Italy’s MBT is the Ariete, developed beginning in 1982. A half-dozen prototypes were produced by 1984, and the Ariete entered service in 1995. The Italian Army ordered 200. The Ariete weighs about 119,000 pounds, has a crew of four, is powered by a 1,300-hp engine, and has a maximum speed of 40 mph. It mounts a 120mm smoothbore main gun, which takes the same ammunition as the M1A1/M1A2 Abrams and Leopard 2, and two machine guns. The Ariete has NBC protection, a ballistic computer, day/night sight, and laser rangefinder. It also has an electric gun-control and stabilization system. The tank features blowout panels in the turret roof to release any internal explosion upward and away from the crew. A Mark 2 is currently under development.
Designing the Mk 2 Ariete is well underway. Under present plans, 500 Mk 2 Arietes will follow the Mk 1 on the production lines. These will have enhanced serviceability features, a 1500 hp engine, hydro-pneumatic suspension, an automatic loader and a more advanced fire-control system.
As mentioned in the development, the Italian Army may fund a mid-life update of the Ariete in the medium term and Italian industry is already proposing a number of enhancements.
Tests are already under way of an add-on armour package. A war kit would provide increased protection over the frontal arc and there would also be a kit for peace support operations to provide enhanced protection along the side of the vehicle.
IVECO has also developed a series of new diesel engines based on the common rail injection system, with a prototype of a V-12 model already being installed for trials purposes in an Ariete at the Oto Melara plant in La Spezia.
The new diesel engine develops 1,500 hp compared to the current 1,200 hp, has reduced smoke and allows the vehicle to reach a maximum speed of 32 km/h within six seconds.
The current tracks could be replaced by wider tracks, which would lower the ground pressure of the vehicle and help to offset any increases in weight due to the installation of additional armour protection.
The commander’s station could be fitted with a multispectral panoramic sight, with the turret being fitted with all new electric servos, as already installed in the Oto Melara 120/105 HITFACT turret systems.
A radar and thermal reduction kit has also been developed and tested. According to the manufacturer, this kit can reduce by 90 to 99 per cent the radar signature in the 6 to 100 GHz band and by 85 per cent the infra-red signature in the 3 to 5 pm and 8 to 12 pm bands.
From 2005, the Italian Army intends to fit the SJCCONA navigation and command-and-control system to at least part of its Ariete fleet as part of its land digitisation programme.
The Ariete equips three armoured (4th, 32nd and 132nd) regiment of the Ariete Armoured Brigade. Each regiment has 54 tanks, equipping four companies, each with 13 tanks and two assigned to the regiment; headquarters. Other Italian armoured regiments are equipped with the Leopard 1 series MBT.
In 2004 the Italian Army deployed six Ariete MBTsto Iraq from the 3rd Tar Battalion/M. O. Galas/32 Tank Regiment. These were fitted with addition: armour protection to their hulls and turrets. Two 7.62 mm machine gun were installed on the roof, which were protected by shields similar to those fitted to the Centauro 105 mm armoured car/tank destroyer.
The tank has a conventional layout similar to other Western MBTs: with the driver located at the front of the hull, the fighting compartment – towards the middle – and the engine compartment is in the rear of the hull.
The Ariete’s main armament is a native 120 mm smoothbore cannon developed by OTO Breda, autofrettaged and stress-hardened to increase durability over extended periods of firing, allowing the use of APFSDS-T and HEAT ammunition. The gun is also adapted to fire most NATO-standard rounds of the same calibre. It carries 42 rounds, 27 rounds of which are stored in a special magazine inside the hull, to the left of the driver’s position. The remaining ammunition is stored in the rear turret bustle, separated from the crew compartment with an armoured door. The gun barrel has a thermal insulating sleeve and a fume extractor; it is fully stabilized in both azimuth and elevation by an electro-hydraulic drive system.
