New Aries Scandal: making mistakes is human but persevering ...

(To Tiziano Ciocchetti)
18/07/22

The conflict in Ukraine is demonstrating that the tank and artillery still play a fundamental role in high-intensity conflicts.

In the recent conference of the Army Study Center, held on July 5 in Rome, the Chief of Staff of the Army, general Serino, and the Chief of Defense Staff, Admiral Cavo Dragone, reiterated the need and urgency to proceed with the modernization program of the C1 tank Ram.

In hearing these statements we thought that making mistakes is certainly human but persevering is diabolical!

Recall that the wagon Ram is a national project born in the 80s (presented for the first time at the Monte Romano shooting range in 1987) of the last century. The Army envisaged the acquisition of 300 units, however the end of the Cold War and the consequent cuts to the Defense Budgets, postponed the acquisitions by 10 years (with a reduction of 100 vehicles). Of the 200 Ram acquired (since 1998), as far as we know, are efficient no more than thirty wagons, the others are used as "suppliers" of spare parts.

In 2019 it was decided to start an update program, concerning 125 Ram, spread over 12 years with an initially estimated cost of 421,7 million euros.

(Below is the entry of the DPP (Multiannual Planning Document) 2018-2020 concerning the figures for the update of ARIETE)

The figure of 35 million (i.e. the allocations from 2018 to 2020) relates to the costs for updating two prototypes of theRam, one of which was presented to an Army delegation on 19 April.

First of all, the hull has, at the bottom, an anti-elimination and IED protection; a new type of track has been adopted, of the same width as the previous one (620 mm) but has the pitch of the links extended by 20 mm and the soles of a larger size (the replacement was necessary due to the increase in power and torque provided by the new engine and also to reduce the specific pressure exerted on the ground), the tracks of the Leopard 2, since these are about 700 mm wide, this would have involved modifying the suspension arms, thus exceeding the width of the hull.

The tracks are dimensionally the same as the Leopard 1 and of the self-propelled PzH-2000, with the only difference that they use mesh type connectors "Duchbill", already used on wagons Sherman during the Second World War, as an expedient to increase the support surface on soft but irrelevant soils when traveling on roads with hard or stony ground.

As for the combat compartment, inside the turret the location of the 13 ready-to-use 120 mm grenades, available to the servant, and in the stowage of the reservoir placed to the left of the pilot, nothing has changed. A sign that the problem of the combustion of ammunition on Russian tanks must not have been acknowledged; on Sherman to try to stem the problem, the "Wet stowage" (consisted of a system in which cannon shots were moved into a rack on the hull floor. The bullets in the rack were surrounded by small containers containing a mixture of water, ethylene glycol and a rust inhibitor, known as "Ammudamp").

The basket that serves to contain the ejected shells is also remained unchanged. Recall that the small capacity of the basket was one of the causes (not the main one) that led to the death of Marco Bisconti, pilot ofRam, in the accident that took place on 22 June 2006 in the Torre Veneri polygon (LE). The only change was the elimination of the supports to stow the 4 grenades that were previously located under the oscillating mass.

A completely electric system replaced the hydraulic system for moving the tower, thus also eliminating the 35 liters of oil which, pressed at 150/170 Bar, through about 11 meters of pipes, activated the hydraulic swing and elevation motors; it is not yet known whether this has reduced the time needed to rotate the tower by 360 °, thus bringing it from 18 seconds to a time closer to 10 seconds than the tower of the Leopard 2.

The gunner's post is the one that has received the most changes, the same screen model as the one installed on the Centaur II, has taken the place of the original optics consisting of a system of prisms and lenses. So the definition of the image is no longer due to the limits imposed by the eye of the gunner but by the number of pixels provided by the screen. In Italy there is not a company with the technical and qualitative skills similar to those of the Zeiss group that has created the optics of the Leopard 2A7 but, instead, in the Leonardo group there are companies that manufacture or subcontract the much simpler and cheaper fully electronic systems.

A swinging bar with operation similar to an airplane stick has taken the place of the one system that was common to Centaur I, Dart, Ram, Arrow and HITROLE system, that is the system consisting of two fixed joysticks which allowed, by means of joysticks and buttons, the control of the combat system.

During the use of the combat system, with the chariot moving fast on various terrain, the gunner normally leans with the helmet on the aiming optics in order to have a stable position of the head, looks inside the eyepiece of the optics , whose dioptric compensation has been previously adjusted and possibly inserted filters to better adapt the vision to the present light conditions, his attention is solely dedicated to what he sees through the aiming system.

The stable support constituted by the handwheel type Leopard 1/2 or the fixed yokes type Centaur I it allows him to counteract the stresses transmitted by the movement of the vehicle and at the same time to govern the tower to carry out the aiming. A vision system consisting of a camera which then transmits the images to an LCD screen cannot compete in image quality with a purely optical system, as it is subject to reflection phenomena, forcing the gunner to continuously move his head, especially when the screen it is small in size, does not allow dioptric compensation, at night the interior of the wagon is lit up like a nativity scene, eliminating the crew's night vision and making the position of the vehicle easily identifiable. The operator therefore has greater difficulty concentrating solely on the target, the tower movement control bar, which is completely mobile, cannot offer any support to counter the stresses generated by off-road travel.

The aiming apparatus parallel to the barrel, of excellent quality and conception, very useful in case of failures to the other systems, was instead disassembled due to the size of the lifting arc now necessary for the presence of the electric movement system. The coaxial telescope has been replaced by an optic you tested the restore function of your back up, such only in name, but built by the usual suspects.

A 12,7x99 mm Browning machine gun carriage was anachronistically installed externally to the servant's hatch, the swing is allowed only in the front arch and forces the operator to expose himself up to waist height in order to operate the weapon, it is spontaneous ask yourself why the installation of the HITROLE remote control tower was not considered. Furthermore, against an expense that will be around 3 million euros per unit, savings have been made on the installation of a rear camera which, through a screen placed next to the dashboard, allows the driver to make safe and fast movements in reverse similar to what the crews have been doing for years Leopard 2.

The escape hatch located on the bottom of the hull behind the pilot, can be used in case of emergency by the crew to exit the wagon safely and can be opened instinctively in a few seconds, as a consequence of the application of the anti-elimination protection, it was replaced by a trap door weighing about 200Kg, which can only be operated if the wagon is not skidded and if there are no obstacles protruding from the ground, due to the mass and complexity of the maneuvers to be carried out for the release and rotation of this hatch, during the crew training course the shortest time required is been about 5 (five) minutes!

As is now customary for this kind of supplies, industries, counting on political support, already taking for granted the acquisition of the contract even if the shooting tests of the prototype will begin in September and so far no opinion has been asked to the operators.

Since OTO-Melara was incorporated by Leonardo, it has become common practice to entrust the study and construction of materials to external companies without any previous experience in the specific subject, who designed and installed the changes to the tower Ram he has never set foot on a wagon nor has he ever asked the Army how the wagon should be modified in order to make it more responsive to the expectations of the crews.

The only tangible improvement is the one that can be found when starting the engine: the smoke, coal-fired locomotive type that distinguishes the functioning of the engines Ram, Centaur I, Dart e Arrow, has completely disappeared as has the typical panting behavior present when the engine runs below 1300 rpm.

Read also the second part: "New Aries Scandal: persevering is ... as Italians!"

Photo: Army / Ministry of Defense