1980/1990 - FIRST PROTOTYPES
Despite the large use during the first and second wars, the Italian post-war period did not see a large production and use of armoured wheeled vehicles. Only in the second half of the 1960s, companies like Fiat and Oto-Melara where the major manufacturers and supplied the army with light vehicles like the Fiat 6614 and OTO R3.
In 1983, IVECO (on its own private initiative) began the development of a family of wheeled armoured vehicles and presented 3 prototypes with different configurations and armaments.
The three prototypes were:
- AVL 6634 light reconnaissance, weighing approximately 5t
- AVM 6633 10t version for troop transport (up to 13 people)
- AVH 6636, a combat and fire support vehicle for infantry in 6x6 configuration, armed with a 90 mm gun in the turret.
The prototypes were successful but did not see production instead they became essential to start the development of two characteristic vehicles of the Italian army. The 6636 model will be the basis for the development of the Centauro B1, the 6634 and 6633 vehicles will be fundamental for the development of the PUMA vehicles.
1990/2000 - THE FIRST PUMA
The development of the PUMA began towards the end of the Cold War, from the collaboration between Fiat-Iveco and Oto-melara. This vehicle kept some features from the original prototypes but was updated to satisfy various needs dictated by the Italian army:
- Speed up transport and deployment of troops in distant combat zones,
- Must offer high strategic mobility,
- Support the heavy cavalry troops composed of B1 Centauro,
- Defend the rear from competing enemy actions (such as enemy landings on Italian territory/coast),
- The vehicle should have compact dimensions to allow it to be transported by air by heavy Chinook helicopter.
The first prototype of the PUMA was presented at the Army 2000 exhibition held at the Monteromano range in 1987. It was a great success as it satisfied all the listed requirements and provided a vast variety of armaments and configurations. The vehicle’s cupola could equip one of the following weapons: a 7.62mm or 12.7mm machine gun, a TOW or mistral missile launcher (anti-tank configuration) and a surface-to-air launcher (there are no photos documenting this version but it’s listed in several documents).
The first model had a 4x4 configuration which was later joined by a more powerful 6x6 version with greater load capacity and off-road mobility. Despite its greater length, the 6x6 model could be transported by helicopter like the 4x4 variant.
2000/2010 - DEPLOYMENT
The development program was extended for 13 years during which numerous updates were made with the aim of satisfying the new operational needs of the Italian army. The procurement program, approved by the Ministry of Defense in 1995, was revised in 1999 for a supply of 250 Pumas 6x6 and 330 Pumas 4x4, to be distributed to the departments from 2001 to 2004. In those years, the 4x4 vehicles were supplied to the two regiments of the «Friuli» airmobile brigade and the «Monte Cervino» battalion of the Alpine Troop Command. The 6x6 model will, however, be supplied to the «Folgore» parachute regiments and the “Serenissima” Lagunari Regiment.
The vehicle had a long period of service in which it was deployed in various peacekeeping and war against terrorism missions.
In 2007, the Italian army requested the vehicle be upgraded with the addition of more advanced armament and greater protection from grenades and mines. Oto Melara took charge of this update and supplied 19 Hitrole 12.7mm remote-controlled machine gun turrets for the Puma fleet. This update offers greater Survivability (remote turret operated from inside the vehicle) and accuracy thanks to the new infrared camera, laser range finder and a regular TV camera. The weapon is gyroscopically stabilized while the gunner is assisted with a fire control computer that can help the gunner track moving targets. Hull protection got improved by adding steel plates welded at both the bottom and top; on the sides, however, the steel plates are fixed to the hull rather than welded. The plates ensure protection from small calibers, granates and fragments. The hermetic sealing of the vehicle and the filtering of the air ensures protection from NBC attacks; Furthermore, an automated fire detection and extinguishing system has been set up inside the passenger compartment.
The vehicles, although dated, are still operational in the Italian army. In 2013 some vehicles were donated to Argentina (2 for troop training), Pakistan (76 Puma 6x6) and Libya (14 Puma 4x4 for the war against terrorism).
Photo from side, extra layer of protection is visible on the side
Various view of the main gun
Side metal plate protection
Puma 6x6 with no armament
Photos of the prototype
3 (commander, gunner, driver)
Length - Width - Height
5.07m - 2.28m - 1.9m
Oto-melara Hitrole 12.7mm machine gun
Galix Smoke-grenade dischargers (3xside)
IVECO 8042 - 4 cylinder turbo-charged diesel
132kW - 180hp
103km/h - 30km/h (backwards)
Five-speed Renk automatic
Other gun configurations
- BGM-71 TOW launcher
- Milan launcher
- 12.7 or 7.62 machine gun
- Mistral launcher (no image of this version)
- 81mm mortar carrier
Hitrole Info from one of the sources:
The Puma is not just a vehicle, it is a family of multiple armoured VBL that has undergone numerous upgrades during its development and use in combat. Multiple variants may be added in the future, especially an anti-tank model with TOW missiles. The PUMA 6x6 is also an iconic Italian vehicle that would bring uniqueness and originality to the Italian tech tree. The Variant I propose is the 2007 version updated by Oto-melara because it is the most recent vehicle, with numerous photographic documentation and well-defined technical information. The type of armament could make it suitable for the Italian anti-aircraft branch and also perform the role of a reconnaissance vehicle in the field.
Puma 4x4 Iveco Oto Melara armoured personnel carrier technical data sheet specifications pictures | Italian Army Italy wheeled and armoured vehicle UK | Italian army italy military equipment vehicle UK