot vehicle. Source: fiammeblu.org

Liveries

The Italian police forces are well distinguishable due to their characteristic colors.

Early livery of an IVECO Daily Homeland Security 50C18 4ª Serie, 7.47 m long early version. Source: autocentroindivisa.it

The Polizia dello Stato is probably the main user of the Homeland Security. Its livery is composed of light blue with white lines on the sides, engine hood and front roof.
On the sides, the lines are interrupted where ‘POLIZIA’ is written, with the upper part in light blue and with the lower part in white.

In 2014 the livery was slightly modified. The light blue remained but the white stripes were changed and were only on the sides and engine hood. An Italian tricolor is painted as a line on the first part of the sides. ‘POLIZIA’ is now painted in white under the white line and on the front part of the roof. On the vehicles assigned to the Reparti Mobili (English: Mobile Departments), the coat of arms of the reparti mobili is painted on the sides in front of the cab’s door.

The Polizia di Stato’s new livery on an IVECO Daily 0C18 5ª Serie Homeland Security. Source: sicurezzaesoccorso.com

The Arma dei Carabinieri’s IVECO Dailies are painted totally in black, with only the roof painted white and ‘CARABINIERI’ written on the sides. This livery is also adopted for the IVECO MUV 70.20 Homeland Security prototype.

An IVECO Daily 50C18 4ª Serie Homeland Security of the Arma dei Carabinieri with its livery. This particular vehicle had the wire mesh grilles on the side windows as well. Source: autocentro in divisa.it

The IVECO Dailies of the Corpo Forestale dello Stato are painted in light green with white lines on the sides and roof. The wider white line on the sides is interrupted by the words ‘CORPO FORESTALE dello STATO’ painted in white. It seems that, since 2017, this livery has changed slightly, changing the white lettering to ‘CARABINIERI’. In fact, since the 1st of January 2016, the Corpo Forestale dello Stato has become part of the Arma dei Carabinieri.

IVECO Daily 50C17 4ª Serie of the Corpo Forestale dello Stato in its particular livery. Note that these vehicles lack the frontal lowerable grille. Source: flickr.com @antonionoberini

The IVECO Dailies of the Guardia di Finanza are painted in dark gray with a yellow line on the sides and the words ‘GUARDIA di FINANZA’ on the sides, under the yellow lines and on the front part of the roof. Also painted on the engine hood, to each side of the engine hood, are the coat of arms of the Guardia di Finanza on the right side, and the Italian flag on the left.


 
Two IVECO Daily 50C17 5ª Serie of the Guardia di Finanza livery. In the top image, the coat of arms on the front is visible. In this case, they are above the IVECO logo because this is an early 5ª Serie Daily while in the second case the vehicle was a newer model of the 5ª Serie. Sources: sicurezzaesoccorso.com and fiammeblu.org

From 2015 onward, it seems that the livery changed slightly, modifying the yellow lines. Until that year, the yellow lines were straight. After this, the lines start from under the headlights and at the front they are rounded downward. Another change was the position of the frontal coat of arms. Due to the modified engine hood IVECO logo, now the logo is between the coat of arms of the Guardia di Finanza and the Italian flag.

It also has a stylized griffon (symbol of the Guardia di Finanza) on the back end of the sides of the yellow line.

IVECO Daily 50C17 5ª Serie of the Guardia di Finanza with its latest livery. The griffon is visible at the end of the yellow line, over the emergency number. Source: sicurezzaesoccorso.com

On all the vehicles, on the rear part of the sides, the emergency number of the police corps of which they are part is written: 112 for the Arma dei Carabinieri, 113 for the Polizia di Stato, 117 for the Guardia di Finanza and 1515 for the Corpo Forestale dello Stato. This is a common feature shared on all the police and emergency Italian vehicles, such as cars, helicopters, boats and even ambulances for the Croce Rossa Italiana (English: Italian Red Cross). In the last years the vehicles received, over, or on the sides of the wheel archs the number, written in white of the wheel pressure limit: 4.75 bar for the 6.300 mm-long version and 5.25 bar for the 7.470 mm-long version.

Conclusion

The IVECO Daily Homeland Security has proven to be a very versatile vehicle, as have all versions of the Dailies, both civilian and military. The Homeland Security version is very often used in Italy by law enforcement agencies, not only during demonstrations, where dozens of these vehicles are deployed, but also in parades and official situations, such as guarding important buildings or squares in the largest Italian cities.

The IVECO Daily Homeland Security is an appropriate unarmored personnel carrier for service during Italian demonstrations and strikes, even the most violent ones. Its protection provides appropriate safety for the men carried on board while its on-board equipment ensures adequate comfort for the entire crew while on the march.

IVECO Daily Homeland Security MUV in Carabinieri livery. Illustration made by Godzila.
IVECO Daily Homeland Security 4th series in Polizia dello Stato livery. Illustration made by Godzila.
IVECO Daily Homeland Security 4th series in Corpo Forestale dello Stato livery. Illustration made by Godzila.
IVECO Daily Homeland Security 5th series in Polizia dello Stato livery. Illustration made by Godzila.
IVECO Daily Homeland Security 5th series in Carabinieri livery. Illustration made by Godzila.
IVECO Daily Homeland Security 5th series in Guardia di Finanza livery. Illustration made by Godzila.

IVECO Daily Homeland Security 50E C18 Specification

Size (L-W-H) 7.47 x 1.99 x 2.7 m
Weight, battle ready 5 tonnes
Crew 1 driver + 9 police officers
Engine IVECO F1C diesel, 3,000 cm3, 180 hp at 3,500 rpm
Speed 130 km/h
Range 600 km
Armor wire mesh grilles on the windshields and other anti-riot protections
Production Unknown

Sources

https://www.joint-forces.com/defence-equipment-news/24046-muv-4×4-iveco-military-utility-vehicle

https://infodifesa.it/il-vm90-pronto-per-la-pensione-in-arrivo-muv-un-fuoristrada-tattico-e-leggero/

https://www.rid.it/shownews/3761

https://www.difesaonline.it/mondo-militare/mezzi/iveco-daily-un-minibus-tenuta-antisommossa%C2%A0

Categories
Cold War Italian Armor Modern Italian Armor

B1 Centauro

Italy (1989-Present)
Wheeled Tank Destroyer – ~493 Built

Two B1 Centauros of the 19° Reggimento “Cavalleggeri Guide” in UN white as part of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) during multinational training exercise “Steel Storm” with other vehicles in Shama, Lebanon, 24 February 2015. Source: rassegnastampamilitare.com

The concept of a fast tank destroyer for the Italian Army was conceived during the Cold War in order to replace some vehicles then in Italian service, such as the then obsolete M47 Patton. Such a vehicle was also meant to support the slower M60A3 Patton and Leopard 1A2 tanks in the defense of Adriatic coast areas (where the armies of the Warsaw Pact could have landed if war had broken out), defend the rear lines from paratrooper landings as well as to attack Armored Fighting Vehicles that had broken through the NATO lines towards the heart of Italy. The Consortium IVECO-FIAT – OTO-Melara (CIO) at that time was working on projects for new light Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFV). In order to save on costs on the project, CIO tried to create a tank destroyer starting from the Fiat 6614 and 6616 prototypes, armed with a 90 mm cannon in turret on a modified hull.

Prototype

In 1983 and 1984, CIO presented the Esercito Italiano – EI (Eng. Italian Army) three different prototypes. Two were IFVs using a 4×4 configuration, the AVL 6634 (Armored Vehicle – Light) and the AVM 6633 (Armored Vehicle – Medium) developed from the Fiat 6614. The last one was a 6×6 tank destroyer armed with a GIAT CN90 F4 (French: CanoN de 90 millimètres Modèle F4 – English: 90 millimeters gun F4 Model) 90 mm low pressure gun in a new OTO-Breda turret, the AVH 6636 (Armored Vehicle – Heavy).

