The IFV Dardo: History, Characteristics, Remarks and Possible Future


This is an article resulting from the collaboration between Alessandro Rea and Giacomo Voceri and is a focus on the IFV Dardo (VCC-80) built in Italy and in service only with the Italian Army.

[1]

Summary

The actual IFV in service in the Italian Army is the “Dardo” (Dart). This vehicle became operative after a long and troubled process of research and development that ended in 2002 with its first deliveries to the assigned units. Nevertheless, the Dardo had to deal with a particular situation of the Italian mechanised forces that faced, after the end of the Cold War, a significant downsizing in favour of more agile and easily deployable overseas wheeled-IFVs. What has been happening ever since its entry into service is hence that the Dardo has been left substantially unmodified and at its own mercy, without any significant attempt to try to bring it in pair with more modern standards. Consequently, the Dardo “grew older” way faster than any other equivalent NATO vehicle. Nowadays, the Italian Army has recognised the need to update its current armoured vehicles inventory for facing the new threats that have been emerging recently in the modern and highly technological battlefields, not characterized anymore just by counter-insurgency operations but also by an increase in the possibilities of peer-to-peer confrontations on a medium-to-large scale.

The aim of this paper is to analyse the history of the Dardo IFV describing its main characteristics and most important deployments and, at the same time, after a brief comparison with other NATO IFVs, to propose a solution for its upgrade in anticipation of the development of a new IFV family, possibly together with that of the much needed new Italian MBT.

Definition and Historical Background

An Infantry Fighting vehicle (IFV) is a “an armoured combat vehicle which is designed and equipped primarily to transport a combat infantry squad, which normally provides the capability for the troops to deliver fire from inside the vehicle under armoured protection, and which is armed with an integral or organic cannon of at least 20 millimeters calibre and sometimes an antitank missile launcher. Armoured infantry fighting vehicles serve as the principal weapon system of armoured infantry or mechanized infantry or motorized infantry formations and units of ground forces.2

It is important to distinguish an IFV from an Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) that is “an armoured combat vehicle which is designed and equipped to transport a combat infantry squad and which, as a rule, is armed with an integral or organic weapon of less than 20 millimeters calibre.3 Hence, the main difference is that an IFV is an armoured vehicle designed and meant to transport and, successively, follow the infantry during combat actions by supporting it thanks to its firepower in connection with increased protection and combat capabilities. Insted, an APC has the main task of mainly transporting infantry without having also the necessity to support the tactical maneuvering by directly engaging the enemy.

While the APCs made their large appearance during the Second World War4 for quickly fulfilling the needs of a new warfare doctrine based on rapid movements of armoured vehicles across kilometers and kilometers of a highly elastic front, the IFVs saw their large exploitation immediately after the end of  the last world’s conflict thanks to new technological improvements that allowed the development and production of vehicles that were enough armoured and with enough firepower for carrying on also combat missions. Therefore, the IFVs became one of the fundamental elements of the new mechanized infantry doctrine aimed at providing infantry units with the necessary operational mobility and fire support requested by combined arms operations.5 This is why, starting with the Cold War, the IFVs have been an important supporting element attached to tanks within armoured or mechanised units with the task to eliminate anti-tank systems and the infantry attached to them. This doctrine was indeed introduced immediately after the disastrous performances of the Israeli tanks formations during the Yom Kippur War.6

For the majority of the Cold War, the Italian Armed Forces used an indigenous copy of the late 1950s’ American APC M113 (A 12 tons vehicle7 produced by Oto Melara in the M113 A1 variant and identified as “Veicolo Trasporto Truppa” (VTT). During the 1960s and the 1970s, the Italian Armed Forces did not have in their units a real IFV but relied on the above mentioned APC in all of its variants for supporting the tanks’ formations.

In 1974, due to the lack of frontline capabilities of the M113, the Italian Armed Forces started replacing the American APC with a more modern and combat capable Italian variant named VCC-1 (Veicolo Corazzato da Combattimento).8 Even if still, technically, an APC, the VCC-1 had improved armour capabilities and, originally, the Mk3 version had to mount a 20mm internally-controlled machine gun that, because of the excessive costs, never became a reality.9

Just for completeness, it is worth mentioning the fact that the Italian military industry in the 1980s also developed another APC variant called C-13 and meant only for the export sector.10 An important characteristic of the C-13 was that it was developed having in mind different variants and possible upgrades. Indeed, other than the basic APC model, four IFV models were devised together with a rather more unique than singular Coastal Defense variant.11

VCC-80 “Dardo”

