Sunday, June 3, 2012

Day of tanks!

Yesterday, 02 June 2012, Italy celebrated its Republic Day. In Rome, the army paraded, even though in a much reduced format, without horse-mounted formations and without vehicles, even without the Frecce Tricolori acrobatic squadron, due to both the economic crisis, suggesting that money should be spent elsewhere and, more significantly, due to the earthquake that in these days has reaped victims in my region, Emilia Romagna.

The parade, as a consequence, was very poor compared to last year's one. However, in the afternoon i had the chance to see far more kit than ever before, and not in television, but for real. Piacenza's Army Repair and Maintenance Base, the Arsenal, held an open day that i of course could not miss.
It was a wonderful experience, and i've touched almost all kinds of heavy armored vehicles in service in the Italian army, looked through a Centauro tank's infra-red periscope, took command of the Centauro's gun turret, aimed the 105 mm cannon, climbed inside a Pzh2000 self-propelled howitzer, inside a Dardo IFV, inside a M109L Paladin self-propelled howitzer and so along. I must thank the Italian Army for the wonderful day they have given me, and for how welcoming they have been. I ended up being escorted around by a colonel in high uniform for over two hours, and we went from vehicle to vehicle talking of them all.
Truly impressive.

And quite amazing to experience first-hand just how tight and uncomfortable these armored vehicles tend to be. The turret of the Dardo IFV, for example: true, i climbed into it from the soldiers' space in the back and not from the hatch on top of the turret, but still it was a struggle, and i was only wearing a t-shirt. The tankies truly must be respected just for their ability of fitting inside, two of them, sitting side to side.
The Pzh2000, of course, it's by far the most spacious. In the turret, i could pretty much stand. Still, of course it is not a living room!

One of the few vehicles i could not explore from close by was the MLRS, even if i saw two being maintained in a hangar, and saw from a distance a de-storing spot, with several MLRS rocket pods in storage.
The Ariete Main Battle Tank was also closed to exploration, even though, from a distance, we saw the hulls in maintenance and the turrets, and then i could climb on the outside of a tank from 132 Regiment, Ariete armoured brigade.
I also had the chance of standing near an Ariete's engine, and see exactly how huge a powerpack is. The amazing thing, of course, it is that the Ariete is still a "small" tank: considerably shorter than a Challenger 2 or Leopard, due also to its 120/44 cannon, against 120/55.

Another kind of emotion was to climb into a Lince (the Iveco mine-protected jeep that the British Army acquired and turned into the Panther CLV) which was back from Afghanistan for maintenance from so short a time that it was still coated in some of the sand and dust of the far-away front.
Several Centauro wheeled tanks were still in white dress and UN markings, from a tour in Lebanon, and at least one still carried the arab signs painted on it while in Iraq.

But now it's time for some photos.

A SKYGUARD Aspide air to surface missile battery, with the reloads truck with crane extended, the radar trailer and the missile launcher trailer. The Aspide is the italian license-produced variant of the american semi-active radar guided Sparrow missile. The Skyguard is effective to around 15 kilometers, and is classed as medium range. The Italian Armed Forces also use a modernized Aspide missile system, the SPADA, which has also been exported. This was not exposed, however.

The SIDAM low-level air defence system mounts a quadruple 25 mm gun turret on M113 hull. 

Inside the SIDAM, rear console and turret basket

SIDAMs being maintained and repaired. In the distance down the hangar, 2 MLRS vehicles also undergoing checks. The italian MLRS vehicles (to be upgraded to Guided MLRS in the near future) are concentrated into the 5° Artillery Regiment "Superga"

The "Camillino" (little Camillo, the affective nickname of the VCC-1) APC: on the left is the A2 variant, which was fitted with significant amounts of additional armor designed by Israel's Rafael, which made necessary the adoption of those sping-arms on the engine's door, by now too heavy to be opened by a soldier without a little help. The Camillino is a true ever-green in the Italian army, a modest APC which continues to be hard at work. Note the presence of the side ports for the soldiers to fire from inside the vehicle with their personal weapons. 

