The Italian Army intends to extend operational life of 135 Dardo Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFVs), to keep heavy capability untill the enter in service of Armored Infantry Fighting Vehicle (AIFV) in 2026. According to a road map 2021-2023 published in 2021 by the Italian Ministry of Defense, the aim of the Armoured Infantry Combat System (AICS) program is to renew the entire combat capacity of Italian Army. Upgrade areas will be more powerful engine, new optics and enhanced protection. The Dardo IFVs currently in service with the Italian Army are fitted with the “Hitfist” IFV turret. The chassis is intended to be the basic model of a family of vehicles, which may include a 120 mm mortar carrier, command (C3I) vehicle, ambulance and light tank with a 105mm gun turret.
The Dardo is an infantry fighting vehicle designed for the Italian Army as a replacement for the M113 APC. It is designed and built by the Iveco Fiat Oto Melara Syndicated Company based in Rome. Iveco is responsible for the hull and propulsion systems, while Oto Melara is responsible for the weapons and fire control systems. The Dardo hull is built from welded aluminum alloy with add on steel armour plates for increased protection. Over the frontal arc, the vehicle is protected against 25mm APDS projectiles. The side armour protects against 14.5mm API projectiles. Four 80mm smoke grenade launchers are installed on each side of the turret.
The Dardo is powered by an Iveco V6 turbo-charged after-cooled diesel engine delivering 512 hp (382.2 kW). This drives a ZF-designed automatic transmission system, which is manufactured under license by Iveco Fiat. The transmission system has four forward and two reverse gears, and incorporates the steering system and the hydraulic retarder. The suspension consists of a torsion bar, bumper and a hydraulic shock absorber on each suspension arm. The running gear consists of six dual rubber-lined road wheels, with three return rollers on each side and connector type tracks. Together, this allows the Dardo to achieve speeds in excess of 70 km/h, maneuver on gradients of more than 60% and ford waters up to a depth of 1.5 m.
The Dardo is primarily armed with the 25mm Oerlikon KBA automatic cannon firing 600 rounds per minute, with 200 rounds of ready to fire ammunition stored in the turret. Two 7.62mm NATO machine guns are also installed in the turret, one coaxially mounted with the main gun. Five rifle ports, two on each side of the hull and one in the rear are provided to allow troops inside to use their personal weapons, if needed. Fire control is provided by the Galileo Avionica Hitfist integrated fire control system, which is capable of measuring target speed and range. For dealing with heavy armoured threats, two BGM-71 TOW anti tank missiles can be installed, one on each side of the turret. These missiles have a maximum range of approximately 4 km.