Categories
Cold War British Other Tanks

FV433 Abbot SPG

United Kingdom (1958)
Self-Propelled Gun – 234 Built

In the late 1950s, the United Kingdom was looking for a new Self-Propelled Gun (SPG). It was envisioned that this would replace the Ram-based Sexton, a Second World War-era 25-Pounder gun-armed SPG that was still in service with the Royal Artillery. It was also planned that it would somewhat replace the 25-Pounder gun in general, as the towed version was also still in service. Even so, there were some developments with 25-pounder armed SPGs, such as the Centurion-based FV3805. This was unsuccessful, however.

A 105 mm gun would be developed to replace the 25-Pounder. For ease of production, it was decided that this new SPG would be based on the FV432 ‘Trojan’ Armoured Personnel Carrier, then coming into service. The SPG would receive the designation ‘FV433’ and would be designed and constructed by Vickers. They would go on and build a total of 234 vehicles, the majority of which would see service with the British Army, though a few simpler, ‘Value Engineered’ versions would also be designed and sold to the Indian Army.

The FV433 would be the last Self-Propelled Gun to be named – in British tradition – after a religious title. In this case, ‘Abbot’. An Abbot is a man in charge of an abbey of monks. As well as the above mentioned Sexton, there were others named in this way, such as the Deacon, Bishop, and M7 ‘Priest’.

FV433 Abbot on the move in 1970. The wheeled vehicle in the background is an FV620 Stalwart. Photo: Profile Publications

Foundation, The FV432

The FV432 Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) was a small vehicle at 17 feet 2 inches (5.25 m) long, 9 feet 2 inches (2.8 m) wide and 7 feet 5 inches (2.28 m) tall. It had a two-man crew (Commander & Driver) and had the ability to carry up to ten troops.
The FV432 weighed 15 tons (15.3 tonnes) and was powered by the 240 hp Rolls-Royce K60 multi-fuel engine. This gave it a top speed of 44 mph (70 km/h). A torsion-bar suspension gave the vehicle a smooth and comfortable ride. It had five road-wheels per-side, with the drive sprocket at the front and the idler at the rear.

The Abbot would utilize the exact same powertrain and suspension as the FV432 APC. This SPG was one of many variants that would be born from the FV432, or ‘Battle Taxi’, as it would come to be known throughout its service life.

The FV432 APC, the basis of the FV433 Abbot – one of which can be seen in the background. Photo: Wikimedia Common

Development

Development of the FV433 took place between 1958 and 1960 at the Fighting Vehicle Research and Development Establishment (FVRDE) located in Chertsey, Surrey. Basing a vehicle on an existing model has a number of benefits: It allows for a commonality of parts making maintenance easier, but also allows possible operators to familiarize themselves with the particulars of the vehicle when it comes to driving, for example. It also lowers costs and simplifies the logistical train required.

Vickers came up with a design for this new Self-Propelled Gun. The aim was to create a small, mobile SPG that was flexible and could be deployed quickly. It would be armed with a large caliber, quick-firing gun to enable saturation of a target in a short time.

They would utilize as many components from the FV432 APC as possible for the hull. For the gun, the new 105 mm L13A1 gun was chosen although at the time there were several contenders to be the new standard artillery caliber. This was placed in a turret towards the rear of the vehicle. As in the FV432, the engine and transmission were located at the front of the vehicle. A unique feature to the ‘Abbot’ compared to other SPG’s of the time was the fact that it was amphibious. This was possible via a flotation screen, like those used on the famous Sherman DD tanks of D-Day. The SPG would also have Nuclear, Biological & Chemical (NBC) protection.

By 1961, Vickers had produced 12 prototypes of the FV433. Six of these were fitted with the Rolls-Royce B81 petrol engine before the multi-fuel K60 of the FV432 was chosen as the production standard. This was a 6-cylinder horizontally opposed engine. These engines consist of two pistons per cylinder, working against each other in opposite directions. The idea behind multi-fuel engines was that in an emergency, the engine could run on either petrol (gasoline), diesel, or other fuel types. A similar, although less successful and more troublesome, engine was installed on the FV4201 Chieftain.
Vickers began full-scale production of the FV433 Abbot at their Elswick facility in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1964.

One of the prototype FV433s. The prototypes can be identified by having only two headlights, a straight flotation screen top, and the gun travel lock on the left front corner of the hull. Photo: Profile Publications

Design

Hull

Sharing the same hull as the FV432 APC, the Abbot gained similar dimensions at 19 feet 2 inches (5.8 m) long, 8 feet 8 inches (2.6 m) wide, and 8 feet 9 inches (2.7 m) high. The vehicle would weigh around 16 tons (16.2 tonnes). It utilized the same running gear and track.

The general shape of the hull was also similar, small and boxy, but sloped down towards the front. This sloping front housed the engine, gearbox, transmission, and fuel tanks. The driver was also located at the front, to the right. On the front of the hull, there were four large headlights mounted in two double-light units (the prototype only had two lights).

Head-on view of an FV433 Abbot found at the Wight Military & Heritage Museum, Isle of Wight, UK. Photo: Author’s own

On the rear of the hull, there was a large hatch that opened out to the right. This hatch was used while the gun was in operation. It allowed the crew easy access to the fighting compartment and provided ventilation. It would also provide an opening to discard spent cartridges, instead of letting them pile up in the confined space of the turret. Obviously, this door would not be used in hazardous situations. There was stowage above the door for some pioneer tools.

The exhaust was located on the left of the hull. On the prototypes, this was placed above the flotation screen. On the production model, this was moved to between the flotation screen and top of the fender.

A view of the rear and left side of the Abbot. Note the exhaust on the left and the large rear hatch. Photo: Author’s own

As mentioned above, the ‘Abbot’ was equipped with a flotation screen. This allowed the SPG to negotiate through calm waterways. Propulsion was provided by the revolution of the tracks, as was steering. When not in use, the screen collapsed onto the hull. On the prototypes, this sloped from the back to the front of the hull as one piece. On production models, this was adapted so it followed the shape of the hull. In later years of its use in service, however, this screen was removed.

