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Centauro with 120 mm Gun

Fire support vehicle

Centauro with a 120 mm gun

The Centauro with a 120 mm gun was the first vehicle of its class with the same firepower as the latest tanks

Country of origin Italy
Entered service ?
Crew 4 men
Dimensions and weight
Weight ~ 29 t
Length (gun forward) ~ 8.6 m
Hull length ~ 7.4 m
Width ~ 3.1 m
Height ~ 2.8 m
Main gun 120 mm smoothbore
Barrel length 45 calibers
Maximum range of fire at least 3 km
Rate of fire ?
Machine guns 1 x 12.7 mm, 2 x 7.62 mm
Elevation range - 6 to + 45 degrees (?)
Traverse range 360 degrees
Ammunition load
Main gun ~ 40 rounds
Machine guns ?
Engine IVECO diesel
Engine power at least 500 hp
Maximum road speed ~ 100 km/h
Range ~ 800 km
Gradient 60%
Side slope 40%
Vertical step ~ 0.55 m
Trench ~ 1.5 m
Fording up to 1.5 m


   In 1991 Italian Army adopted a Centauro fire support vehicle. It was armed with a 105 mm gun, mounted on a specially designed 8x8 wheeled chassis, that could withstand the recoil force of the gun. This relatively light vehicle had a firepower comparable to that of the Leopard 1 main battle tank, which was then in service with Italian Army. The Centauro proved to be a quite successful design. At some point its upgunned version with a 120 mm gun was developed. It seems that it first appeared in 2004. It was proposed for various export customers. This version is reportedly in service with Oman. Some sources report that a total of 9 vehicles were obtained from Italy with an option for 24 more.

   This vehicle was can carry out tactical reconnaissance, fire support and territorial defense tasks. It can also escort convoys and patrol roads. It also has a secondary anti-tank capability. It can be extremely effective against various armored and soft skin vehicles. Furthermore this fire support vehicle can even successfully engage main battle tanks. However its level of protection is rather limited.

   This fire support vehicle is fitted with an OTO Melara HITFACT turret, armed with a 120 mm/L45 smoothbore gun. The main gun is unrelated to Rheinmetall 120 mm gun, which is used on most current Western tanks. At the time of its introduction this vehicle was the first in its class with the same firepower as the latest generation main battle tanks. Even today there are only few fire support vehicles in the world, armed with a powerful 120 mm gun. Furthermore most of them are only demonstrators, rather than vehicles that are ready for production. Its high-pressure gun is compatible with all standard 120 mm ammunition. It is fitted with a very efficient muzzle brake, which significantly reduces the recoil.

   This fire support vehicle fires APFSDS, multi-role, and other types of ammunition. The 120 mm APFSDS round penetrates 600 mm of rolled homogenous steel armor at a range of 3 000 m.

   The gun is loaded manually. Ammunition is stored in isolated compartments, separated by ballistic and anti-explosion wall. Around 40 rounds are carried by the vehicle. Around 12 of them are stored in the turret and are ready to use. Other are stored in the manual rack. When this vehicle was introduced, automatic loading system was under development.

   This fire support vehicle has got a modern fire control system. It has a hunter-killer engagement capability. The commander uses a panoramic sight to search for targets. Once the target is selected the gun is laid on the target automatically and the gunner completes al the aiming and firing process. During that time commander looks for the next target. Such hunter-killer engagement method is present on all modern main battle tanks. It allows to acquire and engage targets faster. It seems that this fire support vehicle can engage a target within 30 seconds after spotting it.

   Secondary armament consists of a coaxial 7.62-mm machine gun. Also there are roof-mounted 12.7-mm and 7.62-mm machine guns.

   The Centauro with a 120 mm gun has a higher level of protection than the baseline Centauro with a 105 mm gun. Vehicle has a welded steel armor hull and aluminum armor turret. Furthermore it is additionally fitted with add-on composite armor. Its front arc provides protection against 40 mm armor-piercing rounds. All-round protection is against 14.5 mm rounds. In standard configuration, without the extra armor, front arc provides protection against 20 mm rounds, while all-round protection is against 12.7-mm rounds and artillery shell splinter. Interior is lined with Kevlar liner, which prevents spalling. Vehicle is equipped with an NBC protection system and automatic fire suppression system. There is also a laser warning receiver, which can be set to trigger smoke grenade dischargers.

   This fire support vehicle has a crew of four, including commander, gunner, driver and loader.

   This fire support vehicle is powered by IVECO turbocharged diesel engine. It is speculated that it develops at least 500 hp. Engine is located at the front. It is mated to an automatic transmission system. Steering is provided on the first and second axles and at slow speed with also the fourth axle. Vehicle is equipped with run-flat tyres and fitted with central tyre inflation system. This fire support vehicle is not amphibious.

   The Centauro with a 120 mm gun was some sort of interim vehicle until the next-generation Centauro 2 was developed. It seems that this vehicle was used as technology test bed to spot possible problems related to mounting a powerful 120 mm gun. As a result the forthcomming Centauro 2 has a number of modifications done to the chassis in order to withstand the violent recoil force.

   The next-generation Centauro 2 was revealed in 2016. This fire support vehicle has essentially the same 120 mm gun. However it has a revised chassis, different turret, is better protected and has a number of other improvements.


Centauro with a 120 mm gun

Centauro with a 120 mm gun

Centauro with a 120 mm gun

Centauro with a 120 mm gun

Centauro with a 120 mm gun

Centauro with a 120 mm gun

Centauro with a 120 mm gun

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