The VCC-80 “Dardo” can be considered the first real Italian IFV ever produced. Indeed, it completely satisfies the above-mentioned definition of IFV concerning armament, protection and role. The initial development of the “Dardo” started in the early 1980s12 with a joint venture composed by Iveco/Fiat and Oto Melara.13 Iveco was tasked mainly with the design of the hull and engine while Oto Melara focused on the armaments’ systems.14Nevertheless, we have to wait until 1992 for the official signature of the contract concerning the initial production of three prototypes, and 1998 for the actual beginning of the series production of the VCC-80.15 With an initial production plan consisting of 500 units, the Italian Army (The main and only buyer since the export sector had to be covered by the C-13 model) wanted to withdraw the whole M113 line substituting it with a more performing fighting machine and commissioned the research and development to the Iveco/Oto consortium. Eventually, due to budget cuts, the number was decreased to just 200 units that were delivered to the Italian Army in between 2002 and 2005.16 Different versions for different roles were proposed but only the IFV one was accepted by the Army.17 The VCC-80 has a “classic” IFV layout with the engine and the driver seat located in the frontal side of the hull while the turret, handled by two soldiers (Commander and Gunner), is located in the middle. The crew compartment is at the rear and can be loaded with six fully equipped soldiers that onboard the vehicle thanks to a rear ramp (Fully powered but that can also be manually operated) and that accomodate in six individual seats. The soldiers can utilise six firing ports for their small arms, two both sides of the hull and two near the rear entry.18 Concerning the armament, the 25/80mm OERLIKON KBA autocannon (560 rpm) , already used for the SIDAM 25, was again selected as the main offensive weapon (400 ammunitions)19 in tandem with a coaxial 7.62×51 NATO MG42/59 machine gun (1200 ammunitions)20 and a possible additional one to be located externally at the top of the turret.21 The possibility to implement a BGM-71 TOW (One for each side of the turret) was developed but rejected in the production model, even if the turret could be modified and retrofitted with such feature.22 With the acquisition in 2009 of 870 Spike LR ATGM and 84 launch systems,23 20 of such launch systems were applied to the VCC-80, now capable, in small numbers, to operate the Spike ATGM.  

Concerning the protection, the hull is made of welded aluminium reinforced with bolt-on steel plates for providing additional defence against shells, mines, IED and small arms fire up against 14.5mm rounds. Like all the modern vehicles, the VCC-80 also possesses NBC capabilities, and two smoke grenade launchers (Each with four 80mm smoke grenades) are mounted on the frontal arc of the turret. An automated fire extinguisher system is also present.24 Most importantly, extra armor plates and packages can be applied for increasing protection at the cost of a 3t increase in weight. Such armour package is designed to stand against 25mm APDS rounds in the frontal part of the hull. Finally, concerning mobility, the Dardo is fitted with an Iveco 6 cylinders 520 hp turbo diesel engine (382.2 kW) in conjunction with an automatic transmission with four front gears and two rear ones. Hence, the Dardo could reach in theory the maximum speed of 70 km/h and an estimated autonomy of 500 km.25

The turret is named HITFIST (High Technology Fire in Small Turret) and it consists of sophisticated fire control and observation systems. The Dardo is indeed provided with a Galileo Avionica HITFIST integrated fire control system with the capability of automatic measurement of range and target’s speed. The commander can also rely on six episcope sights providing a 360°, unity magnification, direct view. Panoramic stabilised sights can also be fitted in the cupola.26 The sighting system allows for day/night operations and it is two-axes stabilised for allowing the gun to fire on the move to stationary and moving targets.27

The complete features of the VCC-80 are listed below:28-29-30

Dimensions 
Length6.71 m
Height hull1.75 m
Height with turret2.61 m
Overall Width with fender3.10 m
Overall Width without fender2.91 m
Ground clearance0.40 m
Wheelbase2.51 m
Approach angle40°
Departure angle40°
Seats1 + 2 + 6
Weight / Payload / Volume 
GVW (ATGM Version)23.0 t (23.5 t)
Performance 
Max speed70 km/h
Gradient60%
Side slope30%
Range on road500 km
Step0.85 m
Trench2.50 m
Fording depth without preparation1.50 m
Turning radiusPivot
Power to weight ratio (in combat order)22.6 HP/t
Mobility 
EngineIVECO V-6 MTCA
FuelDiesel fuel
Power382 kW (520HP)
Torque2000 Nm
GearboxZF LSG 1500 Automatic type incorporating steering system and hydraulic retarder
Number of gears4 + 2
TracksConnector type tracks
Driveline / Suspension / Brakes / Steering 
Torsion bar with bumper and hydraulic shock absorber located on each suspension arm 
Disk-type brakes on each of the final drives, integrated by the transmission retarder 
Epicyclic final drives 
6 x dual rubber lined road wheels and three return rollers on each side 
1 x stepless range or radii per gear plus pivot 
Survivability 
Laser warning system 
NBC system 
Night vision equipment 
Options31 
IFV – ATGM Version 
Command Post 
Ambulance 
Mortar carrier 
Turret Crew 
2 men (commander and gunner) 
Armament 
Main GunDual feed 25mm Oerlikon KBA Cannon / Rate of fire 560 rpm
ATGM32BGM-71 TOW / Spike LR
Coaxial machine gun1xMG42/59 7.62 mm
External machine gun331xMG42/59 7.62 mm
Smoke grenade launchers4×2
Rifle ports5, 2 on each side plus one in the rear ramp
Ammunition 
25 mm HE, APDS, APFDS 
Ammunition stowage 25 mm216
ATGM2
Coaxial Mg700 rds
Smoke Grenade (80mm)4+4
Electrical servo systems 
Training arcunlimited
Elevation arc-10° / +60°
Training speed (acceleration)0.5 rad/s / (1 rad/s2)
Elevation speed (acceleration)0.5 rad/s / (1 rad/s2)
Sights 
Commander6 episcopes providing 360°, 1x, direct view optional <br/>Panoramic stabilised sights, monitor of gunner’s thermal sights
GunnerStabilised sight with laser range finder, thermal sight