The Abbot with flotation screen erected. Photo: Tankograd Publishing

Turret

The turret was capable of 360-degree horizontal rotation, allowing for great flexibility in fire-missions. It was rather small and took the shape of a non-equal octagon. It was also slightly frustoconical, narrow down towards the roof, meaning all panels sloped back a few degrees. The right turret cheek had a triangular bulge incorporated to make way for the gunnery equipment inside the turret. The turret face had a bolted-on reinforcing plate around the gun slot. At the top of this, there was a semi-circular cut-out that allowed the gun to reach maximum elevation. There were hatches at the left and right rear for the commander (right) and loader (left). There was also a small ‘ammunition supply’ hatch on the rear of the turret. When open, it revealed a tray with grooves for two 105 mm rounds.

An Abbot of the 27th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery, at the Sennelager Training Area in 1992. Note the two-shell loading tray in the rear of the turret. Photo: Tankograd Publishing

The outer circumference of the turret was covered in stowage. On the left and right turret sides, there were fastening points that would allow the attachment of large ‘soft’ bins. Smaller boxes were scattered around, with a shovel being stored on the right turret cheek. On the right rear corner, the large ventilation unit for the NBC system was installed. On the left rear corner, a wire reel was hung. This was a spool of telephone wire that was carried by most British tanks at the time. It would be used in bivouac areas when the tanks were in their defensive positions. The wire was hooked up to each tank and allowed them to discreetly communicate without broadcasting their positions via radio comms.

Crew

The driver was located at the front right corner of the hull. He was provided with a two-part hatch cover which opened to the left and right. For closed-down driving, he was provided with a single wide-angle periscope built into the hull roof just in front of the driver’s hatch. This periscope was even equipped with twin wipers.

Three Abbot crew members, circa-1960s. Photo: militaryimages.net

Three crew members were stationed in the turret. These were the Commander, Gunner – also known as the Gun Layer, and Loader. The Gunner was located at the right front of the turret and was without a hatch. The Commander was positioned directly behind him. He had override controls for the rotation of the turret. This allowed him to quickly lay the gun onto a target in an emergency. The commander sat under a rotating vision cupola with a hatch that opened up and rear and three vision periscopes. The Loader was positioned in the left rear corner of the turret, had a basic one-piece hatch over his head and also performed radio operator duties.

Although the vehicle technically had a six-man crew, only four were present on the tank at all times. There was not enough room for all six. The Driver, Commander, Gunner, and the Radio-Operator/Loader would travel with the SPG. The other two men were the Ammunition Handler and the Second in Command, who was responsible for correct ammunition preparation (setting charges and fuses correctly). These men would travel in an accompanying support vehicle and would join the rest of the crew upon reaching the designated firing position.

Armor

The ‘Abbot’ was only lightly armored, as it was not intended to combat enemies head-on. Armor on the hull consisted of 12 mm (0.47 inches) on the front and sides, 10 mm (0.39 inches) at the rear and 6 mm (0.23 inches) on the floor. Armor on the turret was 10 mm around the sides and 12 mm on the roof. This armor was simply intended to protect the vehicle’s occupants from shrapnel and small arms fire.

Armament

The 105 mm L13A1 was a brand new design built by the Royal Ordnance Factory (ROF). It was not only intended as the weapon of choice for Self-Propelled Guns but also as the main-stay towed piece of British artillery units. The 105 mm (4.1-inch) caliber was chosen after detailed examination showed it had an effective blend of weight, lethality and range.

The gun was 37 calibers (3.8 meters) long with a double-baffle muzzle break at the end and a fume extractor halfway down the length. The gun uses a semi-automatic, vertically sliding breech (a semi-automatic breach means the spent rounds are not ejected automatically after firing, but the breech closes automatically when loading) and is mounted in a ring-type cradle with twin hydraulic buffers. It was also equipped with a single hydro-pneumatic recuperator. The gun was mounted in the 360-degree-capable turret and had an elevation range of +70 to -5 degrees. Elevation was tended by hand wheels, although the rotation of the turret was powered. There was a travel lock located on the front of the hull, just off to the left of the centerline.

The 105 mm gun at full +70-Degree elevation. Note the exhaust system on the side of the hull, between the running gear and the flotation screen. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

For indirect-fire, the gun was laid via a periscope that protrudes from the turret roof and was protected by a small armored cupola. Thanks to its fully rotatable turret and wide elevation range, the ‘Abbot’ was also capable of direct-fire at enemy vehicles. This was an ability requested by Gunners themselves. For this, a telescopic sight was provided. It should be noted, however, that the ‘Abbot’s’ primary role was to provide fire-support. It was not designed to be in the front line or engage in combat with tanks. They were designed to fire shells over the heads of friendly troops from long range.

‘Guns to horizontal’. Four ‘Abbots’ in training using their guns in the direct-fire role. Photo: Profile Publications

Because of the amount of ammunition carried and the compact nature of the turret, the FV433 did not have calibrating sights. To overcome this, the gun mount had both Tangent Elevation (TE) and Angle of Sight (AOS) scales with a separate gun rule to convert the range into TE in mils, with corrections made for the ammunition type in use. The single eye-piece sight used internal, illuminated scales.

Secondary armament consisted of a light machine gun installed on the Commander’s cupola. In the early years of the ‘Abbot’s’ service, this would have been the L4 7.62 Light Machine Gun – an upgraded version of the faithful Bren Gun of WW2. In later years, this was replaced by the General-Purpose Machine Gun, or ‘GPMG’, also chambered in 7.62 mm (.30 Cal). The FV433 was also equipped with smoke grenade launchers, three-per turret cheek.

Abbots on the range. The location appears to be somewhere in Germany, judging by the German warning sign on the cab of the FV620 Stalwart. The Stalwart – also known as ‘Stolly’ is being used to resupply the Abbots with ammunition. Photo: Tankograd Publishing

Ammunition

A wide range of ammunition was available to the ‘Abbot’. For indirect-fire, this consisted of L31 High Explosive (HE), L37, L38 & L45 Smoke, and L43 Illumination. For direct fire, the Abbot was equipped with L42 High-Explosive Squash Head (HESH) shells and the L31 HE shell could also be used in the direct-fire role. The ammunition was two-part, meaning the projectile was separate from the propellant case, and that they were loaded separately. In this case, the projectile was loaded with the assistance of an electrically powered rammer, while the propellant was inserted by hand. The propellant for the 105mm gun was placed in brass cartridge cases. The primers were electrically triggered, rather than mechanically via a firing-pin. The propellant in the cases was contained in specific amounts in marked bags. A total of eight could be used in a cartridge; the more bags, the greater the range. There were, however, two cartridge types – supercharged and standard. The supercharged cartridge produced the greatest range and was filled with a much more potent charge. The standard cartridge contained 1-5 charge bags of equal size. There were also two lower-power charges known as ‘Sub zone A & B’. These were used in standard cartridge cases emptied of the standard charges. A maximum of 42 rounds were carried aboard the ‘Abbot’ (36 HE and 6 HESH). In normal operations, however, only 40 rounds were usually carried (32 HE and 6 HESH). The rounds were stored around the inside of the turret and the hull.

