Palmaria was developed by OTO Melara in 1977, with the first prototype appearing in 1981.

Developed as a project exclusively for foreign customers, the Palmaria is an Italian self-propelled howitzer using the NATO standard 155 mm gun caliber. Palmaria was developed by OTO Melara in 1977, with the first prototype appearing in 1981. Its customers were Argentina, Libya, and Nigeria. With the Palmaria 155mm, OTO Melara attempted to address the self-propelled artillery needs of growing or modernizing national armies, and promoted their Palmaria as an alternative to more expensive Western and Soviet offerings.

The chassis was formed from the existing OF-40 Main Battle Tank, allowing both vehicles to share commonality of automotive parts in their design. The OF-40, another export-minded OTO Melara product, was itself developed in 1977 and would enter production in 1980, seeing service with the United Arab Emirates. It was hoped that the Palmaria would see better success than the OF-40, and a pilot vehicle was made ready for 1981.

Palmaria is an Italian self-propelled howitzer
Palmaria is an Italian self-propelled howitzer

While the OF-40 chassis was kept largely intact, a large boxy, angled turret superstructure was added that housed the 155mm main gun. The howitzer was afforded a heavy duty recoil mechanism and capped by a large double-baffle muzzle brake. The turret was set to the middle of the hull roof for proper balancing and defense was through a single 7.62mm machine gun mounted on the turret roof, to be used against enemy infantry or low-flying threats.

The Palmaria fires all standard NATO 155 mm ammunition, including ordinary and rocket-assisted HE-FRAG projectiles, smoke or illumination projectiles. Maximum range of fire is 24.7 km with ordinary HE-FRAG projectile and 30 km with rocket-assisted. A total of 30 rounds are carried.

Welded steel armor hull and aluminum turret provides protection against small arms fire and artillery shell splinters. It is fitted with automatic NBC and fire suppression systems. Vehicle has a crew of five, including commander, gunner, charge handler, magazine operator and driver. The powerpack was set to the rear of the hull and incorporated an 8-cylinder diesel-fueled engine of 740 horsepower output. Top road speed was 60 km/h with an operational range of 400 km.

After passing the requisite trials, the vehicle was ordered by Libya to which serial production ensued in 1982, 210 were delivered. The Palmaria was also ordered by Nigeria while Argentina ordered only the turrets and had them installed on their existing TAM Medium Tank chassis, as the TAM VCA Palmaria. In terms of export volumes, Palmaria has demonstrated better financial success than the OF-40 MBT.

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