Kingdom of Spain (1997-Present)
Combat Engineer Vehicle – 38 Converted
Throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s, the Fuerzas Armadas Españolas (Eng: Spanish Armed Forces) were looking for a new Combat Engineering Vehicle (C.E.V.) to support the troops and tank units of the Ejército de Tierra (Eng: Spanish Army). CEVs can trace their heritage back to the British AVRE (Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers) that landed on the invasion beaches on D-Day. They are designed to be operated by battlefield engineers and are used to construct fortifications, clear obstructions, and assist ground troops as well as armored vehicles.
Having received a large number of surplus vehicles from American stocks in Europe, the Spanish Army decided to base this new CEV on the M60A1 tank. The conversion was extensive and consisted of, among other things, replacing the main gun with an excavator arm and the installation of a large dozer blade.
In all, 38 M60A1s were converted into what was designated the CZ-10/25E Alacrán. Alacrán means “scorpion” in Spanish and comes from the Arab word ‘al’aqráb’. With a prototype appearing in 1995, the CEV entered service with the Spanish Army in 1997.
M60s in Spain
The M60A1 was the second version of the 105 mm Gun Tank M60. The A1 was produced from 1962 to 1980 and was armed with the same M68 105 mm Gun, and powered by the same 750 hp Continental AVDS-1790-2 V12, air-cooled twin-turbo diesel engine. It had improved armor over the initial model, with 109 mm to 250 mm (4.29 – 10 in) of protection. It had the same top speed of 48 km/h (30 mph) and rolled on the same suspension, which consisted of 6 road wheels attached to a torsion bar suspension, 3 return rollers, a forward idler, and drive sprocket at the rear. The idler wheel was of the compensating type, meaning it was attached to the closest roadwheel by an actuating arm. When the roadwheel reacts to terrain the idler is pushed out or pulled in, keeping constant track tension.
Spain had used the M60 AVLB (Armored Vehicle-Launched Bridge) since as far back as 1967 and the M88A1 Armoured Recovery Vehicle since 1982, but the new international context in the twilight years of the Cold War saw Spain receive the main variant of the famous US tank. The Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) negotiated in 1988 aimed to establish comprehensive limits on key categories of conventional military equipment in Europe. To reduce their tank numbers, the US armed forces in Europe would transfer older tanks and other materiel to their NATO allies. Spain, according to the CFE treaty signed in Paris in November 1990, was scheduled to receive 170 M60A1 RISE and RISE Passive and 270 M60A3 TTS. However, by the time Spain accepted the transfer in June 1991, the numbers had risen to 272 M60A1 and 260 M60A3.
With the effective end of the Cold War following the dissolution of the USSR, the Spanish Army reorganized its structure in 1991. They considered that such high numbers of outdated tanks were not needed, and decided to renounce their rights to 110 M60A1.
In the end, Spain received 48 M60A1 RISE, 2 M60A1 RISE Passive and 260 M60A3 TTS in five batches between September 1992 and March 1993. As they had done in the US Army, they replaced the M47 and M48 in the Spanish Army. However, they would have a very short career, being partly replaced by the Leopard 2A4 before the end of the Millenium and then completely by the Leopard 2E in the early 2000s. Sixteen M60A3 TTS were destined to the Infantería de Marina [Eng. Spanish Marine Infantry] where, as of 2019, they are still serviceable, although they are scheduled to be replaced.
Since the early 80s, the Jefatura de Ingenieros del Ejército [Eng. the Headquarters of the Army Engineers] had seen the need to equip the Engineers Branch of the army with a modern engineering vehicle.
In 1981, Peugeot Talbot España was requested to design two vehicles based on the M47 Patton II, one for engineering and one for recovery. The engineering vehicle, the M-47E2I, had the turret removed and was equipped with a bulldozer blade, a hydraulic crane, and a 3-meter long hydraulic post hole digger. Only one prototype was built and was put in service in 1984. In 1986, new requirements were set for an engineering vehicle, or ‘carro de zapadores’ [Eng. sapper tank], without a crane or post hole digger, but with a backhoe, or excavator arm. Peugeot Talbot España again designed a vehicle for this role, but with the expected arrival of the M60, there was no need to modify such an old vehicle when a newer one was available.