The various ammunition types used by the ‘Abbot’. Left to right: L42 HESH, L43 Illumination, L37 Marker-Red, L31 HE, L36 Smoke. Photo: Wikimedia

Gun Performance

The ‘Abbot’ had an extremely high rate of fire, so much so that three ‘Abbots’ could saturate a target with about half a tonne (453 kgs, 6-8 rounds) of shells per minute. This rate of fire was achieved thanks to the rotating turret and the semi-automatic breech with a powered rammer. At the time of its introduction, the ‘Abbot’ was unrivaled when it came to its blend of firepower, accuracy, and range covered. Its rotating turret gave it the ability to engage any target, in any direction without the need to reposition the hull. The high elevation angle of the gun also gave the ability to engage targets behind the steepest covers. It was able to engage targets accurately up to its maximum firing range of 19,000 yards (11 mi, 17.3 km). The 105 mm gun had a service life of 10,000 rounds.

A battery of ‘Abbot’s’ conducting firing trials at Munsterlager Ranges, Germany, 1990. Photo: MiltaryImages.net

Variants

The ‘Value Engineered’ ‘Abbot’ (VEA)

In 1965, Vickers presented the ‘Abbot’ to the Indian military. The Indians were impressed with everything about the SPG, apart from its price tag. This resulted in a full-scale investigation by the ‘Value Engineering’ Department of the Vickers Armament Division. Simply put, the Value Engineering process produces a cheaper vehicle, without impact to its tactical capability. The first ‘Value Engineered’ ‘Abbot’ was produced in 1967 and was taken to India for demonstration the same year.

The ‘Value Engineered’ Abbot at the Vickers plant in the late-1960s. Photo: Profile Publications

The VEA was different from the standard Abbot in the following ways:

  • The flotation screen was removed
  • The engine was exchanged for the Rolls-Royce K60 Mark G/1, a variant of the standard engine that only ran on diesel
  • No rubber pads on the tracks
  • No power traverse – turret traverse and gun elevation/depression were manual
  • No electric rammer
  • The armored cover of the roof-mounted gun sight was replaced by a canvas one, sights were replaced with a German model
  • The Commander’s cupola did not rotate and was only equipped with one periscope.
  • No smoke launchers or roof-mounted machine gun
  • Reduced external stowage

The Indian Army was happier with this cheaper ‘Abbot’, so much so that they accepted the vehicle for service. From 1967 onwards, a total of 88 VEAs were built. Twenty of these went to the British Army, specifically to the British Army Training Unit Suffield (BATUS) in Canada, as training vehicles. The remaining 68 SPG’s were sent to the Indian Army, where they were operated well into the late-1990’s.

An Indian Army ‘Value Engineered ‘Abbot’ in service. Photo: Public Domain

The VEA was not the only vehicle that Vickers sold to the Indian Army. In the mid-1960’s, Vickers developed a main battle tank (MBT) which they called the ‘Vickers Main Battle Tank’. While it never entered service in the UK, the Indian Military were extremely happy with it, becoming India’s first MBT, and was named the ‘Vijayanta’.

The ‘Falcon’

Developed in the late-1960s, the ‘Falcon’ was a Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft Gun (SPAAG) system based on the ‘Abbot. It utilized the VEA’s hull, but could easily be upgraded to standard ‘Abbot’ configuration (re-application of flotation screen, headlights, etcetera). A new turret was designed for the ‘Falcon’, which was armed with two Hispano Suiza HSS 831L 30 mm auto-cannons. These cannons utilized the same ammunition as the British-made 30 mm Rarden cannon, as used on the Scimitar and Fox light vehicles. The vehicle was operated by a crew of three, consisting of a Commander, Gunner, and Driver. Though designed to combat aircraft, it was also capable of combating lightly armored vehicles.

The ‘Falcon’ SPAAG prototype. Photo: Profile Publications

Despite extremely successful tests in the early-1970’s and favorable opinions from military officials, the ‘Falcon’ never entered service. This was largely due to a rather small ammunition capacity, caused by the small and cramped nature of the FV430-type hull.

Service

The ‘Abbot’ entered service in 1965, alongside around 140 M109 Howitzers purchased from the United States. The 3rd Battalion Royal Horse Artillery (3 RHA) became the first regiment to be equipped with it. The ‘Abbot’ spent almost all of its service life with British forces stationed in Germany. Its small size and good mobility allowed it to be deployed anywhere in a very short time, should the Cold War have turned hot. The ‘Abbots’ were placed in Field Regiments supporting Armoured Brigades, this would have been about 8 Regiments (142+) guns in the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR).

A British Army ‘Abbot’ of the Royal Artillery (RA) Hohne Range Road, Germany, 1985. Photo: Military Vehicle Photos

The ‘Abbot’ was an extremely reliable vehicle and was easy to maintain. As a result, the ‘Abbot’ became loved by its crews, despite it being very cramped internally. To describe how cramped it was inside, fellow amateur tank researcher and enthusiast, Rita Cardoso Sobral, has said “I am only 5′ 3” and it was nearly impossible for me to get in/out.”

A Convoy of Abbots from the 27th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery in Dortmund, Germany, mid-1990s. Photo: militaryimages.net

The ‘Abbot’ served the British Army for 28 years before it began to be replaced by the 155 mm gun-armed AS-90 in 1993.

Surviving Vehicles

Thanks to its reliability, many ‘Abbots’ still survive and are operated by private owners and/or companies. They are relatively easy to come by for private purchase at a relatively good price, and many can be found in museums across the world. These include the Wight Military and Heritage Museum, Isle of Wight (UK) and the Australian Armour and Artillery Museum (AAAM), Queensland, Australia, among many others. Many tank-driving attractions also feature ‘Abbots’ as part of their fleet. Such places include ‘Tanks-Alot’, based in Brackley, England, and ‘Drive A Tank’ based in Minnesota, USA.

