Vehicles in Focus: C1 Ariete

Ever since the founding of NATO, equipment standardization has been one of the most important pillars of western military cooperation. This included tanks and many smaller Europeans nations opted to purchase the German Leopard 2 Main Battle Tank. But keeping your own tank fleet and development is a matter of prestige, which is why the most powerful militaries of Europe have their own types of MBT – the British have the Challenger 2, the French their Leclercs and the Italians have the C1 Ariete.


These three tanks have much in common. They are a matter of military honor (it would be in poor taste for the French to rely on German tanks after all). They are extremely expensive to build and maintain and – performance-wise – they are roughly on par with modernized Leopard 2s.

Of the three, the C1 Ariete is perhaps the closest to its German counterpart. It was developed by OTO Melara and Fiat Iveco (the consortium was called CIO) as part of an Italian army modernization program that included an IFV to replace the aging M113 (the result was called VCC-80 Dardo), a Tank Destroyer/FSV (resulting in the Centauro Tank Destroyer) and a tank intended to replace the aging American M60A1 and heavily modernized M47 tanks.

During the program, OTO Melara was responsible for the development of the hull, turret and weapons systems while Fiat Iveco was responsible for the engine, transmission and suspension.

Development began in 1984 and the first prototype was built in 1986 with six more pre-production vehicles built in 1988. The tank was accepted into service in 1992 with the Italian Army ordering 200 Arietes. It's actually unclear when mass-production started exactly. Some sources claim the first vehicles were built as early as 1992 with 18 more built in 1993 and production ran until 1999, others say the vehicle was only built from 1995 onwards and actual production ended in 2002. One thing is for sure – 200 vehicles were indeed delivered to the Italian military, replacing the older tank variants.

The Ariete has a conventional design. The tank weighs approximately 54 tons and is protected by composite armor (Chobham type), allegedly roughly on par in protection with the Leopard 2A5 variant, although some sources claim the sides are exceptionally thin. This issue can be partially resolved with an additional armor kit, introduced to the public by the end of Ariete's production run in 2002. It is not known, however, whether the Italian military actually ordered any. Additional protection is provided by a set of grenade launchers that are capable of using both smoke and chaff grenades, the purpose of the latter being radar image distortion of the vehicle.


The vehicle has a standard crew of four men (driver, commander, gunner and loader) and is powered by a turbocharged 1250hp Fiat-Iveco MTCA V12 diesel, allowing it to go as fast as 70 km/h, quite a lot for a vehicle of its weight category.

The Ariete is armed with a 120mm OTO Melara L/44 smoothbore gun. The barrel length might lead us to believe that the gun is a license-produced Rheinmetall L/44, but it is in fact not so. The weapon was developed independently in Italy, although it's almost certain the developers had a very close look at the German tank weapon. The OTO Melara gun can fire standard 120mm NATO rounds that include APFSDS, HE and HEAT, is fully stabilized and manually loaded.

The Fire Control System is also Italian – OG14L3 TURMS by Galileo Avionica. It's a rather advanced FCS for its day, paired with a laser rangefinder, thermal sights and a digital weather sensor. On paper it is very accurate, but there are videos available that show multiple Ariete tanks shoot all over the place during trials. Actual performance remains unknown.

Ariete service was marked by alleged military complaints over the reliability of the 1250hp engine, resulting in the development of an improved 1500hp version of the same engine that also had better fuel economy. It seems the original intention was to overhaul the whole stock of 200 Ariete tanks with this new powerplant, but – as often happens during peace time – the program was blocked for financial reasons.

By now in service for more than two decades, the Ariete has never been exported or used in combat. Relatively expensive from the start and with most potential customers opting for the safer choice of the Abrams MBT, the Leclerc or even Leopard 2, it's very unlikely that it ever will.


The nature of armored warfare has changed dramatically in the last five years. With tanks expected to perform well in an urban environment, there are concerns over whether the thin-armored Ariete is up to the task.

The Ariete is supposed to remain in service at least until 2025. An upgraded version called Ariete Mk.2 with improved FCS, protection and an autoloader was unveiled in 2005 but whether it will actually enter service is unclear at this point.

In Armored Warfare

The Ariete is a Tier 8 Main Battle Tank in Marat Shishkin's British Main Battle tank branch, preceded by the Challenger 1 and succeeded by the Challenger 2. In the future, it will be replaced by the Vickers Mk.7/2 Main Battle Tank and moved to a different branch.

For more information about Balance 2.0 changes, please check our series of Balance 2.0 articles.

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