The AVL 6634 prototype was accepted and, after some modifications, became the 4×4 VBL Puma (Veicolo Blindato Leggero – Eng. Light Armored Vehicle). The AVH 6636, however, was not accepted and the Italian Army began thinking that developing a wheeled tank destroyer instead of a new light tank that supported the MBTs would save lots of money. The army requested that the vehicle should mount a standard Main Battle Tank (MBT) 105 mm cannon instead of the 90 mm one.

The AVH 6636, The vehicle derived from the Fiat 6616 armed with a 90 mm cannon. Source: forumwarthunder.com

In order to speed up the development and production of the vehicle, the High Command of the Army decided to spend most of the research budget available on this project by slowing down or canceling the development of other vehicles, such as the MBT C1 ARIETE and the OF-40.

In order to meet the needs of the Italian Army, the turret was redesigned and it was realized by CIO that a six-wheeled hull was no longer able to withstand the weight of the new turret and the new cannon. Thus, the CIO technicians ‘stretched’ the hull, adding another wheel axle and transforming the vehicle into an 8×8. This was the first prototype of the B1 Centauro. It was lightly armored but fast, wheeled and armed with a powerful cannon equivalent to those of first-line MBTs in service during this period.

The fourth prototype of the B1 Centauro, without the thermal sleeve, different muzzle brake and other small differences from the pre-series vehicles. Source: btvt.com

At the end of 1984, the first nine prototypes were ready. After long tests of firing stability, moving through rough terrain and protection (one was destroyed in shooting and mine resistance tests at a shooting range in Sardinia in 1986), the new vehicle was presented to the Italian Army High Command. The presented prototype of the wheeled tank destroyer was armed with the Cannone OTO-Melara 105/52 gun and would become the B1 Centauro. The first pre-series model was shown for the first time in 1987 at Monteromano, in the north of Rome, during an exhibition of new Italian weapon systems, along with the VBL Puma 4×4 and the C1 ARIETE MBT, at the time called “TRICOLORE”.

Adopted in 1989 with the name ‘B1 Centauro’, the tank destroyer was delivered to Italian Army regiments only in 1992 due to financial problems and some changes. Production for the Italian Army ended in 2006 and saw 400 vehicles produced, of which 141 are no longer in active service. The Ejército de Tierra (Eng. Spanish Army) has 84 vehicles designated VRCC-105. In August 2008, the Royal Guard of Oman made an order for 9 vehicles of a second version with a different turret armed with a 120/45 mm gun and a 650 hp engine. In 2014, the 141 B1 Centauros decommissioned by the Italian service were sold at a favorable price to Jordan.

A B1 Centauro of the 3º Reggimento “Savoia Cavalleria” during the training exercise “Iguana” with the Brigata Paracadutisti “Folgore”, the 2º Reggimento Genio Pontieri and the United States 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team Airborne. Photo taken after the crossing of the Po River of a B1 supported by the Italian paratroopers. Italy, October 2015. Source: esercito.difesa.it.

Design

Armament and ammunition

The Centauro remains, along with the Japanese Type 16 MCV and the United States M1128 MGS, the only tank destroyer adopted which uses a 105 mm cannon. There are other wheeled vehicles armed with 105 mm cannons in use around the world, such as the Taiwanese CM-32, the Chinese Type 11, the Finnish Patria AMV, the Canadian LAV-105, the Austrian Pandur ll, the Swiss MOWAG Piranha, the French AMX-10RC, and others, but these are primarily meant for other duties and tank destroying forms a secondary role.

The Centauro’s main armament consists of a 105 mm L.52 high-pressure cannon, the Cannone OTO-Melara da 105/52 LRF (Low Recoilless Fitting) produced by OTO-Breda of La Spezia. This gun offers the same firepower as some of its Western-influenced contemporary tanks, such as the Leopard 1, the M1 Abrams, the Merkava ll and the AMX-30. The cannon can shoot different types of ammunitions produced in Italy and all NATO standard ammunition types: two APFSDS-T (Armor Piercing Fin-Stabilized Discarding Sabot – Tracer) shells which use tungsten instead of depleted uranium, the M735 and the DM33, the M456 HEAT-FS (High Explosive Anti-Tank – Fin-Stabilized) round and the HESH (High Explosive Squash Head) M393 round. In addition, it can fire the L-28 and L-35 rounds of the British Royal Ordnance L7 cannon from which the cannon was developed.

The cannon of one B1 Centauro of the 3º Reggimento “Savoia Cavalleria”. Source autotecnica.org.

The cannon has 14 ready-to-use rounds placed on the left side of the turret basket and another 26 in the hull, in two removable 13-round side racks. Beginning from the first production vehicles, the barrel of the cannon is covered by a thermal sleeve, to prevent distortions, and with a smoke extractor, which prevents smoke from entering the fighting compartment after firing, intoxicating the crew.

At the end of the barrel, over the ‘pepperbox’ muzzle brake, there is a characteristic multi-chamber flame arrester that reduces the recoil by 40% and reduces the muzzle flash, making the shot harder to observe by the enemy. The main gun elevation is from -6° to +15°, and the turret can make a 360° turn in 11 seconds. A rate of fire of 8 rpm can be achieved and the gun is stabilized on three axes for precise shooting even when driving over rough terrain.

The secondary armament consists of two or three 7.62 mm Beretta MG42/59 or Rheinmetall MG3 machine guns. One is coaxial to the gun and the others (which can be shielded) are on anti-aircraft mounts on the roof, operated by the vehicle commander and by the loader. The ammunition for the machine guns consists of 4,000 rounds in 16 belt magazines.

The big difference between the Rheinmetall MG3 and the Beretta MG42/59 (both derived from the German Mauser 7.92×57 mm MG42 rechambered for 7.62×51 NATO) is the rate of fire. The Beretta MG42/59 mounted on the Italian vehicles is less maintenance intensive due to the wear of the slower rate of fire of 800 rounds per minute, while the Rheinmetall MG3 has a rate of 1,300 rounds per minute and, in prolonged combat, there is a risk of overheating the barrel. During many clashes with the Somali rebels in Mogadishu, where the Centauros were often not allowed to use their main armament but only machine guns, the MG42/59s were very useful, as they could shoot hundreds of rounds before they overheated.

In addition to these weapons, the B1 Centauro is equipped with eight smoke launchers positioned in two groups of four on the sides of the turret. These are the 80 mm GALIX self-defense system produced by the French company Giat-Lacroix Defense (the same ones mounted on the Leclerc) controlled by the BASCU (Basic Automatic System Control Unit). The launch tubes weigh 3.9 kg and have an elevation arc of 11°. They can be loaded with various types of grenades, ECL illuminating, FUM smoke grenades, special FUM-B smoke, LACRY anti-riot with tear gas, AP-DR anti-personnel with two shrapnel submunitions, AP-TCP anti-personnel with shrapnel and flash-bang charge, and LEUR to trick infrared-guided missiles.

The most common GALIX grenade used on the B1 Centauro (and possibly the only ones bought by the Italian Army) is the FUM-B. Each launcher is equipped with three rounds, each able to create a smokescreen for 60 seconds at 60 meters from the vehicle. 0.2 seconds after activation, in mid-air, the first anti-IR submunition disperses very fine metal dust, making the B1 Centauro invisible to IR visors for 30 seconds. At 0.5 and 0.7 seconds after firing, the other two smoke-producing submunitions explode, creating a smokescreen that makes the armored car invisible to classic optics for a minute.