Inside the Camillino, seats for 10, space for... well.

Back from Afghanistan, a Lince jeep

One Lince in maintenance was pulled apart in all its parts: back cargo module, crew safety cell, chassis, engine block, mine-shieled.

Inside the Lince, sitting down and then in the worst possible position to be when out in mission, out of the hatch. I hope the gun shield was removed before shipping the jeep back from Afghanistan: for years italian soldiers in mission have been horrendously exposed without a shield nor a remote turret, a situation only improved with "urgent" (!) orders of some 80 Hitrole remote turrets and a number of gun shields in 2010 and 2011. The seat of the Lince was surprisingly comfortable, but of course, i was wearing very little stuff and carrying no rifle...

Ariete MBTs in maintenance, the powerpack (huge!) and a parked tank from 132 Regiment, Ariete brigade, of El Alamein fame.
The Dardo IFV
Inside the Dardo

A shot of the turret's insides. The space was so little that taking photos was next to impossible!

The Centauro wheeled tank, a very successful vehicle, exported abroad (Spain, Oman, Jordan...) and even leased to the US, which used it to trial concepts and doctrines ahead of the adoption of the Stryker. There's many in the US Army who feel that, instead of the Stryker Mobile Gun System, the Centauro should have been ordered. The Italian army is currently developing the Centauro 2, probably to be armed with a 120/45 gun in place of the 105. It will have more power, better electronics, much greater protection and is also required to have an even better power/weight ratio: keep an eye on it!

Video of the Centauro turret on the test ring. After taking this video, i was allowed in to maneuver the turret myself. Note the markings and paint: this Centauro was in maintenance after  a long tour in Lebanon.

The Pzh2000, a true monster of power and technology. The colonel of the base was so kind to send a tankie "waking up the beast" for me to hear the roar of the engine. It's real loud, let me tell it to you. Nearby, the old but still valid M109L Paladin. No shiny computer screens inside it, and no great ammo handling system: need muscles inside that one.
Inside the M109L turret
Inside the Pzh2000

Video from inside the Pzh2000's turret 

Pioneer Panzer on Leopard 1 hull and mechanics: the Italian Army still uses them. There is also a Leopard Bridgelayer in service, but there was none around to be admired, unfortunately. A far cry from Titan and Trojan, these vehicles are starting to get real old...!
A spot of bridging: throw it in the water!
Bangs from the past, now!

17 pdr AT gun: the Italian Army used plenty of british equipment for many years after the end of the second world war

25 pdr: some artillery on display!

6 pdr Anti-Tank gun

Wishes for next year: another open day, with even more vehicles! On the list of things yet to see we have the Freccia in all its variants, the Dardo mortar-carrier and other variants, the Leopard 1 Bridgelayer, the BV206 of the "Alpini" brigades, the AAV7 of the San Marco and Serenissima amphibious infantry regiments nd the VTMM.


  1. The armoured infantry fighting vehicle concept always makes me laugh. You make a vehicle that's designed to carry troops and then put huge amounts of armour on it as well as huge gun so it can take on main battle tanks. Problem being, Main battle tanks are superior... so why would you want to use AIFV to attack MBT's when your carrying 8 or more troops in the back.

    1. The gun on the IFV will never hole a tank. And never will an IFV go hunting for tanks.

      The gun on the IFV is meant to take on enemy APCs, enemy IFVs, fixed positions, even helicopters to a degree. The armor is meant to protect the infantry, and allow it to follow the battle tanks at speed.

      When an area is filled with enemies, possibly armed with anti-tank missile posts, the infantry dismounts and clears the passage.

      IFVs are meant to operate together with tanks, normally a company of IFVs is mated to a Company of MBTs, or at least a Troop (14, 12 or 4 MBTs). The Americans all but reorganized their IFVs and Tank units by mixing them in Combined Arms Battalions which have each 2 Infantry coys on IFVs and 2 Tank coys.

      You seem to have a very wrong understanding of how IFVs are used.