A surviving Abbot located at the Wight Military & Heritage Museum, Isle of Wight, UK. Photo: Author’s own

One of the best examples of a private company using the ‘Abbot’ is the ‘Grenade’ sports nutrition company. In the UK, they use an ‘Abbot’ covered in their brand logo as an advertisement. As of 2019, they have also started selling authentic ‘Abbot’s’, done up in ‘Grenade’ colors on their website for the price of £75,000 ($94,000). See HERE.

An example of one of the ‘Grenade’ ‘Abbot’ is selling for £75,000 ($94,000). Photo: Grenade

Conclusion

The ‘Abbot’ was an attempt by the British Military to create an effective SPG on a common platform. In doing so, it became one of the most successful Self-Propelled Gun platforms used by the UK, largely due to its firepower, flexibility, and ease of maintenance. It was also one of the first British SPGs to adopt the post-war move to turreted self-propelled artillery pieces. In its almost 30-year service life with the British Army, it never fired a shot in anger.

The Abbot is one of the best examples in the world of a military vehicle that has been successful in both military and private sector service. It was loved by its military crews, and continues to be loved by civilian crews.

A prime example of privately owned Abbot’s is this example by the British Comedian, Ross Noble. Photo: @realrossnoble
Another example is the ‘Glitter-Balled’ abbot used at the premiere of the 2009 Sacha Baron Cohen movie, ‘Brüno’. Photo: justjared.com


The FV433 Abbot Self-Propelled Gun (SPG). Based on the FV432 APC, it had a 105mm gun in a fully rotating turret.


The ‘Value Engineered Abbot’ or ‘VEA’, a cheaper, simplified version of the Abbot developed for the Indian Army.


The ‘Falcon’ Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft Gun (SPAAG), based on the Abbot chassis.

These illustrations were produced by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet.

Specifications

Dimensions 19ft 2in x 8ft 8in x 8ft 9in (5.8 x 2.6 x 2.7 meters)
Total weight, battle-ready 16 tons (16.2 tonnes)
Crew 6 (Commander, Loader/radio operator, Gunner/Layer, Driver/Ammunition Handler, Ammunition Handler, Second in Command/Ammunition Prepper)
Propulsion 240 hp Rolls-Royce K60 multi-fuel engine
Suspension Torsion Bar
Speed (road) 29 mph (47 kph)
Armament 105mm L13A1 Gun
L4 7.62mm Light Machine Gun/GPMG 7.62mm Machine Gun
Armor 12 – 10mm (0.39 – 0.47in)
Total Production 234 (176 FV433s, 88 VEAs)

Sources

Rob Griffin, FV432 Variants, Tankograd Publishing
Profile Publications Ltd. AFV/Weapons #51: Abbot FV433 Self-Propelled Gun, Christopher F. Foss
www.forecastinternational.com
www.driveatank.com
Wight Military and Heritage Museum
Australian Armour and Artillery Museum (AAAM)

Categories
Cold War British Other Tanks

FV107 Scimitar

United Kingdom (1971)
Reconnaissance Tank – 486 built

The British cold war recce tank

The Scimitar (from the famous Saracen curved blade) was an early CRV(T) or Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked) as designated, which comprised 8 models for which Alvis was awarded in 1988 the Life Extension Programme. It shared its chassis and most components with the Scorpion.
The turret, also similar to the Scorpion’s was in reality shared with the Fox wheeled armored reconnaissance vehicle, housing the high velocity 30 mm L21 RARDEN cannon. The Scimitar entered service in 1971, one year after the Scorpion, but it is still in service today. So far 466 were built by Alvis from Coventry, including some 141 for Belgium.

Design

As stated above, the Scimitar was essentially similar to the Scorpion, but for the main cannon. The hull was made of welded rolled homogeneous armor plates of hardened aluminum alloy, with the driver at the front-left, and had a rounded nose and well-sloped glacis plate. Protection is adequate against 12.7 mm heavy machine gun rounds at the front and small arms fire and artillery shell splinters all around.
The two other members of the crew take place in the turret, the commander and gunner, each with their own hatch, and a cupola for the commander. Peripheral vision is provided by three large vision devices on the commander’s side and gunner’s large font turret periscopic sight with passive night vision (also for the driver).
There are automatic fire extinguishers in the crew and engine compartments and a collective NBC protection system and in addition later a forced air system to answer CRBN environment threats.
For comfort there is also a boiling vessel (BV), to cook and make hot drinks and a toilet. Storage all around on the turret sides, hull sides and rear are generous. For active protection, the turret also received 2 × 4-barrel of smoke grenade dischargers.
Fv107 Scimitar blueprint
Fv107 Scimitar Blueprint. Notice the absence of side vision devices on the turret.
The armament comprises the main 30 mm L21 RARDEN cannon (elevation/depression +35°/-10°) which is high-velocity, quick-firing (90 rpm) and can fire a large array of projectiles, including the Armour Piercing Discarding Sabot-Tracer (APDS-T), High explosive (HE), Armour-Piercing (AP), High Explosive Incendiary (HEI), and armor-piercing special effects (APSE). In total 165 rounds are carried.
In addition, there is the coaxial L37A1 Machine Gun with 2000 rounds including tracers. The main gun is able to disable most wheeled vehicles in service, light tanks, APCs and some IFVs. There is also an optional thermal sight and laser rangefinder.
For mobility it relied on a Jaguar J60 4.2-litre 6-cylinder petrol engine, light and powerful at that time later replaced by a diesel Cummins BTA 5.9 diesel of 190 hp (142 kW) placed on the right. It was slightly lighter than the Scorpion (7.8 vs. 8 tons), and faster at 80 kph vs. 72 kph (50 vs. 45 mph). The transmission was up to the challenge, transferring most of the torque on the external part of the tracks, allowing fast turns, even 360° on the spot, and fast reverse speeds as well.
The range was somewhat inferior (450 vs. 750 km perhaps related to the former gasoline Jaguar). However, both vehicles relied on a similar five relatively large rubber-tires roadwheels independently sprung with torsion bars completed by front sprockets and rear idlers but no return rollers. The Scimitar could be provided with a flotation kit to ford large water barriers, but it can ford up to a depth of 1 meter without preparation.
It can also climb a 60% gradient, 35% side slope, or a vertical step 0.5 m high, and gap a trench 2 m wide. Ground pressure was quite low and the vehicle could be air-transportable to any spot by Chinook helicopters.