On prototypes and pre-series vehicles, 76 mm Kraus-Maffei Wegmann smoke grenades taken from the Leopard 1 and 2 were mounted. These were then replaced with the GALIX-80s.

B1 Centauro of the 2º Reggimento ”Piemonte Cavalleria” opening fire during training. Source wikipedia.org.

Turret and Fire Control System

The turret was produced by OTO-Breda of La Spezia and was supplied fully prepared for installation on the hull. It has two hatches for the vehicle commander and loader. The commander has four periscopes, while the loader has five periscopes on the sides of the turret.

The main armament is stabilized on three axes and has the same Fire Control System (FCS) as the MBT C1 ARIETE, the third generation TURMS OG-I4 L3 (Tank Universal Reconfigurable Modular System – Officine Galileo) computer developed by Officine Galileo Avionica which is supposed to guarantee excellent firing performance.

For supervising the battlefield and directing the gunner, the vehicle commander has a model SFIM SP-T-694 two-axes stabilized panoramic binocular periscope developed by SFIM and Officine Galileo. It is mounted on the right of the turret and controlled with a joystick. It has a 16-bit fully digital microprocessor with a magnification from 2.5x to 10x on the day channel and from 2.5x to 6x for the night channel. This periscope was developed for the self-propelled anti-aircraft gun produced by OTO-Melara, the OTOMATIC, and after that was modified, improved and mounted on the C1 ARIETE and B1 Centauro. This is integrated with a high performance FCS project by SEPA, with an infrared viewer/night camera that can rotate independently from the turret. This can rotate a full 360° and has an elevation from -10° to +60°, with a field of view of 20° at a magnification of 2.5x and 5° at 10x. If the gunner’s sight is broken or has some problem, this periscope can be aligned with the axis of the main cannon and used to aim.

The commander of a B1 Centauro observes the battlefield from his SFIM SP-T-694. Source: esercito.difesa.it

The commander of the vehicle can find and identify targets without rotating the turret by using the independent panoramic sight. He can also use it to aim the main gun in order for the gunner to engage (if the cannon is not already used in another operation by the gunner). This permits the B1 Centauro’s crew to work on engaging more than one target at a time, day and night and in all weather conditions. While the gunner neutralizes the first target, the tank commander can find others, identify them one at a time and send the data to the computer. As soon as the gunner has eliminated the first target, the targeting computer will turn the gun automatically to the second target which can be engaged once the loader has finished the loading operation.

The TURMS has a ISTAR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, Reconnaissance) system using a SELENIA HgCdTe detector (positioned on the right side of the turret, in front of the tank loader’s hatch). This system can find targets of a size of about 2.3×2.3 m at a distance of about 3 km. It can do accurate rangefinding up to a distance of 1800 meters and can identify and aim with a first-hit probability of 100% at 1,500 meters. With the anemometer that provides TURMS with data on the outside temperature, air humidity and wind speed (data necessary for shooting accuracy), the system makes the necessary corrections to aim the gun and provide a very high possibility of hitting the target the first time even at distances of over 1,500 meters.

The gunner’s sight is stabilized and has a magnification of 10x. It includes a thermal camera equipped with wipers and armored doors that open or close in 0.7 seconds to protect it from shrapnel, bullets or dust. The camera is divided into two parts, with a LWIR (Long-Wave Infrared Radiation) lens and a MWIR (Mid-Wave Infrared Radiation) lens for the day and night channel and laser telemeter. The thermal images from this detector can be seen by the commander on a special display built by Larimart SPA. The digital shooting computer COSMO MP501-D (D for Digital), built by Marconi (now SELEX), manages all the data received from the various external sensors and the many commands from the gunner and the vehicle commander. COSMO is able to reconfigure itself to take over the tasks of any secondary equipment that is damaged or broken.

Furthermore, the vehicle is equipped with various other systems. Such a system is the auxiliary telescopic sight produced by Officine Galileo, the OG C-102 with 8x magnification used in case the TURMS FCS breaks or stops working. It is located on the right, coaxially with the cannon. There is also a gyroscopic device that verifies the attitude of the vehicle, a display for the gunner, a control panel for the loader, a intercom cables set, an anemometer, and an MTL-8 Nd-YAG Laser Transceiver Module (MTL). This is produced by Alenia and is able to accurately measure the distance up to 10 km away using a Laser Transceiver Unit (LTU) and Laser Electronic Unit (LEU). There are also two commander displays, a warning system for the number of rounds stowed in the vehicle, the MRS (Muzzle Reference System) which allows the gunner to constantly check the alignment of the cannon with the axis of the line of sight and correct it, and a second joystick with safety device for the commander which allows him to rotate the turret to open fire, bypassing the gunner in case he is no longer able to do his tasks.

The interior also contains a panel for the deployment of the smoke grenades that has two modes of use (manual or automatic), a panel for the commander which allows him to manage or modify different settings of some systems, such as the CBRN system (Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear). As on the C1 ARIETE, there is the possibility of shooting even when the vehicle is moving thanks to the three-axis stabilization of the cannon and the FCS. This cannot be done at maximum speed though, being capable of doing so at speeds up to 30/35 km/h depending on the terrain, as the TURMS system takes into account the speed of the vehicle on which it is installed, the speed of the target and compensates for the effects due to the delays and non-linearity of the main weapon, giving the crew a high chance of hitting the target.

A VRCC-105 of the Spanish Army. Notice the SELENIA HgCdTe detector on the left and the SFIM SP panoramic periscope on the right side in front of the loader and the commander. Source: pinterest

The back of the turret has supports for two antennas. In fact, already during the production phase, the radio system was updated with one that used only one antenna, but the second support remained. The antennas can be disassembled and placed in a special tube-shaped support on the back of the turret roof. The system connected to the antennas is the modern SINCGARS (Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System) model of American design, but the first Centauros had the old-fashioned dual antenna system based on RV3 and RV4 stations.

The anemometer measures the wind speed, humidity and outside temperature and is used by the FCS. The passive vehicle defense system is produced by SELEX and consists of a laser alarm receiver, or RALM, connected to the TURMS laser transceiver. When the RALM identifies a laser beam aimed at the vehicle, the onboard computer automatically activates the smoke launchers, which in a few moments create a smokescreen around the vehicle. At the same time, it rotates the periscope of the commander in the direction from which the laser beam came. This allows the crew to protect themselves from such a threat and, at the same time, allows them to respond as quickly as possible.

Hull

The Centauro hull is divided into two parts. The forward compartment contains the engine, gearbox, and main fuel tank, with the fighting compartment to the rear. The fighting compartment contains the driver’s position and the turret basket. The rearmost part of the fighting compartment holds the ammunition racks.

The hull has two entrances. The driver’s hatch leads to his position and is equipped with 3 periscopes. Only the forward-facing one has night vision, using the VG/DIL 186-B1 sight produced by Meccanica per l’Elettronica e Servomeccanismi (MES), composed of a binocular VO/IL 186 for night vision, a daytime coupled MES 82/1 model and interface system for the optics. The VG sight has a visual field of 38°.

The two M17/1 periscopes with daytime vision to either side give the driver a total field of view of about 110°.

The driver’s seat is hydraulic and allows him to drive with an open hatch. In front of the driver are the steering wheel, the brake, and accelerator pedals. On the sides, he has displays with various driving data readouts and vehicle status monitors.

Three VRC Centauros of the Ejército de Tierra during a military parade as part of the Día de la Hispanidad (Spain’s national day) heading down Paseo de Recoletos from Plaza de Colón in Madrid. Source: defense.blog.com

At the rear of the hull, there is an armored door which allows access and exit for all crew members and ammunition reloading.