The initial requirements from the Army for the zapador vehicle based on the M60 were less complex than the ones Peugeot Talbot had presented based on the M47 in 1988. The tank’s turret would be replaced by a fixed rectangular structure that would maintain the commander’s cupola from the M60. At the front, there was a winch mounted, and situated on the right would be the excavator arm which could turn 180º. After some further modifications, the final requirements were set by the Estado Mayor del Ejército [Eng. General Staff of the Army] in 1994. These requirements were published by the Ministerio de Defensa [Eng. Ministry of Defense] who set a tender for the delivery of a prototype of a vehicle fitting those requirements with an M60A1 facilitated by the Army before December 31st 1995.
Only two companies showed interest in this project: Peugeot Talbot España and Grupo Auxiliar Metalúrgico. The latter company was unable to complete the prototype (M-60VZ) before the cut-off date and was thus not considered. In the hope of gaining enough time to finish their prototype, Grupo Auxiliar Metalúrgico sued the Ministry of Defense, which only delayed the whole process.
The prototype by Peugeot Talbot España was designated as the PTE CZ-10/30E and was quite different from their previous designs and army requirements. The vehicle was trialed for a few months with different equipment before a series of modifications and improvements were sent to Peugeot Talbot by the Estado Mayor. Once these were satisfactorily met, Lieutenant General José Faura Martín, on behalf of the Estado Mayor, made a formal request to the Ministerio de Defensa for the continuation of the project. On November 29th, 1996, the Spanish Government officially authorized the serial production of the now designated ‘Carro de Zapadores M-60A1 CZ.10/25E’. The abbreviation in the vehicle’s name is a description of what it is. ‘CZ’ stands for Carro de Zapadores [Eng. sapper tank], ‘10’ for maximum hoist capacity in tonnes, ‘25’ for maximum towing capacity in tonnes, and ‘E’ for ‘España’ or ‘español’ [Eng. Spain or Spanish]. The nickname ‘Alacrán’ was given to the vehicle by Peugeot Talbot España due to its similarity to a scorpion. Twelve days later, the contract was signed with Peugeot Talbot España worth 3,441 million pesetas (Ptas.) (around $22.5 million modern-day) for the transformation and delivery of 38 of these vehicles in three batches:
- 3 in 1997
- 15 in 1998
- 20 in 1999
Design and Equipment
As CEV conversions of existing gun tanks go, the Alacrán is one of the less extensive examples. Much of the vehicle remains identical to the base vehicle, the only main exceptions being that the 105 mm gun has been replaced by a large excavator arm and a bulldozer blade has been installed on the bow. The crew of the vehicle was reduced to three, consisting of the commander and operator in the turret, and the driver in the hull. The commander of the vehicle is responsible for directing the use of the excavator arm, providing navigation, and communications. The commander is also responsible for manning the Alacrán’s single armament, a .50 cal. (12.7 mm) M85 heavy machine gun. This was housed in the M19 Commander’s Cupola, a fully rotating ‘mini-turret’ held over from the M60. The operator is responsible for the operation of the excavator arm and winch.
The excavator arm that replaced the gun was fixed directly into the space once occupied by the mantlet. It is controlled by the ‘operator’, positioned at the left front of the turret. Thanks to the fully rotating turret, the arm could reach around the entirety of the vehicle without the need for the vehicle to move. The arm was made by Case Poclain, an American company that specializes in the construction of excavators. It has a reach of 7.2 meters (23.6 ft) and can dig to a maximum depth of 2.65 meters (8.6 ft).
Because of its universal coupling, other tools can be attached to the end of the arm, among which are:
- H-7XA NPK Pneumatic Jack-Hammer: used to break through concrete or rock. For example, if a road was blocked by boulders, the jackhammer could break them up so the Alacrán could push through the smaller debris with its bulldozer blade.
- Verachert VTC-30 Hydraulic Jaws: widely known as ‘Demolition Jaws’, this piece of hardware can chew through anything, be it metal or concrete. These would be used to break down blockades, tear through stubborn emplacements, and destroy railway tracks.
- Verachert Hydraulic Claws: these claws provided the vehicle some dexterity, allowing it to grasp and clear logs or large chunks of debris.
It is unclear as to what effect the stresses and strains of using the excavator arm would place on the turret and turret ring of the vehicle. After all, the turret was designed to stand up to the force of a firing 105 mm gun, or the impact of an incoming shell. The turret’s weight was balanced for the ring to allow smooth rotation. The turret and ring were not designed to swing a long, heavy arm and dig into the ground and pull up buckets full of debris, which would have placed great lateral stresses on the turret ring. Also, to what degree can the turret ring handle the 25 tonne pulling power of the winch mounted on the turret is unknown.