FV107s as the Jersey liberation day, May 2010.

Production

Outside the UK, that keep the bulk of the 325 reconnaissance tanks (according to european-defence.co.uk. January 2008) for 429 to 486 in total (even 641 for militaryfactory.com). According to the Ministry of Defence of the Czech Republic, 141 were in service with the Belgian Army until 2004, but Jordan now operates 100 (to 171 according to other sources) a deal from 2009, the tanks were scheduled for retirement and were sold at an estimated unitary cost of $194,175. Nigeria allegedly operated five (unconfirmed) and the Honduras three.

The Scimitar in action

First engagement of the Scimitar came with the Blue & Royals (Royal Horse Guards and 1st Dragoons) in the 1982 Falklands War. This was the only armored vehicle in action in the Falklands, where they played a critical role in cornering the Argentine forces in the outskirts of Port Stanley. One was damaged by a mine but was recovered and carried by a Chinook HC.1 helicopter in safety. The crew remains unscathed.
Scimitar - Gulf War
Fv107 in the 1991 Gulf War. It can achieve a top speed of 80 kph on flat, unmatched by most tracked vehicles.
In 1991, Scimitars of the 16th/5th The Queen’s Royal Lancers were engaged in the gulf war. At some point, they engaged and destroyed T-62s with their sabot rounds, directly through their frontal armor. On the other hand, one was hit by a T-55 round which just passed through both sides of the thin armor, leaving without any injury. In the 1990s, Scimitars with the UN were deployed in ex-Yugoslavia (Bosnia and Kosovo) for peace-keeping operations.
In 2003 with the invasion of Iraq, Scimitars were again engaged in the “war on terror”. Those of the Queen’s Dragoon Guards were engaged in the Battle of Al Faw on March 20–24. By 2010 some received BAR armor to deal with RPGs (see later). In Afghanistan, Scimitars were used as part of the Operation Herrick in the so-called Jackal high-mobility composite troops, providing extra firepower but keeping pace with wheeled vehicles.
The Scimitar, as of Jan. 2016 is used by the five formation reconnaissance regiments of the British Army, each counting three squadrons of 12 Scimitars. The Household Cavalry Regiment has an extra squadron. The Strategic Defence and Security Review in 2010 claimed that some regiments had their Challenger 2 tanks replaced with CVR(T) Scimitars.
However the CRV(T) modernization plan of 2009 saw the Future Rapid Effect System program extending the active life of Scimitars up to 2017, when these vehicles would be replaced by the AJAX. In 2009 modifications included air filtration units, gearbox upgrades, hull alterations and even in 2010 creation of Spartan/Scimitar hybrids (“Up-armoured vehicles begin Afghanistan operations”) with BAR armour.

Links

The Scimitar on Wikipedia

Scimitar FV107 specifications

Dimensions (L-w-h) 4.80m x 2.18m x 2.1m (15’9″ x 7’2″ x 6’11” ft.in)
Total weight, battle ready 7.8 tons (15,600 Ibs)
Crew 3 (driver, gunner, commander)
Propulsion Cummins BTA 5.9 diesel 190 hp (142 kW)
Suspension Torsion bars
Speed (road) 80 km/h (50 mph)
Range 450 km (280 mi)
Armament 1x 30mm L21 RARDEN, coax 7.92mm L37A1 MG
Armor Est. 13 mm front, 8 mm sides and rear (0.3-0.5 in)
Total production 486

FV107 Scimitar
FV107 Scimitar in the original configuration.

Camouflaged Scimitar possibly at the BANFF training grounds.
Scimitar with a dozer blade kit
Scimitar with a dozer blade kit and washable winter paint.
Scimitar BAR armourd gulf war
Modernized FV107 Spartan/Scimitar hybrid with BAR armour as of 2010, Iraq.

Video (Full documentary about the Scimitar)

Gallery

Alvis Scimitar in exercises in the 2000s
Alvis Scimitar in exercises in the 2000s
Scimitar and Spartan (background)
Scimitar and Spartan (background)
Scimitar in Afghanistan, with BAR armour, 2010
Scimitar in Afghanistan, with BAR armour, 2010
Scimitar with BAR armour
Scimitar with BAR armour and upgraded COM set, new gearbox, hull modifications.
Scimitar of the Gulf War
Scimitar of the Gulf War at the summer 2010 Bovington tank parade.

Categories
Cold War British Other Tanks

FV214 Conqueror

United Kingdom (1954)
Heavy Tank – Around 180 built total

From the “universal tank”

The postwar “Universal Tank” concept was derived from the 1944 A45 Infantry Support Tank concept, an attempt to create, right after the Centurion, a successor heavy tank to the Churchill. However both projects were fused as the FV200 universal tank series that was to have the mobility of a cruiser but the level of protection and firepower of a heavy tank as well as a versatile chassis for other purposes (ARV, SPG…). The heavy tank variant Fv201 (55 tonnes, 20-pounder gun) was chosen for development to respond to the Soviet IS-3. It was to be armed with a 120 mm, however the delay to create such massive gun and the turret led to the transitional F221 Caernarvon, fitted with the Centurion Mk.2 turret. Eventually, the definitive FV214 was built in 1955 in two series; and deliveries lasted until 1959.

Design

Protection

The Conqueror was the last British Heavy Tank in service. It was largely a product of ww2 thinking about tanks, and unlike first generation MBTs, put the typical emphasis on firepower and protection over mobility. They were tailored to defeat the Soviet IS-3 when the cold war was at its hottest and would have been surely up to the job (see later). The hull made of RHA was all-welded and relatively low, with a well-sloped glacis nose and cast turret design. The armor level was particularly high, with 178 mm nominal thickness front plates (7 inches), but equivalent to 250 mm (10 inches) LOS (line of sight). The lower beak was 78 mm at 60°, the rear part of the front glacis, connected to the turret ring, 21 mm at 83°, and rear engine deck 17 mm, the rear plate 51 mm (flat), the rear lower plate 31 mm at 70° and the bottom, 13 mm. The upper and lower side walls were 51 mm thick, flat, and the protective side skirts 6 mm.
Armour Scheme
Conqueror Armour scheme
The cast armor turret had a similar front thickness and even superior on the mantlet (200 mm). The front was 150-170 mm thick, the front slope was 44 mm at 78°, the roof 31 mm, the rear 31 mm, and the rounded sides walls 89 mm. The general profile of the tank stayed relatively low, slightly higher than the IS-3.