The B1 has no amphibious capacity due to its weight of over 24 tons without the add-on armor kit.

Armor

The B1 Centauro is made of welded steel, the thickness is secret but, its values guarantee protection from 14.5 mm armor-piercing bullets all around and from 25 mm rounds on the front arch at undeclared distances.

Almost immediately, it was realized that the armor of the Centauro was too light. IVECO-OTO-Breda, in collaboration with German and Belgian companies, researched additional panels of ceramic armor that can be applied to the sides and top of the turret and on the hull. With the additional 15 mm spaced armor, the level of protection also extends to 57 mm rounds.

Right side of a B1 Centauro in Lebanon. The spaced armor has a hole to permit the ejection of spent rounds. Above, the loader’s periscopes are visible. Source: Difesa.it

In 1993, Royal Ordnance along with the Italian industry created an ERA (Explosive Reactive Armor) pack for this vehicle as a precaution. Ten B1s were thus equipped and sent to Somalia to support other Centauros already there for UNOSOM (United Nations Operation in Somalia) with the result that no Centauros were lost. This package is known as ROMOR-A armor. These are made from Demex 200 plastic explosive that reduces the power of 125 mm HEAT ammunition by up to 95% and can counter Soviet-built rocket launchers like the RPG-7 (with PG-M and the more modern PG-7VR rockets) and RPG-29 (with TBG-29V rocket). This reactive armor is not vulnerable to light weapon hits. Ten more B1s were equipped in the same period, but they remained in Italy for training.

For peacekeeping missions in the Balkans, such as KFOR (Kosovo Force), some B1 Centauros received an armor kit composed of special 15 mm thick ceramic plates that protected part of the sides of the hull, partially the last two wheels of the vehicle and also the back of the hull. With this add-on armor, the B1 had a weight of about 27,5 tonnes.

One of the B1 Centauros fitted with the ROMOR-A ERA and lateral armor in Somalia during the UNOSOM. Source armorama.co.uk.

Safety Features

The (Chemical, Biological, Radioactive, and Nuclear) CBRN system, produced by the Roman company SEKUR, is placed in the turret and allows the Centauro to operate in theaters contaminated with various agents. It has an external detector that warns the crew of danger through the acoustic system and automatically activates the fan and air filters of the air system. There are two types of filters mounted on the B1 of which one deals with larger impurities. The other one one contains activated carbon and an overpressure device which, once purified air is introduced in the vehicle, increases the internal pressure, preventing the entry of air from the external contaminated environment.

In the event of a breakdown of the CBRN system, individual emergency systems exist to allow the crew to operate safely and, in the event of breakdowns of the vehicle, abandon it in total safety. In addition, the B1 is equipped with two manual fire extinguishers.

In addition to the RALM system connected to the GALIX-80 smoke grenades, the B1 Centauro has other safety systems, such as a fire and explosion protection system consisting of a total of 5 tanks, each with a capacity of 4 liters, that have to cover an internal space of less than 10 m³. The tanks are filled with a pressurized mixture of flame retardants and Halon 1301 (Bromotrifluoromethane) gas in sufficient quantity to fill the internal volume of each compartment (10m³). Halon has been used for many years in fire extinguishers, but has been found to be harmful to the environment and, for this reason, prohibited from production in the European Union since 1994. The tanks, however, have only 4% Halon, which does not endanger the health of the crew members and can allow the extinction of a fire in a very short period of time. One tank is positioned on the side of the ammunition stowage. Two others are used for extinguishing fires in the engine compartment, and the other two tanks are fixed in the turret and are used to extinguish fires in the crew compartment.

The system is also composed of optical detectors and heat-sensitive cables connected to the activation mechanism, for a total of six detectors and three cables. The system can be activated automatically by the sensors or manually by the driver or by the vehicle commander or from the outside. A red handle is placed on the left side of the vehicle, which activates the fire-fighting system from the outside.

In the event of a fire, the system will immediately discharge two retardant tanks (from the crew compartment or the engine depending on the location of the fire). It will signal that the operation has been carried out on the display of the commander with a red LED and send an acoustic emergency signal through the intercom system. After two seconds, it will activate the fans and filters of the CBRN system to purify the air inside the vehicle. In case of failure to extinguish the fire, a new fire or an explosion, the system will empty the other two tanks in the compartment concerned and light another red LED on the commander’s panel.

One B1 Centauro and an IFV Puma 4×4 sent to Lebanon for UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) in UN camouflage pass in front of another patrol equipped with M113 for a reconnaissance. Photo taken south of the city of Tiro. Source stpauls.it.

Engine and transmission

The Centauro has a 520 hp IVECO 8262 V6 engine, the same as the VCC-80 DARDO. This engine can use two types of fuel, diesel or JP-8 (Jet Propellant 8, NATO name F-34). At an average speed of 70 km/h, the Centauro has a road range of 650 km. It has an automatic transmission, the ZF 5 HP 1500 (AT), produced under license by FIAT, which has five forward and two reverse gears. The steering axles of the vehicle allow it to have a turning radius of only nine meters.

Differential of the B1 Centauro. Source: pinterest.com

The suspension is of the McPherson type. The pneumatic Michelin 14.00R20 tires are of the run-flat type which allow the vehicle to move even with all eight wheels perforated, obviously reducing the maximum speed for over 80 km. The wheels have a CTIS (Central Tyre Inflation System) to allow the driver to control the tire pressure and adapt it to the terrain, from 1.5 bar to 4.5 bar permitting the B1 Centauro to operate in the most extreme terrains. The vehicle’s low ground pressure allows it to maneuver over rocks, sand, mud, snow, and, generally, on most soft and rough terrain. Its maximum speed is about 130 km/h with a road cruising speed of 110 km/h. It can handle a maximum gradient of 60% and ford, without preparation, 1.5 m of water. The Centauro can overcome vertical obstacles with a height of 0.6 m.

The engine and transmission of a B1 Centauro in an Italian military hangar along with a VCC-1, the Italian version of the M113, on the right. Source: militarypedia.com

Operational service

The Centauro was developed for reconnaissance and for use against tanks in Italy. However, it has been deployed in different environments, being used in the harsh winters of the Balkans and in the hot African deserts with good results.

The first vehicles were delivered to the Reggimenti di Cavalleria (Eng. Cavalry Regiments) in 1992 which until now have employed them in various operations:

May 2017 one B1 Centauro and one IFV Freccia were supported by a helicopter during the training “Saber Junction 17” in the German Joint Multinational Readiness Center of Hohenfels. Source: Esercito.difesa.it

2° Reggimento “Piemonte Cavalleria”

In the months of May and June 1999 and in the same period of 2000, the regiment was deployed in Hungary and Poland for carrying out joint exercises with mechanized and armored forces of other nations.

From July to November 2000 and from March to August 2001, a squadron of volunteers was sent to SFOR (Stabilization Force) for peacekeeping in Bosnia.

After 2006, the regiment has been sent several times to Operation Leonte in Lebanon. In 2015, it participated in the European Union Training Mission (EUTM) for the Malian Army.

In 2017, the Regiment again sent a battalion to Mali for the European Union Training Mission and another battalion participated in the Clever Ferret Exercise 2017 in Hungary. There, on the Varpalota range, with the 7° Reggimento Alpino, it worked together with Hungarian and Slovenian forces of the “Multinational Land Force” in activities never previously carried out jointly.

