In mid-2020 Italy ordered another 40 Centauro 2 (or II) 8×8 wheeled armored vehicles. These vehicles will be the 3.0 configuration. Compared to the previous 2.0 configuration, 3.0 adds fire control system upgrades that allow the use of programmable ammunition. There are also more capable observation and sighting systems as well as an uprated electrical system and the ability to use digital communications to exchange real-time data with other vehicles and headquarters. Older 2.0 vehicles can be upgraded to 3.0.
The Centauro 2 is a 30-ton vehicle that can ford water up to 1.5 meters (59 inches) deep and handle 60 degree sloped and trenches up to two meters (78 inches wide) and obstacles 60cm (24 inches) high. Max road speed is 105 kilometers an hour and road range on internal fuel is 800 kilometers. The tires can automatically change pressure and are of a “run flat” (at reduced speeds) design. The composite armor protects against 30mm autocannon fire and artillery fragments. A manual or RWS (Remote Weapons System) machine-gun can be mounted on top of the turret. The RWS can also be armed with a 7.62mm machine-gun or automatic 40mm grenade launcher. Smoke grenade launchers are installed on the turret. The gunner and commander have day/night sights as well as a laser range finder.
The Centauro 2 was designed and made by the same Italian firm that introduced the 24-ton Centauro B1 8x8 wheeled tank destroyer in 1991. The B1 had a 105mm (105/52) gun, which was the standard main gun on tanks designed in the 1960s. Compared to Centauro B1 the Centauro 2 has upgraded engines, firepower, electronics, fire control and armor protection. The B1 was the anti-tank version of the Centauro family of 8x8 armored vehicles. The U.S. Army leased 15 Centauro B1 vehicles for testing while it was developing its Stryker series of vehicles. This resulted in a 21-ton tank destroyer version of Stryker armed with a 105mm gun.
The Centauro 2 can also serve as an assault gun, firing high explosive ammo to clear the way for infantry or to disperse armed opponents in a peacekeeping operation. The 2020 order has an option to buy 56 more vehicles on the same terms. Italian Centauro 2 purchases began in 2018 when 10 Centauro 2 (2.0 configuration) were purchased as of a part of larger 10-year framework agreement worth about $1.3 billion. This procurement aims to equip the Italian Army with 150 Centauro 2s which will be used by eight Cavalry regiments and one tank regiment. The new model will replace the Centauro B1 model that were used as reconnaissance and fire support vehicles.
Centauro B1 was thought to be a fast, light and cost-effective alternative to American M47 tanks then still in use by Italian Army units stationed in central and southern Italy. The Centauro B1 was assigned to cavalry regiments where it replaced Leopard 1A2 tanks. That was a fallback to the assault gun concept popular during World War II when the turretless assault guns were developed by the Germans, were considered as an infantry weapon, and "belonged" to the infantry. After World War II the concept was abandoned in favor of tanks as infantry support but it hasn’t worked out as well. Thanks to a fully-stabilized 105mm (105/52) high-velocity rifled gun the anti-tank capabilities were similar to these of Leopard 1A2 MBT but Centauro B1 wasn’t intended as pure tank destroyer. It was designed to carry out tactical reconnaissance, fire support and territorial defense tasks.
The Centauro B1 was much lighter faster and easier to maintain than other vehicles used in this role by Italian forces. It proved a successful design which has evolved into many variants like the Freccia Infantry Fighting Vehicle. Beside Italy, it also found its way into the armed forces of Jordan, Oman and Spain.
The Italian Army has taken a risk by being the first to buy a revolutionary new tank design. In July 2018, two years after Centauro 2 was introduced, the Italian Army agreed to buy at least 136 Centauro 2 vehicles. At the time the vehicle was called the Centauro 2 MGS (Mobile Gun System) and was designed to be multi-purpose, something that is easier to do for an 8x8 wheeled vehicle that is easily transported by air for peacekeeping missions but also able to handle itself fighting modern tanks. The Centauro 2 armor protection was designed to provide maximum protection from mines and roadside bombs but can also stop most autocannon rounds. Defenses include a jammer, like the American JCREW, to defeat the use of remotely controlled bombs. If necessary, an APS (Active Protection System) can be added to protect against missiles. -- Przemysław Juraszek