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FV 601 Saladin

The Saladin was a six-wheeled British armored car produced between the 1950s and 1972, equipped with 17-pounder guns which gives it the punch of a medium tank. The Saladin was manned by a crew of three protected by armor ranging from 8 to 32 mm thick and armed with a 76 mm gun, one 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun and one 7.62 mm anti-aircraft machine gun. The Saladin had a top speed of 72 km/h and a range of 400 km.

After the Second World War, a requirement was issued for a new armoured car to replace a multiplicity of wartime designs. Initial plans to arm the vehicle with a 2 pounder (40mm) gun were shelved as unsatisfactory and a new 76mm main armament was developed. The vehicle series developed by Alvis was based on a 6X6 layout with drive to all wheels and steering on the front four.

The British recognized the requirements of the nuclear age on the battlefield. They thought that the conventional forces would have to be able to fight in a nuclear environment. Therefore, the soldiers had to be protected. They had a great deal of faith in their armored brigades to operate in this type of environment The brigade was designed to have armored infantry and tanks, and it was finally equipped with self-propelled artillery and armored anti-tank guns (the Charioteer) to afford those units the required mobility and protection. The armored brigades principal fighting vehicle was the Centurian tank (later the Conqueror). It was designed to kill other tanks.

Production of the design was delayed, as with the worsening situation in Malaya the second vehicle in this series the Saracen APC was needed urgently. Deliveries of the Saladin to the British Army commenced in 1959 and production continued until 1972, by which time the role of a well armed reconnaissance vehicle had been taken over by Scorpion. Some 1177 Saladin vehicles were built. In common with other vehicles in the series the Saladin was not only successful in the British army service in Borneo, Malaya, Aden, Jordon and North Africa but was also an export success as well.

The division's cavalry used the relatively useless Saladin armored car. Armoured car regiments were equipped with the Saladin armored car and the Ferret scout car. Many units had them in the late 1950s, and deliveries were completed to all the armoured corps during 1960. Later, the British used the armored car (the Saracen) as a throw away for the mechanized infantryman to ride in. This is the best illustration of the impact of the tank purist branch on the post-war development of armored fighting vehicles.

In February 1961, GSOR 1012, a UK requirement for a Vehicle Light Weapon System to defeat Armoured Personnel Carriers was published. Among other primary characteristics the system was required to have six successful engagements per minute against light A.F.V.s at 1,000 metres and to have maximum casualty effect against the crew and occupants of the vehicle. The short list of possible solutions for the Requirement included the 76 mm gun in service in Saladin. When the detailed assessment of this weapon was started it was found that, although the plating performance of the HESH round was well established, little information was available regarding its effect against running gear, components behind armor, and on the effects of blast and fragments on men in a confined space.

A number of obsolete Daimler armoured cars and Comet tanks were used as targets, the latter to correspond to the Soviet tracked AFC (BTR50) and the former to give general information on attack of the AFC crew compartment and effects against the type of wheels and suspension to be found in the 8 wheeled AFC (BTR60). A hit anywhere on the engine compartment caused complete immobilisation of the vehicle, either by detonation after passing through thin armor plate or from scabbing thicker plate up to the critical thickness for this round (90 mm/0). There was adequate evidence both from this and other trials that the effect of the 76 mm. HESH round was catastrophic inside a closed compartment whether it detonates after penetrating thin armor or scabs thicker plate.

But in Sri Lanka it was found that the 76mm main armament of the Saladin armored car was less effective against a determined and ruthless enemy fighting from hardened shelters and underground bunkers. Heavier firepower, on a mobile platform with better cross-country capability wasdesperately needed.

By 1970 development was proceeding of the new tracked and wheeled family of combat reconnaissance vehicles to replace the Saladin, Saracen and Ferret fleet. Aluminium armor was used extensively to keep the weight of these vehicles as low as possible. Production orders were placed for Fox, a wheeled vehicle fitted with the new 30 mm. Rarden gun; and Scorpion, the tracked vehicle with a 76 mm. gun, was entering development. The first Scorpions were delivered in 1972, and during the following year they went into service with the first armored reconnaissance regiment. The Scorpion mounts the 76 mm. gun, which was effective even against heavy tanks.

By 1977 the two reconnaissance regiments of the Territorial Army were equipped with Saladin and Ferret. On average the Saladins were 13 years old, and the Ferrets 16 years. Both regiments were in the process of being re-equipped with Fox.

Possibly the main drawback of the design was the high silhouette caused by the complicated but efficient drive train under the vehicle. By modern standards the engine in use was a trifle thirsty as well, but this was not such a consideration at the time. However, the engine and drive train on this vehicle are very quiet and a virtually noiseless approach is possible, a real advantage for a reconnaissance vehicle.

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Page last modified: 15-07-2016 19:24:54 ZULU