For Italy, like many other NATO nations, the lessons of the Ukraine War have led to many changes in the Italian military. One overdue item was upgrading an army tank force consisting of 200 53-ton Ariete tanks delivered between 1995 and 2002. Lack of maintenance and upgrades meant only 50 of these tanks were operational when the Ukraine War began. The Italians were reminded that NATO membership required Italy to have at least 250 operational tanks. Now the army has the cash to upgrade 90 of its Arietes at a cost of $10 million each. If that upgrade works as expected, there is an option to upgrade 35 more. The Italian manufacturer of Ariete is no longer able to manufacture more Arietes at an affordable price. A German firm can supply 133 new Leopard 2A8 tanks at an affordable price and that is the option the Italian army wants money for so Italy can meet their NATO commitment for an adequate tank force. Italian firms would produce some of the Leopard 2 components for the Leopard 2s purchased by Italy. This form of co-production is common for an expensive (about $15 million each) new tank like the Leopard 2A8. Earlier models cost half as much but had far fewer capabilities.
Leopard 2 entered service in the early 1980s and by 2010 the 55- ton Leopard 2A6 was the standard version. It wasn’t until 2023 that the current 62-ton Leopard 2A8 appeared. This version is considered competitive with the latest version of the American M1 tank.
Ariete initially was a decent tank as it met then-NATO requirements. It was armed with a NATO-standard 12omm gun with 42 rounds of tank shells on board. The computerized fire-control system includes a thermal imager. Top speed is 65 kilometers an hour and max road-range on internal fuel is 600 kilometers. There is a four man crew and the armor protection is a combination of steel and composite armor. There are two machine-guns, one coaxial to the 120mm gun and the other on the top of the turret. Even with upgrades, Ariete won’t match the latest version of the Leopard 2 or M1.