Categories
Cold War British Prototypes

RO2004 Light Tank

United Kingdom (1985)
Light Tank – Partly Built

The RO2000 series of vehicles was a late Cold War attempt by the Royal Ordnance PLC to standardize the vehicle fleet of the British Army and for export to Middle Eastern countries. The central idea of the RO2000 was a common platform encompassing the engine, transmission, chassis and suspension, with just the rear combat module varying between vehicles. The vehicles were meant to be easy to manufacture, mechanically simple and cheap both due to their small size and due to parts commonality.
Of the four RO2000 vehicles, the most potent was the RO2004 light tank, armed with an adaptation of the still-potent L7 105 mm gun made famous by the Centurion.

This is the modular hull of the Vickers RO2000 AFV series of vehicles. (Source: Royal Ordnance/ Tank Museum)

RO2004 Light Tank

The Royal Ordnance RO2004 light tank was to be built on the RO2000 universal lightweight chassis and come fitted with a version the famous L7 105 mm gun firing standard NATO ammunition. While its basic armor is unknown, it was to be upgradeable with a new ‘dynamic armor’ that was in development. The 105 mm gun was to be a low recoil version on the L7 with a new distinct pepper pot-style muzzle break called the Improved Weapon System (IWS) which had been developed in 1989 by Royal Ordnance.
The new gun was conventionally rifled and made from Electroslag Refined Steel (ESR) with a fume extractor, thermal sleeve horizontal sliding breech mechanism, and distinctive pepper pot muzzle brake that reduced recoil forces by 25 percent. Royal Ordnance also offered an automatic muzzle reference system (MRS) that could be fitted to the gun to greatly improve the accuracy of the weapon system. RO also developed. alongside the IWS, a new 105 mm APFSDS (Armor Piercing Fin Stabilised Discarding Sabot) round that they claimed to have a penetration of 540 mm of Rolled Homogeneous Armor (RHA) at a range of 2,000 meters.
A high rate of fire was expected due to the use of a bustle-mounted autoloader coupled with a state of the art gun control and computerized Fire Control System (FCS). Passive Thermal Imaging (TI) and image intensifiers came as optional extras. The Royal Ordnance dynamic armor (not to be confused with the later Electrical Armor of the same name) was, in essence, a mix of a conventional laminated plate with Explosive Reactive Armour (ERA) built into it, providing protection against kinetic and shaped charge attacks. On top of this would also be more conventional ERA blocks as a preliminary line of defense.
The crew of three consisted of the commander, gunner, and driver. The layout was somewhat atypical with the driver front left while the commander and gunner were situated adjacent to each other with the gunner in the normal loader’s location by UK standards. Vision was provided by a panoramic sight for the commander as well as 7 episcopes and an individual laser sighting system for the gunner. The driver had full day-night low light thermal vision (LLTV).
Power was to be provided by a Perkins TV8-640, 320 hp 8-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine coupled through a T320 automatic 6-speed epicyclic gearbox. The top speed was estimated at 55 km/h (34 mph).
The suspension consisted of transverse torsion bars, 5 per side. Each was connected to a pair of roadwheels, leading to a total of five pairs and 10 wheels per side. Two return rollers per side were also present. Later proposals by Royal Ordnance included hydraulic adjustable suspension.


The RO2004 Light Tank. This illustration was produced by Brian Gaydos, funded by our Patreon Campaign

Conclusion

A single turret of a RO2004 was built and displayed. The vehicle was advertised at many arms expositions and even proposed to the British Army but, like the rest of the series, did not receive any orders. The fate of the built turret is unknown. The Royal Ordnance PLC was bought by British Aerospace in 1987, currently known as BAE Systems.

Side drawing of the RO2004 light tank taken from a Royal Ordnance RO2000 series Technical Datasheet.

Specifications

Dimensions (L-W) 6.3 x 2.81 x 2.41 meters
Weight 21.5 tonnes
Crew 3 (Driver, Commander, Gunner)
Propulsion Perkins TV8-640, 320 hp 8 cylinder turbocharged diesel with T320 automatic 6-speed epicyclic unit
Suspension Transverse torsion bar, 5 per side, telescopic dampers 1,5
Speed 55 km/h
Armament 105mm Low Recoil Gun IWS
1x 7.62 mm Hughes chain gun
Total Production None built

Sources

Royal Ordnance files relating to the RO2000 program in the Bovington Tank Museum archives
Royal Ordnance RO2000 series Technical Datasheets
Armoured trials and development unit, Bovington Camp, Report on the RO2000 series, 9 June 1986
Royal Ordnance RO2000 sales brochure
Royal Ordnance RO2000 press release

Categories
Cold War British Prototypes

RO2001 Self-Propelled Gun

United Kingdom (1986)
SPG – 1 Built

The RO2000 series of light vehicles came about as a government evaluation into developing a new generation of vehicles known as Future Family of Light Armoured Vehicles (FFLAV). FFLAV began to progress swiftly after the 1990-1991 Gulf War, which had highlighted key areas of concern in the older vehicles used by the Army, notably the FV430 and CVRT series which were already three decades old. FFLAV was to streamline at least three key series of vehicles into one family; the FV430 series, the FV510 Warrior family, and the CVRT (Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance Tracked). This would have left an opening for up to 7000 replacement vehicles, leading to one of the largest modern defense contracts ever issued.

122 mm Vickers R02001 Artillery Self-propelled Gun prototype (Source: Royal Ordnance/ Tank Museum)

The RO2001 Self Propelled Howitzer

The Royal Ordnance RO2001 self-propelled howitzer was designed for the export market and was based on the UK’s RO2000 universal chassis. Had it been accepted for UK service, it was proposed to mount a L13A1 105 mm gun similar to that of the FV433 Abbot Self Propelled Gun or, alternatively, the Royal Ordnance L118 light 105 mm gun.
The export version for Egypt was meant to be armed with a 122 mm D30 howitzer which was manufactured in Egypt by Abu Zaabal Engineering Industries Company. It was based on the Russian designed howitzer. It had a computerized gunsight system for both direct and indirect fire modes.
Although the prototype was fitted with the 122 mm D30 howitzer, the vehicle hull and superstructure could be adapted to fit most 122 mm howitzers. The superstructure and gun mount enabled the gun to have a traverse of + 30 deg from the centreline: +70 deg elevation and -5 deg gun depression. There was enough storage space for 84 rounds for the main gun.
The hull was to be rolled steel with the driver to the front left and the other 4 crew including commander and loaders in the rear. Unlike the Abbot, the RO2001 did not have a fully rotating ‘turret’, with the rear superstructure being built up and designed to fit a variety of weapons or possible refits including the D30 122mm gun. Secondary protection was by means of a 7.62 mm machine gun as well as L8 grenade dischargers with VIRSS (Visual and Infrared Screening Smoke).
It was powered by a Perkins TV8- 640 8-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine but had a maximum horsepower of 320 hp. It had a maximum road speed of 55 km/h. Fuel tank capacity 454 liters. The transmission was an engine – gearbox coupling with a Twyflex centrifugal clutch. The T320 gearbox had self-changing gears. It was an automatic 6-speed epicyclic unit with manual hold controls. It had regenerative, disc brake steering. The main breaks were Lockheed disc brakes that were hydraulically operated. The suspension consisted of traverse torsion bars: 5 stations per side with telescopic dampers on the front and rear wheel stations. The track was cast steel link drive pin type with rubber bush inserts and rubber road pads.
The vehicle electrical system was a screen suppressed and waterproofed 24V electrical system. There were two 6TN batteries giving 100 amp-hour capacity for engine starting. An additional two 6TN batteries gave 100 amp-hour capacity for auxiliary systems.
The prototype RO2001 lightweight artillery self-propelled gun (SP122) fired over 300 rounds during trials in Egypt and covered 10,000 km. It was shipped to Britain so that it could be put on show at the British Army equipment exhibition arms fair in the summer of 1986. It stood on the Royal Ordnance stand next to the 120 mm mortar (RO 2003).

Front view of the 122mm Vickers RO2001 Artillery Self-propelled Gun (Source: Royal Ordnance/ Tank Museum)


The RO2001 Self-Propelled Gun (SPG). This illustration was produced by Brian Gaydos, funded by our Patreon Campaign


Conclusion

Only one vehicle was built and was sent to Egypt, where it was fitted with a D30 howitzer made by Abu Zaabal Engineering Industries with sighting systems for both direct and indirect fire. However, no advanced fire control was attached to this version. The competition was from a US platform but neither was accepted for service. Unfortunately, like so many good ideas put forward, political bickering and incompetence saw interest wain and the UK once again began the ongoing waste of money that became synonymous with its research and development process.

