Armor: Italy Shops For New Armored Vehicles


July 9, 2024: The numerous tank battles in Ukraine alarmed the Italian army because their current tank force consisted of 200 53-ton Ariete tanks delivered between 1995 and 2002. Lack of maintenance and upgrades meant only 50 of these tanks were operational when the Ukraine War began. The Italians were reminded that NATO membership required Italy to have at least 250 operational tanks. Now the army has the cash to upgrade 90 of its Arietes at a cost of $10 million each. If that upgrade works as expected, there is an option to upgrade 35 more. The Italian manufacturer of Ariete is no longer able to manufacture more Arietes at an affordable price. A German firm can supply 133 new Leopard 2A8 tanks at an affordable price and that is the option the Italian army wants money for so Italy can meet their NATO commitment for an adequate tank force consisting of at least 250 tanks. Italian firms would produce some of the Leopard 2 components for the Leopard 2s purchased by Italy. This form of co-production is common for an expensive, at about $15 million per vehicle, new tank like the Leopard 2A8. Earlier models cost half as much but had far fewer capabilities.

Longer term, Italy could accept the new German Panther tank. This is a 59 ton vehicle armed with a new 130mm main gun with twenty 130mm rounds on board. Secondary armament consists of a 12.7mm (.50 caliber) machine-gun mounted next (coaxially) to the 130mm gun. If the gunner spots a target that does not require a 130mm shell, the coaxial machine-gun can be used instead. Another 7.62mm machine-gun is mounted on top of the turret as part of an RWS (Remote Weapons System) and can be operated from inside the tank. There is also an APS (Active Protection System) to deal with anti-tank missiles and rockets. Panther uses a unique armor system that consists of three layers. The inner layer is a relatively thin armor plate, the next layer is reactive armor and the outside layer is the APS system. This type of armor protection keeps the overall weight of the Panther down to 59 tons, a weight most bridges can handle. The 71 ton American M1 tank cannot use many bridges because of its weight.

Panther also has day/night video cameras mounted on the outside of the tank so the crew can always see what is outside the tank without someone sticking their head and shoulders out of the top turret hatch.

Crew size is three or four depending on the actual workload for the crew. Speed and road range on one load of fuel is apparently similar to that of the Leopard 2.

Panther uses the same hull as Leopard 2 but with an updated turret. Currently there are only prototypes of the Panther, some using the 120mm main gun. Mass production is expected to begin in 2025 for customers like Italy, Germany, Hungary, plus any others who have not yet placed orders. Production of Panther is expected to be similar to that of the Leopard 2, which has had 3,600 built since production began in 1979. Leopard 2 is used by Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Hungary, Denmark, Greece, Spain, Poland, Canada, Norway, Portugal, Switzerland, Sweden, Turkey, Singapore, Chile, Qatar and now Ukraine, which has received 50 so far with several hundred more on the way. Leopard 2s encountered an intense combat environment in Ukraine, featuring the new FPV (First Person View) attack UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) or drones. The Leopard 2s did as well as other tanks, like the Americans M1 and Ukrainian T-72s they had since the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991. Ukraine was where the Soviet Union stored a lot of its armored vehicles and Ukraine inherited hundreds of tanks. Before the Russian invasion Ukrainian firms did a good business in upgrading and exporting T-72s. Since the invasion those T-72s have been used against the Russians.




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