The VCC-80 in the Italian Army

As we have seen, the VCC-80 Dardo was a project requested entirely by the Italian Army. Therefore, it is the only current user to operate the IFV Dardo.

The units currently fielding the VCC-80 are34:

  • 1° Bersaglieri Regiment
  • 8° Bersaglieri Regiment
  • 11° Bersaglieri Regiment
  • 1° Granatieri di Sardegna Regiment
  • Training Schools

Of the 200 VCC-80 in service in the Italian Army, by December 2019 the medium level of efficiency calculated was 35%.35 6 IFV Dardo were sent to Iraq within “Iraqi Freedom” and 10 to Afghanistan in 2004 were they operated until the reduction of the italian contingent.36 Few were also used for the LEONTE Mission37 and UNIFIL.38 The Dardo was also employed in the latest most important Italian international training activities. It was indeed present at the NATO “Silver Arrow” exercise in Latvia in Autumn 201939 as part of the Italian contingent within the Multinational Battle Group Latvia. 40 Always in Autumn 2019, the VCC-80 took part in the Nasr 2019 in Qatar41 where 22 Dardo were deployed.42 This was one of the biggest Italian armoured exercises of the latest years.

It is possible to state that the characteristics of Dardo IFV were totally in line with the requirements of the NATO alliance when it entered into service with the Italian Ground Forces in the late 1990s. Nevertheless, after the Second Gulf War and the occupation of Iraq, the modern, Western IFV philosophy began to encounter some difficulties, mostly related with the diffusion of tandem warhead rocket propelled grenades (Iraq) and IED (Iraq/Afghanistan) in the major asymmetric battlefields.

In order to face the threats posed by these instruments in the COIN operations against guerrilla forces, the IFV were flanked, and later substituted, by vehicles studied to better resist IEDs and optimized for the typical roles of counterinsurgency, like patrols and special forces operations. For instance, in 2007, the M2 Bradley was substituted by MRAPs 43(Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicles in Iraq and the introduction of this new class of vehicles in the Western doctrine helped in better defining the role of the IFV, hence reducing the need to use infantry fighting vehicles in a type of warfare that appeared to move away from their field of use.

A similar process happened during the Chechen war, when, during the Grozny siege (1994-1995), numerous infantry fighting vehicles of the BMP family were lost in the attempt to retake the city44. This kind of warfare was different from the Iraqi insurgency but clearly outlined how the Russian IFVs were not able to survive against an enemy capable of employing various anti-tank systems. The Iraqi and Chechen wars demonstrated how the IFVs’ designers, which during the last 20 years of the Cold War had been focusing their researches especially on increasing the capability of sensors/armaments (New IR visors, capability of firing ATGMs, etc.), had neglected any revolutionary improvement in the survivability of such vehicles. The M2 bradley, for example, was introduced in 1982, in 1986 the M2A1 version entered into service with no armour improvement, and only in 1988 the new M2A2 was showing for the first time ERA plates and an increased protection level45 (This will not differ so much in the later versions of the system). Nevertheless, the more protected M2A2, with an improved survivability against basic HEAT RPGs and ATGMs, was introduced the same year of the fielding of the RPG-7VR equipped with a tandem warhead and capable of defeating explosive reactive armour. This was followed 3 years later by the first Russian tandem warhead ATGM46.