Artist’s impression of the 122 mm Vickers RO2001 Artillery Self-propelled Gun. (Source: Royal Ordnance/ Tank Museum)

Specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 6.2 x 2.81 x 2.70 m (excluding gun)
20 ft 4 in x 9 ft 2 in x 8 ft 10 in
Armament 105 mm or 122 mm Howitzer
7.62 mm or 12.7 mm Machine-Gun
Traverse 30° left and right
Elevation +70°
Depression -5°
Crew 5 (Commander, Gunner, Driver, 2 x Loaders)
Optics One vision periscope, 360° panoramic sight, day/night driving optional
Weight 20 tonnes
Ground clearance 0.46 m
Maximum road speed 55 km/h (34 mph)
Maximum gradient 30°
Maximum trench width 2.2 meters
Maximum vertical obstacle 0.75 meters
Ground pressure 0.5 kg/cm
Propulsion Perkins TV8-640, 320 hp 8 cylinder turbocharged diesel with T320 automatic 6-speed epicyclic unit
Main brakes Lockheed disc brakes
Fuel capacity 454 liters
Steering Regenerative, disc brake steering
Suspension Transverse torsion bar, 5 per side, telescopic dampers 1,5
Track Cast steel link dry pin type
Radio Clansman or customer-specific
Total Production One built


Side view of the 122mm Vickers R02001 Artillery Self-propelled Gun (Source: Royal Ordnance/ Tank Museum)

Sources

Royal Ordnance files relating to the RO2000 program in the Bovington Tank Museum archives
Royal Ordnance RO2000 series Technical Datasheets
Armoured trials and development unit, Bovington Camp, Report on the RO2000 series, 9 June 1986
Royal Ordnance RO2000 sales brochure
Royal Ordnance RO2000 press release

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Categories
Cold War British Prototypes

RO2000 Platform

United Kingdom (1986)
Multi-Role Platform – Several Built

The RO2000 series of light vehicles were a part of a government initiative into developing a new generation of vehicles, known as the Future Family of Light Armoured Vehicles (FFLAV). This was a follow up on the Family of Light Armoured Vehicles (FLAV), whose origins can be traced back to the 1980s when it had failed to deliver a workable platform.

This is the Vickers RS2000 AFV series of vehicles modular hull. (Source: Royal Ordnance/Tank Museum)

FFLAV

FFLAV began to progress swiftly after the 1990-1991 Gulf War. This conflict had highlighted key areas of concern with the older vehicles used by the Army, most notably the FV430 and CVRT series which were already three decades old. One highlighted area of concern was the overlapping roles that the equipment fulfilled, with roles duplicated on the FV430, CVRT, and even old Centurion types in service. Not only did this lead to a bigger logistic footprint than required, but was also expensive to maintain and required extensive manpower and training in familiarity to keep them operating successfully.

The MOD concluded that, if the units could be consolidated by using a more coherent approach and creating a family of vehicles that fulfilled all roles on a universal chassis, it would go some way to reduce the issues noted above.

The FFLAV was meant to streamline at least three key series of vehicles into one family; the FV430 series, the FV510 Warrior family, and the CVRT (Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance Tracked). This would have meant that up to 7000 replacement vehicles would have been needed, leading to one of the largest modern defense contracts ever issued in the United Kingdom. Such an opportunity did not go unnoticed and nearly all the major defense firms showed interest. Given the size and scope of the project, these firms began to form consortiums to increase their odds of winning any sole contract for the program. However, at this stage, it was still officially a study and not an official development/procurement request.

RO2003 Self-Propelled Mortar based on the RO2000 platform, the other vehicle built on the platform. Source: Technical spec sheet on sale on Ebay

Three key consortiums were formed:

  1. Alvis/Hagglunds/Panhard/ENASA
  2. GKN/Mowag
  3. Royal Ordnance PLC/BAE

As is typical in any large multinational defense design and procurement project, the three consortiums promptly settled on trying to push their own nation’s domestically-made vehicles as the best possible option, while retaining civility amongst themselves.
The first consortium chose to propose the Panhard VBL, Alvis CVRT upgrades, the ENASA BMR-600, and Hagglunds CV90. The second one submitted the GKN Warrior 2000 and MOWAG’s own Piranha APC.

However, the third team was the only group to seemingly understand that the MOD did not want yet more variants of the vehicles they already had and wanted to reduce the existing collection into one single family. It was the Royal Ordnance PLC that drew up and actually made some of the RO2000 series.

Despite various levels of research being carried out and several pre-production vehicles having been made, the UK once again decided to go through a different route and opted to proceed with the fiscally disastrous MBAV, MRAV, TRACER and later FRES programs.

Black and white drawing of the RO2002 APC variant.

RO2000 Series

According to a report from the Armoured Trials & Development Unit at Bovington, the RO2000 series stemmed from a design, called SP122, done by the Royal Ordnance for a self-propelled howitzer for the Egyptian army, a design which would become the RO2001. The vehicle was meant to be built in Egypt, the industry of which was not well developed, and thus the vehicle had to be simple and easy to manufacture. It was then decided to use the chassis for a family of vehicles, four of which would actually be designed. Other reports indicate that all the vehicles were designed at the same time and only after that was the SPG version offered to Egypt.

Publicity poster for the RO2000 series. Image: Andrew Hills

The basic RO2000 vehicle had a steel chassis, with a Perkins TV8-640 V8 turbocharged diesel giving 320 hp coupled to a 6-speed epicyclic automatic gearbox, both placed at the front of the vehicle, leaving the rear space empty for the addition of the fighting compartment. The suspension consisted of 5 double wheels mounted on torsion bars, with an idler at the rear and two return rollers per side. These features were meant to be simple, cheap and low maintenance. It was also advertised as being easily upgradeable for the needs of the British army, mainly because the stock configuration was technologically primitive for the day and era. The vehicle could manage a gradient of 30o, a trench measuring 2.2 m or an obstacle 75 cm high.

The armor values are not specified, although they were probably very low given the low weight of just 13.5 tonnes for the base vehicle. However, it was advertised that a new armor package could be installed to optimize protection against kinetic and HEAT shells.
Maintenance-wise, the vehicle was meant to be easily pulled apart, taking just 40 minutes to take out the engine, 35 minutes to take out the gearbox and 25 minutes to take out the final drive unit, all with ‘the simplest of equipment’.

The RO2000 chassis, probably in the form of the RO2001 howitzer, underwent at least 10,000 km of testing in ‘arduous conditions’.

Side drawing of the RO2004 light tank

Conclusion

The RO2001 and RO2003 were built, while RO2004 was only partially constructed. The vehicles were displayed at various private arms exhibitions. On paper, they filled the role needed and would have been valuable assets to the British Military. Unfortunately, like so many ideas put forwards, political bickering and incompetence saw interest wain and the UK once again began the ongoing waste of money that became synonymous with its research and development process.

However, the technical simplicity and small size of the RO2000 series were double-edged swords, as they also meant that the vehicles were seen as unsophisticated and hard if not impossible to upgrade and improve. The Royal Ordnance PLC was bought by British Aerospace in 1987, currently known as BAE Systems.