When use of the excavator arm is not required, the turret is traversed to the rear. The bucket is detached and placed in a cradle on the left-rear fender. The arm would then be folded low over the engine deck, with the universal joint resting at the level of tow pintle at the base of the radiator grills.
Mounted on the bow of the Alacrán is a hydraulically activated bulldozer blade. The blade is 4 m (13.1 ft) wide and 80 cm (2.6 feet) high. The depth of the blade is 30 cm (11 in). It has the capacity to push 35 tonnes. On CEVs, bulldozer blades are used for multiple tasks, such as carving out hull-down positions for gun tanks, digging gun emplacements (the Alacrán has the capacity to dig 30 cm at a time), route denial (creating and filling anti-tank ditches), and improving bridge approaches. It can also be used aggressively to push barricades or debris from the path of attacking allies. On the Alacrán, the blade also acts as a stabilizer when the excavator arm or winch are in use by being planted into the ground, lifting the front section of the tank off the ground.
The driver of the vehicle is responsible for the bulldozer blade, all controls for it are located in his position. Additionally, a three-tooth dethatcher can be added on the bottom of the dozer blade to abrade grounds from organic matter. The bulldozer blade can also be exchanged for mine-clearing devices.
On the rear of the Alacrán’s turret, where the ammunition stowage once was, a small hydraulic winch was added. To incorporate this, the stowage basket on the bustle was cut in half, and the winch mounted directly to the armor in between the two sections. This winch has a raw capacity of 25 tonnes (24.6 tons), however, this can be increased to 50 tonnes with the use of pulley blocks. These are stored around the exterior of the vehicle, the largest being stowed on the left turret cheek. The steel cable is 80 m long and 26 mm wide and can be actioned automatically.
The winch’s primary role is to recover other vehicles. As the turret spends most of its time traversed to the rear, this allows the winch to be used over the front of the CEV. In turn, this allows the Alacran to anchor itself with the bulldozer blade when pulling a heavy object such as a tank.
There is also an auxiliary pulley or cable which is 10 m long and has a maximum pulling capacity of 15 tonnes (16.5 tons).
As an engineering vehicle, the Alacrán also has the role of clearing and marking space through a minefield or other obstacles.
To clear a minefield, the vehicle can use a Rampta Anti Magnetic Mine Activation Device (AMMAD) mine plow instead of the bulldozer blade. The system consists of a strong steel frame with two parallel plows with five plowshares each. Each plow can be elevated and controlled independently. Between the plows, there is a roller that magnetically deactivates mines 2 to 5 m in front of the vehicle.
Once mines are cleared by the Alacrán or another vehicle, the Alacrán can also mark the path cleared which allows troops and other vehicles to safely cross. The Alacrán incorporates a IMI/Rampta CLAMS SP-06133 system for placing ranging rods. Situated at the back of the tank and actuated automatically by a 24-volt electric drive, it has a total capacity of 150 rods, which consist of either flags for day use or luminous tubes for night use, which are placed at a distance of either 6, 12, 18, 24, 36, or 48 m. This same system is used on the German Keiler mine-flail.
Inside the Alacrán is a GPS (Global Positioning System) which allows the crew to accurately determine where known minefields are placed not only for itself but it can also communicate to other units where one is and where a path has been cleared through one.
The interior was mostly left unchanged, however, some new components for the engineering equipment had to be added. In the driver’s compartment, the only additions were the mechanisms for controlling the bulldozer blade.
Beneath the turret, the hydraulic system producing 70.1 kW was placed, through which a transfer case transfers power to the excavator arm on the one hand, and the winch on the other. The system consists of a variable flow axial piston pump which powered all systems except for the bulldozer blade and the turret’s rotation, a fixed flow axial piston pump for the turret’s rotation and a third pump for the driving mechanisms. There is also an auxiliary hydraulic system for the bulldozer blade which can also serve as an emergency pump powered by a 24 volts electric engine to start any of the hydraulic systems, albeit at a reduced speed.
As other Spanish vehicles, the Alacrán is equipped with a Thales PR4G model 2 tactical radio phone, an external phone and intercom for all three crew members.
Being an engineering vehicle, the Alacrán is not intended to do any actual fighting, but it is always a good precaution to mount equipment for defensive capabilities.