Generally, the IFV level of protection lagged behind the potential of anti-tank weapons, but this fact was not a major concern for many years. After the Second Gulf War, infact, NATO countries found in the asymmetric nature of the occupation of Iraq the excuse to avoid any major protection improvement of the Bradley, the Dardo, the Marder, etc. The role differentiation between IFVs and MRAPs was considered sufficient to delay any drastic improvement in the infantry fighting vehicles’ survivability. The Grozny experience, on the other hand, was considered as the product of the disastrous conditions of the Russian Armed Forces of the 1990s and, once again, a doctrinal adjustment (Avoiding to use IFVs in an urban area) was perceived as sufficient.47

The poor results of these doctrinal improvements clearly appeared in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, when analysts were able to observe wheeled and tracked IFVs  (And even MBTs) produced in Russia (BMP-2), Canada (LAV III), US (M2, LAV 25) and Europe (Piranha II) once again poorly performing against irregular forces using a wide range of anti-tank systems48-49. The worrying fact was that, unlike the Iraqi insurgents of the post-2003 occupation, the Houthis, ISIS, Hayat Tahrir al Sham, etc. were not only using guerrilla techniques, but they were also operating on the battlefield as mainly infantry-based forces capable of fighting alongside a defined front. The Turkish and Saudi loss of numerous armoured vehicles against inferior enemies like ISIS and the Houties stimulated many NATO armed forces (Including the US army) to reconsider a drastic increase in the protection of the IFVs formations.

It is possible to identify 2 principal technical solutions to the low survivability of Infantry Fighting Vehicles:

  1. Allocating IFV on the chassis of main battle tanks,
  2. Development of new hard-kill active protection systems.

Both these solutions appeared long before the beginning of the Syrian and Yemen conflicts, but in recent years they demonstrated to be the most effective answer to the danger posed by modern anti-tank systems.

Recently, Russia (With the T-15) and China (VN-11,VN17) decided to speriment the Israeli solution of using MBT/Light tanks chassis to create more survivable IFVs and APCs. Since the Yom Kippur War, the IDF have indeed faced enemies equipped with numerous and modern anti-tank guns, which made it clear that, at the end of the Cold War, resistance against 30mm rounds and single HEAT warheads was not enough for their “battle taxi” and infantry fighting vehicles. The answer to increase the survivability of Israeli armoured vehicles was hence found in the idea of modifying the chassis of Centurion50 (1980s/1990s) and T-5551 (1980s) tanks, transforming them into heavy APCs and IFVs. This experiment was so successful that heavy IFVs/APCs still have a role in the IDF. They are called Namer52 and are based on the chassis of the Merkava tank.

An MBT level of protection is likely to drastically improve the survivability of an IFV, but modern conventional ATGM missiles, like the russian Kornet, or top attack fire and forget ATGMs, like the Spike, are virtually capable of penetrating most of the passive armours fitted in current MBTs53.

For this reason, Active Protection Systems (APSs) are another solution used in conjunction with heavy IFVs or in substitution of a tick passive armour.

The Hard-Kill APSs were, once again, firstly developed during the Cold War54 but they started to be considered as a vital requirement for the protection of modern tanks/IFVs just in the second decade of the new millennium. The introduction of the Iron Fist on the american Bradley55 (Scheduled for 2020) and the development of the new generations of Russian IFVs protected by the “Afghanit” (T-15, Kuganetsk, Boomerang) consolidated the idea that a more reliable solution against ATGMs and last generation rockets is necessary in order to increase the IFVs survivability in conventional and asymmetric operations.

Having briefly defined how, in the last decade, the protection of IFVs became the main question to be answered by modern armed forces, we are now going to depict the perspectives for the upgrade of the VCC Dardo, currently the backbone of the Italian mechanised rifleman’s brigades.

European IFVs

In the “Rapporto Esercito 201756” and “Rapporto Esercito 201957”, the official annual document on the conditions and projects of the Italian Army, it is expressed the necessity to equip the Italian land forces with a new tracked IFV.

In the document of 2017 the requirements for a new IFV are extremely vague and the only valuable information is that the EI was, at the time, studying and analysing the situation, with the will to substitute the Dardo in the future.

If the 2017 document describes a non-defined commitment towards the new IFV,  in the “Rapporto Esercito 2019” it is possible to observe clearer hints about the possible destiny of the current Italian IFV fleet.

The RE 2019 states 3 important facts:

1)the Italian Army is looking for one or more international partners with similar needs in order to create a new generation of tracked IFVs;

2) the Italian Army is willing to structure a possible solution within the EU PESCO projects;

3) the Italian Army is oriented toward the acquisition of around 661 vehicles.

Unlike the French Army58, the Italian MoD is not abandoning the idea of having in service, at the same time, tracked and wheeled IFVs and the fact that the requirements for a substitute of the Dardo are appearing every year more detailed, suggests that the commitment of the Esercito Italiano towards a new tracked IFV is solid.