Secondary armament consists of a 7.62 mm MG 42/59 coaxial machine gun operated by the tank gunner or commander and an additional 7.62 mm MG 42/59 configured as an anti-aircraft weapon operated by the main-gun loader from his hatch.
Fire control and target acquisition
The tank’s sophisticated fire-control system, manufactured by Galileo Avionica, is designated OG14L3 TURMS, and includes day and night panoramic capability for the commander’s SP-T-694 primary sight (developed collaboratively by SFIM/Galileo), a stabilized platform including a thermal gunner’s sight and a laser rangefinder to increase accuracy and expedite target detection and targeting, and a digital fire-control computer, which is capable of measuring wind speed, humidity, and exterior weather conditions, combining them with the turret’s angle of elevation, attitude, and the barrel’s physical wear to increase accuracy. This computer is also a component of the tank’s navigation system and allows for the exchange of tactical information between vehicles in a network. The Ariete has a “hunter-killer” capability in which the commander spots and designates targets for the gunner in a 360° field of vision around the vehicle without changing his position or exposing himself by unbuttoning from inside the tank. The commander’s sight also has a vertical traverse from -10° to +60° from the horizontal, which allows the tank to engage low-flying airborne threats – primarily helicopters. During night fighting, the commander and gunner both share the thermal sight which is able to resolve a 2.3×x2.3 m target from a distance of 1,500 m.
Crew and tank protection
The Ariete’s armour is a steel and composite blend, similar to the British Challenger 2 and the American M1 Abrams.
The Ariete features two side-mounted, electronically fired grenade launchers. Each launcher consists of four barrels which can be intermixed with either smoke or chaff grenades. The smoke grenades are capable of shrouding the tank from visual or thermal detection, while the chaff grenades disperse the tank’s radar cross section. The tank is fully NBC protected.
Powerplant and drivetrain
The Ariete is powered by a 25.8-litre turbo-charged Fiat-Iveco MTCA 12-cylinder diesel engine in a Vee configuration rated at 937 kilowatts (1,250 hp) at 2,300 rpm, with a maximum torque of 4,615 Nm at 1,600 rpm driving through a ZF LSG3000 automatic transmission, with four forward gears and two reverse, allowing for a top cruising speed of 65 km/h and a 0–32 km/h acceleration in 6 s. The computer-controlled transmission allows it to climb grades rated up to 60%, and can ford waterways of up to 1.25 m on-the-fly. The entire engine and transmission assembly can be replaced in under 1 hour.
The Ariete’s independent suspension system consists of 14 torsion bars with suspension arms, 10 hydraulic shock absorbers (installed on roadwheels numbers 1, 2, 3, 6 and 7) and 14 friction dampers.
Summary: Italy’s current MBT. The Ariete features a ballistic computer, day/night sight, and laser rangefinder. It also has an electric gun-control and stabilization system, along with blowout panels in the turret roof to release any internal explosion upward and away from the crew. A Mark 2 is now under development.
Production dates: 1995-
Number produced: 200
Manufacturer: OTOBREDA, La Spezia, Italy
Crew: 4 (commander, gunner, loader, driver)
Armament: 1 x 120mm (4.72-inch) OTOBREDA smoothbore gun; 1 x 12.7mm machine gun (antiaircraft); 2 x 7.62mm machine guns (coaxial); 4 smoke grenade launchers
Weight: 119,016 lbs.
Length: 24’11” (31’7″ with gun forward)
Width: 11’10” Height: 8’2″ Armor: not disclosed Ammunition storage and type: 40 x 120mm; 2,400 x 7.62mm
Power plant: IVECO V-12 MTCA turbocharged 12-cylinder 1,300-hp diesel engine.
Maximum speed: 40 mph Range: 342 miles
Fording depth: 3’11” (6’10” with preparation)
Vertical obstacle: 3’3″
Trench crossing: 9’10”
Special characteristics (pos/neg): Galileo computerized fire-control system, including daylight sights, laser rangefinder