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B-1 Centaur
by Angel of Peso Martín

 

The light tank B-1 Centaur is the heir of the family of Italian vehicles armored of wheel, from the Ansaldo-Lanzia 1Z made between 1915 and 1917, to the AB40 and Ab-41 of II the World war.


In the middle of the 80 Italy looks for a substitute for the M47 that was being destined to units of second line. By different reasons, by a side of strategic type and on the other hand of technical type (advances in the tubes of low backward movement, independent, cushioning suspensions of great route, adjusting devices of pressure in tires....), the Italian General Staff ordered in 1984 the development of an armored vehicle of wheels with tube of 105mm, a weight of between 20 and 25 metric ton and able to use the same ammunition that Leopard I and M60A1. The first prototype was shown in June of 1986, beginning the deliveries in 1992.

                                   

One of the prototypes of the Centaur.

The Centaur was developed by a partnership formed by Iveco-Fiat and Oto-Melara, being in charge first of the chassis and second of the tower and the system battle.

Description

Chassis

                   

Schematic court of the chassis.

 

The helmet is of ballistic steel able to resist impacts AP of 14'5 mm. The motor is placed in the right front part, which like in the Israeli Merkava it provides a greater protection to the crew, since, for example, part of the ammunition goes estivada in the back part, that is less exposed to the enemy fire. The conductor is in the left front part, to the height of the second axis, reason why he is better prote'ge' against the mines, seated in a vertically adjustable seat, has three periscopes to the conduction, being able to be replaced the power station by a light intensifier. It has a hatch to the entrance and exit. To its right is the motor, separated by means of a watertight, isolated acusticamente and antifire bulkhead.

 

Vista from the back inner door

Scheme of the position of the conductor



In the central and back part are the fuel tanks with 520 liters, the 6 batteries of 12 volts, the capstan with capacity of 10 drag metric ton (although the exit of this it is in the frontal part of the chassis, next to the left light), system NBQ of overpressure, the pumps of bailing and the conditioned air system. The filters of system NBQ can be changed from the outside of the vehicle, by means of a hatch qualified in the right back part of the chassis. In the back part it has an inner door by which it is possible to be made the supply and the entrance and fast exit of the crew, along with two warehouses of 13 projectiles of 105mm each one, that from the production vehicle nº 250 can be replaced by 2 seats each one. To both sides of the inner door there are two closets to take tools, etc...

                                

Details of the back zone, closets, cestas..(the Centaur Spanish do not take the connected cylinders to the basket)

                                               

Seats of the back part.

The vehicle has a system antifires and antiexplosions, the one in the camera of the motor and other in the camera battle. It consists of sensors IR/UV that detect a sudden increase of the temperature acting in milliseconds on the extinguishers.

             

   

The power plant this formed by the motor, the speed change and the system of refrigeration. The motor is a Iveco 6 diesel V6 MTCA of cilindors in V, cooled by supercharged water and by after-cooler, with 2300 a maximum power from 520 CV to r.p.m, which gives to a relation weight 25 power of CV/Tm.

The group of the speed change the ZF is formed by:

  • converter of hydrodynamic pair
  • primary hydraulic ralentizador
  • march group
  • electrohidraúlico control
  • electronic selector of marches
  • parking brake

The refrigeration system has two circuits, one to the motor and another one to the oil of the motor and after-cooler

 

                           

Schematic court of the motor.

The running system has total traction to the 8 wheels, with a scheme in form of H, where the differential transmits the movement to the wheels of each flank, by means of two you hoist of transmission. The system of control of variable pressure of inflation controlled by the conductor, allows to modify the pressure from 1.5 bar to 4.5 bar. The braking system has 4 independent circuits, with autoventilados discs.

The suspension is of independent type McPherson, formed by an air-oil shock absorber and two fixed oscillating arms to the helmet and the bucket of each one of the wheels. These are of steel plate printed of type 10.00W. 1º and 2º axis are directional at any moment, whereas 4º only at 20 inferior speeds to km/h (to avoid problems of upset like in the VECs Spanish). They are provided with 14,00 tires R20 without camera, of Run-flat type, that allow even Keep moving if they have been damaged. A inflado/desinflado automatic (CTIS), controlled mount device of from the position of the conductor.


          

Plane and photo of the running train

Schematic cuts of the transmission system, direction and suspension.

The chassis has lateral steel aprons that so single are used during real operations.