It is also important to understand that Italy is not the only European country that started to explore new solutions for what concerns tracked Infantry Fighting Vehicles. Indeed, Poland revealed in 2017 the Borsuk IFV, made by the company HTW, which allegedly surpassed the trials with excellent marks59. This vehicle is studied to substitute the BMP-1, which has served with the Polish Armed forces since the 1970s.

The Borsuk is an amphibious vehicle, armed with a remote controlled turret fitting a 30mm bushmaster and 2 Spike missiles, with an increased protection against IEDs and composite extra plates of armour fitted on the sides.

The vehicle might satisfy the italian requirements for a substitute of the VCC-80, but the lack of a hard kill APS complicates the Borsuk survivability against ATGMs and rocket propelled grenades.

Another European IFV is the Puma60 created in Germany (as the product of the joint venture between Rheinmetall and KMW)  in order to replace the 40 years old Marder. Despite being a fairly new vehicle,the Puma has been partially obscured by another Rheinmetall product, the Linx61. The Puma and Lynx share some common features, since they both are extremely tall vehicles (3.3 and 3.6 metres respectively), they are heavier than most of their competitors (The Linx weights between 35 and 50 tons, depending on the additional armour installed) and both the IFVs are platforms designed to use one 30/35 mm gun. The version of the Linx proposed to the US army is intended to couple the main gun with a launcher for TOW missiles, and at Eurosatory 2016 the exemplar on display was showing a Spike launcher on the side of the turret, but it is possible to state that ATGMs do not play a central role in the recent German philosophy for IFVs.62

Spain and Austria, on the other hand, decided to team up for the creation of their new IFV and successfully produced the ASCOD63 (a variant called SCOUT SV or AJAX is in service with the British Army as well). This vehicle was introduced in the early 2000s and it is an IFV similar to the Italian Dardo in its main characteristics but, unlike the VCC-80, it has developed into numerous new prototypes, including a light-tank version, the LT-105/200 also known as ASCOD Direct Fire.

The last vehicle that can be considered as one of the main European products in the field of IFVs is the CV-90, produced in Sweden and already purchased by multiple countries. The last versions of this vehicle feature an active protection system against anti-tank missiles and rocket-propelled grenades. Furthermore, this IFV originated a full family of vehicles that ranges from APCs to tank recovery systems, anti-aircraft guns and mortar carriers.

The CV-90MKIV64, one of the latest variants of the original project (developed together with the United Kingdom), integrates the Israeli Iron-Fist APS, improved IR-EO sensors and it can be equipped with a large number of weapons systems thanks to the D series modular turret, ranging from 30mm automatic cannons up to 120-mm smooth-bore anti-tank guns. In this context we can state that the Dardo is clearly inferior to the latest variants of previously adopted European IFVs (ASCOD 42, CV90MKIV) and to the products belonging to a new generation of infantry fighting vehicles (Borsuk, Lynx). Nevertheless, some of the exposed systems (ASCOD) have been introduced into service as vehicles similar to the Dardo but they have reached new capabilities thanks to upgrades or radical evolutions of the platform during time.

The Future of the Dardo

Therefore, the main question is the following: is there, for the Dardo, any hope to remain competitive through upgrades?

The 2 main spheres in which the Dardo proves to be inferior to most of the last European products are:

  • Protection: It lacks Active Protection Systems, ERA or any other solution that could improve its capability to resist old as well as modern HEAT charges,
  • Situation awareness: The 6 episcopes should be replaced with an independent sight for the commander, with modern Electro Optical/Thermal sensors. The gunner sight should be upgraded to more modern standards.

What can be proposed is that, since a new MBT is also planned for entering into service in the Italian Army somewhere around the 2030s,65 the Dardo IFV could be updated and kept functional until a new IFV concept, developed in complementarity with the MBT one, will be eventually fielded together with the new tank. This will allow the Italian land forces to have at their disposal at the same time both a new generation MBT and a new generation IFV, hence remaining “up to date” with the quickly changing needs of the battlefields. The proposed update for the Dardo can consist in the installation of the HITFIST OWS Turret66 produced by the Italian Leonardo, or of other conceptually similar turrets. In particular the Leonardo’s system looks ideal since, other than being nationally designed and produced, it can be remotely manned by a single operator located inside the hull and not in the turret, meaning that it is not necessary to extensively modify the chassis. This implies a better compatibility with and ease of installation even in older vehicles. 360° episcopes allow to have a decent short range situational awareness and the latest FCS guidance systems, day/night, IR and thermal cameras, together with the electrical, fully digital and stabilized servo-systems, would be a significant improvement in the combat capabilities of the Dardo. Last but not the least, the turret can be equipped with a 30mm MK44 ATK autocannon that should drastically improve the ballistic performances against the threat posed by latest generation of composite armours.