RO2001 Self Propelled Gun that was pitched to the Egyptian army, based on the RO2000 platform. Source: Think Defence


The RO2000 common platform without any combat module installed on the back. This illustration was produced by Brian S. Gaydos, funded by our Patreon Campaign

Specifications

Dimensions (L-W) 6.2 x 2.81 meters
Weight 13.5 tonnes
Propulsion Perkins TV8-640, 320 hp 8 cylinder turbocharged diesel with T320 automatic 6-speed epicyclic unit
Suspension Transverse torsion bar, 5 per side, telescopic dampers 1,5
Total Production None built

Sources

Royal Ordnance files relating to the RO2000 program in the Bovington Tank Museum archives
Royal Ordnance RO2000 series Technical Datasheets
Armoured trials and development unit, Bovington Camp, Report on the RO2000 series, 9 June 1986
Royal Ordnance RO2000 sales brochure
Royal Ordnance RO2000 press release


Categories
Cold War British Prototypes

A46 Light Tank

United Kingdom (1946-47)
Light Tank – None built

The origins of the A46 and its descendants, the FV300 family, began in the middle of 1943 during the Second World War. At this point, the United Kingdom and the United States discussed that for a while at least, the US would provide enough tanks and war materials so that the UK could begin to scale back its industrial output that had been operating in high gear since the retreat from France and concentrate on new industrial capacity.
The UK, whilst seeing the attractiveness of such an offer in the short term, did not want to be indebted more than it was to the US after having grudgingly been compelled to share all of its indigenous technology so far. The thought of being further chained to its creditors was not something the UK wanted. It’s also worth noting that the US believed the UK would lose to Germany early in the war and, as such, regarding payments of Lend Lease, they did not want payments in pound sterling. UK gold reserves and the liquidation of British assets in America had, instead, to be sold to the US at a fraction of their value. The final debt would be US$1.2 trillion to be repaid finally in 2006.
The UK had decided that further reliance on US technology and control was unacceptable both from a sense of fiscal foresight and partly out of a wounded sense of national pride. Britain, therefore, proceeded to build and develop light and medium tanks of its own. Whilst many of the American Lend-Lease tanks were adequate, the UK also desired to adjust the balance in its own forces and sense of self-dependence by producing its own light tanks to replace the American M3/M5 light tanks in service.

Background

When the War Office settled on designing the next generation of light tanks, the platform chosen was to be based on the A17 Tetrarch and A25 Harry Hopkins light tanks that were in service, notably reusing their unusual steering systems. This required any steering to be done by curving the track via a steering wheel along with additional skid steering using Girling internal expanding brakes that could be used for sharp turns. The whole suspension was carried on four bulbous independently sprung wheels on each side.
The ‘Tetrarch’ or ‘Light Tank Mk VII A17’ had been produced by Vickers-Armstrong in the late 1930s and saw limited action in WW2. Armed with a 2 pounder (40 mm) gun and only lightly armored, its overall career was unremarkable, but it saw limited service with the UK and Soviet forces, and smaller trials in Switzerland.
The second tank, Light, Mk VIII, A25 also known as the ‘Harry Hopkins’ after President Roosevelt’s chief diplomatic advisor, was a later design also built by Vickers-Armstrong in 1941, and used many of the lessons gained in developing the A17s.

The failed Harry Hopkins tank was the forefather of the A46 Light tank. Source: tankmuseum.org

The A25 did not fare much better. During the early design phase, the light tank concept was out of favor due to the losses in France the prior year, and ongoing problems with the vehicle’s development, which led to large delays. By 1943, only six A25s had been produced and the UK was now equipped with the American M3/M5. Once the order in 1943 came through for a late war/post-war light tank to be developed, Vickers quickly picked up the contract, as, although its previous light tanks had not been a combat success, they did employ one of the essential criteria listed; namely to employ a steering system that required little power, such as that found on the A17 and A25. Vickers must have been laughing all the way to the bank with that contract.
The official reason for wishing to reuse this steering system stemmed from the fact it required a smaller engine and lighter transmission over conventional ones. Thus, a smaller frame could be built, which was highly desirable in a light tank. This feature was particularly important for the A46, which was expected to be air portable without disassembly, although the ability to be easily dismantled prior to transport was included if required for long-distance flights.

Development

Lessons from the Tetrarch and, to a lesser extent, the M3/M5 tanks had also been taken into consideration. Vickers decided they wanted a gun capable of being effective against other light and medium tanks yet have a useful High Explosive (HE) round and ideally share a commonality in parts or munitions with guns in service. The new vehicle was therefore to mount the 77mm QF gun which Vickers had been testing on the new A34 Comet medium tank. The new 77mm gun had been prioritised for A46 development initially, over that of even the Comet. Although debates were held at the Tank Board about this, where some saw the turretless Stuarts tanks fulfilling these roles while the UK was at war and felt instead that the 77mm should be prioritised for the Comet which should actually see combat.
Two prototypes were to be designed, a version with a rear-mounted engine and another with a forward-mounted engine. The gun tank type would initially have a rear engine whilst the load carriers and self-propelled guns would have front engines. Vickers happily agreed as it saw future growth in this system and it was one of the UK’s first modular designs that could allow the chassis to be reused for a variety of roles. Although Vickers had not even presented any official plans, the War Office ordered 80 to be built in 1944.

Line drawing of the A46 Light Tank based on the original development files and blueprints. Source: Ed Francis

Fast forward to November 15th 1944, and the 44th meeting of the Tank Board took place. It is recorded in the minutes that a meeting had taken place at Chertsey on the 14th November to consider the paper proposals as requested for the light tank roles. Mr. Little explained the layouts were in the same building and the board agreed to review them after the meeting was over. The next minutes held on 3rd January 1945 noted a mock-up of the gun tank would be ready by the end of the month for inspection and that no real issues had thus far hindered the project. Production should have begun around mid-1946. It was noted during minutes that the light tank concept “looked extremely good and should appeal psychologically to the troops”.


Vickers Light Tank A46. The resemblance to the Tetrarch and Harry Hopkins can be seen in the tank’s running gear. Illustration by Yuvnashva Sharma, funded by our Patreon Campaign

The A46

The 46th Tank Board minutes also give the first full description of the A46, or to use the Vickers codes; ‘M132’ and ‘M131’. The former had a front engine and the latter the rear mounted block.
Vickers had managed to build one full-size mock-up gun tank before the war’s end, as well as a series of wooden display models. By late 1944, the War Office was looking at three new lines of tanks. These would consist of the A45 series, which would go on to become the FV200 heavy line, the A41 line based around the universal tank concept including Centurion, and the new Vickers light line.
Each of these lines would have its own gun tanks, command, bridge layers and support vehicles. By 1946, a new threat began to loom on the horizon with American and Soviet clashes of ideology mounting. Europe was still in tatters but, with the Soviet threat looming, the British began a slow but steady rearmament program. The aim was to do away with much of the wartime stock and instead to focus on this series of standardised vehicles. Each class and category would come under a new Fighting Vehicles designation commonly referred to as an ‘FV’ number.
These were detailed in the Fighting Vehicle Divisional notes 15, dated November 1946, where it was outlined how all vehicles were to be classified in categories between 1 to 19 with 00 as the basic platform and subsequent numbers to be sub-variants of this. For example, FV200 was to be a series of heavy vehicles with ’00’ the stock model, FV201 the gun tank etc. Each possible vehicle combination had been considered although the numbers would stretch far further than the original 19 and deviate over the years. A46, therefore, has the dubious honor of being the last ‘A’ series number. With these FV numbers, a standard series of engines would also be introduced. Heavy tracked vehicles were to have the 800 hp Meteor (fuel injected) engine, medium tracked vehicles the 350 hp Meteorite and light tracked vehicles the B80 Rolls Royce. The UK wanted to move away from a reliance on US components, but the General Motors 6-71M Diesel engine producing 207 hp at 2000 rpm was an option.
By 1947, A46 testing had switched to a front-engined arrangement and design progress was making steady headway. It was hoped that all vehicles developed from this would have the same layout. The engine and gearbox would be to the front right-hand side, and connect to the rear-drive sprocket via a centreline shaft. Vickers decided to add stowage bins to the back of the vehicle to increase ammo capacity, and modified their drawing accordingly. It was realized that a four-man crew would have been too cramped for the long-distance type of activity a light recon tank might have been required to carry out. As there was no compromise on the gun, Vickers passed it over to the Elswick department who began working on an autoloader for the 77mm gun. This would enable the crew to be reduced to three.

The Vickers Elswick works were a part of the development of the A46 light tank took place. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Fate

A46 did not go much further from this point. Work had begun on a full size mock-up, however. The design specifications had changed completely and the project had become an experimental fully enclosed APC named CT-26 that still retained the front-mounted engine and track/suspension system from A46 but was otherwise its own project from now on. The requirement for a new light line would instead move over to a new family, the FV300 series.

