The Centauro B1 8x8 tank killer is in the same family line of Italian Army vehicles that include the Ariete Main Battle Tank (MBT) and Dardo Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV). The Centauro represents a joint development effort by Iveco Fiat and Oto Melara of Italy under the combined banner of CIO. The Centauro is currently in service and has more recently seen success through actions in Iraq.
The vehicle was developed to a requirement by the Italian Army for a tank-killing system with good cross-country mobility and firepower matching that of the old German-produced Leopard 1 main battle tank. The resulting design became the Centauro B1 8x8 wheeled vehicle mounting its armament in an independently-operated turret. The main gun utilizes a computerized fire control system (Galileo Avionica TURMS) while power steering controls the front four wheels (similar in fashion to the Russian BTR APCs of the 8x8 wheeled variety). Primary armament revolves around the Oto Melara 105mm 52 caliber main gun while secondary armament is a pair of 7.62mm machine guns, with one of these being co-axially mounted in the turret alongside the main gun. Battlefield modifications can include additional armor protection and additional exterior 7.62mm machine guns (x2). Iveco Fiat was charged with development of the hull and powerplant while Oto Melara handled development of the turret and applicable armament and systems.
In its 8x8 wheeled configuration, the Centauro sports four large road wheels to a side with the first two pairs being positional. Suspension is a full 8x8. The hull featured angled armor slabs and maintains a relatively low profile as does the turret installation. Hull armor is of welded steel. Standard crew is made up of four personnel that includes the commander, gunner, loader and driver. Power is supplied through a single Iveco turbo-charged V-6 diesel engine delivering up to 512 horsepower. This provides for road speeds up to 110 km/h as well as ranges out to 800 km.
As with other successful armored vehicles, the Centauro chassis has been branched out into other useful battlefield designs including a 120mm-armed variant and an Armored Infantry Fighting Vehicle (AIFV), the latter currently under consideration. The 120mm-armed Centauro sports better armor protection and a low-recoil 120/45 caliber main gun. The AIFV, known as the VBM Freccia, has increased armor protection and the Dardo IFV-style turret. Armament is an Oerlikon KBA 25mm autocannon.
Centauros were fielded in the Balkans and the Iraq War and currently serves in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon. The design has proven a success in a variety of roles. Its armament is capable of targeting armored vehicles and structures alike while its mobility can keep it on pace as an escort to military convoys.
Italy represents the largest Centauro operator while Spain follows as the second largest. Oman operated a small contingent of six Centauros of the 120mm breed. Production of Centauros began in 1991 and commenced in 2006.