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.
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.
|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"|
|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.|
|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!|
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.
|Inside the M109L turret|
|Inside the Pzh2000|
Video from inside the Pzh2000's turret
|A spot of bridging: throw it in the water!|
|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.