B1 Centauro armed with two Beretta MG42/59 during training in 2016. Source: pinterest

3° Reggimento “Savoia Cavalleria”

On 6 April 2004, during the Battle of the Nassiriya Bridges in Iraq, eight Centauros were used to support four companies of Italian soldiers (two from the 11° Reggimento Bersaglieri, one from the Reggimento Anfibio “San Marco” and the last from the 132° Reggimento “Ariete”) with the order to capture the three bridges over the Euphrates River. The B1s were used to capture the last of the three bridges, ‘Charlie’, the furthest away from the city and the most heavily protected.

As soon as the Centauro and the VCC-1s (Italian license-built M113s) carrying the Italian soldiers arrived, they were hit by intense fire from Iraqi militants. The only target for the Centauros 105 mm guns was a building occupied by sniper militiamen, but only after they made sure of not hitting any civilian targets. Five vehicles opened fire for a total of six rounds fired, which completely destroyed the building eliminating the threat. The militiamen, in order not to have to surrender or retreat, began to use hostages.
After three hours of negotiations between the Italian Army and the terrorists, an agreement was reached and the hostages were freed.

Italian B1 Centauro and C1 Ariete during the “Antica Babilonia” peacekeeping mission, Iraq 2004. Source sobchak.wordpress.com

6° Reggimento “Lancieri di Aosta”

From 2001 to 2006, one squadron of the regiment took part in NATO operations in the Balkans (Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo). In 2006, all the squadrons were sent to Kosovo and Metohija (32 Centauros in total). It also took part in Operation “Leonte 6” in Lebanon, within the framework of the United Nations Interim Force mission in Lebanon (UNIFIL), deployed with the 132ª Brigata Corazzata “Ariete”. In particular, the Regiment was given the task of controlling the south-western area of the West Sector of UNIFIL, where the Blue Line, the armistice line between Lebanon and Israel, is located. The soldiers of the regiment had the task of guarding the only point of international passage between the two countries.

B1 Centauro at the Italian Army Day in the Circo Massimo, Rome in 2008. Source Flikr.com

8° Reggimento “Lancieri di Montebello”

The regiment was the first deployed to Somalia with eight Centauros, on September 23, 1992. Over four months, these covered an average of 8,400 km each. They were employed as part of the UNOSOM mission (United Nations Operation in Somalia).

On  July 2, 1993, after a weapons-gathering mission called “Canguro 11” in Mogadishu, a mechanized column composed of VCC-1 and VM-90 was blocked on the street near an abandoned Barilla pasta factory (hence the name, ‘Battle of Checkpoint Pasta’) by protesting civilians. Shortly afterward, militiamen of the Somali National Alliance arrived and began firing on the Italian soldiers with light weapons and RPG-7Ds. After heavy fighting, another column of Italian vehicles also reinforced with eight B1 Centauros came to the rescue of the first.

The rules of engagement for the armored vehicles denied them the use of their main armament in order to avoid civilian casualties, so the B1s opened fire with their machine guns. After having rescued some wounded soldiers from a VCC-1 hit by rocket launchers, the last B1 Centauro was about to retreat with the rest of the vehicles in the direction of the international bases. It was at this point that Second Lieutenant Andrea Millevoi, commander of the Centauro battalion present in the battle, was hit and killed by a Somali sniper while shooting his MG42/59 to cover the retreat.

A column of B1s from the 19° Reggimento “Cavalleggeri Guide”, parked on the side of the road. They are being overtaken by an italian Leopard 1A2 with an A5 turret during a stop. Source: militarypedia.com

19° Reggimento “Cavalleggeri Guide”

In 1992, the regiment was sent to Somalia, where it took part in the Mission ITALFOR (the Italian component of the UNOSOM mission). During a patrol, in unclear circumstances, one of its Centauros overturned, causing the death of one of its crew members.

Later, in the Balkans, the regiment took part in the Missions Implementation Force (IFOR) and SFOR in Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1995 to 2004.

October 1996, Sarajevo. A B1 Centauro of the 19° Reggimento “Cavalleggeri Guide” during a patrol, on the hull’s side, IFOR is written on the add-on armor and the Regiment’s badge can be seen on the turret. Source airpressonline.it.

The 1° Reggimento “Nizza Cavalleria”, 4° Reggimento “Genova Cavalleria”, and the 5° Reggimento “Lancieri di Novara” participated in 2002 in an exercise in the Egyptian desert along with other Italian regiments. From 2006 to 2007, they were deployed in Lebanon.

Some B1 Centauro of the “Genova Cavalleria” during training in the September 2018. Source Esercito.difesa.it

Versions of the B1 Centauro

B1 Centauro

The basic version of the vehicle, of which 485 were produced. The first 100 vehicles did not have the spaced armor (at the time not yet produced) used in Somalia and after the adding of the armor used to date. Twenty vehicles have been upgraded with the application of additional ROMOR-A type armor to make up for the poor protection.

The second version was produced with removable additional 15 mm armor on the sides of the hull and on the standard turret. This second version encompassed the vehicles from 101 to 250. The third and last version, from 251 to 400, while also having the turret additional armor, was lengthened by 22 cm at the back (and therefore defined as Lungo “long” long in English). This allows the Centauro to transport 4 infantry on folding seats after removing the two ammunition racks inside the hull.

From left to right, a B1 Centauro “Long”, a B1 Centauro, a IFV Puma 4×4 and another B1 Centauro parked after a patrol in Lebanon. Source militarypedia.com

B1 Centauro 120 mm

Version with a HITFACT-1 turret (Highly Integrated Technology Firing Against Combat Tank) produced by Leonardo Defense Systems. Prototyped sometime after 2000 but not accepted for service in the Italian Army. It is armed with an OTO-Melara 120/45 cannon and new protection against 40 mm armor-piercing rounds. The total amount of ammunition carried is unknown, but a CIO Brochure of this wheeled vehicle stated that the turret basket holds nine 120 mm rounds instead of the fourteen 105 mm rounds in the normal Centauro.

The vehicle was presented at IDEX 2003 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, and in the same year Oman ordered nine with a 650 hp engine. This model helped CIO to develop the B2 Centauro.

B1 Centauro with 120 mm cannon and new HITFACT-1 turret armed with a Beretta MG42/59 and a Browning M2HB at the INDEX 2003. Source difesa.forumfree.it

Centauro II MGS or B2 Centauro

On 19 October 2016, CIO officially presented the new Centauro II MGS 120/105 model of which 136 will be produced for the Italian Army under the name of B2 Centauro. The new version features a completely redesigned steel body specially designed to better resist IED and mine explosions. It has a new 720 hp V8 engine and a Cannone OTO-Melara da 120/45 LRF main gun (which can be replaced on demand with an old 105/52) in a new HITFACT-2 turret. In July 2018, a contract was finalized for the acquisition of the first 10 units of B2 Centauro.

B2 Centauro at the Cecchignola testing center 2018. Analisidifesa.it

Centauro 155/39 LW

In the late ’80s, CIO developed a self-propelled howitzer version of the B1 called Pegaso, armed with a FH-70 155/36 cannon without a turret. It was a bit longer and heavier than the standard B1. After the Soviet Union collapsed, the project was abandoned until 2007, when IVECO-FIAT and Leonardo-Finmeccanica (new name of the OTO-Melara) designed a new self-propelled howitzer for the international market. This vehicle is meant to equip armored divisions with a powerful mobile self-propelled gun. A prototype was completed at the end of 2010, mounting a latest generation 155/39 gun based on the German FH-70 howitzer. It can shoot up to a distance of 60 km with a muzzle velocity of 800 m/s, but it can only carry 8 rounds. The turret has an automatic loader with fully electronic rangefinders and alarms. The commander and the gunner each have a computer at their disposal. The gunner’s computer calculates and sets the elevation of the gun to hit the targets and gives indications (and applies them) on what type of ammunition should be used to inflict the maximum damage to the target.

