A century after the establishment of Vickers-Terni, which created the La Spezia-based artillery factory, considered the founding element of Oto Melara, the company is now active in naval, land and air weapon systems all using state-of-the-art technologies. Oto Melara is part of the Finmeccanica group, Italy's major defence industry player and one of the biggest aerospace and defence groups operating in Europe. In 1985 Oto Melara formed a consortium with Iveco Fiat to design and develop an entire family of new armoured vehicles, both wheeled and tracked, for the Italian Army. Oto Melara devotes about 13 percent of its revenues to R&D, while partnerships with universities and research centres enable the company to remain at the forefront of crucial technology areas.
Oto Melara was founded in 1905 through a joint venture by companies Vickers and Terni steelworks. The new company, called Vickers Terni, set about building a new plant in La Spezia specializing in producing naval and land artilleries. When it was completed in 1908, the company won significant contracts to manufacture guns for warships then in production. During World War I, the La Spezia factory produced 40 mm heavy machine guns, 240 mm bombards, 381 mm guns and training aircraft.
However, during the post-war period, steep cuts in armament requirements led the company to turn its focus to civil production, manufacturing steam and diesel engines, turbines, ship boilers, propellers and railway hardware. In 1922 Vickers quit the joint venture leaving Terni as the sole owner of the company. Then, in 1929, two shipyards, Odero from Genoa and Orlando from Leghorn joined Terni to give birth to Odero-Terni-Orlando - that is O.T.O. A foundry was installed at the La Spezia plant giving it further production potential to produce guns up to 100 tons in weight.
In 1935 Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale (IRI) took over the control of OTO. Tension in Europe again led to increased military production. This time, the factory built 75 mm pack howitzers, which were later used as starting points for guns adopted for Italian tanks and self-propelled artillery vehicles. Army Corps batteries settled on the 149 mm calibre and army level units on the 210 mm calibre artillery gun. Anti-aircraft artillery was also produced in 75mm and 90 mm calibres. Naval guns in 381 mm calibre were also developed, weighing up to 100 tons and firing 900 kg rounds to a distance of over 40 km. For light cruisers, smaller 152 mm guns were built, while the increasing air threat led to the development of a 76 mm air-defence guns. Various submarine classes were installed with 100 mm and 120 mm calibre guns.
Following the conclusion of peace agreements at the end of World War II, the company again reverted to civilian production. The firm eventually liquated in 1951 but reconstituted in 1953 under its current name - Oto Melara. Following Italy's entry into NATO, the company was able to resume its production of defence systems. The first 76/62 mm naval gun, which would become one of the biggest success stories in Oto Melara's production history, was built in the mid'50s. In the same period the company started to produce, under US license, armoured personnel carriers and main battle tanks, specifically the M113 and M60, and later under German license, the Leopard 1 MBT.
In 1992 the controlling holding firm, EFIM, was liquidated and two years later all its defence businesses were taken over by Finmeccanica. A decision was taken to merge Oto Melara and Breda Meccanica Bresciana, giving birth to Otobreda, a division of Alenia Difesa. Founded in 1925 Breda Meccanica Bresciana was active in the light armament field, manufacturing small and medium calibre machine guns and small calibre air defence guns. On 1 December 2001, the company took on its original name, Oto Melara, and became a separate company controlled by the Finmeccanica group.
Oto Melara's signature mark in the naval business is without doubt the shape of the 76/62 mm gun shields, as seen on vessels worldwide since the 1970s. Moving into the 21st century, Oto Melara aims to further improve its leadership in naval artilleries. It offers the market a solution for any requirement, including naval guns of all calibres and their respective ammunition. Ammunition is considered a key area of industrial strategy for the company because of its growth potential in exploiting the performance of the overall naval gun systems.
During Oto Melara's extensive history of more than one hundred years of excellence in developing, manufacturing and maintaining Land Defence Systems, the customers were always in the focus of the company's activities. Currently it provides three state of the art turret land-defence systems: HITFACT« (heavy calibre turrets), HITFIST« (medium calibre turrets) and HITROLE«( small calibre turrets).
The Turret layouts are designed to be able to be supplied in various weights and sizes in order to permit a rapid deployment, and meet the specific needs of our customers. Furthermore, in offering the PzH2000 and the 105/14mm, Oto Melara provides excellence in the Artillery field. The high precision ammunition Vulcano family, the Surveillance System Vistars and Battle Management Systems (Siccona) completes the product portfolio in the Land Systems. The Iveco Fiat - Oto Melara consortium (CIO), is the principal armoured vehicles provider of the Italian Army. Besides the Italian market CIO provides its various combat proved systems (Centauro, Ariete, Dardo, Puma, VBM) to prestigious customers in the world.
Oto Melara, through its branch Breda Meccanica Bresciana, equipped Italian aircraft with its rapid-fire armament up to the 2nd World War. In the 1980s, due to Italian Air Force requirements, Oto Melara began to produce under licence the 20 mm M61A1 Vulcan installed on the AMX attack aircraft as well as the GAU-12/U 25mm Gatling gun installed on Italian Navy AV-8B Plus Harriers. Oto Melara, in the fixed-wing aircraft field, is also active in the Eurofighter Typhoon programme for which it designed and produced the linkless conveyor for the Mauser 27mm gun. New warfare scenarios require increasing pinpoint accuracy for fixed-wing aircraft; the percentage of the so-called "smart" bombs among air forces inventories is steadily increasing. Oto Melara entered this field through licence agreements with Boeing and Raytheon and is acting as prime contractor for contracts with the Italian Air Force and Navy.
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