The HITFIST OWS even allows the installation of a second control station for the Commander that will let either the Gunner or the Commander to fully operate the weapon systems. In case of power failure, the system can be manually operated both in azimuth and elevation and be assisted by a back-up fibre optic direct sight for aiming.

The complete features of the HITFIST OWS Turret are listed below67:

Armament 
Main Weapon30mm MK44 ATK
Secondary weapon1×7.62mm coaxial
Anti-tank weapon2 missile launchers  (twined) – SPIKE/KORNET/INGWE
Firing Direction System 
Main weaponFully digital gyro stabilized
Gunner sightGyro stabilized in elevation Gen II IR camera Daylight Color TV Camera Laser Range Finder    Back up fiber optic sight for manual aiming
Commander sight6 episcopes LIP (low internal profile) on the roof 1 front episcope LIP under the floor for direct external vision direct from the crew compartment                       Panoramic stabilized day/night (option) or Panoramic Thermal Imager (option)
Ballistic computationFull solution on the move Dynamic tilt and meteo sensors
Manual backupAiming and firing from inside
Gunner control panelColour LCD 12”
Commander control panelColour LCD 10” standard – 12” (option)
Protection 
Turret frameBasic environmental all around, with7.62 ball roof, interface up to Standard NATO 4569 lev.III (option) with add-on kit
Turret Accessibility 
Through a dedicated hatch in the turret floorReloading, aiming solution,                                                                          maintenance & repair
Weight 
Dry1650kg with console in                                                                     vehicle & Level 3 protection for                                                                               crew compartment
Combat   According to configuration and                                                                               level protection
Controls 
Traverse ArcN x 360°
Elevation Arc-10° to +75°
Traverse Speed 0.5 /0.8 rad/s
Elevation Speed0.8 rad/s

Concerning extended hull and turret protection, at Eurosatory 2010 Leonardo presented an upgraded version of the Dardo with a new composite armour kit. This prototype also showed the compatibility of the HITFIST OWS. The protection could be also supplemented, as stated by the “Implementing Agreement” signed between Italy and Israel in the second half of 2020 where compatibility studies were initiated,68 by the possible addition of the APS system Iron Fist of the Israeli Elbit Systems.

The Iron Fist would be, as stated before, a very much needed and essential upgrade for the Dardo allowing69:

  • Modular, compact design compatible with various platforms,
  • Two independent sensing techniques (RF and passive IR),
  • Minimal integration constraints,
  • Miss-to-kill concept (Minimal collateral damage),
  • Energy-efficiency,
  • Optional soft-kill jammer against ATGM,
  • Increased survivability against anti-tank threats,
  • 360° coverage for sight surveillance and situational awareness,
  • Open hatch operations,
  • Lightweight, small form with minimal burden on vehicle,
  • Easy integration (Quick mounting and dismounting).

With such upgrade, the Dardo IFV could reliably maintain and even increase its efficiency, offensive and defensive capabilities for the next years behaving as a “gap-filler” until the Future MBT project will lead to the fielding of a new series of machine more in line with the evolved battlefields of the 2030s-2040s. The Dardo has some relevant margins of improvement but we should not only consider technical factors while describing the feasibility of the upgrade (Possibility to install new protections/armament/sensors). For instance, the availability of spare parts for this old vehicle no longer in production is a central issue that could make senseless any upgrade. It is unknown whether the Italian army is cannibalizing part of its VCC-80 for maintaining its IFVs or if Leonardo is currently supplying spare parts for the vehicle, but the utility and financial sustainability of the upgrade is directly linked to this issue.  Analysing the low readiness status of the Italian IFV fleet70, it appears logical to think that a lack of spare parts afflicts the VCC-80 currently in service with the Esercito Italiano. By including a new modern and more powerful engine in the proposed upgrade, it will be maybe possible to mitigate the need for old spare parts in order to maintain operational the Dardo in the near future, but it is vital not to underestimate the issue, since it is maybe going to compromise the feasibility of a mid-life upgrade for the Dardo.

NOTES

[1] ‘Dardo a Capo Teulada’. Wikipedia.org. 2006. Link. Accessed 12 october 2020.

[2]“Agreement on Confidence and Security Building in Bosnia-Herzegovina”. Vienna, Austria, 26 January 1996.

[3] Ibidem

[4] ‘Armoured Personnel Carriers’. Encyclopaedia Britannica. 2015 .Link. Accessed 7 April 2020.

[5] Besch, Edwin. “Infantry fighting Vehicles: Their Evolution and Significance“. Marine Corps Gazette, Marine Corps Base Quantico: Marine Corps Association, July 1983, pp. 50–60.

[6] Coffey, Rod. Doctrinal Orphan or Active Partner? A History of US Mechanized Infantry Doctrine. Fort Leavenworth, United States Army Command and General Staff College, 2000, pp. 99-100.

