One of the stands at almost every defence and aerospace show that always stands out thanks to its resolutely red, Italian design is Finmeccanica. Well, not Finmeccanica anymore, but Leonardo-Finmeccanica until the end of this year and then just Leonardo from 1 January, 2017. The difficulty being that with the new name if you want to look the company up on the internet the first results to come up will be Leonardo Di Caprio, the actor, then Leonardo Da Vinci, the 15th century Florentine inventor, artist and scientist that the Italian aerospace and defence company is now named after. So it might be a while before a search engine will bring ex-Finmeccanica to the fore!
This name change would have passed us by here at FOB, I must confess, but that our attention was drawn by an article published on 20 May by our colleagues at Defense News to the effect that a consortium made up of Iveco and Leonardo-Finmeccanica will be developing a new Centauro II wheeled tank with a €160m input by the Italian defence ministry. A prototype of this updated Centauro, a 30-ton vehicle with a top speed of 105 kph, will be unveiled at next month’s Eurosatory show in Paris.
The upgraded Centauro will be equipped with a 120mm gun (the original has a 105mm 52 calibre Oto Melara gun) and a more powerful engine (720hp).
The Centauro was initially developed in the 1980s using similar sub-systems to those in the Ariete main battle tank (MBT), the Dardo tracked AIFV (armoured infantry fighting vehicle) and the Puma series of wheeled armoured vehicles. It was designed and built by Iveco, the main contractor, Fiat, Oto Melara, part of Finmeccanica, and Galileo Avionica, who produced eight prototypes from 1987 to 1988, the tank finally entering service with the Italian army in 1991. The last of the 400 ordered were delivered in 2006. They were first used in combat in Somalia, undertaking some 8,400km of reconnaissance/patrol missions. The tank was later fitted with the BAE Systems ROMAR-A ERA and passive armour that increased its weight by three tons but provides protection against 20mm projectiles in the front and 12.7mm projectiles elsewhere.
The NBC compatible Centauro is used by the Spanish army which bought 84 of them and Oman which has nine, whilst Jordan procured 141 from Italian Army surplus.