 

The general characteristics of the vehicle are:

  • Terminal velocity by highway: 105 km/h
  • Acceleration: 70 km/h in 30 seg.
  • Autonomy: 800 km
  • Slope capacity: longitudinal 60%, cross-sectional 30%
  • Superable vertical Obstaculo: 450mm
  • Superable ditch: 1,5 ms
  • Fording: 1,2 ms
  • Rate of fire: 6-9 disp/min

  

Tower

                                

The tower is of the type motorized for three men, being the system of hidraúlico movement, with one manual of emergency (optionally the system can be electrical), equipped with a tube of low backward movement (LRF) of 105mm.

                   

Link of the tower to the chassis and disassembled tower.

The crew of the tower is of three people:

  • Tank commander

  • Pointer

  • Shipper

       

Detail of the anchorage of the tube to the chassis

The tube of 105/52mm is equipped with a system of retroceso/contraretroceso and muzzle brake of very high performance, that reduces the backward movement remarkably and avoids efforts on the tower besides to allow to its installation in light vehicles of wheels or chains, is stabilized, autofrettage, uses a collimator, vertical wedge breechblock, evacuador cylinder of gases and thermal shirt. The tube can shoot different types from the ammunition, APFSDS, HEAT, HESH and TP.

As secondary armament incorporates a coaxial machine gun of 7,62x51, and another equal one in the ceiling of the tower (optionally one second machine gun in the ceiling of the tower can be installed). In addition it incorporates 4 smoke generators Weggman of 76mm to each side of the tower (in some Italian vehicles replaced by the French Galix of 80mm associated a laser detector that drives them automatically).

The structure of the turret is of steel welded armored plates of such form that give a minimum silhouette, reducing to the possibility of visual detection or radar. It has two hatches in the ceiling to the entrance and exit of the crew. It incorporates in addition plates to extra steel shield in the spaced ceiling and in the lateral ones.

                                  

                   

Details of the superior part of the turret.

As the ammunition takes 14 ready projectiles of 105mm for its use, 1400 projectiles of 7.62 in two boxes for the coaxial machine gun, 5 boxes of 250 projectiles for the outer machine gun and 8 grenades of reserve smoke. In addition in the later part it takes to a log for the rammer of equipo(knapsacks, camouflage nets....).

                                       

Detail of the tower with the closing of the tube and the position of the gunner to the right.

The system of fire control allows the firing as much by day as at night, even with the car in movement. It consists of a digital central processor that receives data of different sensors, like temperature of the load, speed and temperature of the air, inclination of the vehicle, etc...., along with the introduced ones by the crew like the type of the ammunition, and provides the ballistic correción to the optical devices.

The aim system has two main components, the panoramic periscope for the head of the car and the viewfinder of aim of the gunner. First it is a binocular panoramic periscope of 10 increases and with a 20 field of 5 or º, with a module of intensification of light of 10 increases and 5º of field, is stabilized in two axes and although it does not have laser rangefinder, has functions of measurement of distances, reason why it can make the aim of the tube. The tank commander arranges in addition to a monitor where she can see the image of the viewfinder of the gunner. The gunner has a self-stabilizing monocular viewfinder with laser rangefinder of 10 increases and 6º of field and one incorporated thermal camera with an increase of 12. In addition a coaxial auxiliary viewfinder to the tube exists, balisticamente graduated and with an increase of 8.

Versions

From its entrance in good condition the Centaur was put under an intensive use, even in real missions like in Somalia, which caused the accomplishment of modifications in the vehicles that had still not left the production line. The first modification had relation with the shield, for which reactive shield ROMOR was integrated in some vehicles, of English origin, and in other vehicles, plates of steel shield, in the superior part of the tower, in the lateral ones of the tower, along with lateral aprons in the back wheels. In addition it was added to spall-liner internal of aramida fiber (Mitrex).

Another one of the improvements that were added was the extension of the helmet to allow replacing the back ammunition depots by seats, allowing therefore the transport of a small group of explorers.

The Italian partnership has developed by own account some versions of the Centaur, first of them version VBC, a vehicle battle of infantry based on the Centaur, with slightly smaller dimensions, and equipped with a tower equipped with an Oerlikon tube with 25mm and a missile TOW to each side. I exercise Italian it has ordered 3 vehicles to evaluate them and is possible that it buys around 200. The VBC also can take the Oto tower equipped with an automatic gun of 60mm.

Other proven prototypes or in study are version ATP, with a Fh-70 tube of 155/39, recovery, ambulance and mortar carrier of 120mm.

              

Planes of the Centaur.