Mobility

The hull and chassis of the FV 200 series were designed for a wide variety of duties, and sturdy enough for the heaviest loads. It was composed of a typical “heavy tank” drivetrain, in two 8×2 roadwheels groups per side, for 64 roadwheels in total, resting on double pin, large track links to reduce ground pressure. Reinforced and sturdy Horstmann units instead of torsion bars assumed the suspension. The paradox was only light tanks and the heaviest in service in the UK were given these, like, until the Chieftain in the 1960s. By the 1980s, the Challenger adopted hydropneumatic units. Based on coil springs bogies, they had a relatively long course, were 100% external and easy to replace and maintain, while the torsion bars were partly internal.
At Bovington
Conqueror mk.I at Bovington
All this armor made it for an exceptionally heavy tank, at 64 tons compared to the Centurion’s 51. The only source of power available was the proven Rolls Royce Meteor, in a souped-up version of the ww2 Cromwell and Centurion 650 hp, coupled with a 5-speed Merrit-Brown Z51R Mk. F gearbox. Its top speed and range were consequently severely limited, and the stress both on the engine, transmission (only 800 hp), and suspensions took its toll, making it mechanically unreliable. Tactical mobility in addition was limited by the few bridges capable to handle it weight. However the small roadwheels resting on many bogies and wide tracks had the effect of giving similar traction and mobility performances as the Churchill, if not better. It could climb and go in some places the centurion couldn’t, despite the latter was 13 tons lighter.

Armament

The IS-3 main gun indeed was ill-designed for accurate long-range fire, fast rate of fire or was limited in its ammunition capacity due to old-fashioned two-stage rounds. On the contrary, the British Royal Ordnance L1 120 mm rifled gun was tailor-made and much more capable gun than the IS-3 at long range. In fact, all studies shown that it was capable to out-range the IS-3 by a generous margin. That, in theory, would have rendered heavy armor unnecessary, but experience showed that engagements rarely occurred in optimal distances and terrains. The secondary armament comprised two cal.30 Browning machine guns, one coaxial and the second placed on the roof, manned by the tank commander.
At Bovington
Conqueror Mk.I rotatable Tank Commander Cupola at Bovington
It should be noticed that the commander had an advanced rotating cupola, providing an equally advanced fire control system as he could align it on a target independently of the turret, to measure the range with a coincidence rangefinder. He could then direct the gunner on the laying and azimuth parameters which were mechanically indicated in the cupola. This was a very early “hunter-killer” mode allowing to rapidly engage several targets. At the same time, the Soviet TPKU-2 and TKN-3 did not use a rangefinder.
Conqueror mark 1
Conqueror Mk.I on trials in 1956

Evolution

FV214 Conqueror Mk I This first version (20 built) had three periscopes for the driver.
FV214 Conqueror Mk II This second, more produced version (160) had redesigned frontal armour plates joins but a single rotatable periscope for the driver, and a modified, improved exhaust system.
FV215: A semi-SPG design with a FV200 chassis mounting a limited traverse turret armed with a 183 mm gun. Only a wooden mockup was produced. More information can be found HERE.
Caernarvon mark II
Caernarvon mark II

The FV221 Caernarvon

Considered as a stopgap tank before the heavy turret was ready, it was nonetheless part of the FV 200 lineage. At the end, the Centurion was found better. Only the Caernarvon mobility was judged satisfactory, as its turret was far lighter and its engine at least on paper (800 hp vs 650 hp) much more capable. But in terms of speed and range, it lagged behind. They were given the Mk III 20 pounder turret of the Centurion mark II but never really hit their mark as main battle tank and after a single prototype Mark I, only a short experimental serie (21) Mark II was released.

FV219 & FV222 Conqueror ARV

This was the heavy Armoured Recovery Vehicle (ARV), still used years after the retirement of the main type. The FV219 Mk.I (8 produced) was succeeded by the Mk.II, with 20 produced.

In action

All the 180 Conqueror ever built were stationed in Germany, in the northern British sector, facing the possible Soviet onslaught. Their rôle was also to provide a long-range cover for the early, 20-pdr armed Centurions. They would have been also directed against Soviet heavy tanks units, on par with the American M103s. They stayed in service in Germany only seven years, nine given to each tank regiment, and usually grouped in three tank troops. They Participated in rare exercises (due to their poor tactical mobility). In the early 1960s, the arrival of the Centurion armed with ROF’s L7 gun made the last British heavy tank obsolete and they were retired.
Surviving vehicles could be found at the Bovington Tank Museum, and the Land Warfare Hall of the Imperial War Museum Duxford. Another is on display in France, at the Musée des Blindés, Belgium at the Royal Museum of the Army (Brussels) and Kubinka in Russia. The American Littlefield Collection also counts one. In Germany, several training target hulks could be seen at the Haltern Training area. ARVs also survived, two at the Military History Museum on the Isle of Wight, and the REME Museum of Technology.

Sources/Links about the Chieftain

The Conqueror on Wikipedia
Conqueror and various concepts on Henk of Holland

Video: Duxford Tankfest 17/06/2012

Gallery

Mark I BovingtonScammell transport ARV2

Conqueror specifications

Dimensions 38oa/25.4 x 13.1 x 10.5 ft (12 x 3.99 x 3.19 m)
Total weight, battle ready 64 tons short (128,000 lbs)
Crew 4 (Driver, commander, gunner, loader)
Propulsion Rolls-Royce Meteor M120 810 hp (604 kW) – pwr 12 hp/t
Suspension Hortsmann suspensions
Speed (road) 22 mph (35 kph)
Range 100 mi (164 km)
Armament Main : ROF L1 4.7 in (120 mm)
Sec. coaxial + roof Browning 0.3 in (7.62 mm)
Armor 7 in (180 mm) front glacis+turret (250 mm LOS)
Total production 185 in 1959.
FV 221 Caernarvon
FV 221 Caernarvon. It has to be the main battle tank of the ubiquitous FV 200 serie, but the success of the A45 Centurion made it obsolete. Only 21 were built.
FV 214 Conqueror Mark I based in West Germany in the early 1960s.
xxx
FV 214 Mark II based in West Germany.

