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Oto Melara Palmaria 155 mm SPH

The Palmaria is a 155 mm self-propelled artillery gun developed in the 1970s by OTO Melara of Italy. The Palmaria entered service in 1982. The Palmaria was developed for the export market. The Italian armed forces are not equipped with Palmaria. Oto Melara subssequently built the German Krauss-Maffei Wegmann 155 mm/52-calibre PzH 2000 self-propelled artillery system under licence for the Italian Army.

Palmaria, Ligurias largest island. With Tino and Tinetto it makes up the small La Spezia Archipelago, west of the Gulf of the same name. Officially part of the Portovenere municipality, it faces the small village from the sea. Percy Shelley called it the Island of Sirens because he was charmed by a beautiful sound he heard when approaching it actually just the sound some of his boats ropes, which vibrated in the wind. Palmarias close connections to war are seen in strongholds, experimental artillery and armored towers while the dense Mediterranean scrub hides anti-aircraft bunkers and artillery posts dating back to the Second World War.

The Palmaria is an evolution of the German-Italian-British SP70 project launched in the years 1960-1970 and abandoned due to technical difficulties. Development of the Palmaria began in 1977. First prototypes were built in late 1970s. Production commenced in 1982 and ceased in early 1990s.

The Palmaria uses the chassis of the OF-40 battle tank, which in turn is based on the Leopard 1. A large aluminum turret is located in the middle of the vehicle. Welded steel armor hull and aluminum turret provides protection against small arms fire and artillery shell splinters. It is fitted with automatic NBC and fire suppression systems. The engine and drivetrain are located at the rear. The OF-40 derivative Palmaria had a less powerful 750hp engine with a 155mm self-propelled artillery system, which was as much in vogue in the 1970s-80s, a tank hull as the basis for a special turret with heavy artillery. This raised concerns because of the hull had an engine compartment that was in the rear [and very high operating cost].

The the hull and the turret of Palmaria is made in all-welded steel, which provides protection against small arms fire and artillery shell splinters. The driver is seated at the front of the hull on the right side the center under armor. The driver is provided with a single-piece hatch cover and three day periscopes, the center of which can be replaced by a passive periscope for night driving. The other four crew members - commander, gunner, charge handler and magazine operator - are seated in the aluminium turret in the center of the hull. The commander is seated in the right forward part of the turret which has eight day periscopes for all-round observation and a single-piece hatch cover that opens to the rear. There are two external stowage racks at the rear of the turret.

The turret is fitted with 41-caliber [many sources erroneously report 39 calibres] howitzer, developed by cannon FH-70, with automatic loading system. with a fume extractor and double baffle muzzle brake. The Palmaria's weapon system includes the NATO standard 155 mm gun with automatic loading. The magazine includes 23 shells ready to fire and 7 other shells stored in the chassis. The semi-automatic loading system allows the first three shots to be fired in 25 seconds and the normal firing rate is 4 rounds per minute and 1 rpm for 60 minutes.

A range of Italian 155mm rounds has been developed for use with the Palmaria, but all NATO standard 155mm rounds can be fired. The maximum range is 24.7 km for normal rounds and 30 km for rocket assisted rounds. The range is 24.7 km with the standard shell and 30 km with the shell propelled.

The Palmaria turret has 360 traverse and the gun can be elevated from -4 to 70 hydraulically, with manual controls for emergency use. As the secondary armament it carries a 7.62 mm machine gun.

The 155-mm self-propelled howitzer gun tubes were produced at Palmaria, Italy from forgings manufactured by Breda Fucine Co., of Milan. The Palmaria 155-mm evacuator system utilizes four drilled, threaded, and staked plugs which allow propellant gases to exit the bore area. Each plug contains three holes. In addition, the ball check valve which is free-floating and located inside the jet hole is contained through the use of this type plug. The bore evacuation system for the U.S. 155-mm M185 gun tube consists of ten jet holes and ball check valves which are contained through the use of a valve ring.

The Italians relied on one locking key to locate the breech ring and control torque during firing. However, the U.S. 155-mm cannons utilize a secondary long keyway in addition to the keyway on the breech end, for locking purposes. In fact, the 155-mm M284 employs two secondary, long keys to control torquing. The Palmaria tube exhibited a rifling configuration consisting of 64 lands and grooves. By comparison, the U.S. 155-mm M185 rifled bore consisting of 48 lands and grooves. The reason for the finer rifling exhibited by the Palmaria tube is unknown.

The dimensional and metallurgical qualities of the Palmaria tubes are comparable to 155-mm gun tubes manufactured in the U.S. Although the rifling configuration, bore evacuation system, and the breech keyway design vary, the tubes are physically comparable to U.S. designed gun tubes. The Palmaria tubes exhibit excellent bore straightness and minimal wall variation. The chemical composition of the Palmaria gun material was likely selected due to its high impact toughness capability. While this composition is very close to the U.S. 155-mm gun material, the elemental differences (increased nickel, increased chromium, and decreased carbon contents) in the Palmaria gun tube material give it a higher impact toughness capability than the U.S. material, assuming all other metallurgical factors are equal. The chemical composition of the Palmaria gun tube material is a modified steel containing lesser carbon and higher nickel and chromium content than U.S. gun steel.

The development begins in 1977 on the capital of the manufacturer OTO Melara. The first prototype of the Palmaria was assembled in 1981 and mass production was launched in 1982.

Since the mid 1990's the Palmaria is no longer marketed. It was extensively used by government forces in the 2011 Libyan conflict. In 1982, Libya ordered 210 pieces of the Palmaria, 160 of which were delivered. Nigeria acquired 25 copies of the Palmaria. Argentina acquired 25 (20 according to other sources) turrets from Palmaria to be installed on the chassis of the TAM light tank, Tanque Argentino Mediano. at least 17 pieces entered into service under the name VCA 155, Vehiculo de Combate de Artilleria. Compared to the Palmaria the VCA has the turret positioned further to the rear and it has no track skirts.

This vehicle shares many components with the Italian OF-40 main battle tank, which saw service in the United Arab Emirates Army. A total of 36 of these were built for the United Arab Emirates plus a small number of armored recovery vehicles on a similar chassis. These OF-40 MBTs have been phased out of front line service and may be converted into heavy infantry fighting vehicles under the leadership of the Belgian company of Sabiex. Iraq's pre-war 155mm artillery included 3 Palmaria SP Howitzers.

Production of this system has now been completed. In 1990, Oto Melara completed a further batch of 25 155 mm Palmaria systems for an undisclosed customer. Some sources indicate that this was a repeat order from Nigeria. According to the United Nations Arms Transfer List for the period 1992 through to 2009 the only customer for the Palmaria was Nigeria who took delivery of the system.

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Page last modified: 30-01-2019 19:16:15 ZULU