Origin: UK.

Type: MBT.

Crew: 4.

Armament: One 120mm L11 series gun; one 7·62mm machine-gun coaxial with main armament, one 7·62mm machine-gun in commander’s cupola; one·5in ranging machine-gun; 6 smoke dischargers on each side of turret.

Dimensions: Length (gun forward) 35·42ft (10·795m); length (hull) 24·66ft (7·518m); width overall (including searchlight) 11·99ft (3·657m); height overall 9·5ft (2·895m).

Weight: 121,250lb (55,000kg).

Engine: Leyland L.60 No 4 Mk 8A 12-cylinder multi-fuel engine developing 750bhp at 2,100rpm.

Performance: Road speed 30mph (48km/h); road range 280 miles (450km); vertical obstacle 3ft (0·914m); trench 10·33ft (3·149m); gradient 60 per cent.


Development: In the 1950s the British Army issued a requirement for a new tank to replace the Centurion tank then in service. The army required a tank with improved firepower, armour and mobility. The Chieftain was designed by the Fighting Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (now the Military Vehicles and Engineering Establishment), and the first prototype was completed in 1959


Blow: British Army Chieftains wade ashore from a tank landing craft. This 1950s design is now being at least partially replaced by the Challenger.



       The Chieftain (FV4201) was preceded by a tank known as the FV4202, however. This was designed by Leyland; and two of them were built and used to test a number of features later adopted for the Chieftain. The FV4202 used some Centurion automotive components. The chieftain prototype was followed by a further six prototype in 1961-2, and after more development work the Chieftain was accepted for army use in 1963. The Chieftain finally entered service with the British army only in 1967 as there were problems with the engine, transmission and suspension.

       Total production for the British Army amounted to some 900 tanks. In 1971 the Iranian Army placed an order for 700 Chieftains, this order being followed by a further order for a new model called the Shir Iran. In 1976 Kuwait placed an order for about 130 Chieftains.

       The Chieftain has a hull front of cast construction, with the rest of the hull of welded construction, and the turret is of all cast construction. The driver is seated in the front of the hull in the semi-reclined position, a feature which has enabled the overall height of the hull to be kept to a minimum. The commander and gunner are on the right of the turret, with the loader on the left. The commander’s cupola can be traversed independently of the main turret by hand. The engine and transmission are at the rear of the hull. Suspension is of the Horstmann type, and consists of six road wheels, with the idler at the front and the drive sprocket at the rear, and there are three track-return rollers.

       The main armament consists of a 120mm gun with an elevation of $20° and a depression of - 10°, traverse being 360°. A GEC-Marconi stabilization system is fitted, enabling the gun to be fitted while the tank is moving across country with a good chance of a first-round hit. A 7·62mm machine-gun is mounted coaxially with the main armament and there is a similar weapon in the commander’s cupola, aimed and fired from within the cupola. When originally introduced, the gunner ranging machine gun, but this has now been removed from British Chieftains and the gunner now uses the Barr and Stroud laser rangefinder to obtain correct range to the target. A 6-barrelled smoke discharger is mounted on each side of the turret. Some 64 rounds of 120mm and 6,000 rounds of 7·62mm ammunition are carried (Chieftain Mk5 only).

       The 120mm gun fires a variety of ammunition, of the separate-loading type, including High-Explosive Squash Head (HESH), Armour Piercing Discarding Sabot (APDS), Smoke, Canister and Practice. The separate-loading ammunition (separate projectile and charge) makes the job of loader a lot easier, and also enables the projectiles and charges to be stowed separately, which is considerably safer. When the HESH round hits the target, it is compressed on to the armour, so that, when the charge explodes, shock waves cause the inner surface of the armour to fracture and break up, pieces of the armour then flaking off and flying round the fighting compartment. The APDS round consists of a sub-calibre projectile with a sabot (a light, section “sleeve” that fits round the projectile and fills the bore of the gun) around it: when the round leaves the barrel of the gun, the sabot splits up and falls off, the projectile then traveling at a very high velocity until it strikes the target and pushes its way through the armour.

       The Chieftain is fitted with a full range of night-vision equipment including an infra-red searchlight, mounted on the left side of the turret. An NBC pack is fitted in the rear of the turret. This takes in contaminated air, which is then passed through filters before it enters the fighting compartment as clean air.

       The Chieftain can ford streams to a depth of 3·5ft (1·066m) without preparation. Deep fording kits have been developed but are not standard issue. The tank can be fitted with an hydraulically operated dozer blade if required. There are two special variants of the Chieftain, the FV4204 Armoured Recovery Vehicle and the FV4205 Bridgelayer. The latter was the first model to enter service and is built at the Royal Ordnance Factory at Leeds. This has a crew of three and weights just over 53 tons (53,851kg). Two types of bridge can be fitted: the No 8 bridge to span ditches up to 74·79ft (22·8m) in width, and the No 9 bridge to span gaps of up to 40ft (12·2m). The bridgelayer takes three to five minutes to lay the bridge and 10 minutes to recover it. The Chieftain ARV has now replaced the Centurion ARV. The vehicle has a crew of four and a combat weight of 52 tons (52,835kg) and the other with a capacity of 3 tons (3,048kg). When the spade at the front of the vehicle is lowered, the main winch has a maximum capacity of 90 tons (91,445kg). Armament consists of a cupola-mounted 7·62mm machine-gun and smoke dischargers.