The Pegaso SPG on hull B1 Centauro. Source: reddit.com
Centauro 155/39 LW source: Military-Today.com
From right to left: the B1 Centauro, the self-propelled anti-aircraft Draco turret on a B1 Centauro hull and the Centauro 155/39 LW in Rome during the ceremony for the anniversary of the Italian Republic on June 2, 2011. Source difesa.forumfree.it.

B1 Centauro SIDAM-25

In 1979, in order to protect mobile units of the Italian Army from air attacks, the Sistema Italiano di Difesa Aerea Mobile, 25 mm, or more simply SIDAM-25 (Italian Mobile Air Defence System, 25 mm) project was born. It entered service in 1987.

Developed by OTO-Melara, it consists of a turret with a weight of about 3 tons and armed with four Oerlikon KBA-BO2 25/80 caliber Oerlikon guns with a firing rate of 2,400 rounds per minute. Each 108 kg cannon has a magazine of 150 rounds for a total of 600 shells ready to use.

The Oerlikon cannons can fire SAPHEI (Semi-Armor Piercing High-Explosive Incendiary) and HEI (High-Explosive Incendiary) anti-aircraft ammunition and APDS (Armor Piercing Discarding Sabot) that can destroy lightly armored vehicles, such as APCs and IFVs.

The maximum range for anti-aircraft fire is 2,500 m, while the effective range normally drops to 1,800/1,500 m. The turret has a two-man crew consisting of the commander and the gunner.

OTO-Melara proposed the turret to the Italian Army, mounted on the hull of the M113 APC and the OTO-Melara C13 multi-purpose vehicle. The turret was also presented to the Spanish Army, which tested it on an appropriately modified BMR-600 6×6 APC.
OTO also presented to the Italian Army a study proposing the SIDAM-25 turret on the B1 Centauro chassis.

This vehicle would have had three crewmen and a considerable ammunition supply on board. The weight was reduced to about 21 tons and the speed and range were increased.

The SIDAM-25 turret on an M113. Source: pinterest.com

The Italian Army, however, rejected the project together with another one, also proposed by OTO-Melara, of a missile self-propelled anti-aircraft on the B1 Centauro chassis.

The vehicle would have been armed with MIM-146A ADATS (Air Defense, Anti-Tank System) missiles mounted on a 4-ton turret developed by Oerlikon-Contraves, able to sight air targets at a distance of over 24 km.

The missiles, designed by Martin Marietta, weighed 51 kg, with a diameter of 15.2 cm and a length of 2.05 m. They could reach a speed of over Mach 3 (over 3675 km/h) and had an anti-aircraft range of 10 km and 6 km for anti-tank duties.

The extraordinary peculiarity of these missiles was their versatility. Thanks to their HEAT (High-Explosive Anti-Tank) warhead, they could be used both against heavily armored targets and aircraft.

OTO-Melara never built prototypes and the projects were abandoned after the refusal by the Italian Army.

A MIM-146A ADATS launched by a modified M113 with the Oerlikon-Contraves turret. Source: russiantank.com

DRACO SPAAG

The DRACO anti-aircraft turret was developed by OTO-Melara as a private project. It is a further development of the previous OTOMATIC SPAAG developed in the mid-1980s. When designed, the OTOMATIC was ahead of many anti-aircraft artillery systems of the time in terms of the range and caliber of the cannon, however, it was never accepted into service. The DRACO was first unveiled in 2010. Currently, this system is offered to potential customers but has not received any production orders to date. The DRACO is a remote-controlled turret armed with a Cannone OTO-Breda da 76/62 rapid-fire naval gun. The cannon is equipped with a revolver-type automatic loading system. It can use all the NATO-standard 76 mm anti-aircraft ammunition types and also modern guided ammunition developed by OTO-Melara. It can also use the Davide/Strales anti-missile system, the 42 mm sub-caliber DART anti-missile shells that can adjust their trajectory. The rate of fire is 85 rounds per minute for the ‘Compact’ version and 120 rounds per minute for the ‘Super Rapid’ version, with a muzzle velocity of 1,300 m/s.

The ammunition revolver contains 12 ready rounds and can switch from one type of ammunition to another. Twenty-four additional rounds are contained in the autoloader, located in the hull. Modern SPAAGs are usually equipped with cannons with a caliber between 20 and 40 mm. This large caliber cannon has been selected because of its long-range. In fact, it can hit targets accurately at up to 6-8 km (depending on the target’s speed). The DRACO can attack enemy helicopters or planes before they release their anti-tank guided weapons that normally have a range of less than 6-8 km but, in the event of a successful missile launch, the DRACO can also neutralize the missile in flight thanks to its anti-missile guided rounds.

The previous OTOMATIC anti-aircraft turret system was much heavier and needed to be mated with a tank chassis. The weight of the DRACO turret has been significantly reduced due to improvements in electronics over the past twenty years. It also uses a more compact on-board NA-25X radar that allows the Davide, C-RAM and DART rounds to be radio-controlled. The secondary armament consists of a single 7.62 mm MG3 or 12.7 mm Browning M2HB coaxial machine.

The DRACO weapon system is intended to counter air targets, such as helicopters, airplanes, UAVs, and airborne weapons. It can also be used against land targets such as APCs, Infantry Fighting Vehicles, and in some cases MBTs thanks to its powerful APFSDS-T ammunition. This air defense weapon can be used for combat support operations, defense of supply convoys, point defense, or for coastal defense. The maximum firing range against naval or land targets is 20 km. The unmanned turret can withstand 7.62×39 mm armor-piercing bullets and artillery splinters. An additional protection kit can be installed for added protection.

The DRACO turret requires a crew of two people, commander and gunner. In the case of the system being used on the B1 Centauro hull, the crew increases to three with the addition of a driver.

The DRACO turret can also be installed on 8×8 wheeled vehicles, tracked vehicles, heavy trucks, boats or cemented in shelters.
The DRACO was the first vehicle to mount the SCUDO defense system.

The DRACO anti-aircraft Turret mounted on a B1 Centauro hull. Source: military-today.com

Variants on B1 Centauro chassis

VBM Freccia

The Medium Armored Vehicle (Veicolo Blindato Medio – VBM) VBM Freccia, “Arrow” in Italian (factory name is “Centauro AIFV Freccia”) is an infantry fighting vehicle derived from the Centauro’s hull developed in 1996 by CIO. It is equipped with a Leonardo-Finmeccanica HITFIST-25-Plus turret with a complement of Net-Centric Systems similar to those on the B2 Centauro, like the LOTHAR fire control system and the ATTILA panoramic periscope. It is capable of carrying three crew members (a driver, a gunner and a vehicle commander) and eight fully-equipped infantrymen.

There are several versions in service with the Italian Army, such as the basic vehicle armed with an Oerlikon KBA B03 25/80 cannon and one or two 7.62 mm machine guns (190 vehicles in service), an anti-tank version with the same turret but armed with two SPIKE MR/LR missiles (36 vehicles), a Command Post vehicle with a taller hull but lacking a turret, armed with a remote control machine gun (2 vehicles), a mortar-carrier with a 120 mm THALES 232M (or TDA 2R2M) mortar (21 vehicles) and one prototype anti-tank version armed with an OTO-Melara T60/70A turret armed with a High-Velocity Medium Support (HVMS) 60/70 OTO-Breda cannon and a less powerful version of the TURMS system.