    2. operation desert storm

    3. So, what?
      Bradleys with TOW missiles engaged, with good success by the way, enemy tanks.
      Still, i can't see what you are trying to prove. Desert Storm truly is not an argument against IFVs, quite the opposite.

    4. Putting 8 men in an armoured box and giving it a weapon to take on MBT. Great way to put those lives at risk.

    5. I think not having the missile launcher would make the Bradley more vulnerable, not less.

      You are attacking a doctrine of use of the AIFV that exists only in your mind.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.


    1. So, you are in love with APCs and you don't want compromises.

      Understandable, but not workable.

      Also, what your APC would be doing against the BMPs of the russians which were the worry at the time, and, in particular, the forthcoming BMP3, is to be questioned.

    2. You have MBT's, Helicopters, jets, infantry armed with anti-tank weaponry.

      AIFV means

      heavier armour- weighs more- costs more
      less room for troops- need more - costs more
      Giving it large guns means you intend for it to attack heavily defended positions/vehicles while at the same time carrying troops from A to B if your taking on such tough targets the vehicle is at risk and therefore the occupants are put in greater risk.

    3. And if you are caught on your taxi drive from A to B on a vehicle with less armor, less weapon, more men on board, by an enemy IFV with the "big gun"?

      All dead.

      When you reach B, your soldiers dismount and are alone, unless resistance is light and the APC can do something with its MG.

      With the IFV, when you dismount, you still have a solid vehicle pouring down heavy fire on the enemy. I really do not think it is a bad thing.

    4. When you reach B, your soldiers dismount and are alone, unless resistance is light and the APC can do something with its MG.

      In the modern battlefield troops are never alone, you can always have artillery within range, air-power in some form to support the infantry, as well as tanks. The whole point of a troop carrier is to be able to carry the infantry to allow for quick movement of men if they only carry 6 men then you need so many of them, that's its unaffordable to make all your infantry mobile.

    5. "In the modern battlefield troops are never alone, you can always have artillery within range, air-power in some form to support the infantry, as well as tanks."

      That's a bit optimistic and a simplification of things that are significantly more complex.

    6. Perhaps, but with technology advances, you look at operation desert storm all forces were interlinked and the armed forces as a whole co operated together to make a stronger fighting force as shown by the Germans in ww2.

      AIFV is a compromise between a tank and a troop carrier, these are two specific roles that conflict one another.

    7. You chose a dangerous example: it was exactly during the fighting on land in Desert Storm that air operations were grounded by sandstorms, if you go check the story, remembering everyone that cooperation is great but at times just won't work.

      At the time, those sandstorms also silenced those who said that, with the advent of Apache helos, tanks were not all needed anymore.
      I do believe the IFV still has its role. The APC will probably win in the long term, but just because of the advent of modern, powerful unmanned turrets capable to take big weaponry.
      Let the tech advance some more, and APCs with big remotely-operated Overhead Weapon Stations will indeed be the way forward.

  4. "The APC will probably win in the long term, but just because of the advent of modern, powerful unmanned turrets capable to take big weaponry.
    Let the tech advance some more, and APCs with big remotely-operated Overhead Weapon Stations will indeed be the way forward."

    Would you not call that a AIFV!

    1. You never are happy, are you...?

      Once the OWS removes the main disadvantage of the IFV (the turret basket leaving little space for dismounts) and gives you the capacity of an APC and the firepower of the IFV, you still bitch?

  5. Still need room for ammo, more armour as expecting it to go against tougher targets. Which equals more cost and fewer units.

    I am just arguing that the concept of a troop carrier having such heavy fire-power as to go up against main battle tanks, is ludicrous.

    1. 1) Most OWS mount the ammunition on top, so no space is actually lost.

      2) IFVs that go against battle tanks exist only in your mind.

      3) More armor is required to keep people inside safe, mostly from IEDs and other threats.

  6. @Anonymous

    AIFV full fill a specific role of keeping troops up with the tanks and so need said fire-power to defend themselves. They are not the main means of transporting troops. This is done by the boat, plane or train and then by truck and or APC.


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