ROME — Italy is considering the quick procurement of 125 tanks as well as infantry fighting vehicles to serve as gap fillers before long-term projects take shape, Italian defense officials and sources have said.
As the Ukraine conflict gives new importance to ground warfare capabilities, concerns are growing in Italy about its aging and depleted stock of Ariete tanks and Dardo fighting vehicles.
Addressing an Italian parliamentary defense committee on Thursday, Italian National Armaments Director Gen. Luciano Portolano said gap fillers were being mulled for new tanks and fighting vehicles.
“The defense ministry is evaluating all options, with a main focus on rapidly filling gaps,” he said.
An Italian defense source told Defense News that planners envisage a current need for 250 main battle tanks, of which 125 could be upgraded Ariete tanks, leaving a need for 125 gap fillers.
Giorgio Mulè, a former junior defense minister and a member of parliament with the Italian government coalition party Forza Italia, said leasing, rather than purchasing, gap filler tanks was the practical solution.
“Italy will need a gap filler which is already in use in NATO and Europe, which is reliable and comes with logistics provided, which likely means leasing from another state,” he told Defense News.
Such a move could entail a lease of Leopard tanks from allied nations.
“We need urgent modernization – the last time we introduced new tanks and fighting vehicles was in the 1980s with the Ariete and Dardo vehicles,” said Mulè.
At the same time, as gap fillers are chosen, Partolano told parliament the defense ministry was working on requirements for “next generation” tanks and fighting vehicles that could be developed with Italian industrial input.
In the case of the tank requirement, he cited the embryonic European Main Ground Combat System (MGCS), which was launched in 2012 by France and Germany and set to be developed by Germany’s Rheinmetall and KNDS, a joint venture between Germany’s KMW and France’s Nexter.
Meanwhile, Rheinmetall has said that if Italy buys its new Lynx fighting vehicle to replace aging Dardos, it could build the vehicle in Italy.
Editor’s note: This story was updated on March 13 to clarify Gen. Portolano’s title as national armaments director.
Tom Kington is the Italy correspondent for Defense News.