The Italian Army owns 249 Freccias, delivered between 2008 and 2017, in all versions. In 2018 another 381 Freccia VBMs were ordered by the Italian Army. 261 will be the already mentioned versions and 120 will consist of two new versions for reconnaissance that are currently only prototypes. These are the Freccia E1 “Far” with LYRA 10 radar and two mini-UAV launchers and the Freccia E2 “Close” equipped with a JFF (Janus Full Format) sensor, one UGV (Unmanned Ground Vehicle) and four SPIKE anti-tank missiles.

Centauro VBM Recovery

The Centauro VBM Recovery is a new Armored Recovery Vehicle (ARV) version of the Freccia infantry combat vehicle, intended to serve as an engineering vehicle and for the recovery and repair of damaged armored vehicles on the battlefield.

The vehicle can be equipped with two 7.62 mm MG42/59 or MG3 machine guns for self-defense purposes. The vehicle is equipped, like the VBM Freccia with NBC protection, anti-IED protection, rear ramp and anti-mine seats.

In addition has 100 meter-long hydraulic winch, hydraulic crane, anti-mine device, front blade for clearing rubble or front stabilizer, eight 80 mm smoke grenades, laser alarm system, etcetera. The Centauro VBM recovery vehicle is powered by an IVECO 8262 6V with turbocharger diesel engine with a nominal output of 550 hp. The Spanish Army is the only operator for this version, with 4 vehicles called Vehículo Acorazado de Recuperación y Reparaciones Centauro (VCREC).

The VBM Recovery variant at the Paris Exhibition in 2016, near the Super AV. Source survincity.com

VBTP-MR Guaranì

The Viatura Blindada Transporte de Pessoal – Média de Rodas (Eng. Armored Personnel Carrier Vehicle – Wheeled) or VBTP-MR ‘Guaranì’ is a 6×6 Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) developed by IVECO in collaboration with some Brazilian companies for the Brazilian Army. It was designed paralel to the SUPERAV, and as such resembles it. Both the Guarani and the SUPERAV were based on the Freccia hull.

Its main armament is composed of a 12.7 mm machine gun in a remote-controlled turret. There are also proposed versions equipped with 120 mm mortars, anti-tank versions with 105 mm gun (planned on an 8×8 hull).

In the standard version, it can transport 8 fully equipped soldiers, the driver, the commander and a gunner.

It has a maximum road speed of 110 km/h and can achieve about 12 km/h (6.5 nmi) at sea.

The Guaranì is used by the Brazilian Army, which has more than 500 in service and about 1,500 more are under construction. The Lebanese Army currently has 10 of them in service.

An unarmed version of the Guaranì of the Brazilian Army. Source: bocadopovonews.com

IVECO SUPERAV

The IVECO VBA SUPERAV (Amphibious Medium Vehicle – SUrface PERformance Amphibious Vehicle) is an AAV (Assault Amphibious Vehicle) developed from the VBM Freccia and was developed paralel to the Guaranì by IVECO, to replace the old AAV-7/A1 in service in the Italian Army.

It is an 8×8 amphibious vehicle, with a similar hull to the VBM Freccia . In the APC version, it is armed with a 7.62 mm, 12.7 mm or 40 mm grenade launcher HITFIST remote controlled turret and can carry 12 fully equipped soldiers plus the driver and the commander. The IFV version is armed with a 40 mm MK44 Bushmaster IV gun in a remote control turret and can carry 8 fully equipped soldiers plus the driver, the commander and the gunner. Its maximum speed on road is 105 km/h, while at sea it reaches 11 km/h (about 6 nmi).

IVECO has provided for as many variants as for the VBM Freccia: a taller command post with HITROLE turret, an ambulance with three stretchers, a mortar carrier with a 120 mm THALES 232M or TDA 2R2M mortar and an anti-tank version with a pair of rocket launchers for a total of four SPIKE MR/LR missiles.

The SuperAV is produced under license by BAE Systems under the name ACV 1.1, but with some changes, such as just 11 soldiers in the APC version and the lack of mounts for the SPIKE missile launch ramps on the turret in the IFV version.

With the support of IVECO, in 2018, the ACV 1.1 won the competition to replace the US Marines’ AAV-P7s. The US Marine Corps plans to build 400 ACV by 2020 and then move on to produce an updated version called ACV 1.2, still under development. The Italian Army and the Italian Navy are testing some IVECO SuperAV prototypes. If they are accepted into service, they will be produced by IVECO in Italy in Command Post, IFV and anti-tank versions, totaling 40 vehicles, replacing the AAV-7s and Arisgator (Italian amphibious version of the M113).

The IVECO SUPERAV being shown to a possible buyer. Source: military-today.com

Other Operators

Spain

Spain bought 84 B1 Centauro tank destroyers for the Ejército de Tierra to replace some of the older obsolete tanks then in service. The Spanish call them Vehículo de Reconocimiento y Combate de Caballería or VRCC-105 (English – Reconnaissance and Cavalry Fighting Vehicle). 22 vehicles were bought in 1999, all built in Italy and delivered between 2000 and 2001. In 2002, another 62 vehicles were ordered, delivered between 2004 and 2006, but some of the mechanical and electronic parts were made in Spain, built by the Spanish CIO consortium subsidiaries, OTO-Melara Iberica and IVECO-Pegaso and Amper. Among these are the PR4G radio and Rovis digital intercom equipment, so as to have compatibility with other equipment in the Ejército de Tierra.

Two VRC Centauros refueling during a military exercise, probably Trident Juncture 2015. Source: military-today.com

In 2007, the first 22 vehicles that were bought were brought to the level of the others with the addition of the last generation thermal sleeve, the ROVIS intercom system and rearmed with two or three Rheinmetall MG3 7.62 mm machine guns. In 2010, 4 Centauro VBM Recovery were purchased.

The Spanish version is different from the Italian one in some details. An additional spaced armor plate is present on the lower frontal hull, the eight smoke launchers are placed on the sides of the turret, covered by 15 mm spaced armor. The 7.62 mm ammunition boxes for the machine guns are fixed outside the storage rack, on the backs of the new supports for two 20 or 25 liters cans. Also, as already mentioned, the Spanish vehicles use Rheinmetall MG3 machine-guns and not Italian Beretta MG 42/59.

Three VRC Centauros of the Ejército de Tierra during Exercise Trident Juncture 2015. Source: twitter.com

The 84 VRCC-105 are used in three different regiments, 28 at the Regimiento de Caballería “Pavía” No. 4, 28 at the Regimiento de Caballería “Lusitania” No. 8 and another 28 at the Regimiento de Caballería “España” No. 11. They were initially delivered to the Regimiento de Caballería “Lusitania” No. 8 as they are part of the Fuerza de Acción Rápida, a unit destined for rapid deployment by air.

Prototypes of the LT-105 Light Tank, a ‘Direct Fire’ version of the ASCOD IFV (Austrian Spanish COoperation Development) with the HITFACT-2 turret armed with the OTO-Melara 105/52 LRF or the OTO-Melara 120/45 LRF were designed, produced and tested by the Spanish company Santa Bárbara Sistemas.

Spanish VRCC-105. The changes made for the Ejército de Tierra can be noticed, including the frontal spaced armor, the new position of the grenade launchers and the ammo box and can racks on the rear of the turret. Source wikipedia.org.

Oman

Oman has purchased a total of 9 B1 Centauro with HITFACT-1 turrets armed with 120/45 mm guns. They were ordered in 2008 and received in two shipments of 6 and 3 vehicles that were taken over by the Royal Oman Guards and used as heavy support vehicles.

Two B1 Centauro 120/44 without camouflage in the background,with two Turkish-built APC PARS III in the foreground, during training in the Oman desert. Source: defencephotography.com

Jordan

Jordan received 141 B1 Centauro decommissioned by the Italian Army. 24 working vehicles were donated in 2014 and 117 non-functioning were bought in 2015 at a favorable price of 5.58 million Euros (6.2 million dollars).