Categories
Cold War British Other Tanks

FV4101 Charioteer

United Kingdom (1950)
Tank Destroyer – Around 442 converted total

Development

By the fall of the 1940s, British tanks were the Centurion and the Comet, both armed with the wartime 17 pdr, but the 20 pdr was about to enter service. At the same time, the Army reserve Territorial units and their armored corp branch needed a new tank. A compromise was achieved by taking some Cromwells already in service in this unit, and armed them with a 20 pdr wrapped into a new tailor-made turret. The result was called FV4101 Cromwell Heavy AT Gun or FV4101 Tank Medium (Mk.VII mod.B), Charioteer by the Royal Ordnance.

Design

Basically, the FV4101 was a Cromwell tank, with the same chassis, drivetrain, engine, transmission and mechanical parts. But Robinson and Kershaw Ltd at their works in Dukinfield (Cheshire) responsible for the conversion, chose to create a brand new turret which would be adapted to the new, much longer 20 pdr gun. This was achieved by creating a long but narrow turret (mirroring the late German experimental turrets) to offer a minimal target.
The internal space allowed nevertheless some room for the recoil, but there was no space left for a three-man crew. The gunner was placed at the left and commander at the right. In addition the turret flanks were slightly sloped but lightly armored as it was believed the range of the new gun far exceeded the gunnery range of Soviet tanks at the time. The turret was equipped also with smoke grenade launchers.

Production

The conversion was achieved in 1951-52 at Robinson and Kershaw Ltd but exact numbers are difficult to pinpoint. Factory records gave a total of only 200, while the Finnish Defence Forces sale of used equipment states some 441 vehicles were converted.
Six vehicles survived and are on display today. One at the Heeresgeschichtliches Museum in Vienna, another in Parola tank museum and standing at the main entrance of the Army Academy in Lappeenranta (both in Finland), one at Yad la-Shiryon Museum in Latrun and one at Bovington.

Operators and Active service

UK

The Army Territorial reserve armored corp used the Charioteer for a very short time. Between 1954 and 1960, many were sold to foreign armies at low prices (see after) and the British ones were in reserve by the 1960s.

Austria

The Österreichisches Bundesheer purchased 56 of these and kept them in service until the early 1960s.

Finland

The Finnish Army took delivery of 38 “Charioteer Mk.VII Mod.B” kept in service until 1979.

Jordan

The Royal Jordanian Army took delivery of 24 vehicles, given the 3rd Tanks Regiment in 1954, and later resold to Lebanon.

Lebanon

43 vehicles were obtained in the 1960s and passed on in 1976 to warring factions, like the Arab army, South Lebanese Forces, and “Tigers Militia”. All saw heavy action in and around Beyrouth until 1993 for some. Some fall into the hands of Palestinian fighters (PLO) which operated them against IDF forces during the 1978 South Lebanon conflict.

Sources/Links about the Charioteer

The FV 4101 Charioteer on Wikipedia
Surviving Charioteers (pdf doc)

FV 4101 specifications

Dimensions 28.87 x 10.17 x 8.53 ft (8.8 x 3.1 x 2.6 m)
Total weight, battle ready 29 tons (63,841 lbs)
Crew 4 (driver, commander, gunner, loader)
Propulsion Rolls Royce Meteor 12-cylinder gasoline (600 hp)
Suspension Improved Christie system
Speed (road) 32 mph (52 km/h)
Range 149 mi (240 km)
Armament Main : 83.4 mm QF-20 pounder (3.3 in)
Secondary: coaxial 7.62 mm (0.3 in) machine gun
Armor 14-64 mm (0.55-2.52 in)
Total conversions 200 to 442 in 1950-52

FV 4101 Charioteer tank destroyer
FV 4101 Charioteer tank destroyer.
Finnish Charioteer tank destroyer
Finnish Charioteer, 1960s.
Jordanian Charioteer with the late 20 pdr
Jordanian Charioteer with the late 20 pdr
Lebanese Charioteer
Lebanese Charioteer, PLO, 1985, now preserved.

Gallery

FV 4101 Charioteer tank destroyer
Various color references and liveries of the Charioteer.
FV 4101 Charioteer tank destroyerFV 4101 Charioteer tank destroyerFV 4101 Charioteer tank destroyerFV 4101 Charioteer tank destroyerFV 4101 Charioteer tank destroyerFV 4101 Charioteer tank destroyerFV 4101 Charioteer tank destroyerFV 4101 Charioteer tank destroyer

Categories
Cold War British Other Tanks

FV101 Scorpion

United Kingdom (1972)
Light Tank. Around 3,000 built total

Development

In 1966, the Army devised a new specification for a Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked) or CVR(T). In 1967, after plans were submitted by the manufacturers, Alvis was chosen to produce a 30 vehicle prototypes preseries. The latter were called P1 to P17 and delivered on schedule and budget, these were sent to be tested at home, and then abroad, in the most severe conditions, in Norway, Canada but also Abu Dhabi and Australia. After corrections by the manufacturers, the Scorpion was accepted for service in may 1970 and ordered to 275, then 313 units to Alvis Vehicles Ltd at Coventry. The first rolled off the line in early 1972. Only 1500 would equip the British army, while around 1500 more were built for the export market and were (or are still) in service with twenty-one more countries.
7th Brigade Royal Scots in the Iraki desert, operation Desert Storm, 1991
Vanguard vehicle used during the first gulf war of 1990

