B1 Centauro

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For the armoured division, see 131st Armoured Division Centauro.
Centauro
Centauro01.JPEG
B1 Centauro with IFOR Markings.
Type Wheeled Tank Destroyer
Place of origin Italy
Service history
In service 1991–present
Used by See Operators below
Wars Iraq War
UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon)
Production history
Designed 1986
Manufacturer Iveco Fiat (hull, propulsion)
Oto Melara (weapons, turrets)
Unit cost 1.6 million
Produced 1991-2006
Number built 490+ (plus 249 Freccia[1])
Variants See Variants
Specifications
Weight 24,000 kg
Length 7.85 m (25 ft 9 in)
Width 2.94 m (9 ft 8 in)
Height 2.73 m (8 ft 11 in)
Crew 4 (commander, gunner, loader and driver)

Armor Welded steel armoured hull
Main
armament
105 mm gun
Secondary
armament
2x7.62 mm MGs
Engine IVECO, V6 turbo-Diesel
520 hp (382 kW)
Power/weight 19.35 hp/tonne
Transmission Hydropneumatic automatic transmission with 5 forward and 2 reverse gears
8x8 wheels
Suspension independent McPherson
Operational
range
800 km (500 mi)
Speed 108 km/h (67 mph)

The Centauro is a family of vehicles originally designed as a wheeled tank destroyer for light to medium territorial defense and tactical reconnaissance. It was developed by a consortium of manufacturers, the Società Consortile Iveco Fiat - Oto Melara (CIO). Iveco Fiat was tasked with developing the hull and propulsion systems while Oto Melara was responsible for developing the turrets and weapon systems.

Over the years, the Centauro platform has been developed into multiple variants to fulfill other combat roles, such as infantry fighting vehicle or self-propelled howitzer.

Description[edit]

The vehicle was developed in response to an Italian Army requirement for a tank destroyer with the firepower of the old Leopard 1 main battle tank then in service with the Italian Army but with greater strategic mobility. The main mission of the Centauro is to protect other lighter elements of the cavalry, using its good power-to-weight ratio, excellent range and cross country ability (despite the wheeled design) and computerized fire control system to accomplish this mission. Centauro entered production in 1991 and deliveries were complete by 2006.

Armament[edit]

The main armament consists of the Oto Melara 105 mm / 52 caliber gyro-stabilized high-pressure, low-recoil gun equipped with a thermal sleeve and an integrated fume extractor, with 14 ready rounds in the turret and another 26 rounds in the hull. The gun can fire standard NATO ammunition, including APFSDS (Armour Piercing Fin-Stabilized Discarding Sabot) rounds.

Secondary weapons are a 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun, and another 7.62 mm anti-aircraft machine gun with 4,000 rounds of ammunition.

Aiming is provided by Galileo Avionica TURMS fire control system (the same fitted to the Italian Ariete tank) and is equipped with a muzzle referencing system and a fully digital ballistic computer. The gunner sight is fully stabilized and comes equipped with a thermal imager and laser rangefinder. The commander's station is equipped with a panoramic stabilized sight, an image intensifying night sight and a monitor displaying the image from the gunner's thermal sight. This allows Centauro to engage stationary or moving targets while stationary or on the move, in day or night.

A Centauro in Iraq

Armour[edit]

The Centauro hull is an all-welded steel armoured hull which is designed to withstand in the baseline configuration 14.5 mm bullets and shell fragments with protection against 25 mm munition on the frontal section. Protection can be increased by the addition of bolt on appliqué armour which increases protection against 30 mm rounds.

The Centauro is also equipped with an NBC (Nuclear, Biological and Chemical) warfare protection system which is integrated with the vehicle's air conditioning system. The vehicle is also equipped with a four-barreled smoke grenade launcher mounted on each side of the turret and a laser warning receiver.

Propulsion[edit]

Centauro is powered by an Iveco V6 turbo-charged after-cooled diesel engine delivering 520 hp (382.4 kW). This drives a ZF-designed automatic transmission which is manufactured under license by Iveco Fiat. The transmission system has five forward and two reverse gears. This drives 8 wheels which are each equipped with an independent suspension system and is furthermore equipped with run-flat inserts and a Central Tyre Inflation System (CTIS). Braking is provided by 8 disc brakes. Steering is provided on the first and second axles and at slow speed with also the fourth axle. Together, this allows Centauro to achieve road speeds in excess of 100 km/h, negotiate gradients up to 60%, ford water up to a depth of 1.5m without preparation, and have a turning radius of 9m.

Combat history[edit]

It is currently deployed as part of UNIFIL forces in Lebanon.[2]

Centauro was deployed in the former Yugoslavia and Somalia, where the design proved successful. Centauro was usually employed to escort motor convoys, for wide area control and for road patrols.

Centauros were also deployed during operation Antica Babilonia, the Italian involvement in the Iraq War. During this operation, a Centauro troop took part in the battle for the bridges of Nassiriya, destroying a building where snipers were hiding.