The A46 Light Tank project morphed into the CT-26 APC seen above. This vehicle was not successful either. Source: Aviarmor.net

Specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 16 ft (21ft 5in Gun Forward) x 9 ft 6 in x 6ft 6 in

(6.52 x 4.87 x 2.89 m)

Total weight, battle ready 16 tons (32,000lbs)
Crew 3 (commander, Driver, Gunner/Loader)
Propulsion (various choices) Rover Meteorite Mk 204 1,099 cu in (18.0 L) petrol V8 at 350 hp
Rolls Royce Meteor supercharged (Merlin) V12 engine. In excess of 1000 hp
Rolls Royce B80 5575 cc 160 hp engine
General Motors 6-71M Diesel engine producing 207 hp at 2000 rpm
Transmission Splicer synchromesh gearbox. (5 forward, 1 reverse.)
Speed 28 mph
Armour Turret: front 75mm, sides 50mm, rear 40mm, top 14mm
Hull: upper 76mm, lower 50mm, side 25mm, upper 19mm, rear lower 25mm, top Front 14mm, belly 19mm
Armament 1 x 77 mm HV rifled gun with 50 rounds
1 x 7.62mm coaxial machine gun with 2,250 rounds
Elevation: +20/-12 Degrees
For information about abbreviations check the Lexical Index

Sources

A46 development files at the Bovington Tank Museum Archives

Categories
Cold War British Prototypes

FV4010 & Malkara

United Kingdom (1954-60)
Heavy Tank Destroyer – 3 Hulls Built

The story of FV4010 and its missiles begins in the strange post-war phase, following the collapse of the Third Reich and the Rise of the Soviet Union as the perceived global antagonist. It had long been appreciated during the Second World War that the Soviets were capable of making excellent tanks and in large numbers but despite a few mutterings at the top levels nobody was quite prepared for how quickly relations between the Allies would cool off and then fall apart altogether. The first real taste of what the UK might face came during the victory parades which passed through Berlin in 1945. The US and UK had already displayed their armor when columns of IS-3 tanks drove past the spectators and they came as quite the shock.
Those that were able to get a good view, including a number of intelligence officers, noted that these new tanks were, at least on paper, far more powerful and numerous than anything the Allies had encountered, including the German heavy tanks which had caused them quite a headache. With their excellent armor, large 122mm guns, good mobility, and huge production capacity, the IS-3 sent both the UK and the US into a tank designing frenzy focused on how to combat these should either side decide to mobilize.
Two distinct lines of thought began to evolve. The first involved the use of conventional kinetic energy (KE) guns to defeat the Russian armor. These would be based on the L1 120mm gun, itself based of the US M58, and a temporary, but not satisfactory solution had been found in the FV4004 Conway tank destroyer. An even larger platform was proposed to be built on the FV200 chassis known as the FV215 Heavy Tank Destroyer wielding the L4 183 mm Anti-Tank gun, the largest dedicated tank killing gun ever made. A more financially prudent line of reasoning was to use Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGM’s) on tank chassis already in service.

Early and late FV4010 heavy missile tank destroyer versions. Drawings by Ed Francis based on original documents held at the Bovington archives.

Development

FV4010’s birth begins sometime around the 32nd FVDDL (Fighting Vehicle Design Department Liaison) report. In the report, the notion of a mobile platform developed to mount very large guided missiles able to tackle any Soviet tank in service or likely to enter service in the foreseeable future is mentioned. Design work had already been carried out by several FVDD groups and Tank Technology Officers at the School of Tank Technology (STT) in the UK. These designs, such as the Cento, Apollyon, and Cerebos, were exercises for just such a vehicle and, as such, a lot of preliminary work had already been carried out.
The 34th FVDDL report dated July 1955 recorded that preliminary design investigations into a tank-sized vehicle with the FV or Fighting Vehicle reference number 4010 could soon be carried out. No clear description is given at this stage other than it should ideally carry 20 guided weapons or if this were not advisable that a smaller tracked vehicle, able to carry 3 or 4 missiles, should also be considered. This smaller version would turn out to be the FV426. The vehicle and its missile launching arm were actually built and the mock-up missile tested for weight and balance. Sadly, it ended up as a range target at Lulworth before being recovered by the Tank Museum, which promptly chopped the launching arm of and left it as a semi-restored FV400.
The hull chosen for FV4010 was to be Centurion based, much like those in the STT papers, although a smaller version using the A34 Comet chassis was considered. The Comet version was to mount three to four missiles on launching rails on a turretless hull. One such vehicle was reportedly sent out to Libya in the 1950s for testing. However, to date, no further reliable information or photos have surfaced. The one thing the FV4010 and FV215 did have in common was that both platforms were to be heavily armored as both were built around the weapon first and foremost, which in this case was the Malkara missile.


Two original drawings of the early Centurion Mark III-based FV4010 missile tank destroyer. Source: User Ogopogo on the Facepunch forums, initially discovered by Mike Verrel

The Missile

The development of the Malkara missile, a heavy anti-tank wire-guided weapon system, began in 1952 at the Government Aircraft Factory (GAF) in Australia, along with the Aeronautical Research Laboratory (ARL) and Weapons Research Establishment (WRE) which were working on a heavy missile named Project J. This was a radio-guided 6ft (1.8 meter) long, 8 inch (203 mm) missile with a 55 lb warhead and a total weight of 173 lb (78 kg). Australia had also been working on a smaller ATGM known as Project E, a 70 lb (31.7kg) wire-guided missile with a 15 lb 4.5 inch (6.8 kg – 114 mm) HEAT warhead and a maximum range of about 2000 yards (1.8km).
The missiles creator was Dr. William Butement CBE who had taken over the role as the first Chief Scientist in the Defence Scientific Service of the Australian Department of Supply and Development in April 1949. Before this, he had been living in the UK, serving the Crown during the Second World War where his work on using radar to track targets and direct searchlight made him just one of the many unsung heroes of that war.
Although he assumed a more managerial role during the initial Malkara development, he was responsible for the semi-solid paste fuel used to power the missile and is oft quoted as giving the platform the name Malkara, an Aboriginal word meaning shield. The weapon’s guidance and control were developed by Prof J.M. Evans OAM, a research scientist specialising in the stability and control of flight vehicles at the ARL, and Chief Designer of Malkara’s shape and performance.
The UK, meanwhile, was running a parallel project called Heavy GW (Br), as well as a smaller HEAT based version named Light GW (Br), similar to projects J and E. Heavy GW was to mount a 7.5 inch (190 mm) 60lb (27kg) HESH warhead. With a 2ft long warhead, this missile was going to measure in at some 8ft (2.4 meters) long! With both teams working and operating on near identical projects, it was decided to drop one and merge with the Australian project. Those working on the UK’s version were sent over to Australia to begin testing at the Woomera missile range, a journey that still took over a week by air alone.
The Malkara missile itself was and remains the largest wire-guided anti-tank missile of its type ever made. Its 8 inch (203 mm) HESH warhead has a whopping 56 lbs (25 kg) of explosive filler alone. To put that into perspective, a modern 155mm HE shell has about 15 lb (6.8kg) of filler. This ensured any target struck by Malkara was, if not destroyed outright, left unable to take part in the battle any longer. Later tests against Conqueror MBT range targets cracked the front glacis in half. The UK ordered 150 of these missiles outright.

A Carrier For the Malkara

With the missile in place, a series of design projects were started and a rough idea of what they wanted was drawn up. The first iteration was based on a Mk III Centurion and consisted of a well-sloped casemate mounted to the rear, with the engine placed forward. The missile was assembled inside and came out at a 45 degree angle from the rear, facing up. This version often creeps up on the internet as being the actual final platform. A simple glance would inform most that there would barely be enough room for the crew, let alone 20 missiles. The final design mentioned below would be built on a Centurion Mk VII.
Before they got to chopping up perfectly good tanks, the team decided that the best approach would be to build up the basics of the fighting compartment and how it would all work. Unlike the Americans, who had the budget to build a vehicle from scratch only to then discover it didn’t work, the UK placed a lot of emphasis on detailed drawings, followed by wooden models, mockups, soft steel shells and then production. Using this approach, each phase could be stopped easily at minimal cost, obvious faults found and inevitably allow for the usual political interference that comes with any AFV development.

