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FV4030/2 / Shir 1 / Khalid MBT

The Khalid was essentially an intermediate hybrid of the FV4030/1 Chieftain and FV4030/3 Challenger 1 - The Shir 1 had the hull of a late-model Chieftain and a new engine and powertrain used on the Challenger. The Royal Jordanian Army adopted the FV4030/2 as the Khalid MBT with deliveries beginning in 1981. The Khalid Main Battle Tank was born out of the aborted "Shir 1" ("Leo") tank built by the British to an Iranian Army requirement. In December 1974, Iran ordered 125 Shir 1 (FV4030/2) and 1,225 Shir 2 (FV4030/3) MBTs. The Shir 1 / Khalid is essentially a late production Chieftain with major changes to the fire-control system and powerpack; the latter is the same as Challenger 1 MBT used by the British Army.

The Shir 1 was developed as the interim design preceeding the all-new "Shir 2" MBT combat system (which eventually became the Challenger 1 MBT). Development of the Shir 1 began in 1974, was based on the Chieftain MBT, the standard main battle tank of the British Army at the time. Iran was already the largest foreign operator of the Chieftain, with over 700 in inventory. Iran's Shir tank was designed for conditions in that country.

In 1971, Iran placed an order with Royal Ordnance (RO) of the UK for 707 Chieftains of which 73 were Mk. 3/3(P) (The P standing for Persia) and the remainer Mk. 5/5(P) with a number of armored recovery vehicles (ARV) and armoured vehicle-launched bridges (AVLB) based on the Chieftain MBT chassis, all of which were delivered by early 1978. Most of these were built by RO Leeds, subsequently taken over by Vickers Defence Systems, which built all the ARVs. Iran also took delivery of 187 improved Chieftains called "Shir Iran 1" (the FV4030/1 development of the Chieftain Mk 5 used by the British Army) which carried more fuel, had improved mine protection and additional shock absorbers as well as electronic control of the David Brown Defence Equipment TN12 transmission, for it's operational needs. In all, 187 of the FV4030/1, were supplied. A further order for 125 Shir Iran 1 (FV4030/2s), 1225 Shir Iran 2 (FV4030/3s) MBTs, and 71 armoured recovery vehicles (ARV) followed in 1974-5 for delivery from 1980.

Three prototypes of the Shir 1 were ready in 1977, at the Royal Ordnance Factory Leeds (since taken over by Vickers Defence Systems) with first production tanks scheduled for delivery in 1980. At least 125 Shir 1 models were on order and 1,225 Shir 2 tanks were slated for procurement by Iran. By February 1979 production of the Shir Iran tank was about to start in particular at the Royal Ordnance Factory, Leeds.

But the Islamic Revolution of 1979 in Iran killed the Shir 1/Shir 2 programs. The Iranian Government informed the British ambassador on 06 February 1979 that the supply of Shir tanks to Iran and action on certain other defence contracts should be terminated and discontinued. These contracts were therefore brought to an end and the Iranians were informed accordingly. The contracts with Iran involved progress payments. There can be no question of the UK not having to account for the moneys received and the tanks already supplied. It was not a question of a large number of tanks which had been paid for.

The total value of the Iranian contract was about 1,250 million [current pounds]. A number of Chieftain tanks had already been delivered to Iran under this contract, and the Government began considering how to dispose of a second batch of about 100 tanks of the improved Shir I. There was also on hand material for the first batch of more advanced Shir 2 tanks.

The Iranian order involved the supply of over 1,200 Shir tanks. When the Iranians repudiated their contract with us in February of this year it was necessary for us to bring the contracts with the Royal Ordnance Factory, Leeds, and its subcontractors to an end. ROF, Leeds, were then left with a small number of partly completed tanks and materials for others, which together amounted to nothing like the full order, which would have taken several years to complete.

