The VBM (Veicolo Blindato Medio) Freccia (Arrow) is a Italian medium armoured vehicle developed by a consortium combining Iveco (hull, engine, suspension) and Oto Melara (armament). The Freccia 8×8 Armoured Infantry Fighting Vehicle (AIFV) is based on the chassis of the 105mm-armed Centauro tank destroyers developed by the consortium during 1992-96. On 26 May 2009, Oto Melera, the designer and manufacturer of the Hitfist Plus turret, and Rafael, the designer and manufacturer of Spike missiles, performed the launching trials on the weapon system. This trial campaign was completed in June 2009 with approval of the anti-tank system following soon after.
The Armoured Infantry Fighting Vehicle has a longer and narrower hull than the Centauro tank destroyer and weighs 26t. It is an 8×8-drive vehicle with disc brakes on all eight wheels. The vehicle’s hull and turret are aluminium with a layer of ballistic steel fitted to provide higher protection. The Freccia is up-armoured and revised variant of the wheeled Centauro tank destroyer. The Freccia can carry up to eight combat-ready troops. Engineer and Ambulance variants are in development. The front and the underside armour of the VBM Freccia IFV can protect from 25mm to 30mm rounds and 6kg TFT blasts. The protection can be increased to withstand 8kg mine blasts. It is also equipped with nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) protection and automatic fire suppression systems.
The Freccia is up-armoured and revised variant of the wheeled Centauro tank destroyer fitted with the Hitfist Plus turret (an evolution of that used on the Dardo), which is armed with an Oerlikon KBA 25mm automatic cannon and carries 200 rounds of 25mm ammunition. Two 7.62mm NATO machine guns are also fitted. One is fitted with the main gun and the other is fitted on the roof. Additionally, a pair of Spike ML/LR anti-tank missiles can be fitted on the turret. Two missiles are ready to fire in external launchers and 8 missiles are stowed in the hull. The Hitfist Plus turret (an evolution of that used on the Dardo) could theoretically also fit cannons and guns of up to 60mm calibre. Four 80mm smoke grenade launchers are mounted on each side of the turret. The fire control system is the same as for the Centauro reconnaissance/anti-tank version.
The adoption of the innovative “H shaped” transmission with twin side mounted drive shafts in place of the more traditional single central shaft, provides the vehicle with a low silhouette and an inherently more stealthy profile than others in its class. As with all the vehicles belonging to the Centauro family, the Centauro AIFV has outstanding tactical mobility, based on its powerful Iveco engine driving an automatic gearbox and enhanced by 3-axle steering. Independent hydropneumatic MacPherson suspension on each wheel provides exceptional ride quality, also derived from long suspension travel. The vehicle is equipped with full command, control and communication system and is the core platform of the netcentric scenario.
The VBM Freccia Armoured Infantry Fighting Vehicle (AIFV) is manufactured in six variants: armoured personal carrier, ATGW carrier, mortar carrier, command vehicle, armoured ambulance and recovery vehicle. Each VBM Freccia IFV runs on an Iveco 6V supercharged 550hp diesel engine (405kW at 2,300rpm) with five-speed plus two reserve mechanical transmission. The top speed of the vehicle with maximum load is 110km/h. In 2006, the Italian Army placed an order for 249 Freccias of different variants. The order includes 172 Freccia’s fitted with the Oto Melara Hitfist Plus two-person turret armed with a 25mm KBA cannon, 36 anti-tank vehicles armed with the Rafael Armament Development Authority Spike long-range missiles; 20 command vehicles and 21 120mm mortar carriers. The first tranche included delivery of 54 Freccias, while the second for 109 vehicles is currently under negotiation. The third tranche is for the remaining vehicles, which will complete the delivery requirement of 249 Freccia’s by 2013.