One of the few images of the FV4010 available online. Although often presented as the final version, this is an earlier variant based on the Centurion Mark III. Source: Warthunder forums.
The team decided to build the fighting compartment as a complete module with launching arms and stowage, but the rest of the vehicle could wait as it was not expected the Centurion would change so radically over the next few years. In the meantime, the mockup was mounted on a standard 4 wheeled truck chassis with a generator to the front for power, where the engine would be in any finished design. This, it was reasoned, would allow them to iron out any faults and issues with launching and other parts of the vehicle.
The FVDDL report number 35 dated June 1956, noted the first of the mock-up hulls was ready to go to Australia and it was planned to have at least three of these mock-up’s built and the firing platforms then tested in both Woomera and at the Lulworth ranges in the UK. They were fully fitted and furnished inside to the FV4010 specs, with every detail in place including spare missiles (wooden), crane arm, cupolas and even provisional stowage. The first rig was mostly made of wood and the second of mild steel armor. FVDDL report 36 dated June 1957 states the mobile test rig was now equipped to fire both Malkara and Orange William and a second rig was nearing construction for Malkara trials for early 1958.
Meanwhile, back in Australia, FVDDL report 36 from June 1958 states that test rig one had expended all its munitions and test rig two was now up and running with some 150 missiles to be fired at the Long Range Weapons Establishment, Woomera. These missiles were essentially duds made out of wood and concrete. After firing, they could be recovered and reused, with only the rockets motors replaced.
Unlike the first rig, the stage 2 rig was armored all round and had a working butterfly hatch on top. This allowed one missile to be fired onto the target while a second was being prepped below. Once fired, the launching arms would rotate around 180 degrees on a pair of centrally mounted pinions and a new missile would be in the launch position.
Each missile came in several parts for storage, with the body and wings separate. Each of the four main wings and four secondary fins were clicked onto the missile, once the butterfly launcher had rotated a cable was pulled out and the missile was now armed. The total time for each missile to be laid, fitted and rotated into firing position was 15 seconds. The whole rotation was powered, although it could be done by hand in an emergency. Once on the hull roof, the missile could be panned left and right 30° from within the hull.

Sources

Assorted Malkara development papers, Bovington
Assorted FV4010 development papers, Bovington


Malkara missile and one of the FV4010 test rigs in the bottom half. The images were taken in June 1960 at the Royal Armoured Corps Centre in Lulworth. Source: Ed Francis

Loading/Firing Procedure

1) Attach missile to underside launching plate, allow missile amplifier plate to heat up – max 10 seconds.
2) Connect firing circuit connection
3) Connect wings and fins
4) Missile control wire plug placed in the clip on the underside of the missile.
5) Launching plate to be turned over-loader makes sure arms are clear
6) Control wire and plug to be transferred from the plate to roof point
7) Connection points retract
8) Programmed flight data added, wind speed, temp, elevation etc.
9) Missile fired, launcher plate revolved to present fresh missile.
Three mounting points were provided for the missile, two fore and one to the rear. The forward mounts were located just behind the wings and consist of pins projecting from the body of the missile. The rear pin provided lateral restraint, a further forward mount was designed by GAF to help stabilise the missile during rough cross-country travel experienced in Australia. The pins were designed to be strong enough to allow the missile to undergo the 180-degree swing from hull to the deployment position but weak enough to offer little resistance if the missile fired and they were still accidentally in place.

Rig 3

Once the second rig had completed its trials, the third and final rig was to begin testing. This would have had a full crew and be fully armored to the levels required of it when coupled with Centurion. Engine, tracks, suspension, fuel capacity and width were to be the same as Centurion Mk 7, with the length and height to be the minimum possible.

Malkara missiles mounted on a Humber Hornet at the Bovington Tank Museum. The blue on the warhead indicates that this was a practice round. Source: User growler2ndrow on Flickr.
The third rig was to be as close as possible to the real thing. The engine was to be mounted at the front with the louvers and decks moved over. Towards the rear was a large raised superstructure, heavily armored and able to stop any Soviet return fire with 8 inches (212 mm) at 45° for 300 mm effective plate over the front of the superstructure. The lower nose plate was 4 inches 101 mm at 45° for 142 mm effective armor. Upper hull front was 6.5 inches at 50° for 256 mm of armor. Sides were just 2 inches (50 mm) at 12° with the upper sides and rear at 17 mm and 12 mm respectively. 6 mm skirting plates were attached as standard.

Conclusion

The project stopped due to two main issues. The first was that Malkara was a bit of a black sheep in the missile family,
Then, as now, politicians tried to find faults in projects that they had little influence over, and rival firms with strong bonds were able to put a lot of influence over these men. Secondly, the project had moved back to the UK and despite several attempts to run demonstrations at Kirkcudbright, on each occasion the demonstration was put off due to bad weather and strong winds, and each time new invitations were sent out less people would respond. The media then waded in and highlighted issues which were duly unfair or outrightly not true but public opinion and support had gone.
With newer projects and firms, notably Vickers, putting more pressure on the government to support their new missiles, like the Vickers Vigilant, the end of Malkara seemed certain. Those in service were instead used on Humber Hornet as mobile air portable heavy anti-tank units in the Parachute Squadron, Royal Armoured Corps which came into existence on 3 February 1965, raised from cadres of Cyclops Squadron 2nd Royal Tank Regiment and The Special Reconnaissance Squadron (SRS). Malkara, however, was not quite finished. The Australians redesigned and altered the bits they had and ended up with the Ikara ship-borne long-range anti-submarine guided weapon that was developed for the Royal Australian Navy.
The Royal Navy had also shown interest in Malkara and a close-range anti-ship missile and although it was never taken in for direct service, it did end up forming the basis of the Sea Cat missile after Short Brothers of Belfast converted it over.

Malkara missile during testing in South Australia, at the Woomera Rocket Range in 1959. The flare on one of the fins, that was used for aiming, is visible on the lowest fin. Source: https://guides.naa.gov.au/

All Details for Malkara Unless Stated Otherwise

Malkara specifications

Project J Max range 2000 yards
Malkara Max range 1500 yards Mk I and 4000 yards Mk2
Malkara min practical range 400-500 both Mks
Project J min range 300 meters
Max direct fire unguided (loss of controls) 1000 meters
Boost acceleration 22g
Boost duration 0.6 secs
Sustainer duration 25 to 4000 yards
Velocity during sustained flight 137 m/s
Roll stabilized 2 pairs of wings
Control type Command Cartesian
No of wire cores 4 cores (2 on service model)
Control type of signal Shaped D.C.
Launch angle 3.5° above LOS target
Fuse type Eclectically operated
Fuse arming distance 250 yds
Arming delay 2 secs
Power type thermal batteries
Ground equipment sight monocular x 10
Cone diameter 8”
Explosive weight 56 lbs
Chance of hit on stationery 75% at 500 m 95% at 3000 m on 2.3 m sq target
Chance of hit on moving target similar to above with 2.3×4.4 m at 4.5m/s crossing
Malkara Penetration 150 mm at 60 degrees equivalent
Project J Penetration about the same
Max angle of fire +20/- 10 degrees
Firing weight 189.5 lbs
½ cruise wt 172.5 lbs
Roll 0.450 lbs. ft. sec2
Pitch 15.7lbs. ft. sec2
Yaw 15.7lbs. ft. sec2
Malkara Length 77 inches
Project J length 75 inches
Wingspan 31 inches
Wing weight 3 lbs each
Rate of Fire 4 rpm
Lethal blast radius > 100 meters
For information about abbreviations check the Lexical Index


Illustration of the Mk. III FV4010.

Illustration of the Mk. V FV4010
Illustrations by Tank Encyclopedia’s own Bernard ‘Escodrion’ Baker. Paid for by our Patreon Campaign.

Categories
Cold War British Prototypes

Chimera 1984

United Kingdom (1984)
Self-Propelled Anti-Tank Gun – None built

Chimera was a British School of Tank Technology study design to develop a casemated Armoured Fighting Vehicle (AFV) that could make constructive use of the remaining, dated FV4201 Chieftain Tanks then still in service. It is worth noting that there are several ‘Chimeras’, the UK not being one to throw a good name away and recycled it for several other projects. For the sake of brevity, all reference to Chimera in this text will refer to the 1984 version.
The project was part of the British LAIC (Long Armour Infantry Course), formerly known as the Tank Technology course. It had been renamed due to the expanding mechanization meaning that infantry now had an equivalent need to understand the technical aspects of the equipment they were operating and officers were invited from various Commonwealth nations.
This particular Chimera began in 1984 as part of LAIC number 35 at the Armour School, part of the Royal Armoured Corps Centre at Bovington, Dorset. The course involved a study to find a cheap and effective way to make a Self-Propelled Anti-Tank Gun on the Chieftain chassis that was to utilize new armor and technology but still be cheaper to produce and operate than the new FV4030 Challenger 1 main battle tank that was entering service.

