Ever since the major wars became less probable the major armed forces of the world started developing wheeled armor. It is much cheaper to produce and maintain than the standard tracked vehicles and they are capable of finishing the job in low intensity conflicts. The Italian option for this kind of fighting vehicle was the B1 Centauro Tank.
B1 Centauro Development and variants
The development of the B1 Centauro was finished in 1991 and it entered the service the same year. The production lasted until 2006 and it is still one of the most important vehicles of the Italian armored units, along with the Ariette main battle tank.
It is available in several variants. The main variant of the B1 Centauro used by the Italian forces is armed with a 105mm low recoil main gun able to fire all standard 105mm NATO shells including SABOT ammo and its main role is a reconnaissance tank destroyer vehicle. The version with 120mm gun is under the development since 2012 and the 152mm variant is also developed and was displayed for the first time in 2011. Finally, the Russian armed forces have ordered several vehicles with a 125mm gun and they are currently being tested.
The entire concept is based on an 8×8 armored vehicle constructed by Iveco Fiat. It has the 520hp V6 Iveco turbo diesel engine and that allows it the speed of even 100 km/h on road. Also the 8×8 configuration allows tackling even the most demanding terrain.
The 105mm low recoil gun is able to tackle most armored vehicles on the battlefield and only the newer main battle tanks are immune to its fire from the front. The version with 120mm gun is supposed to overcome this deficiency and it should be able to penetrate even the most modern MBTs.
Coupled with the main gun are a 7.62 mm machine gun and another 7.62 mm anti-aircraft machine gun. This provides B1 Centauro with the firepower equal to the most 2nd generation main battle tanks and when the new 120 mm gun comes to service that will be lifted to a 3rd generation MBT standard.
The armor protection of the Centauro is not that impressive. Wheeled configuration made heavy armor plating impossible to integrate so it allows much decreased armor protection compared to the main battle tanks. The frontal armor provides protection from 30 mm/40 mm AP ammunition (depending on the batch) and the side armor provides protection from rounds up to 14.5 mm caliber.
B1 Centauro has seen some combat in former Yugoslavia, Iraq and Somalia. It has proven to be quite useful and capable vehicle for convoy escort and it is still deployed in Lebanon within the peace mission in that country.