[7]’M113 Specifications’. GlobalSecurity.org. 2012. Link. Accessed 07 April 2020.

[8]‘Veicolo Corazzato da Combattimento VCC1’. Ferreamole.it. 2013. Link. Accessed 07 April 2020.

[9]Ibidem.

[10]‘Oto Melara C-13’. Paul Mulcahy’s Pages. 2010. Link. Accessed 07 April 2020.

[11]“C-13 and Armored Vehicle 90 – Archived 6/2000”. Newtown, Connecticut, USA, 03 June 1999 https://www.forecastinternational.com/archive/disp_old_pdf.cfm?ARC_ID=1121

[12] ‘Dardo’. Weaponsystems.net. 2020. Link. Accessed 08 April 2020.

[13] ‘VCC 80 Dardo [Dart] VCC 80 Dardo HITFIST’. GlobalSecurity.org. 2020. Link. Accessed 08 April 2020.

[14] ‘CIO Dardo’. Militaryfactory.com. 2017. Link. Accessed 08 April 2020.

[15] Ibidem.

[16] ‘Oto Melara VCC-80 Dardo’. Paul Mulcahy’s Pages. 2010. Link. Accessed 08 April 2020.

[17] ‘Dardo’. Weaponsystems.net.

[18] ‘CIO Dardo’. Militaryfactory.com.

[19] Cappellano, Filippo; Guglielmi, Daniele. “Mezzi Corazzati e Blindati dell’Esercito Italiano 1945-2015”. Storia Militare, n. 26, 2016, pp. 86.

[20] Ibidem.

[21] CIO Dardo’. Militaryfactory.com..

[22] ‘Dardo’. Weaponsystems.net.

[23] “Direttiva sulla Programmazione del Supporto Logistico per gli Anni 2009-2010”. Rome, Italy, May 2009.

[24] ‘CIO Dardo’. Militaryfactory.com.

[25] ‘Dardo’. Weaponsystems.net.

[26] ‘Dardo hitfist Tracked Infantry Fighting Vehicle’. Army-technology.com. 2020. Link. Accessed 08 April 2020.

[27] ‘DARDO AIFV/ATGM. Iveco-otomelara.com. 2016.Link Accessed 08 April 2020.

[28] ‘Dardo’. Weaponsystems.net.

[29] ‘Dardo hitfist Tracked Infantry Fighting Vehicle’. Army-technology.com.

[30] ‘DARDO AIFV/ATGM. Iveco-otomelara.com.

[31] Only the IFV with/without ATGM was eventually produced and entered into service in the Italian Army (‘Dardo’. WeaponSystems.net.).

[32] Not all versions are equipped with ATGM.

[33] Possible but not present in the stock model.

[34] ‘DARDO’. Carriarmati.altervista.org. 2018. Link. Accessed 08 April 2020.

[35] “Rapporto 2019 – Esercito”. Rome, Italy, February 2020. http://www.esercito.difesa.it/Rapporto-Esercito/Contenuti-multimediali-RE-19/Documents/2019/RE19_ITA_INTERNET_A4_200317.pdf

[36] ‘Dardo’. Weaponsystems.net.

[37] ‘VCC “Dardo”’. Esercito.difesa.it. 2019. Link. Accessed 08 April 2020.

[38] ‘DARDO’. Carriarmati.altervista.org.

[39] ‘Ariete e Dardo della brigata Garibaldi nella esercitazione NATO “Silver Arrow” in Lettonia. Analisidifesa.it. 2019. Link. Accessed 09 April 2020.

[40] ‘Missione in Lettonia: addestramento del contingente italiano’. Difesa.it. 2019. Link. Accessed 09 April 2020.

[41] ‘L’Esercito conclude l’attività addestrativa in Qatar’. Analisidifesa.it. 2019. Link. Accessed 09 April 2020.

[42] ‘Qatar, l’Esercito italiano si addestra con i tank nel deserto’. Repubblica.it. 2019. Link. Accessed 09 April 2020.

[43] ‘Mine Resistant Ambush  Protected vehicles (MRAP)’. Asc.army.mil. 2020. Link. Accessed October 2020.

[44]  Novichkov N. N. ; Snegovskiy V. Ya. ; Sokolov A. G. ; Shvarev V. Yu. “Rossiyskie vooruzhennye sily v chechenskom konflikte: Analiz, Itogi, Vyvody (Russian armed force in the chechen conflict: Analysis, outcomes and conclusions)”. Kholveg-Infoglob-Trivola, 1995.

[45] ‘Bradley M2/M3 – Tracked Armoured Fighting Vehicle’. Army-technology.com. 2016. Link. Accessed 18 October 2020.