Design

The result was a casemated design; the turret was removed, the gun was built into the hull and traverse was done by moving the whole vehicle left or right, much in the same way as the Jagdpanzer IV or Jagdpanther late war German tank destroyers. This design concept has several pros and cons over conventional turreted tanks. It lowers the overall profile of the vehicle and allows the placing of heavier armor over the front of the vehicle increasing its survivability. It often allows a more powerful gun to be fitted, however, this comes at a cost of only being combat effective to targets approximately 45° in front of it and less able to defend itself against threats to its flank and rear like a turreted MBT. This type of vehicle is ideally used as an ‘ambush’ weapon: laying in wait in a concealed location then changing location as soon as it fires its gun to another preplanned position to avoid detection.
As mentioned above, aiming was done by steering the vehicle to the left or right should the target be out of the vehicle’s primary arc of fire and therefore such machines are particularly vulnerable if the tracks are damaged. Having to start the tank’s engine and move the whole vehicle to bring the gun into position to fire on an enemy vehicle can reveal its position. This is not ideal. As the Germans found out in the Second World War, if used as a defensive vehicle they can excel, however, it’s their unsuitability for offensive deployment that highlights their greatest flaws. Used in place of conventional tanks, they will inevitably struggle against anything not approaching head-on. Finally, as a side note, they tend to be very long which can cause logistics issues and maneuvering issues around bends or corners.
The overall hull of the Chieftain was lengthened and an extra road wheel added to help take the weight of the Chobham frontal armour which was to be twice that of Challenger 1. It also helped to move the centre of gravity more to the centre. One issue found by the Germans and the Russians, particularly in the later heavily armored casemated vehicles, was that the extra frontal weight put undue stress on the forward suspension often resulting in them having steel road wheels at the front. By increasing the overall length of the hull, it helped to alleviate this somewhat.
The weapon was initially designed around the L11 120 mm rifled cannon gun with the early 1980s muzzle reference system mirror and shroud above the muzzle. This is sometimes marked up as the XL30 120 mm gun which was a considerably more powerful 120mm piece originally designed for the MBT-80 MBT. The XL30 also had the advantage of being shorter yet more powerful than the L11 and could use either the old ammunition or the new CHARM rounds entering service.
The frontal armor was incredibly thick for its time. It was 610 mm to 700 mm of Chobham armor on the upper half of the glacis angled at 20° or the equivalent of about 1400 mm of conventional Rolled Homogeneous Armor (RHA), yet considerably lighter at 2141 kg per ‘cheek’. The lower front of the vehicle was 110 mm of steel at 34° for 132 mm effective frontal plate, enough to stop cannon fire and older Soviet era 100 mm rounds at a distance but vulnerable to more modern rounds. It was envisioned such a vehicle would be deployed hull down ideally, therefore the lower plate would be out of sight and could not be targeted.
The roof section or slope leading up to the midway point was also conventional steel but 122 mm of it angled back at 80° for nearly 700 mm effective armor. The side armor was split between very thick on the upper half and thin on the lower half. Above the track line it was 310 mm thick along the sides for the first 50% of the hull and then dropped to 40 mm for the latter half. The lower side armor remained the same as Chieftain at 40 mm. The rear, back deck and bottom were 25 mm each. Two ‘bazooka’ plates protected the tracks along the sides and these were overlaid with 30 mm applique layers over the first 2/3 of either flank. The total armor weight for the vehicle was 32.5 tons.
Power was supplied by a late model L60 multifuel engine, likely to have been the 12A/N model (formerly known as 14A), giving at 750bhp. By this time, many of the older issues with the L60 had been rectified and although still somewhat temperamental its performance had increased dramatically over the earlier engines. It was also proposed to fit the Rolls Royce MBT-80 engine in this vehicle, replacing the L60. The MBT-80 engine was a 1500 hp unit able to squeeze 2000 hp when required (a less ambitious version of 1200-1500 hp ended up in the Challenger).
The crew was to consist of four men: the commander and gunner on the right hand side; the driver and loader on the left hand side. Both commander and loader have their own hatches which double as entry exit for the gunner and driver who does not have a conventional hatch. Optics were provided by 4 episcopes for the commander and 5 for the loader, the gunner had his own day/night thermal system. Close protection was given by a 0.5″ heavy machine gun remote weapon station located either over the main gun or to the side of the loaders hatch.

A handmade drawing of the Chimera 1984 tank destroyer, made in 1984. It closely matches drawings from official documents and is probably an original piece relating to the project – Source: Army.ca

Conclusion

The vehicle was built up as far as a large model and presented before a board of MOD and UK leading tank experts in 1985, where it was viewed as successful in achieving the targets set and the project was effectively filed away. No orders were given for modifications to start on the remaining FV4201 Chieftain Tanks still in British Army service. A similar but later design for a casmated Chieftain known as the Combat Test Rig or CTR and erroneously as the Jagdchieftain had also been carried out. However, that was part of the FMBT-70 program and unrelated to this project.

Side note: Tank versus tank

Tank Versus Tank: The Illustrated Story of Armoured Battlefield Conflict in the Twentieth Century is a 1988 book by Kenneth Macksey. It covers tank construction, development, technology, tactics and strategy from the first appearance of the tank on the battlefield up to the Yom Kippur War in 1973. The last chapter of the book deals with a “What-if scenario”, seeing an invasion of NATO by the Warsaw Pact somewhere in Central Europe. For this, Macksey presents the Goliath, an ‘assumed’ advanced tank destroyer used by NATO forces. However, the images presented are of the Chimera 1984 tank destroyer! The Goliath-Chimera is described as being able to reliably survive a frontal hit from the latest Soviet APFSDS rounds while taking out the latest Soviet MBTs at more than 1000 m. This is one of the few cases of a fake ‘fake tank’ in AFV history.

A 1990s battlefield envisioned. The NATO forces are on the left, with the Goliath-Chimera tank destroyer in the small village. Source: Tank versus Tank

Side view of the Goliath-Chimera tank destroyer. Source: Tank versus Tank

Beautiful illustration showing the Goliath tank destroyer in combat. Source: Tank versus Tank

A 3D model of the Chimera tank destroyer, probably done by a private modeller. Source – Quora

Specifications

Armament 120 mm XL30
Armor Front Armor: 610-700 mm of Chobham armor (1400mm RHA equivalent)
Crew 4 (driver, commander, gunner, loader)
Propulsion Late model L60 multi fuel engine (likely the 12A/N model developing 750 bhp)
Total production None built

Sources

CHIMERA: School of Tank Technology
LAIC: Armour magazine
Kenneth Macksey, Tank Versus Tank: The Illustrated Story of Armoured Battlefield Conflict in the Twentieth Century


The 1984 Chimera tank destroyer in NATO colors. Illustrated by Jaroslaw “Jarja” Janas, paid for with funds from our Patreon campaign.