Design

The Scorpion is a simple vehicle apparently on the straight line of British light tank design, with the engine on the front and turret/fighting compartment on the rear. Apart from the nose which is rounded, there is a well-sloped front plate, with a beak. The sides were also slightly sloped and counted strappings and fasteners for external equipment and tooling. Short mudguards circling the upper hull, while the drivetrain was made of two front drive sprockets, two rear idlers, and six rubberized roadwheels suspended on torsion bars.
The turret was also well-sloped to a great angle and counted a single rotatable commander cupola with height prismatic blocs. The armor was limited to 12.7 mm, and in aluminum, so the overall weight was limited to just 8 tons. A special coating was applied inside to cope with a possible hit which would have made the aluminum hull prone to burn quickly. The hull was completely sealed, proven NBC (Nuclear, Chemical, Bacteriological protection) and equipped for semi-amphibious crossings, with flotation screen deployed.
FV-101 at Adlershot museum
FV-101 at Adlershot museum – Credits: Gaius Cornelius – Wikipedia
The engine was at first the Jaguar J60 4.2-litre petrol engine but a diesel was chosen later during production to increase range. The final one was the Cummins BTA 5.9-litre capable of 190 hp, or a Perkins equivalent. Trials showed that top speed was 50 mph (80 km/h), and it was up to accelerations from one to 30 mph (49 km/h) in just 16 sec. In water, this was reduced to 3.6 mph (5.8 km/h). The engine was served by a David Brown TN15 transmission. The armament comprised the main ROF (Royal Ordnance Factory) 76mm L23A1 gun, tailored for the Scorpion in 1973, which could be fed with various ammunition, ranging from HE to various AP rounds.
It had a 6 rounds per minute rate of fire and an effective range of 2,200 m (2,400 yds). This was completed by a Coaxial 7.62 mm L43A1 machine gun, fed by 3000 cartridges, including tracers. Other equipment included a wireless radio, image intensification sights for the gunner and driver and IF vision. Internal commodities comprised a commander’s commode under his seat, a water tank and a boiling vessel.

Evolution: The Scorpion 90

Most of the changes occurred in the engine, and external fittings. There were no marks, and export models were very close or identical to the original design. The Irish-based company IED also proposed to modernize the Scorpion fleet using the more powerful Steyr M16 TCA HD engine, and the gun was upgraded to a 90 mm, hence the name, Alvis Scorpion 90. The long-barrelled Cockerill Mk3 M-A1 90mm version was intended first to feed the export market and keep Alvis lines running after the British orders have been delivered.

Sister vehicles

The Scorpion was close or served as a common platform for a long line of armored vehicles. Its sister CRV(T) was the FV107 Scimitar (1971), nearly identical but equipped with a high velocity 30 mm L21 RARDEN cannon firing sabot, HE, and APSE rounds. There were also derivatives like the FV106 Samson light ARV (1977), the FV102 Striker (1976), light tank hunter firing Swingfire wire-guided missiles, the FV103 Spartan APC (1978), the FV104 Samaritan ambulance, and the FV105 Sultan mobile HQ.
Extra turrets from discarded Fox reconnaissance vehicles were later fitted to the Sabre CRV(T) reconnaissance vehicle, making a sub-variant in 1995. However, it was not deemed successful and retired from service in 2004. The Alvis Stormer AT version, carrying Starstreak High Velocity Missile system was also tested, as well as a minelaying version. The not well-known variant Salamander is used by the OPFOR in Canada as a dummy T-80 for training today.

Operators

In Europe, the major operators outside the UK and Ireland (19) were Belgium, which ordered 700 units plus a demonstrator, now retired, and Spain. (An unknown number were used by the Spanish Marines until 2009). In South America, users were Bolivia (20), Chile (30, by the Marines), Honduras (19), and Venezuela (78). In the middle east, Iran (130, plus a local modernized version Scorpion 90 called the Tosan, equipped with the Toophan ATGW system), Jordan (80), Oman (120), and the UAE (76).
Belgian Scorpion
Ex-Belgian stripped-off Alvis Scorpion at the Army Museum in Brussels – credits : Megapixie, wikipedia
In Africa, Botswana (60), Nigeria (80), Tanzania (40), and Togo (12). In Asia, operators were Brunei (16), Indonesia (100), Malaysia (26), The Philippines (65), and Thailand (154). Most of these vehicles were the late Scorpion 90 variant.

In action

The first to receive the Scorpion were the Blues and Royals Regiment of the Household Cavalry in 1973. This vehicle then gradually equipped all British reconnaissance units. The special RAF Regiment received also 184 Scorpions in 1981. B Squadron, Blues and Royals was involved in the operations during the Falkland wars in 1982. In 1990, the 1st Queen’s Dragoon Guards and the 1 Squadron RAF Regiment, both attached to the 1st British Armoured Division participated in the first gulf war. Iranian Scorpions were supposedly engaged during the Iran-Irak war of the 1980s, but few details are known.

Sources/Links about the FV 101 Scorpion

The Scorpion on Wikipedia
The Scorpion 2 on Jedsite

FV-101 specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 15’7″ x 7’3″ x 6’9″ ft.in
(4.79m x 2.23m x 2.10m)
Total weight, battle ready 8.07 tons (17 800 ibs)
Crew 3 (Driver, commander, gunner)
Propulsion Cummins BTA 5.9-litre (diesel) 190 hp (140 kW) – pwr 22,9 hp/t
Suspension Independant torsion bars
Speed (road) 45 mph (72,5 kph)
Range 470 mi (756 km)
Armament Main : ROF 76mm L23A1
Sec. coaxial 7.62mm GPMG
Armor 12.7 mm front and sides (0.5 in)
Total production 3,000 in 1972-85.


Scorpion

Alvis Scorpion of the British Army with the typical OTAN camouflage, 1975.
Scorpion
Alvis CRV(T), without the turret storage.
Blues and Royal, B sqdn, Falklands 1982
Alvis Scorpion, Blues and Royal regiment, B squadron of the Household cavalry, Falklands 1982.
Urban camouflage, 1980s
Alvis Scorpion featuring an urban camouflage, 1980s.
7th Brigade Royal Scots, Irak 1991
7th Brigade Royal Scots, Operation Desert Storm, Irak, feb. 1991.
FV 101 Scorpion at Adlershot
FV101 now preserved at Adlershot.
NZ Scoprion
A New Zealand FV 101.
Scorpion 90
The standard export Scorpion 90, with the typical four-tone “jungle camo” used by some countries.

Gallery


FV 102 Striker, a derivative of the FV-101. Camp New Jersey, Kuwait, during Operation ENDURING FREEDOM – credits wikipedia, public domain
Alvis Spartan
Alvis Spartan FV-103, IFOR, 22nd Engineer Regiment and 1st The Queen\’s Dragoon Guards convoy, Split, Croatia 1996. – credits : Hohum, wikipedia, public domain