In 2003, Spain deployed six Centauro 105/52mm to Iraq "for the self-defense" of their troops. [3]

Variants[edit]

Anti-tank[edit]

  • Centauro 105mm
The baseline and original version, also called Centauro Reconnaissance Anti-Tank.
Freccia in Rome
  • Centauro 120mm
Upgraded Centauro with a low recoil 120/45 cannon in a newly designed turret and with new composite armour that can resist up to 40mm APFSDS rounds on the front and 14.5mm on the rest of the body.

Other roles[edit]

  • Centauro VBM "Freccia"
Main article: Freccia IFV
The Veicolo Blindato Medio "Freccia" (Italian: Medium Armoured Vehicle "Arrow") is a reconfigured[4] Centauro to act as a wheeled infantry fighting vehicle with multiple variants, such as command & control or mortar carrier, offering increased armour and NBC protection. It can transport up to eight infantrymen plus three crew.
  • Centauro 155/39LW
Added to the Centauro range on late 2013 to fill the role of a self-propelled howitzer,[5] being able to fire up to 8 rounds/minute to a distance exceeding 60km for guided ammunition. It mounts an ultralight 155/39mm main gun, based on the latest material breakthroughs,[6] and a secondary 7.62 or 12.7mm MG. The 155/39 is manned by a crew of two and provides full NBC and ballistic protection.[7]
  • Centauro VBM Recovery
Serves both as an engineer vehicle and for recovery and repair of damaged armoured vehicles on the battlefield.[8]
  • Draco
The Centauro Draco is a SPAAG prototype to test the Draco weapon system on the Centauro 8x8 platform.[9] The Draco weapon system primary function is the air defense against rotary- and fixed-wing aircraft firing 76mm DART guided ammunition, but can support other roles such as Counter-Rocket, Artillery, Mortar (C-RAM).

A 125mm gun-armed version is being tested by the Russian army, alongside the standard 105mm-armed version.[10]

Operators[edit]

Map of B1 Centauro operators in blue

Current operators[edit]

Italy Italian Army
  • 389 B1 Centauro,[11] originally.
    • 300 remained in service,[12] with the rest in reserve, in June 2013, when a plan was announced to reduce the number of active Centauro to 136 units by 2015, modernizing them to the Centauro II Reconnaissance Anti-Tank 120mm. The remaining units were to either be sold or used to cannibalize parts.
  • 249 VBM Freccia (172 standard, 36 combat anti-tank, 20 command center and 21 mortar carrier) in service.
  • 261 VBM Freccia (standard, combat anti-tank, command center, mortar carrier and recovery variant) ordered into financial law 2014.
  • 120 VBM Recce/ISTAR variant, ordered into financial law 2014.
  • 4 VBM Freccia Ambulance.
Jordan Jordanian Army
  • 25 Centauro Reconnaissance Anti-Tank as fee (from the first vehicles retired by Italian Army) in July 2014.
Spain Spanish Army
  • 84 Centauro Reconnaissance Anti-Tank .[13]
  • 4 VBM Recovery.
Oman Royal Army of Oman
  • 6+3 Centauro 120mm (option for further 24).

Evaluation-only operators[edit]

United States US Army
  • Leased 16 Centauro between 2000 and 2002 for evaluation, and to gain experience for the introduction of the Stryker Mobile Gun System.[14]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "VBM Freccia Infantry Fighting Vehicle, Italy". Army-Technology.com. Retrieved 26 August 2014. 
  2. ^ "CIO Centauro 8x8 Tank Destroyer.". Military Factory. Retrieved 10 February 2015. 
  3. ^ "España refuerza su despliegue en Iraq con seis blindados con cañones de gran calibre.". Belt Iberica (in Spanish). Retrieved 10 February 2015. 
  4. ^ http://www.deagel.com/Wheeled-Armored-Fighting-Vehicles/Centauro-VBM_a000412002.aspx
  5. ^ "Self-Propelled Wheeled Howitzer Centauro 155/39LW" (PDF). otomelara.it. Oto Melara. Retrieved 25 August 2014. 
  6. ^ "Artillery on wheels". armada.ch. Armada International. Retrieved 25 August 2014. 
  7. ^ "Centauro 155 39LW". otomelara.it. Oto Melara. Retrieved 25 August 2014. 
  8. ^ http://www.deagel.com/Special-Purpose-Vehicles/Centauro-VBM-Recovery_a000412003.aspx
  9. ^ http://www.deagel.com/Air-Defense-Systems/Centauro-Draco_a000412004.aspx
  10. ^ "Russia Testing Italian Tank". en.rian.ru. RIA Novosti. Retrieved 12 May 2012. 
  11. ^ "Esercito italiano in panne. Metà delle armi è fuori uso.". Analisi Difesa (in Italian). Archived from the original on 14 September 2013. Retrieved 28 August 2014. 
  12. ^ "La grande svendita delle armi (usate) italiane (The great sale of the talian army)". Il Sole 24 Ore (in Italian). Archived from the original on 28 August 2014. Retrieved 28 August 2014. 
  13. ^ http://www.onemagazine.es/noticia/8759/Sin-Especificar/Datos-numericos-de-las-Fuerzas-Armadas-espanolas.html
  14. ^ "Centauro B1". Military Today.com. Retrieved 2011-01-21. 

External links[edit]