Categories
WWII Soviet SPGs

SU-76i

Soviet Union (1942-45) Self-propelled gun – 181 built

The Red Army’s Panzer III 76mm SPG

The SU-76i was built or re-built by the Soviets because, while speeding up their huge production of tanks, they still faced shortages in certain areas. Furthermore, the original SU-76 model had several flaws. They were unreliable and not a pleasure to drive, so much so the Soviet tankers named it “the Bitch”. During the fall of Stalingrad, the Soviets had captured several StuG and Panzer III tank chassis in relatively good condition. With the thought of rearming them with bigger Soviet guns, they were shipped back to factory 37 at Sverdlovsk.
SU-76i self-propelled gun was armed with a 76.2 mm (3 in) S-1 anti-tank gun
The SU-76i self-propelled gun was armed with a 76.2 mm (3 in) S-1 anti-tank gun
By early 1943, the Soviets had some 300 StuGs and Panzer IIIs and decided to mount 76.2 mm (3 in) Zis-3sh guns into their hulls. The resulting non-turreted tank destroyer was meant to fill in the gaps where SU-76s had been destroyed or sent back for repairs. The initial design was to mount the 76.2 mm on a semi traversable pedestal similar to early Italian TD’s, but this left the crew very exposed, more so than the SU-76, and would have left the tank defenceless against close artillery blasts and shrapnel. The gun was then to be mounted in a fixed casemate with limited traverse and a shorter, but more powerful 76.2 mm S1 gun was chosen.
Hinged pistol holes with an armored cover were inserted in the upper slab sided armor plate. This enabled the crew to fire their hand held weapons at enemy infantry that were getting too close. A vision slit was fitted above the pistol hole.
The hull mounted machine gun found on the Panzer III tank was removed on the SU-76i SPG. The driver sat on the left and had limited vision. He could only see directly ahead and to his left through an armored vision slit.
The prototypes were ready by March 1943 and sent for testing to the Sverdlovsk grounds. Even while the weather was extremely cold, with temperatures at -35 degrees Celsius, the new tanks destroyers, with their durable German components, passed the test. A few modifications were made, including oil heaters to stop the engine from freezing and other minor changes to batteries and sights. They were given the designation SU-76i, with the letter ‘I’ standing for ‘Inostrannaya’ or foreigner. It seems the hatred for Germans was even placed upon their equipment. The new SU-76i would have to prove itself.
This Su-76i SPG does not have the external fuel tanks fitted to on the rear of the vehicle or the armoured engine hatch covers.
This Su-76i SPG does not have the external fuel tanks fitted onto the rear of the vehicle or the armored engine hatch covers.
Some 181 of these tank destroyers and 20 command vehicles were built by November 1943. Production was stopped after that date, mainly because, by then, the original SU-76 had all of its bugs rectified and was running well. The other reason was cost; stripping down and rebuilding a knocked out or captured Panzer III was harder than building a new SU-76, which could now be easily repaired and updated.
The SU-76i self-propelled gun was in some ways better than the SU-76 standard version. It had better armor, with 35 mm (1.38 in) of frontal plate, 25 (1 in) on the sides and about 15 mm (0.59 in) on the back. The SU-76 on the other hand, had only enough armor to stop small arms fire and splinters. The second and more important thing to those that drove it was that the SU-76i was fully enclosed. This made a huge difference to morale in the biting Russian winds and harsh temperatures present during that winter, and SU-76i crews could stay snug inside the vehicle by keeping the engine ticking over.
This Su-76i SPG does not have the external fuel tanks fitted to on the rear
This Su-76i SPG did not have the external fuel tanks fitted onto the rear of the vehicle
The superstructure itself was of a welded design which, while more expensive than bolting, was necessary as the tank was not being made out of pre-fabricated parts, but was rather a chop shop job. Only the roof was bolted on, and this as a single piece to increase its strength. It was not unheard of for crew to remove this roof during the hot summer months and use the vehicle as an open topped tank.
The command tanks did not remove their roof and kept the original German commander cupola in situ. Their left ammunition bank was removed in order to fit an extra radio with improved signal capabilities in place.
Very few modifications were made or needed to the SU-76i. A reinforced shield was added over the mantle to stop stray rounds, and small changes were made to the suspension, as the Soviets had no natural replacement parts for this. The torsion suspension, on the other hand, was durable and lasted well. Despite its radical facelift and altered parts, the SU76i handled very well and was popular with its crews, despite its original heritage.
SU-76i SPGs were used on the Eastern Front during the winter of 1943-44
SU-76i SPGs were used on the Eastern Front during the winter of 1943-44

Active Service

The SU-76i self-propelled guns fought from spring 1943 until early spring 1944. They were part of the Soviet armored forces at the battle of Kursk, where they were attached to the 5th Guards, 13th Army of the Central Front. Eight were lost and three totally burnt out.
During the assault on Orel, in late July 1943, sixteen SU-76i SPGs were deployed in operations. The Voronezh front saw the same number in action. Many were destroyed in the German counter attack near Prokhorovka. They saw action in South Russia and northern Ukraine.
After 1944, unlike many captured German tanks that were scrapped immediately when they were of no further combat use, the SU-76i had earned a warm place in the hearts of a few and as such the surviving 10-15 vehicles went on to be training vehicles at tank and artillery schools.
SU-76i Command Vehicle with Panzer III cupola fitted to the roof
SU-76i Command Vehicle with Panzer III cupola fitted to the roof

The SU-76i command vehicle version

Twenty SU-76i self-propelled guns were constructed as command vehicles. They had an improved high powered radio and a Panzer III commander’s copula fixed on the roof. Less ammunition was carried to give extra room for the radio and maps.

The Gun

The 76.2 mm (3 in) S1 gun could fire high explosive HE shells, as well as armor piercing rounds. Firing as an artillery gun using HE shells, it had a maximum range of 13.29 km (8.25 miles). Its armor piercing rounds could penetrate 75 mm (2.95 in) of armor plate at a distance of 500 m and 82 mm (3.23 in) at 100 m range, when the armour was at a 90 degree angle. It could not penetrate the front armor of a Tiger tank, but could knock out a Panzer III or IV tank.
An article by Ed Francis

Specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 5.56 x 2.90 x 2.5 m
( 18’3″ x 9’6″ x 8’2″)
Crew 4 (driver, commander, gunner loader)
Propulsion 12-cylinder Maybach HL120 TRM, 296 bhp
Top road speed 40 km/h (25 mph)
Operational Range 165 km (103 miles)
Armament 76.2 mm (3 in) S-1 gun with 48 shells
Hull Armor Front 30 mm, sides 30 mm, rear 20 mm (1.18, 1.18, 0.8 in)
Upper Armor Front 35 mm, sides 25 mm, rear and roof 15 mm (1.38, 1 ,0.59 in)
Production Around 181 SU-76i
+20 Command Vehicles

Sources

aviarmor.net
valka.cz
Pejčoch: Obrněná Technika
The SU-76i on Tank-Hunter.com
The SU-76M on Wikipedia
Battlefield.ru
The SU-76 on WWIIVehicles.net

Battle of Kursk SU-76i attached to the 5th Guards.
Battle of Kursk SU-76i attached to the 5th Guards.
SU-76i in winter camouflage, Eastern Front, 1943.
SU-76i in winter camouflage, Eastern Front, 1943.
SU-76i command tank variant with Panzer III tank cupola fixed to the roof.
SU-76i command tank variant with Panzer III tank cupola fixed to the roof.

Gallery

Soviet SU-76i SPG, Eastern Front, Winter 1943-44
Soviet SU-76i SPG, Eastern Front, Winter 1943-44
Only the command version of the SU-76i SPG was fitted with a cupola - Eastern Front, Winter 1943-44
Only the command version of the SU-76i SPG was fitted with a cupola – Eastern Front, Winter 1943-44
Rear view of a SU-76i SPG. Notice the large crew hatch, armored engine hatch covers and external fuel containers.
Rear view of a SU-76i SPG. Notice the large crew hatch, armored engine hatch covers and external fuel containers.

Surviving SU-76i SPGs

This SU-76i Soviet SPG can be found in the Central Museum of the Great Patriotic War 1941 - 1945, Park Pobedy, Moscow Russia
This SU-76i Soviet SPG can be found in the Central Museum of the Great Patriotic War 1941 – 1945, Park Pobedy, Moscow Russia.
The SU-76i driver could only see straight ahead and to his left. Notice the vision slit above the covered pistol hole on the left side of the armored casement.
The SU-76i driver could only see straight ahead and to his left. Notice the vision slit above the covered pistol hole on the left side of the armored casement.
The SU-76i Soviet SPG was armed with a 76.2 mm (3 in) anti-tank gun. It is missing the additional gun shield and dust cover.
The SU-76i Soviet SPG was armed with a 76.2 mm (3 in) anti-tank gun. It is missing the additional gun shield and dust cover.
Surviving SU-76i self-propelled gun used as a war memorial in Sarny, Rivne Oblast, Ukraine.
Surviving SU-76i self-propelled gun used as a war memorial in Sarny, Rivne Oblast, Ukraine.
SU-76i Command Tank replica at the Museum of Military Equipment Battle Glory of the Urals, Verkhnyaya Pyshma, Sverdlovsk, Russia
SU-76i Command Tank replica at the Museum of Military Equipment Battle Glory of the Urals, Verkhnyaya Pyshma, Sverdlovsk, Russia
ww2 soviet armour
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Categories
Cold War Czech Prototypes

PM-1 Flame Tank

Czechoslovakia (1949-56) Light tank – 3 built

The Cold War Czechoslovakian Flame Thrower tank

Throughout WW2 and the post war years various nations built and used flamethrower tanks to devastating effect. These deadly machines were often attached to engineering divisions or other supporting roles. They would strike unbridled terror into enemy infantry or clear garrisoned buildings due to the perceived horror of being caught in a burst of incinerating liquid fire. In some cases just the sight of a flame thrower tank would cause enemy troops to surrender.
PM-1 Flame Tank
Czechoslovakian PM-1 Flame Tank 2nd prototype. A turret of an armoured car developed for pre-war Civilian Police and the original projector and pump unit was for water cannon was used at first. (photographer: unknown)
Some of these vehicle types are quite infamous such as the British WW2 Churchill Crocodile tank; a machine so loathed by the Germans that bailed out crews could expect summary executions if they were caught. The smaller WW2 Italian L3 Lf’s (lancia fiamme) is another example; this diminutive tankette, although useless against the mobile armored opponents in North Africa, had nonetheless seen service in several countries prior to that.
Other vehicles are a little rarer and one such tank is the post war Czechoslovakian PM-1 Flamethrower: a machine built on the ST-I chassis, a modified Jagdpanzer 38t, more commonly called the Hetzer. The Cold War PM-1 tank should not be confused with the WW2 German Flammpanzer 38(t). The PM-1 was a unique and deadly machine in its own right and one that thankfully never saw service.
Right side view of the PM-1 Flame Tank
This first prototype PM-1 had an enlarged hull on the right side in an attempt to mount fuel and pumps internally. (photographer: unknown)

