B1 Centauro tank destroyer / VBC 8x8 APC
The “Centauro” fighting vehicle that combines the strength and firepower of a tank with the speed and mobility of a wheeled vehicle. The Centauro B1 tank destroyer was designed to carry out tactical reconnaissance and territorial defence tasks. The main mission of the Centauro heavy armored car is the protection of lighter vehicles and units of the Cavalry. It is not a reconnaissance vehicle, but a tank destroyer/wheeled tank. The cavalry unit is equipped with this vehicle which is fitted with a 105 mm high-pressure gyrostabilised gun and associated automated fire control system. It has high road mobility, a good power to weight ratio, a long range and good cross-country mobility. The Centauro carries a fully armed and equipped crew of 2 to 4 men, which makes it extremely flexible to use, especially in peacekeeping operations.
In the first half of the 1980's the Italian firm Fiat began developing a wheeled (8x8) armored fighting vehicle, which subsequently was designated the B-l Centauro. Having relatively powerful main armament, it can not only provide infantry fire support, but also engage tanks. The first vehicle prototype appeared in 1987 and three of its prototypes were supplied to the ground forces for testing at the end of that year.
The vehicle's configuration is executed with a forward engine and transmission compartment. The hull is welded of steel armor plate. Its frontal part protects against 20-mm projectiles and the sides protect against bullets and fragments of artillery and mortar rounds. It has an air filtration and ventilation unit. All wheels are driving wheels and it has an independent suspension. The 520 hp V-6 diesel engine provides high mobility on broken terrain. Maximum highway speed reaches 108 km/hr and the range is 800 km.
A three-place armored turret created by the firm of OTO Melara is installed on the B-l Centauro. The main armament is a 105-mm low-impulse gun of Italian development, with which a 7.62-mm machinegun is coaxial. A second machinegun is mounted above the commander's hatch. Four-tube smoke grenade launchers are mounted along the sides of the turret. The commander, gunner and loader are accommodated in the turret. A modern fire control system includes a laser rangefinder, electronic ballistic computer, as well as gunner's and commander's sights with a stabilized line of aim and a thermal-imaging channel. The drives for laying the gun and turning the turret are electrohydraulic.
Vehicles in the Centauro family have a basic protection guaranteed to withstand 14.5 mm bullets (25 mm on the front section). This can be increased to 30 mm by bolting on additional protection. The Centauro was deployed in Somalia and former Yugoslavia and has proved its toughness and the suitability of its gun system for use in peacekeeping operations as well as in the reconnaissance tasks for which it was designed and developed. Because of their characteristics, these tanks have been used to escort motor convoys, for wide area control and for road patrols, and have proven rapid intervention capability in unforeseen crises.
In order to have a troop carrier with mobility and protection specifications similar to those of the Centauro tank, development has begun on a family of medium tanks whose main characteristic is a high degree of interoperability with other tanks. The battlefield version (VBC 8 x 8) will carry 7 fully equipped men in addition to the tank commander and the pilot and may be armed with a range of equipment such as a 12.7 mm machine gun and a 25 or 60 mm cannon, plus two missile launchers. Bearing in mind Italy's recent experience in Somalia and Bosnia, a possible use has emerged for short-range heavy automatic armaments against interposing forces rather than a range of 400-500 m, as in a cold-war scenario.
US Army had a requirement for a modern, technologically advanced replacement for the light armored vehicle in the airborne division and other light combat formations where the need for strategic deployability and lethal tank-killing ability are of paramount importance. This vehicle, the Armored Gun System (AGS) had been a fleeting requirement for some 20 years since the early 1970s. The Italian firm IVECO-Fiat proposed three variants as candidates for the American Armored gun System [AGS]:
- The Centauro 8x8 wheeled light armored vehicle with OTO Melana, 105mm turret.
- The Centauro 8x8 with the Cadillac-Gage 105mm turret mounting the Royal Ordnance L-7 105mm gun.
- The Centauro 6x6 with the LAV-105mm turret and EX-35 gun.
The three systems could not meet many of the AGS requirements - primarily weight - since the heaviest weighs in at over 50,000 pounds. Using the OTO Melana turret the gun is not U.S. certified and had no autoloader. It also failed to meet depression and elevation requirements and provided incomplete information on the fire control system. There would be extensive modification required of the existing chassis and no assurance that the LAV-105 turret could be readily integrated into the vehicle design.
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