OTOMATIC gallery

In 1981, was introduced an anti-aircraft vehicle that carried a 76mm gun as main weapon. The caliber of the gun made it the most powerful anti-aircraft vehicle in the world, since the rest usually mounted 30 or 35mm guns, or 57mm at most in the case of the Soviet ZSU 57-2. It was baptized as Otomatic, which was the combination of installing the HEFAS 76 turret on the chassis of a self-propelled howitzer or a battle tank. The turret was built in steel, weighed about 15 tons and had a maximum armour of 25mm. The manufacturer’s claim was to offer the capability of medium-range anti-aircraft missiles at a much lower price.
OTO-Melara offered a vehicle capable to destroy low-flying aircrafts or helicopters at a greater distance than any other anti-aircraft vehicle of the time. Thanks to its stabilized 76mm gun the effective anti-aircraft range was about 6 km, while the other systems barely exceeded 3 km. In addition, with a single round hitting the target, it was enough to knock it down thanks to the weight of the explosive charge of the 5 kg projectiles. What was intended with the use of this caliber was to shoot down the aircrafts or helicopters before they got close enough to launch their anti-tank missiles, which at that time had a maximum range of about 4 km. The gun’s range against ground targets was about 20 km.
In addition to being an anti-aircraft vehicle, the Otomatic could also act as a tank destroyer thanks to the powerful 76/62mm Super Rapid gun. The rifled gun had a bore evacuator and a twin recoil and counterrecoil system along with a single run-out gas recuperator. The breechblock was a vertical falling wedge type with a mechanical firing system. The automatic gun loading system consisted of a loading tray with vertical alternating movement actuating by the recoiling mass through a lever system. The round’s forward movement was boosted by a hydraulic system, and the ejection of the spent cases to the outside of the vehicle was performed by another hidraulic system. The feeding of the AA rounds consisted in a magazine-translator, a loader drum and two rocking arms.
The AA rounds loader drum was located to the left of the barrel, while to the right of the barrel was an auxiliary loader drum for the anti-tank (AT) rounds. This round was of the APFSDS (armour-piercing fin-stabilized discarding sabot) type with great penetrating power. A hydraulic system moved the gun, which had an elevation sector between -5º to +60º and another similar system operated the traverse movement of the turret through a hydraulic motor with a reduction gear drive. There was also a manual turret’s movement emergency system. The maximum rate of fire was 120 rounds per minute and the vehicle had 100 rounds ready for use. The Otomatic‘s tactic consisted in firing bursts of 5 or 6 rounds equipped with proximity fuzes to the approaching targets before they can launch their weapons.
The gun operated alongside two radars and an opto-electronic search and tracking system. The target acquisition radar was a Galileo Avionica SMA VPS-A05 with a range of 20 km and capable of tracking 24 targets simultaneously. In addition, the Otomatic carried another Galileo Avionica SMA VPS-A06 radar for target tracking with a range of 20 km and an IFF system. The VPS-A05 radar covered 360º while the VPS-A06 covered a 180º sector and detected targets at an elevation between -5º to + 80º with respect to the vehicle. Both radars could track targets flying at speeds of up to 3,600 km/h and could be lowered onto the roof of the turret when the vehicle was in motion.
Otomatic had a fire control system integrated with the gun and sensors installed in the vehicle. The system operated in conjunction with the data provided by the radars, the commander’s search periscope and the gunner’s optical tracking sight. The gunner’s system consisted of a laser rangefinder and a stabilized TV camera for searching and tracking targets. The electronic systems are designed to operate at low power and avoid as much as possible the detection of anti-radiation missiles as well as the interference of electronic countermeasures.
The Otomatic had 4 crew members, driver, gun loader, gunner and commander. Although the ammunition loading system was automatic, the gun loader had to manually reload the feeding magazine. The gunner could rotate the turret, fire the gun and operate the VPG-A06 radar, similar tasks could be performed by the commander if necessary. All the crew members, except the driver, were located in the huge turret, and it was intended to be installed in any hull that had a turret ring suitable. The tests were carried out with the HEFAS 76 turret installed on the chassis of a Palmaria/OF-40 vehicle, although it could be installed on the Leopard 1, Leopard 2 or M-1 Abrams chassis.
The vehicle weighed about 46 tons and depending on the chosen chassis it had different engines. It could carry the 750 or 830 hp Palmaria and OF-40 vehicle engines or a 1,000 hp Fiat V12 MTCA diesel engine. Depending on the chassis, the vehicle could reach a top speed of 60-70 km/h and its range also depended on the chosen engine. Unfortunately, and despite being a great anti-aircraft vehicle, it did not find customers in the 15 years it remained on the market. However, a few years ago OTO-Breda, (current Leonardo-Finmeccanica), presented a new 76mm self-propelled anti-aircraft gun (SPAAG) vehicle called Draco, which could be considered a modern variant of the Otomatic.

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