On 2 August 2023, the Armaments Directorate of the Italian Army (Direzione Armamenti Terrestri – DAT), under the General Secretariat of Defence / National Armaments Directorate of Italy, signed a contract with the consortium CIO (Consorzio Iveco OTO Melara), comprised of the companies Iveco and Leonardo, for 848.8 million euros. This contract is for the serial modernisation of 90 of the extant 200 primary tanks of the Italian Army, the Ariete C1, with an option to modernise an additional 35 tanks. The enhanced tank will carry the designation Ariete C2.
The contract spans eight years, from 2023 to 2030, and calls for the supply of ninety serially upgraded tanks between 2025 and 2029. If the option to refurbish an additional 35 tanks is exercised, the price would increase by 150 million euros.
The CIO consortium developed the Ariete C1 tank in the 1980s. Two hundred units were manufactured for the Italian Army between 1995 and 2002 due to the Cold War’s end and military spending reductions. Ariete 2’s development was also suspended. A prototype was displayed in 2002. Currently, three tank battalions of the Italian Army utilise the Ariete C1: two battalions from the 32nd and 132nd tank regiments and one battalion from the 4th tank regiment of the Bersaglieri Brigade.
The Italian Army’s Armament Directorate signed a 35 million euro, three-year contract with the CIO consortium in August 2019 to develop the Ariete C1 tank upgrade initiative under the Ariete AMV (Aggiornamento di Mezza Vita) programme. Also included in the contract was the production of three experimental prototypes for the upgrade project. 2022 saw the delivery of the AMV RT1 prototype, which featured an upgraded powertrain, suspension, and superstructure. Also delivered was the AMV RT2 prototype, which retained the old suspension and superstructure but featured a modernised turret and fire control system. Early in 2023, the AMV RT3 prototype was delivered with an upgraded hull and turret. All three prototypes are currently enduring rigorous testing.
The most notable aspect of the Ariete C2 (Ariete AMV) upgrade initiative is the factory-level modernisation of the existing FIAT-Iveco 12V MTCA engine, resulting in the V12 AMV variant of the Vector family. The engine’s displacement is increased from 25.8 to 30 litres by replacing the cylinders, pistons, and crankshafts. This increases the engine’s maximum horsepower from 1270 to 1500, with the potential for an increase to 1600 horsepower, and the engine’s torque from 4615 Nm at 1600 rpm to 5800 Nm. The engine features digital control and a Bosch Common Rail injection system. A dual turbocharger system, heated fuel filters, Webasto diesel radiators for temperatures below -25°C, and a heat exchanger cooling system are also installed.
The base tank’s original licenced IVECO/ZF LG-3000 automatic gearbox is enhanced with a kit from ZF. This enhanced gearbox reportedly triples torque at low RPM. The suspension and tank rollers are modified as well. A new braking system, fuel tanks, fuel lines, fire suppression system, and tracks that are 20% wider have all been installed. The frontal armour is strengthened, dynamic side armour is added, and Kevlar protection against mines is added to the vehicle’s underside.
Regarding the turret and fire control system modification, Leonardo Defence (formerly Oto Melara) in La Spezia is in charge of these improvements. The modernised fire control system for the Ariete AMV tank is intended to be comparable to the system on the new Italian gun-armed Centauro 2 wheeled vehicle. The upgrades consist of a panoramic commander’s sight Attila-D and a new gunner’s sight Lotar-SD – both have a third-generation thermal imager, a new ballistic computer, an all-around view system with display output, modern digital communication tools (including the Leonardo VQ-1 SDR radio station, Larimart communication devices, and Leonardo C2N Evo terminals), a navigation system, and a special radio station for communication with infantry outside the tank. Electric gun and turret drives with digital control have supplanted their electromechanical counterparts. The tanks have a modernised anti-mine system, fire suppression gear, and new smoke grenade launchers. Additional modular protection is added to the turret, and the 7.62 mm MG3 machine gun on the turret roof is substituted with a 12.7 mm M2HB. Plans call for integrating new programmable ammunition for the standard 120 mm gun in the future. The Ariete C2 tank is anticipated to have a total combat weight of 57 tonnes (compared to the base Ariete C1’s weight of 53.8 tonnes).
Upgrading 90 tanks is to provide equipment for two tank battalions within the “Ariete” armoured brigade. If the decision is made to exercise the option for an extra 35 tank upgrades, it will increase the battalions from 41 to 54. This increase would be achieved by introducing a fourth tank platoon.
Simultaneously upgrading around 125 Ariete C1 tanks to the Ariete C2 standard, the Italian Armed Forces have formulated a strategy to acquire 125 to 133 newly manufactured Leopard 2A8 tanks from Germany. Discussions about the acquisition of the item above, as part of a multinational initiative involving the Bundeswehr, are presently in progress, and it is anticipated that a formal agreement will be reached by the end of 2023. The estimated expenditure for this procurement initiative has the potential to reach a maximum of 4 billion euros. The anticipated timeframe for the provision of Leopard 2A8 tanks to the Italian Army is projected to be by the years 2027-2028. In due course, these tanks are also scheduled to be allocated to two tank battalions (regiments) within the “Ariete” armoured brigade, each battalion consisting of 54 tanks. The allocation of two battalion sets, consisting of 54 tanks each, of the enhanced Ariete C2 tanks, previously assigned to the “Ariete” brigade, is aimed at the enhancement of the 4th tank regiment within the “Garibaldi” Bersaglieri Brigade. Additionally, these tanks will be used to establish a new tank battalion (regiment) within the “Sassari” mechanised brigade in Sardinia. Consequently, it is anticipated that the number of standard tanks within the frontline units of the Italian Army will rise from the existing count of 123 to a projected total of 216.