[46] 9M113M Konkurs-M (NATO: AT-5B Spandrel B)

[47] Zakharchuk, Mikhail . “Uroki Chechenskogo krizisa (Lessons of the Chechen crisis)”. Armeyskiy sbornik, 1995.

[48] Wide range of photographic evidence showing the destruction of these systems, especially in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. This information has been often elaborated in articles for the general public.

[49] ‘Footage of Canadian LAVs in Yemen raises new questions about Saudi arms deal’. Rcinet.ca. 2019. Link. Accessed 19 October 2020.

[50] Modified in 3 different APC/IFV versions, the Nagmashot ( 1983 circa), the Nagmachon (1980s) and the Nakpadon (Mid-1990s).

[51] With the Achzarit, produced since 1988 using old captured T-55.

[52] ‘Namer Heavy Armoured Infantry Fighting Vehicle’. Army-technology.com. 2020. Link. Accessed 19 October 2020.

[53] Modern ATGMs, like the Russian Kornet, have an impressive penetration capability, superior to the 1000mm of rolled homogeneous armor, while missiles  like the Israeli Spike hit the weak spots of a tank using a top-down attack

[54] With the first operational being the Russian Drozd, created in 1977.

[55] ‘M2 Bradley Gets An Iron Fist; Rival Trophy APS Wins $67M For Army, Marine M1 Tanks’. Breakingdefense.com. 2019. Link. Accessed 19 October 2020.

[56] “Rapporto 2017 – Esercito”. Rome, Italy, February 2018.

[57] “Rapporto 2019 – Esercito”. February 2020.

[58] ‘Armour Renaissance in the French Army SCORPION Transformation Programme’. Euro-sd.com. 2020. Link. Accessed 19 October 2020.

[59] ‘Borsuk IFV Presented in Kielce After Successful Amphibious Trials’. Defence24.com. 2019. Link. Accessed 19 October 2020.

[60] ‘Puma IFV’. Kmweg.com. 2020. Link.. Accessed 19 October 2020.

[61] ‘KF31 Lynx IFV Rheinmetall’. ArmyRecognition.com. 2020. Link.. Accessed 19 October 2020.

[62] The first customer of the Lynx is the Hungarian Army and in the video released on the 12th of October 2020 (Link) it is possible to observe Hungarian soldiers operating together with a Lynx in the exercise “Brave Warrior 2020”. The vehicle does not show to possess in this particular configuration any ATGM launcher, remarking how anti-tank missiles are not perceived as an essential feature but more as “optionals” for the German designers.

[63]‘ASCOD (Pizarro / Ulan) Armoured Fighting Vehicle’. Army-technology.com. 2020. Link. Accessed 19 October 2020.

[64] ‘CV-90 MK IV’. Armyrecognition.com. 2020. Link. Accessed 24 October 2020.

[65] Sabatino, Ester. “Per l’Italia quale carro armato dopo l’Ariete?”. Istituto Affari Internazionali, 2020.

[66] ‘HITFIST OWS 30mm’. Leonardocompany.com. 2020. Link. Accessed 10 October 2020

[67] Ibidem.

[68] ‘I programmi di acquisizione ed ammodernamento dell’Esercito Italiano’. Analisidifesa.it. 2020. Link. Accessed 10 October 2020.

[69] ‘Iron Fist Series of Active Protection Systems’. Elbitsystems.com. 2020. Link. Accessed 10 October 2020.

[70] “Rapporto 2019 – Esercito”. February 2020.

Bibliography

Official Documents

Books / Publications

  • Besch, Edwin. “Infantry fighting Vehicles: Their Evolution and Significance“. Marine Corps Gazette, Marine Corps Base Quantico: Marine Corps Association, July 1983, pp. 50–60.
  • Cappellano, Filippo; Guglielmi, Daniele. “Mezzi Corazzati e Blindati dell’Esercito Italiano 1945-2015”. Storia Militare, n. 26, 2016, pp. 86.
  • Coffey, Rod. Doctrinal Orphan or Active Partner? A History of US Mechanized Infantry Doctrine. Fort Leavenworth, United States Army Command and General Staff College, 2000, pp. 99-100.
  • Novichkov N. N. ; Snegovskiy V. Ya. ; Sokolov A. G. ; Shvarev V. Yu . “Rossiyskie vooruzhennye sily v chechenskom konflikte: Analiz, Itogi, Vyvody (Russian armed force in the chechen conflict: Analysis, outcomes and conclusions)”. Kholveg-Infoglob-Trivola, 1995.
  • Sabatino, Ester. “Per l’Italia quale carro armato dopo l’Ariete?”. Istituto Affari Internazionali, 2020.
  • Zakharchuk, Mikhail . “Uroki Chechenskogo krizisa (Lessons of the Chechen crisis)”. Armeyskiy sbornik, 1995.

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