The Centauro is a family of Italian military vehicles originating from a wheeled tank destroyer for light to medium territorial defense and tactical reconnaissance. It was developed by a consortium of manufacturers, the Società Consortile Iveco Fiat - OTO Melara (CIO). Iveco Fiat was tasked with developing the hull and propulsion systems while Oto Melara was responsible for developing the turrets and weapon systems.
|Type||Wheeled tank destroyer|
|Place of origin||Italy|
|Used by||See Operators below|
UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon)
|Manufacturer||Iveco Fiat (hull, propulsion)|
Oto Melara (weapons, turrets)
|Unit cost||€1.6 million|
|No. built||490+ (plus 249 Freccia[unreliable source?])|
|Mass||24,000 kg (26 short tons)|
|Length||7.85 m (25 ft 9 in)|
|Width||2.94 m (9 ft 8 in)|
|Height||2.73 m (8 ft 11 in)|
|Crew||4 (commander, gunner, loader and driver)|
|Armor||Welded steel armoured hull|
|Oto Melara 105 mm/52 rifled gun (Centauro)|
Oto Melara 120mm /45 smoothbore gun (Centauro II)
|2×7.62 mm MGs|
|Engine||IVECO, V6 turbo-Diesel|
520 hp (382 kW)
|Transmission||Hydropneumatic automatic transmission with 5 forward and 2 reverse gears|
|Suspension||independent MacPherson struts|
|800 km (500 mi)|
|Maximum speed||108 km/h (67 mph)|
The vehicle was developed in response to an Italian Army requirement for a tank destroyer with the firepower of the old Leopard 1 main battle tank then in service with the Italian Army, but with greater strategic mobility. The main mission of the Centauro is to protect other, lighter, elements of the cavalry, using its good power-to-weight ratio, excellent range and cross country ability (despite the wheeled design) and computerized fire control system to accomplish this mission. Centauro entered production in 1991 and deliveries were complete by 2006.
The main armament consists of the Oto Melara 105 mm/52 caliber gyro-stabilized high-pressure, low-recoil gun equipped with a thermal sleeve and an integrated fume extractor, with 40 rounds: 14 ready rounds in the turret and another 26 rounds in the hull. The gun can fire standard NATO ammunition, including APFSDS (Armour Piercing Fin-Stabilized Discarding Sabot) rounds.
Aiming is provided by a Galileo Avionica TURMS fire control system (the same as fitted to the Italian Ariete tank) and is equipped with a muzzle referencing system and a fully digital ballistic computer. The gunner's sight is fully stabilized and comes equipped with a thermal imager and laser rangefinder. The commander's station is equipped with a panoramic stabilized sight, an image intensifying night sight and a monitor displaying the image from the gunner's thermal sight. This allows Centauro to engage stationary or moving targets while stationary or on the move, in day or night.
The Centauro hull is an all-welded steel armoured hull, which in the baseline configuration is designed to withstand 14.5 mm bullets and shell fragments with protection against 25 mm munition on the frontal section. The addition of bolt-on appliqué armour increases protection against 30 mm rounds.
The Centauro is also equipped with an CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear) warfare protection system, which is integrated with the vehicle's air conditioning system. The vehicle is also equipped with a four-barreled smoke grenade launcher mounted on each side of the turret and a laser warning receiver.
Centauro is powered by an Iveco V6 turbo-charged after-cooled diesel engine delivering 520 hp (382.4 kW). This drives a ZF-designed automatic transmission, which is manufactured under license by Iveco Fiat. The transmission system has five forward and two reverse gears. This drives eight wheels, which are each equipped with an independent suspension system, and, furthermore, equipped with run-flat inserts and a Central Tyre Inflation System (CTIS). Braking is provided by eight disc brakes. Steering is provided on the first and second axles and at slow speed also with the fourth axle. Together, this allows Centauro to achieve road speeds in excess of 100 km/h, negotiate gradients up to 60%, ford water up to a depth of 1.5m without preparation, and have a turning radius of 9m.
Centauros were also deployed during operation Antica Babilonia, the Italian involvement in the Iraq War. During this operation, a Centauro troop took part in the battle for the bridges of Nassiriya, destroying a building where snipers were hiding.
In 2003, Spain deployed six Centauro 105/52mm to Iraq for the self-defense of their troops.
A 120mm gun-armed version was tested by the Russian army, alongside the standard 105mm-armed version. They were returned to Italy after tests were complete.