The Centaur in Spain

The origin of the B-1 Centaur in Spain is in the necessity to equip the Officers' Club of Revolutionary Armed Forces, and in concrete to the 8 RCL Lusitania of an armored vehicle light, of great mobility and firepower, air transportable, usable as much in situations military conventional as in operations of interposition or humanitarian aid, and that replaced the TIME H90 that used temporarily this unit.

         Se evaluaron dos vehículos, el AMX-10RC francés y el B-1 Centauro italiano, resultando vencedor éste último, siendo notablemente superior al vehículo francés, excepto en el apartado de aerotransportabilidad, ya que parece que el transporte del Centauro en los Hércules es bastante difícil, aunque en el A400M será totalmente factible.

         Finalmente, el 25 de Junio de 1999, el Consejo de Ministros aprobó la compra de 22 unidades del Centauro, a entregar entre el 2000 y el 2001 ( 7 y 15 respectivamente) por un total de 11.165 millones.  La compra incluía un 100% de compensaciones industriales, que incluyen entre otras cosas la fabricación por la factoría de Trubia de SBB de cascos y torres del Centauro y del Dardo italiano, la fabricación de periscopios OG-101 y el mantenimiento de la dirección  de tiro por parte de Indra, así como el mantenimiento del grupo motopropulsor por parte de Iveco-Pegaso.

         Tras la mediación del JEME y como deferencia hacia éste, el consorcio italiano adelantó la entrega de los 3 primeros vehículos (prevista para diciembre) a Octubre para que pudieran participar en el desfile del 12 de Octubre, siendo recibidos los 4 siguientes en el mes de Diciembre. Los tres primeros vehículos permanecieron posteriormente en las instalaciones de Amper en Madrid recibiendo todo el equipo de comunicaciones, siendo entregados al RCL 8 en fechas recientes. La denominación en España es VRC-105 ( Vehículo de  Reconocimiento y Combate). 

         Los Centauro españoles se corresponden con el último lote entregados al Ejército Italiano, e incluyen el chasis alargado con la posibilidad de sustituir los 26 disparos por 4 asientos, el spall-liner interior, así como el blindaje extra de acero, llevando los españoles también placas de blindaje extra en la parte inferior delantera del chasis. En la actualidad SBB diseña los módulos de blindaje reactivo SABBLIR para instalar en los Centauro españoles. 

                                  

                    Pruebas del SABBLIR en los Centauro españoles.

         Por otro lado, antes de recibir los 3 primeros vehículos españoles, la Brigada de Caballería Castillejos había recibido el Septiembre 3 vehículos del Ejército Italiano para someterlos a una nueva evaluación y comprobar si pueden sustituir a los AMX-30EM2 de los dos RCLAC de la brigada, con el objetivo de que los regimientos ligeros estén dotados tan solo de vehículos de ruedas. Tras la favorable evaluación, parece que se han iniciado los contactos para la adquisición de otros 90 vehículos, 45 para cada regimiento, divididos en 18 para el GLAC y 27 para el GMZ, aunque todo dependerá de las disponibilidades presupuestarias ( Leopard, Pizarro, modernización BMR.....). En  http://members.es.tripod.de/numancia/prime2.htm#inicio  podréis encontrar mas información de la evaluación.

               

 

                              

                       Algunas fotos de las pruebas.

         En cuanto al futuro del Centauro en España, a parte de la versión VCR, se piensa en  las versiones VBC para sustituir a los VEC en un futuro, además de versiones ambulancia, recuperación, etc para sustituir a algunos de los BMR, aunque las posibilidades son bastante reducidas por el momento dada la reciente modernización de los BMR/VEC, quizás dentro de 7 u 8 años si sería posible, aunque seguramente para entonces habrá modelos más avanzados desarrollados.

         Por otro lado la Inf. de Marina tiene previsto adquirir dos compañias de vehículos blindados de ruedas para dotar a su Batallón Mecanizado ( y quizás si lo permitieran los presupuestos sustituir a los Scorpion). Aunque en principio la elección parece ser el Piranha en alguna de sus versiones ( Piranha III nuevos o LAV de 2ª mano), es posible que el objetivo del Minisdef de estandarizar equipos obligue a comprar alguna versión del Centauro.

Agradecimientos

         Agradecer  a Javier de Mazarrasa, al Círculo Trubia  y a Pedro Andrada por toda la documentación que han puesto a nuestra disposición para hacer este artículo. 

Febrero 2000.

                         

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