In 1984, the Italian concerns of OTO Melara and Iveco-FIAT came together to form CIO - "Consorzio Iveco Oto Melara". The goal of the parties was to develop three different modern battlefield systems sharing the maximum amount of automotive components to reduce cost and logistical support for the Italian Army in the long term. The result became the Dardo Infantry Fighting Vehicle, the Centauro 8x8 wheeled tank destroyer and the Ariete ("Battering Ram") Main Battle Tank. Sharing duties, OTO Melara served as the prime contractor overseeing design and engineering while supplying various components and Iveco-FIAT was charged with developing and manufacturing the required powerpack and related systems.
The Ariete became a 60-ton vehicle fitted with a 1,275 horsepower V12 MTCA turbocharged diesel-fueled engine (coupled to an automatic transmission) sitting atop a torsion bar suspension system. Overall configuration of the MBT was standard with a four-man crew, the 120mm L44 smoothbore tank gun in a 360-degree traversing turret and the engine/transmission fitted to the rear. The track system was partially covered in side skirt armor and incorporated seven double-tired road wheels, a rear drive sprocket and a front-mounted track idler. The driver sat at the front-right of the hull with the commander, gunner and loader in the well-sloped turret. Self-defense was through 2 x 7.62mm machine guns - one fitted coaxially and the other along the turret roof for anti-aircraft defense. Performance indicated a road speed of 40 miles per hour with an operational range of 342 miles. 40 x 120mm projectiles were carried aboard for the main gun as was 2,400 x 7.62mm rounds of ammunition for the machine guns.
The Ariete was completed with a welded steel/composite protection scheme which allows it to counter the threat as posed by HEAT warheads and the like. Add-on armor is further supported according to CIO. NBC protection was standard for the crew as was night vision equipment. 2 x 4 smoke grenade dischargers allow the crew to provide their own smoke screen as required and a laser warning sensor is mounted near the loader's hatch to detect incoming guided threats. Fording is up to 2.1 meters with prior preparation and 1.2 meters without.
Production of Ariete tanks was out of the OTO Melara facility at La Spezia and Italian Army orders ran a total of 200 examples. These were divided into four tank battalions with remainders held in reserve. No foreign orders have emerged and no follow-up orders have been placed by the Italian Army. Deliveries began in 1995 to which the tank entered service that same year.
By all accounts, the Ariete is a modern capable main battle tank system with day/night operational capabilities. An early issue with engine power was rectified by Iveco bringing output from 1,275 horsepower to 1,600 horsepower. The armor protection scheme puts it on par with the base forms of the American M1 Abrams or British Challenger 2 series MBTs. Firing on-the-move is allowed through an advanced digital fire-control system that works with the dual-axis-stabilized main gun. Road performance is excellent and cross-country capabilities are well noted. The 120mm main gun is of OTO Melara's own design and it is cleared to fire all NATO-supported ordnance with excellent penetration results.
The final Ariete tank of the 200-strong order was delivered to the Italian Army in August of 2002. CIO marketing refers to the Ariete as a "second generation" MBT.