Various options were considered for the disposal of these tanks, including the possibility of finding other customers. There was no question of the Shir I being used for the British Army. Critics argued that the Shir tanks, built in Leeds, were far too heavy for German bridges and that there was a problem of rail gauges as well. Therefore, they argued that there could be no question of taking these tanks off the shelf to fulfil the commitment that could be fulfilled by the building of Chieftain tanks at Elswick, in Newcastle. If a modified Shir Iran tank were possible it might be worth looking at, but it is nearer the truth to say that 77 Chieftains would have cost 100 million plus.

The Shir tanks were designed with Iranian conditions in mind, and they were not an alternative to MBT80, which will be a tank of later design intended for the European battlefield. Unless the Army was to re-equip totally with a new tank one designed for different circumstances from those in Germany, where we need to deploy our own tank force it was seen as better to have the new MBT-80 which the UK was then planning, rather than to try to bring the Shir tanks in at an earlier stage.

Thank to last-minute negotiations by British authorities, the Royal Jordanian Army ordered a new main battle tank based on the qualities of the Shir 1, which were known under the local designation "Khalid" ("Sword"). Orders for 274 worth 266 million were placed in November 1979 with deliveries agreed to begin in 1981. The Khalid MBT was finished with a Perkins Engines Condor V12 diesel engine as well as several other requested internal changes to suit Jordanian needs. Othewise, the Khalid was faithful to the original Chieftain design apart from the raised engine compartment required of the new powerplant, as well as the updated fire control system akin to that as used on the Challenger 1.

The Shir II tanks being designed for Iran were fitted with Chobham armour. To fit replacement armor to the Chieftains in service with the British Army would have required the provision of a complete new shell and turret. This would be extremely expensive and not cost-effective. Chieftain is one of the best tanks in the world, but it had been in service now for over 10 years and the UK therefore introducing a major series of improvements to ensure that it remained fully effective throughout the rest of its life. Nevertheless, the planned to begin replacing Chieftain in the late 1980s with a tank which will be able to counter the Soviet threat until well into the 21st century.

The Challenger tank, which entered service with the British Army in 1983, is a revised version of the Shir II tank. The possibility of introducing a new tank arose as a result of the cancellation of the Persian order for the tanks which were specially designed for use by the Persians. Once the Shir I tanks had been sold to the Jordanians, teh British Government began looking at the possibility of taking some of the improved Shir II version, by then known as Challenger, into the British Army in order to give it the benefit of the Chobham armor with which they are equipped. There is also the Rolls-Royce engine. It was the engine for those tanks, and it was intended to be the engine to be used in the next generation of tank to be developed for the British Army. This was a matter which is not easy to accommodate within the defence budget, but the Government very much hoped that it would be able to do so, and a decision was not very long delayed.

On 27 April 2010 an international trade court ordered Britain to pay Iran $650 million for failing to deliver some 1,300 tanks after Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was toppled in the 1979 Islamic revolution, officials said. That marked a propaganda victory for Iran. But Tehran won't gain any material benefit from the ruling by the court in The Hague. With financial restrictions imposed by the European Union on Iran's banking system, the funds the British government was ordered to pay automatically went into a trust account overseen by independent trustees that contains frozen Iranian assets. Some $1.57 billion in Iranian assets had been frozen in Britain before the court announced its ruling. The contracts were worth 650 million pounds, today worth around $1.04 billion, and were paid in full in advance from the Shah's treasury, then overflowing thanks to Iran's oil wealth. Those funds were crucial in keeping Britain's defense industry going at a time of slumping sales.

Weight 55 tons (combat)
Hull length 7.52 m,
Hull width 3.5 m (with skirts)
Height 2.9 m.
  • 120 mm rifled main gun,
  • 7.62mm MG coaxial
  • 7.62mm MG on commander's cupola
  • Crew 4
    Max speed 48 km/h
    Max range up to 500 km on road (internal fuel)

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    Page last modified: 15-04-2013 12:12:06 ZULU