The Italian Army carries out its first firings with the Freccia Armoured Mortar Carrier

By Paolo Valpolini

On 10 October the Italian Army 82nd Infantry Regiment “Torino”, belonging to the “Pinerolo” Mechanised Brigade, carried out its first firing with the newly received Freccia Armoured Mortar Carrier (AMC) variant, the unit having been the first Italian Army regiment to deploy the new weapon system. The same regiment was also the first to deploy the Freccia 8×8 infantry fighting vehicle downrange, when in 2010 one company was deployed to Shindad, Afghanistan, as part of the Italian Task Force deployed in that area. The “Pinerolo” is the first Italian Army Brigade to be transformed into a Medium Brigade, its vehicles being networked, the unit being also the first to receive the Forza NEC (Network Enhanced Capabilities) systems.

The 82nd Infantry Regiment received its Freccia AMC in two batches, two vehicles in March and two more in May 2019, the Heavy Mortar Platoon of the Manoeuvre Support Company fielding four such vehicles. The initial training was carried out by Iveco-DV, Leonardo and Thales adopting the train-the-trainer scheme, military instructors attending courses regarding the vehicle, radios, armament and other systems, prior going back to the unit barracks in Barletta to train the whole mortar crews. The personnel remained the same that previously manned the 120 RT rifled 120 mm towed mortars, each mortar crew adding however one member. “Although the platform is complex and technologically advanced, its intuitive and user friendly interface did not generate any major problem to my personnel during the instruction and training phase,” Capt. Pietro Andriola, OC 82nd Regiment Manoeuvre Support Company, told EDR On-Line. The training on the new system started in June 2019 and lasted four weeks, one extra week being added before the firing exercise. Build-up training will be carried out progressively, in order to fully exploit the new weapon system capabilities. The first firing session took place at the Torre di Nebbia training area and marked a key step forward for the unit, the platoon reaching the firing area in formation, deploying and carrying out the firing action seamless, at a much higher speed compared to what was obtained in the past with the towed mortar.

The Centauro AMC is based on the Freccia chassis produced by Iveco DV, has a combat weight of 30 tonnes, a four-man crew plus the driver, and is armed with a Leonardo Defence Systems Hitrole Light remotely controlled weapon station for self-defence, the main weapon being the TDA 2R2M rifled mounted mortar system. The latter is installed in the rear compartment, a two-piece hatch being opened once in position: “the Heavy Mortar Platoon has its integral visual target acquisition/fire correction element (SAOV the Italian acronym),” Capt. Andriola tells us; “once the target has been acquired the SAOV sends data through the network, the weapon being laid automatically, however data can also be received through the traditional voice radio link with manual input into the on-board fire direction system by the vehicle commander.”

The mortar can be traversed on a ±200° arc, elevation being between +45° and +85°; the semi-automatic loading system allows a maximum rate of fire of 10 rounds per minute. Due to firing range limitations the firing exercise was carried out using training ammunition and employing up to Charge 6, the charge being automatically chosen by the firing system according to target distance and to vertical obstacles existing between the firing position and the target itself.

The exercise carried out at Tor di Nebbia allowed the 82nd Infantry Regiment to test for the first time its firing capabilities with the new systems prior to its deployment in the Spanish range of San Gregorio, close to Zaragoza, for the “Toro 2019” exercise, where it will operate alongside the Spanish Army BrigadaAragón”, both under tactical control of the “Castillejo” Division. The battalion deployed its Freccia AMC to Spain together with the other versions of the 8×8 vehicle, a mortar firing exercise being planned also at San Gregorio.

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Photos and video courtesy Italian Army – “Pinerolo” Brigade