Above: A British Army Chieftain shows its paces in a mobility demonstration on rough ground


Below: A Chieftain with dozer blade installed kicks up the dust; top speed is 30mph (48km/h).


       In 1974 Iran ordered 125 Shir 1s and 1,225 Shir 2s. The Shir 1, which was already in production at the time of the collapse of the Shah’s regime, is basically the Chieftain Mk5/5(P) with a new powerpack consisting of a Rolls-Royce CV12 TCA 12 cylinder 1200hp diesel, David Brown TN37 transmission, and a Airscrew Howden cooling system. The Shir 2 has the same powerpack as the Shir 1 but in addition has Chobham armour. By the late 1978 six Shir 2s had been built.

       In 1979 Jordan announced an order for 278 tanks to be delivered in the early 1980s. These are designated Khalid, and are based on late production standard Chieftain, but with substantial changes to the fire control and automotive systems.

       All current Chieftains and Khalids will be able to fire the new Armour Piercing Fin Stabilized Discarding Sabot (APFSDS) round, which has just entered production. A new high pressure 120mm gun is also under development.

       The Chieftain design has proved to be controversial, giving rise to many arguments. However, the main draw-back in service has been the poor engine performance; that apart, its major users have been very satisfied, in particular those who use it in battle.


Below: Direct hit by a Chieftain of the 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards during a night exercise.



Leopard 1


Origin: Federal Republic of Germany.

Type: MBT.

Crew: 4.

Armament: One 105mm gun; one 7·62mm machine-gun coaxial with main armament; one 7·62mm machine-gun on roof; 4 smoke dischargers on each side of the turret.

Dimensions: Length (including main armament) 31·3ft (9·543m); length (hull) 23·26ft (7·09m); width 10·66ft (3·25m); height 9·1ft (2·764m).

Combat weight: 93,474lb (42,400kg).

Engine: MTU MB 838 Ca.M500 10-cylinder multi-fuel engine developing 830hp at 2,200rpm.

Performance: Road speed 40mph (65km/h); range 373 miles (600km); vertical obstacle 3·77ft (1·15m); trench 9·84ft (3m); gradient 60 per cent.


Development: Without doubt, the Leopard 1 MBT built by Germany has been one of the most successful tanks to be developed since World War II. In the 1950s it was hoped that Germany and France would produced a common tank, but like so many programmes of this type nothing came of it. Prototypes of a new German tank were built by two German consortiums, known as Group A and Group B. At an early stage, however, it was decided to drop the Group B series and continue only with that of group A. In 1963 it was decided to place this tank in production and the production contract was awarded to Krauss-Maffel of Munich, and the first production Leopard 1 MBT was completed in September 1965.

        The Leopard 1 tank has a crew of four with the driver in the front of the hull on the right and the other three crew members in the turret. The engine and transmission are at the rear of the hull: the complete engine can be taken out in well under 30 minutes, which is a great advantage in battle conditions.

       The main armament is the 105mm L7 series gun manufactured at the Royal Ordnance Factory in Nottingham, England. A 7·62mm MG3 machine-gun is mounted coaxially with the main armament and there is a similar machine-gun on the roof of the tank for anti-aircraft defence. Four smoke dischargers are mounted each side of the turret. Sixty rounds of 105mm and 5,500 rounds of machine-gun ammunition are carried. Standard equipment on the Leopard includes night-vision equipment, an NBC system and a crew heater. The vehicle can ford to a maximum depth of 7·38ft (2·25m) without preparation or 13·12ft (4m) with the aid of a schnorkel.

       Since the Leopard entered service it has been constantly updated and the most recent modifications include a stabilization system for the main armament, thermal sleeve for the gun barrel, new tracks and passive rather than infra-red vision equipment for the driver and commander. Final production model for the German Army was the Leopard 1A4, which has a new all-welded turret of space armour and integrated fire control system.

       The Leopard chassis has been the basis for a whole family of variants sharing many common components, some of them (eg the Gepard) being manufactured by Krauss-Maffel and others by the MaK company of Kiel. These variants include the Armoured Recovery Vehicle (ARV), the Armoured Engineer Vehicle (AEV), bridgelayer (Biber) and the Gepard anti-aircraft weapon system.

       The production line for Leopard 1 was reopened recently to meet Greek and Turkish orders. When these are met, the deliveries of the MBT version will have been: Australia (90), Belgium (334), Canada (114), Denmark (120), West Germany (2,437), Greece (106), Italy (920), Netherlands (468), Norway (78), and Turkey (77). This has been a major success by any standard.


Above: Top German Army Leopard 1 with camouflage turret during annual Reforger exercises.


Above: Belgian Leopard 1A3s on the range; the badge indicates a Canadian Army competition.


Above: Leopard 1A4 at speed. Mobility has always been the outstanding feature of this tank.



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