OTO Melara Mod 56

The OTO-Melara Mod 56 is an Italian-made 105 mm pack howitzer built and developed by OTO-Melara. It fires the standard US type M1 ammunition.

OTO Melara Model 56/14 pack howitzer
Italian mountain artillery troops with a Mod 56 in the Dolomites
TypePack howitzer
Place of originItaly
Service history
Used bySee Operators
Production history
Mass1,290 kg (2,840 lb)
Length3.65 m (12 ft 0 in)
Barrel length1.47 m (4 ft 9.9 in) L/14
Width1.5 m (4 ft 11.1 in)
Height1.9 m (6 ft 2.8 in)[1]

ShellSemi-fixed 105 x 372mm R
Shell weight14.9 kg (33 lb)[2]
Calibre105 mm (4.13 in)
BreechVertical sliding-block
CarriageSplit trail
Elevation-7° to +65°
Rate of fire10 rounds/min
Muzzle velocity416.0 m/s (1,360 ft/s)
Maximum firing range10,000 m (10,900 yd)[1]


The OTO Melara 105 mm Mod 56 began life in the 1950s to meet the requirement for a modern light-weight howitzer that could be used by the Italian Army's Alpini brigades mountain artillery regiments. That it remained in service with those same units a full half century after the howitzer's introduction is a testament to the gun's quality. The Mod 56 has a number of unique characteristics for a weapon of its caliber, including the ability for its crew to manhandle the gun (due to its light weight), and the capability of being able to be used in the direct fire role. Being a pack howitzer, it is designed to be broken down into 12 parts, each of which can be easily transported.[3]

The capability of this weapon to be "knocked-down" allows the sections to be transported a number of ways although the original design was for mule-pack using special pack saddles. More often it is towed by a light vehicle such as a jeep or Land Rover, and with the shield removed it can be carried inside an M113 APC. However, its particular attraction to Western armies in the 1960s was that its light weight meant it could be lifted in one piece by helicopter, which made the gun popular with light artillery units in many countries as well as the more specialized mountain and airborne troops. Overall, the Mod 56 has served in more than 30 countries worldwide, of which a partial listing of the major operators is listed below.

As an added refinement to the gun's mass, the Mod 56 is built to be an artillery piece with a reputation of ease with which it can be assembled and then disassembled into twelve components within minutes. The gun's light weight did have a drawback, however: it lacked the robustness necessary for sustained operations, Australian and New Zealand gunners in Vietnam found the weapon unsuitable for continuous operations. The guns in Vietnam were replaced by the sturdy US-made M101A1 after some two years. This lack of durability also led to their being carried on trucks for longer distances outside the combat zone. The Mod 56 offered limited protection to its crew.

The Chinese manufacturer NORINCO offers a version of the Model 56 pack howitzer and its associated ammunition.[4]

In Commonwealth service, the gun was known simply as the "L5 pack howitzer" with L10 ordnance. However, its lack of range and the indifferent lethality of its ammunition led the UK to start development of its replacement, the L118 light gun, only two years after the pack howitzer entering service. This provided them with an advantage in range, when facing the argentine OTO-Melaras during the Falklands war.

Still, 105 mm bombardments accounted for a considerable share of all british casualties suffered in land battles during that conflict.

The gun also became the standard equipment of the Allied Command Europe Mobile Force (AMF ACE Mobile Force (Land) artillery, equipping the batteries provided by Canada, Belgium, Germany, Italy and the UK (until 1975).

Combat service

Identified combat use includes:


Current operators

Former operators


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  2. "101". www.quarryhs.co.uk. Archived from the original on 22 August 2017. Retrieved 6 September 2017.
  3. Twentieth Century Artillery by Ian HoggISBN 1-84013-315-5
  4. China expands tube artillery capability by Christopher F. Foss in International Defence Review, Vol 42 May 2009
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  9. Military Balance 2016, p. 418.
  10. The Military Balance 2017, p. 274.
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  13. Jowett 2016, p. 24.
  14. @josephhdempsey (2 April 2015). "#BokoHaram OTO Melara M56 105mm howitzer (improvised SPG mount) recaptured by #Nigeria army rpt near #Gwoza" (Tweet) via Twitter.
  15. "SIPRI Arms Transfers Database". Archived from the original on 5 August 2009. Retrieved 6 May 2013.
  16. "Former Equipment of Iraqi Army". Archive.org. Archived from the original on 3 April 2016. Retrieved 17 July 2018.

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