In November 2017, Spanish Company SDLE (Star Defense Logistic and Engineering) won the competition to modernize around eighty of these tank destroyers. The modifications will concern the modernization of the optics, thermal sleeve and the anti-aircraft machine guns with one or two Browning M2HBs. The armor will certainly be increased with add-on kits and perhaps with reactive armor. The contract also includes maintenance of the vehicles and the training of the Jordanian B1 Centauro crews.

B1 Centauro of the Jordanian Army Forces. Source SDLE Company.

United States

The United States government rented 16 Centauros in 2000 for evaluation and to gain experience for the United States Army with heavy armored cars due to the introduction of the M1126 ICV Stryker and the M1128 MGS armed with the 105 mm M68A1E4 cannon.

The vehicles were all returned in 2002 after the American personnel completed their training.

A B1 Centauro assigned to the US Army, Company B, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. Fort Lewis, Washington. Source getarchive.net.

Russia

In 2011, the Italian and Russian defense ministers signed an agreement for the transfer of a Centauro B1 “Lungo”, a 25 mm armed VBM Freccia, a 30 mm-armed VBM Freccia and a B1 Centauro with the HITFACT-1 turret armed with a 120/45 cannon.

The vehicles arrived in Russia in the summer of 2012. In October, tests began and the vehicles received favorable reviews from the Russian crews, especially concerning comfort, precision on the move, low recoil, high speed, and excellent driving characteristics even at 110 km/h. In the cold Russian winter, however, there were some problems due to the fact that the vehicles had spent almost a year in storage without moving and revisions. The spare parts that were transported in Russia were few in quantity.

The Russian soldiers who operated these Italian vehicles appreciated them, because their BTR-80 and BTR-82A, similar to the Freccia, are cramped and uncomfortable (despite having more interior space than the Freccia). In addition, their armament is similar (14.5 mm KPVT and 30 mm 2A42 against Oerlikon KBA 25 mm and 30 mm ATK Mk 44). According to the Russians (who could not carry out destructive tests on the Centauro because the contract signed did not allow it), the vehicles were not able to resist an IED explosion. However, even in this respect, Russian soldiers preferred the Freccia and the Centauro as they have better anti-mine characteristics than their BTRs.

Due to the European embargo to Russia for involvement in the War in Donbas, the Italian technicians and vehicles had to be repatriated.

If the project had been completed, as in the case of the IVECO LMV, the Russians would have tested the vehicles with turrets armed with 100 and 125 mm cannons of local production.

The Italian B1 Centauro “Lungo” in Russia during tests. Source: Imgur.com

Colombia

In 2012, the Colombian Army and government created a special commission to inspect armored vehicles (armored cars and tanks) for the modernization of the Ejército Nacional de Colombia (Eng: National Colombian Army). The Centauro, in all its versions, was found to be one of the favorite vehicles for its mobility characteristics that were judged adequate for the Colombian terrain. It is not yet known which vehicle will be chosen, as the commission is still touring Europe, Asia, Russia and North America and the verdict will be issued at the end of the inspection. However, if an order does come through, it will amount to 40 armored cars and 60 tanks from different companies.

LEONARDO mechanics and Colombian officers on a Centauro during Colombian trials. Source: facebook.com

Brazil

In May 2001, a B1 Centauro was tested by the Exército Brasileiro (Eng: Brazilian Army). The vehicle arrived in Brazil together with four technicians, one from FIAT, one from IVECO and two from OTO-Melara, and three other personnel who came for the shooting tests.

B1 Centauro during Brazilian tests. Source: Blindados no Brasil Volume 2 – Expedito Carlos Stephani Bastos

During the off-road driving tests, the vehicle impressed the Brazilian staff and gave great proof of itself on the rough and muddy terrain. On May 27th and 28th, the shooting tests took place in the sandbank of Marambaia, Rio de Janeiro,  also with excellent results.

While stationary, the vehicle fired at a Bernardini Self-Propelled Anti Aircraft gun prototype on a M3 Stuart hull. The ammunition used was APFSDS supplied by the Brazilian Army which originated from a 1973 British supply. Of the various rounds fired, all performed very well, hitting the target at a distance of 1,520 m.

Subsequently, the B1 Centauro fired on the move, targeting a German Marder, which had been tested some years before by the Brazilian Army. Several shots were fired from distances between 1,000 and 2,000 meters, all hitting the target.

The B1 Centauro during the firing tests. In the foreground is a cart with the used shell casings. Source: Blindados no Brasil Volume 2 – Expedito Carlos Stephani Bastos

The Brazilian Army did not purchase any vehicles even though it was offered to Brazil multiple times, but tests showed the obsolescence of some Brazilian vehicles, such as the EE-9 Cascavel.

Conclusion and future

In its career, the B1 Centauro has proven to be a robust vehicle, fast and appreciated by the crews and soldiers who operated it. It has also proven to be a very adaptable platform with several different versions and variants spawning from it. It has even been an export success, albeit moderate, with the B1 Centauro seeing service in other armies around the globe.

For now, the Italian Army is not scheduled to phase out their remaining 259 B1 Centauros. In the coming years, they will be joined by the B2 Centauros in the Cavalry Divisions for reconnaissance and support missions in Lebanon where the Italian Cavalry Divisions are called to intervene.

B1 Centauro prototype, circa 1991
B1 Centauro of the 19° Reggimento “Cavalleggeri Guide” October 1996, Sarajevo.
VRC Centauro of the Ejército de Tierra. The three above illustrations were produced by David Bocquelet
The B2 Centauro during testing at Cecchignola. An illustration by Yuvnashva Sharma, funded by our Patreon campaign.

B1 Centauro specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 8,48 (7,63 hull) x 3,05 x 2,73 m
Total Weight, Battle Ready 24.7 tons in standard version 26,8 tons with additional armor plates on turret
Crew 4, driver, commander, gunner, and loader
Propulsion IVECO MTCA 8262 V6 diesel by 520 hp
Speed 110 km/h
Range 800 km
Armament OTO-Breda 105/52 LRF with 40 rounds, 3 MG42/59 or MG3 7,62 mm MGs with 4000 rounds
Armor Secret
Total Production 493 B1 Centauro (9 with 120/45mm cannon) excluding the 9 prototypes

Sources

https://www.iveco-otomelara.com/backoffice/global/docs/upload/AD%20387%20pp40-41-pdf

https://www.difesaonline.it/news-forze-armate/storia/la-battaglia-dei-ponti-di-nassiryah-la-prima-offensiva-dellesercito-/

http://www.esercito.difesa.it/comunicazione/pagine/conclusa-esercitazione-iguana–15102.aspx

http://www.esercito.difesa.it/equipaggiamenti/Veicoli-blindati-e-corazzati-da-combattimento/Veicoli-da-combattimento/Pagine/-Blindo-Armata-Centauro.aspx

https://www.army-technology.com/news/news-russia-army-testing-italian-centauro-tank/

https://defense-update.com/20120512-russia-testing-centauro-italian-wheeled-tanks.html

Libano/ I militari italiani si addestrano con gli altri contingenti di Unifil e le forze armate libanesi nell’esercitazione multinazionale “Steel Storm”

http://alternathistory.com/ispytano-v-rossii-kolesnyi-istrebitel-tankov-centauro-120-i-bmp-vbm-freccia-/

https://www.armyrecognition.com/november_2018_global_defense_security_army_news_industry/sdle_from_spain_to_modernize_centauro_105mm_for_jordanian_army.html?

Blindados no Brasil, Volume 2, by Expedito Carlos Stephani Bastos, UFJF Difesa, 2012