The main form of defense is the .50 M85 machine gun (12.7 mm) which was retained from the original M60. 900 rounds are carried. Inside, eight handgrenades, a disposable 90 mm Instalaza C-90 rocket-propelled grenade launcher and the crew’s assault rifles, presumably the Heckler & Koch G36, are carried.
For passive defense, on each side of the turret there is a set of four smoke grenade launchers and a smoke generator. Each of the crewmembers has a NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) suit.
The expected timetable for deliveries of the Alacrán was not met, as by February 2nd 1999, only nine vehicles had been delivered for inspection by the Inspección de Ingenieros [Eng. Engineers Inspection]. The following engineer and sapper units were equipped with the vehicle as of 2003:
- Batallón de Zapadores X, Brigada “Guzmán el Bueno” X based outside Córdoba
- Batallón de Zapadores XI, Brigada “Extremadura” XI based in Badajoz
- Batallón de Zapadores XII, Brigada “Guadarrama” XII based in Madrid
- Batallón de Zapadores XXII, Brigada de Caballería “Castillejos” II based in Zaragoza. Now defunct, its units have become part of the División “Castillejos”
- Regimiento de Ingenieros n.º 1, Mando de Ingenieros based near Burgos
- Regimiento de Ingenieros n.º 7 based in Ceuta
- Regimiento de Ingenieros n.º 8 based in Melilla
- Academia de Ingenieros based in Hoyo de Manzanares, north of Madrid
The Alacrán has not been deployed to Bosnia, Lebanon, Afghanistan, or Iraq, as these are peacekeeping missions in which Spain has not sent heavy armor. As such, the most action the Alacrán has seen has been in training missions and army exercises.
In the summer of 2018, Integración Tecnológica Empresarial (ITE) won a bid put forward by the Ejército de Tierra for a 3 year project worth almost €5 million for the extensive maintenance of several of its engineering vehicles, including the Alacrán. The project is due to finish in 2020.
However, despite these efforts, the Ejército de Tierra is looking to replace the Alacrán and other engineering vehicles with a common platform based on the ASCOD and developed by General Dynamic European Land Systems and Santa Bárbara Sistemas known as VCZAP Castor. Five vehicles are expected to be delivered to the Ejército in May 2020. An earlier plan to replace the vehicle with the AEV3 Kodiak was abandoned because of budget constraints.
One vehicle is kept as a static display at the Museo de los Medios Acorazados (MUMA) at El Goloso military base, just outside of Madrid.
The Alacrán has proven to be yet another ingenious Spanish-based modification to complement the less famed but equally important role of engineering vehicles. Whilst crude in appearance, it has satisfactorily fulfilled its intended role. However, the base of the vehicle, the M60 tank, is quite old technology, so the need for a more modern basis has become apparent.
An article by Gareth Lynn Montes & Mark Nash.
The CZ-10/25E Alacrán, illustration by Ardhya Anargha, funded by our Patreon campaign.
|Dimensions (L-W-H)||6.94m (without excavator arm) x 3.63m x 3.27m (22’8″ x 11’9″ x 10’7″)|
|Total weight, battle-ready||Aprx. 47.7 tonnes (52.6 tons)|
|Crew||3 (commander, operator, driver)|
|Propulsion||Continental AVDS-1790-2 V12, AC TT diesel, 750 bhp (560 kW), 15.08 bhp/t|
|Transmission||General Motors, CD SD 2 fw/1 rv ranges|
|Maximum speed||30 mph (48 km/h) on road|
|Suspensions||Torsion bars suspensions, shock absorbers|
|Range (fuel)||300 miles/500 km (1457 liters)|
|Armament||.50 Cal. (12.7 mm) M85 Heavy Machine Gun|
|Equipment||Case Poclain Excavator Arm
H-7XA NPK Pneumatic Jack-Hammer
Verachert VTC-30 Hydraulic Jaws
Verachert Hydraulic Claws
35 tonne capacity dozer blade
25 tonne capacity winch
IMI/Rampta CLAMS SP-06133 lane marker system
|Armor||RHA max. 6.125 in (155 mm)|
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José Mª Navarro García, “El nuevo Vehículo de Combate de Zapadores del Ejército de Tierra”, Revista Defensa No. 470, June 2017
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José Mª Navarro García, Integración Tecnológica Empresarial se encargará del mantenimiento de los vehículos de ingenieros del Ejército de Tierra (22 August 2018) [accessed 10/02/20]