MilitaryItaly is modernizing 125 C1 Ariete tanks

Italy is modernizing 125 C1 Ariete tanks

In August 2019, the Armaments Directorate (DAT) of the Italian Army signed a three-year contract with the CIO consortium worth 35 million euros to develop a project for the modernization of the Italian main tank Ariete C1 under the Ariete AMV program (Aggiornamento di Mezza Vita - "mid-life modernization" ) and for the manufacture of three prototypes for the modernization project.

The deep modernization of 125 C1 Ariete tanks was given the green light in July. The consortium of Iveco Defense Vehicles and OTO Melara – part of the Leonardo, will upgrade the tanks for 980 million euros.

The Italian Army operates 160 C1 Ariete tanks with a 120mm cannon in three tank regiments. Another 40 tanks are in storage – presumably used as a source of spare parts.

The tanks are supplemented by 300 wheeled Centauro and Centauro II tank destroyers with a 105 mm cannon or 120 mm.

It is an interim measure since, after 2035, the Italian Army intends to induct new generation tanks. Italy has long sought to enter the Franco-German MGCS (Main Ground Combat System) tank program. The MGCS tank will enter service around 2040. But the MGCS program is in trouble, mainly due to the inability to align the interests of German and French industries.

Italian industry understandably also expects the maximum share in the development and production of MGCS, naturally at the expense of German and French industries. In any case, Italy still has not joined the MGCS program, and the media is therefore suggesting the possibility of Italy’s involvement in the development of the Polish or now Polish-Korean, new generation tank K2PL and later K3.

In any case, the C1 Ariete tank will remain in service in the Italian Army for the next 15 years. As part of the AMV modernization program, 125 Ariete tanks will be upgraded. The remaining 35 tanks will therefore head to the warehouses.

The main battle tank of the Italian Armed Forces C1 Ariete was developed in 1984 and was mass-produced until 2002. A total of 200 units were assembled. The C1 Ariete is a classic tank, has a combat weight of 54 tons, can accommodate four crew members and is armed with a 120 mm OTO Melara smoothbore gun.

It appears that modernizing only 125 tanks may not be a matter of lack of money or threats. The underlying explanation might be a lack of replacement components, necessitating the decommissioning of some Ariete tanks and subsequent cannibalization.

Italy is reducing the number of active tanks, while most of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, Germany and Scandinavia, are planning to strengthen their armoured forces significantly. Only Britain is reducing its tank numbers. Italy will replace the decommissioned Ariete with more wheeled Centauro II tank destroyers.

The upgrades

In August 2019, the Armaments Directorate (DAT) of the Italian Army signed a three-year contract with the CIO consortium worth 35 million euros to develop a project for the modernization of the Italian main tank Ariete C1 under the Ariete AMV program (Aggiornamento di Mezza Vita – “mid-life modernization” ) and for the manufacture of three prototypes for the modernization project. According to the contract, the AMV RT1 prototype should be delivered, which includes improvements only to the engine compartment, chassis and hull. The AMV RT2 prototype will maintain the old chassis and hull and have only an upgraded turret and fire control system. And finally, the AMV RT3 prototype will be a full upgrade standard and have a modernized hull and turret. 

After testing them, the Italian Ministry of Defense will decide on the modernization of 125 of the 200 C1 Ariete tanks built in the 90s.

The first prototype of the updated tank AMV PT1 went to the test in February. The sea trials began at the CEPOLISPE test site near Rome as part of the AMV program. The other two prototypes are already in the inventory, as per the latest update.

The key changes in the updated Ariete are an engine upgrade with an increase in its power from 1250 to 1500 hp, a new transmission, a completely updated brake system and new tracks, increase in width by 20%. Also, the changes affected the electronics, in particular the aiming system. It is indicated that the C1 Ariete AMV will use the electronics used in the Centauro II wheeled tank.

As mentioned, the Ariete upgrade will make extensive use of sensors from the Centauro II tank destroyer, which is also produced by the Iveco / OTO Melara consortium. Leonardo, the parent company of OTO Melera, has even built an Ariete demonstration tank with the HITFACT MkII combat module from the Centauro II. The company has offered this solution to the Italian Army. However, the HITFACT MkII is a very light turret with weak armour protection compared to classic tank turrets.

The AMV program does not include a new combat suite. The upgrade’s main objectives involve installing an 1120 kW Iveco MTCA V12AMV engine (originally 932 kW), a new Renk HSWL 295TM gearbox, and 20% wider tracks for reduced ground pressure and better traction, plus a more powerful braking system.

However, as mentioned above, replacing the installed standard FIAT-Iveco 12V MTCA engine may not be complete. It is a factory modernization by Iveco to the V12 AMV variant (belonging to the Vector family), with an increase in working volume from 25.8 to 30 litres by replacing cylinders and pistons and crankshaft and increasing the stroke of the cylinders. Accordingly, the maximum engine power has been increased from 1270 to 1500 hp, and the maximum torque from 4615 Nm at 1600 rpm to 5800 Nm. Raising it to 1600 hp in the future is being considered in the future. The engine, when upgrading, digital control and a common rail injection system from Bosch will be installed. The IVECO/ZF LG-3000 licensed automatic transmission with a torque converter installed on the base tank is being modified with a special kit supplied by ZF. It is stated that the updated transmission will triple the torque at low revs. The suspension and rollers of the tank are also subject to improvement. 

The power increase and wider belts are required to install additional ROMOR-A armour. The undercarriage protection against mines will also be improved. The tank will get a new extinguishing system and protection against weapons of mass destruction.

The brain of the Ariete AMV tank will be the Italian TURMS-T (Tank Universal Reconfiguration Modular System) fire control system, which includes the Lothar gunner’s sight and the ATTILA-D commander’s panoramic sensor.

The tank’s main armament will remain the 120 mm OTO 120 cannon (length 44 calibre) with a smooth bore with a service life of 800 rounds (apparently valid for powerful sub-calibre ammunition). The maximum theoretical rate of fire is up to eight rounds per minute. There are 15 pieces of ammunition in the turret and another 27 rounds in the chassis.

A 7.62 mm MG3 machine gun is coupled to the cannon, and the other is mounted on the turret roof. The range of angles of the cannon is from -9 to +20 degrees. Electro-hydraulic drives ensure their movement.

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