Design and Production

The project was set down by the Czechoslovak VTU Vojenský Technický Ústav or Military Technical Institute department in 1946 as the Czechs wished to include flamethrowers in their newly formed ranks as assault tanks.
The first proposal was for these weapons to be mounted as a secondary system on variants of the planned TVP medium tanks (The TVP’s or “Tank Všeobecného Použití” was a proposed joint Czechoslovak and Soviet series of vehicles in the 30 ton range influenced by both Russian and German design features). The TVP project never got as far as a production series but the need for a flamethrower vehicle was still present.
With this setback in mind the 1st Department of the Army Chief of Staff looked at the material they had available and set their eyes on the ST-1 Tank destroyer’s currently in service, these were essentially a mix of WW2 vintage Jagdpanzer 38(t)’s, the odd re-worked Starr variant of the former and a few post war examples. Under Czechoslovak service the basic “Hetzer” hull had changed very little, the MG-34 was removed and a few minor cosmetic tweaks were made but otherwise they remained the same.
The design plans were sent to Českomoravská Kolben-Daněk in November 1949 as the CKD had been responsible for making Jagdpanzer 38(t)’s for the Wehrmacht during the war (known under occupation as Böhmisch-Mährische Maschinenfabrik AG(BMM)) and the plant still had the engineers and tools to make the alterations required.
Due to this, the chassis were altered quickly with no major issues. The main 7.5 cm Pak 39 L/48 gun was removed and the subsequent hole was covered with a 50mm plate that was still being cut up from the surplus Panzer wrecks found littering the countryside.
Initial production requests asked for some 75 vehicles to be made with 30 to be ready in 1949 and the rest to be completed by 1950. The Milovice company had refitted seven ST-1 Jagdpanzer 38(t) chassis to a working condition by March 1950 and sent them to be fitted with a turret and flame thrower gun. Only three were used before the project was canceled.
3rd Prototype PM-1 flame thrower tank with different turret and gun
The 3rd Prototype PM-1 flame thrower tank with different longer flame gun and mantlet. (photographer: unknown)

The flame thrower gun

The next issue was choosing a suitable flamethrower to be mounted in the PM-1, after all the Hetzer is not vehicle renown for its roomy interior, but unlike the British Crocodiles the designers had no intention of dragging around a large cart behind their tank.
The first domestic flame unit was built to VTU specifications by the Sigma pump n.p. Company and was ready for testing in October 1949, the weapon design was very similar to that mounted on the Sherman Crocodile with a 14-17mm nozzle and a 50 liter fuel tank operating at 50 atmospheres of pressure, the device ultimately was not chosen due to a rather obvious oversight: the Czechoslovaks had plenty of the old NP fuel mix (Nitro phenyl) in stock that needed using up but nothing that would work with the new device at the time, as such an older German flamer was fitted as it made more economic sense.
The first prototype was ready for field testing in February 1951 and had a distinctive conical turret that mounted a German Flammenwerfer 41 and a Vz.37 heavy machine gun. After field trials it was found to be somewhat lacking in expected performance.
Several faults were found: the flame burst could barely get further than 60 meters and was dangerously inaccurate (even for a flamethrower); the toxic fuel was stored in the hull next to the crew an armoured box; it was deemed an unsafe design.
The second prototype emerged 1951 and this time with a traditional if somewhat problematical turret. In place of a custom made turret it was now sporting a modified LT vz.38Panzer 38(t) turret with the commander’s cupola sawn off and the vz.37 machine gun replaced by aSoviett 7.62mm DT machine gun that was used on T-34/85.
The Flammenwerfer 41 flame gun was replaced by a new design from the Konstrukta company with an effective range of 120 meters. The LT vz.38 turret’s 37mm gun was removed and the  flamethrower fitted. It used a new mixture of gasoline; and BTEX (Benzene, Toluene, Ethyl benzene, and Xylenes) that was kept in the new armoured box which contained three large tanks totalling some 1000 litres of fuel and propelled by seven smaller tanks of pressurized nitrogen. For safety reasons the fuel for the flame gun was now carried in an armored box attached to the rear of the vehicle.
The third prototype was ready on 31st of March, 1953 and during the tests, the flame jet that was fired from a new modified longer flame gun could reach from 90 meters to 140 meters. Last trials of the PM-1 flame thrower tank took place in March 1956. The flame gun managed to shoot at a maximum range of 125 meters with the Sh mixture and 180 meters with the new ASN mixture.

Summary

Its unknown why this vehicle didn’t pass the inspection as it seemed in hindsight to fulfil the requirements however that is based purely on the documents we have today and therefore we may be missing vital information, it will probably never be known.
The third prototype had a reworked fuel supply allowing the flame to project longer distances but complex changes in the pressure hosing resulted in a reloading time of 60 minutes and the lighter mixture was less tacky and more unlikely to stick to its intended target although one suspects this fact offered little in the way of consolation to anybody drenched in litres of liquid fire.
By late 1953 the Minister of Defence Václav Thoř had expressed his doubts about the projects indicating that something new might be needed. The team improved many of the shortcomings like changing the fuel type again to increase the range to 180 meters but it was too little too late and by 1956 the project overseer cancelled all ongoing work.
In the end the mobile flamethrower itself had been perfected but with the Cold War in full swing and a rapid change of battlefield tactics and doctrine taking place there was little use for an old “Hetzer” to keep up with the new fast moving Soviet tank formations. The three prototypes were scrapped later that year and few photos remain.

An article by Ed Francis

Sources

Bovington Tank Museum Archives
M.Dubánek – Od bodáku po tryskáče
PM-1 on For the Record
PM-1 on Valka
PM-1 on Sushpanzer

Specifications

Dimensions (L x W X H) 4.83 m x 2.59 m x 2.2 m (15’10” x 8’6″ x 7’3″ ft.inches)
Total weight, battle ready 17 tons
Crew 2 (driver, commander/gunner)
Propulsion Praga AE, water cooled V6, Gasoline petrol 158hp engine
Suspension Leaf springs bogies
Speed (road) 40 km/h (25 mph)
Range 180 km (112 miles)
Armament German Flammenwerfer 41 Flame Thrower gun or
Konstrukta Flame Thrower gun
1x 7.92mm ZB Vz. 37 machine-gun or
1x 7.62mm DT machine-gun
Armor Front 60mm
Side 20mm
Rear 20mm
Turret Front 50mm

PM1-flametank
1st Czechoslovak PM-1 Flamethrower Tank

Gallery

PM-1 Flame Tank right side
The first prototype PM-1 Flame tank had a conical turret that mounted a German Flammenwerfer 41 and later a Vz.37 heavy machine gun (photographer: unknown)
Refuelling the PM-1 flame thrower tank
Refuelling the third prototype PM-1 flame thrower tank. It took too long to refuel the flame thrower tanks and this was considered an operational weakness. (photographer: unknown)
The PM-1 flame thrower tank undergowing trials in the snow 16th February 1955.
The third prototype PM-1 flame thrower tank undergoing trials in the snow 16th February 1955. (Photo: VHA)
Third PM-1 flame tank prototype with a different turret and flame thrower equipment taking part in trials in the snow 16th February 1955
Third PM-1 flame tank prototype with a different turret and flame thrower equipment taking part in trials in the snow 16th February 1955. (Photo: VHA)
Flame tests of the PM-1 flame thrower tank
During the last trials the flamethrower managed to shoot as far as 125 meters with the Sh mixture (80 percent gasoline, 20 percent BTEX, made thick by what was essentially a soap production waste) and 180 meters with a new ASN mixture. (photographer: unknown)
PM1 flame thrower tank
(photographer: unknown)