OTO Melara (sometimes written Oto Melara) is an Italian defense contractor. As of 2010, it is a part of the Finmeccanica group, the largest high-tech industrial conglomerate in Italy. Approximately 30% of Finmeccanica is owned by the Italian government.

OTO Melara got its start designing and building artillery for use both on land and at sea. In 1905, Vickers and Terni Steelworks formed a joint venture (Vickers Terni) and built a factory in La Spezia, Italy to produce naval and land-based guns. This business ran profitably through World War I. After that war, however, as armaments orders dropped precipitously, the factory turned towards large civilian infrastructure production - engines for ships and rail locomotives, turbines for energy production, ship propellers, etc. Vickers exited the venture in 1922. In 1929, the survivor Terni merged with two shipyards - Odero (from Genoa) and Orlando (from Leghorn) to form Odero-Terni-Orlando, which was quickly shortened to O.T.O.

In 1935, the firm O.T.O. was taken over by the Italian national organization Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale, set up by the Fascist government to cope with the worldwide Depression. In the later 1930s, O.T.O. began ramping up military production as World War II loomed and continued to produce a wide range of armaments throughout that war - from the artillery pieces they had originally been incorporated to build down through smaller anti-aircraft artillery and smaller naval guns for submarines and lighter ships.

After World War II, O.T.O. again switched over to civilian production. It was liquidated in 1951, but in 1953 it reincorporated under the name OTO Melara. As Italy began to swell and modernize its armed forces following its accession to the North Atlantic Treaty, OTO Melara began to produce arms ranging from its familiar artillery pieces and naval guns to licensed armored personnel carriers and main battle tanks.

In the early 1990s, OTO Melara's holding company was dissolved; its holdings were taken over by Finmeccanica in 1994. OTO Melara was merged with another firm (Breda Meccanica Bresciana, which made light arms) to become Otobreda. In 2001, the joint entity reverted to the name Oto Melara.

Oto Melara continues to manufacture armaments, including a wide range of mid-sized naval gun systems used by many Western and several Asian navies on light to mid-sized combatants and various sizes of land-based artillery. In addition it manufactures aircraft gun systems, smart weapons both licensed and of original design, and launchers for various vehicles. Oto Melara is a stakeholder in the Eurofighter project, contributing to the aircraft design. Its headquarters remain in the town of its birth, La Spezia, but they have subsidiaries all over the world, including Oto Melara North America. They have a Facebook page if you want to befriend them - social networking and defense contractors, a match made in heaven.

Sources:

Iron Noder 2010

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