Ariete Main Battle Tank (Italy)

In 1982 the Italian Army issued a broad specification for a new main battle tank to replace the aging Leopard 1 and M60 MBT fleet that was bought from Germany and the United States. The tank was to be designed and built in Italy, and by 1984 the overall specification had been agreed with industry and design work was well under way on many of the components and subsystems. 1984 also saw the Otobreda Division of Alenia Difesa and the Defence Vehicles Division of IVECO form a consortium, with its headquarters in Rome, to develop a new generation of wheel and tracked vehicles for the Italian Army. Otobreda has overall responsibility for the project with IVECO being responsible for the powerpack and suspension system. The first prototype of the Ariete was completed in 1986, with the remainder being completed by 1988. Trials with the Italian Army and the manufacturer began in earnest. The prototypes fired more than 3,000 rounds of 120mm ammunition and underwent more than 450 days of combat tests. As a result, the Italian Army placed an initial order for 200 tanks and production commenced in 1995 at the Otobreda facility in La Spezia and the IVECO plant in Bolzano. The first production Ariete was completed at the end of that year. Production is expected to be completed by the end of 2001 / early 2002 with a total programme cost of somewhere around $970 million. Studies have begun into an Ariete Mk. 2, which would have a 1,500hp engine, hydropneumatic suspension system, a more advanced fire control system, increased protection and an autoloader for the 120mm smoothbore gun.

The Ariete is made of an all-steel welded construction, with composite armour on the hull front and turret front and sides, with side-skirts protecting the top of the tracks. The tank also has a laser-warning sensor mounted just ahead of the loader's hatch. Layout is conventional with the driver seated on the front right of the hull in a hydraulically adjustable seat, with a single-piece hatch with three periscopes, the central one of which can be replaced by an MES VG/DIL 100 passive periscope. The turret is in the centre of the hull with the commander and gunner on the right and the loader on the left. The commander has eight periscopes for all round observation. The loader has a single-piece hatch with two periscopes looking forward and to the left. There are blow-out panels in the turret roof to vent any secondary explosions away from the crew. The commander has a primary day / night (image intensification) stabilised panoramic sight (magnification of x 2.5 and x 10), while the gunner has a stabilised panoramic day / night (thermal) sight with laser rangefinder (x 5 magnification), which is linked to a ballistic computer, sensors and muzzle reference system. The gunner also has a backup sight, the Officine Galileo C-102 coaxial telescope with x 8 magnification and three manually selectable aiming reticules. The main armament is an Otobreda 120mm 44 calibre auto-frettaged smoothbore gun that has a gun chamber the same size of that fitted to the Leopard 2 and M1A1 / M1A2 Abrams, so the ammunition from the firm SIMMEL DIFESA is interoperable. A total of forty-two rounds are carried for the main gun, fifteen in the turret and twenty-seven beside the driver. A 7.62mm machine gun is mounted coaxially, with another 7.62mm machine gun mounted on the turret roof. Turret traverse and weapon elevation is electrohydraulic with manual backup. The engine is an IVECO V-12 MCTA diesel (1,300hp) coupled to a Renk LSG 3000 fully automatic transmission (manufactured under license by IVECO). The suspension is of a torsion bar type, with seven rubber-tyred road wheels, an idler and the front and drive wheel at the back, as well as four track return rollers. The first, second third, sixth and seventh road wheels have hydraulic shock absorbers and all seven suspension arms on either side have hydraulic bumpers fitted to limit excessive travel. The NBC system is a SP-180 pack manufactured by Sekur.

Hull length: 7.59m. Hull width: 3.42m. Height: 2.5m. (turret roof) Crew: 4. Ground Clearance: 0.44m. Weight: 54,000kg (combat). Ground pressure: 0.9kg/sq.cm. Max speed: 65km/h. Max range (internal fuel): 550km (on road). Armament: 120mm smoothbore gun, 1 x 7.62mm machine gun coaxial, 1 x 7.62mm machine gun mounted on turret roof.

Foss, Christopher. Jane's Tank Recognition Guide, HarperCollins, Glasgow, 1996.
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Gelbart, Marsh. Tanks: Main Battle and Light Tanks, Brassey's (UK) Ltd, London, 1996.
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Ariete MBT in Jane's Armour and Artillery 2000 - 2001 located at Cranfield
Ariete in The Website for Defence Industries - Army (Current Projects) located at www.army-technology.com
How to cite this article: Antill, P. (1 June 2001), Ariete Main Battle Tank (Italy), http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_ariete.html

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