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Vickers Main Battle Tank

The British firm Vickers has been developing and producing tanks for export over a long period of time. Vickers enjoyed export success in the past with various armored vehicles, as well as modification and retrofit packages for vehicles in service with a number of armies around the world. The company was highly oriented towards overseas sales. The post-war Vickers tanks, denominated with arabic numerals [eg, Mk.3], should not be confused with the tanks that served in World War II, which used Roman numerals [eg, Mk.VI].

Vickers Mk.1

The Vickers MBT was developed as a private venture for countries which required a simple, yet powerful MBT at minimum cost. It used many components of the Chieftain and Centurion. The first two prototypes were built in 1960 - one was sent to India and the other retained in the Uk for trials. In the late 1950's Vickers developed a design for an alternative tank with a 20-pounder cannon. When the Chieftain went into series production, this plan was developed as a simpler, cheaper tank than the Chieftain. The first prototype was completed in 1963.

By 1961 Indian forces were already interested in the project. Thus at that time India had already agreed with Vickers to manufacture the MBT in India, where it carried the designation Vijayanta. Production in England began in 1964 and one year later parallel to it production began in India for the Indian armed forces. Further customers were later 1968 Kuwait and 1977 Kenya.

It has a maximum road speed of up to 50kph. Its battle speed is between 20 and 30kph. The Vickers has six gears, including two reverse ones. It has an automatic transmission. It has a fuel capacity of 1,000 litres, and this gives it a range of about 650km. It can climb a gradient of more than 30 degrees, is not amphibious but can plough through water obstacles 1.1 metres deep. It can go through rough terrain, cross ditches three feet wide and can turn around on its own length. The tank has a crew of four - a commander, a gunner, a driver and a loader/operator.

The design is conventional, with driver in front right, combat area in the center and engine in the tail. The driver had a roof hatch, those opens to the right and a winkelspiegel, which by a night-vision device are exchanged. Beside the driver a part of the ammunition is stowed away. The engine compartment in the tail has a fire suppression plant.

The turret in the center is of the welded type. The commander and the gunner sit in tandem arrangement right from the cannon, the gunner in front, the commander in the back. The loader sits left from the cannon. The commander uses a periscope (x10) over a roof hatch. The gunner has a sighting periscope with hair cross. The loader has a roof hatch. The main armament consists of fully stabilized 105 mm L7A1 a cannon. Left beside it is a 7.62 mm coaxial mg. The commander had a ring-mounted 7.62 mm mg on the left. The vehicle is wading-capable without preparation. An NBC protection ventilation is optional.

Vickers Mk2:

Only one was built, with two Swingfire starter at the turret sides.

Vickers Mk.3

Newer version, which was produced for Kenya. A new engine received and a somewhat stronger armoring. The fire control system was improved. The commander has a day/night periscope CONDOR (x1, x10, x4 at night) for observation. The gunner had now a goal periscope SLR L20 (x1, x10) with LEM, this is however not night operations suited. The commander can override the gunner and take up the fight with night or poor visibility.

In the 1960s the production of Chieftain tanks was split between the Vickers factory and the Royal Ordnance factory in Leeds. The full re-equipment of B.A.O.R. with Chieftains was substantially completed by 1972. It had been the policy of successive Governments to look first to the Royal Ordnance Factories for heavy armoured fighting vehicles, and in lean times this means that tank production work must go to the Royal Ordnance Factory at Leeds. This was the most efficient procedure as far as defence votes are concerned, as it avoided the excessive overhead costs that would arise from maintaining two sources of supply. It was sensible that the production of these tanks should be concentrated at one factory, and it was concentrated at Leeds. The decision was taken in the light of a comparison in 1970 of the costs at the two potential sources of production.

In the 1970s Vickers developed its own range of main battle tanks, with a specification designed to meet the particular needs of the overseas market. The Vickers Mk.3 main battle tank was a further development of the Vickers Mk.1 MBT. Developed as a private venture, this MBT was revealed in the mid-1970s. Export operators were Nigeria (70 MBTs) and Kenya (about 80). The layout of the Vickers Mk.3 tank was similar to the Mk.1, with a chassis similar to the Mk.1. The Vickers Mk.3 had a new turret, offering better protection, though the vehicle lacked Chobham armor. The Vickers Mk3 was armed with British L7A1 fully-stabilized 105-mm rifled gun. firing a full range of NATO ammunition. The same gun was used on the Vickers Mk.1, however the Mk.3 has a new fire control system. Secondary armament consisted of coaxial 7.62-mm machine gun, ranging 12.7-mm machine gun and anti-aircraft 7.62-m machine gun. The Mk-3 was powered by Detroit Diesel 12V-71T turbocharged diesel engine, developing 720 horsepower.

Vickers Defence Systems supplied Kenya and Nigeria with its own Vickers Mk 3 tanks and a small number of ARV's created on their basis in the early 1980's. The ARVs were equipped with a spade and pulling winches and some had a hydraulic hoisting crane. On an initiative basis this firm also created (for export) a modular design of equipment for installation on any tank chassis for use as an ARV. It included an armored turret with hoisting crane, pulling winches and dozer blade mounted on the front of the hull.

Vickers Mk.4 Valiant 105mm

Basically a progression from the Vickers MBT series of export tanks, the Mk 4 incorporated updated armor and the L11 120mm gun. The Valiant, initially called the Vickers Mk 4, was designed as an export tank, to match the OTO Melara OF-40 and French AMX-32 of the same period. It never sold.

Vicker's technical and commercial record encouraged it to invest in a new factory in Newcastle which would provide the base from which to exploit the developing export market for military vehicles. This new and modern factory concept provided 380,000 sq ft of space for production, and had been built at a total cost of 7.5 million. It had a capacity for approximately 100 vehicles per year, together with resources and facilities to undertake the manufacture of a wide variety of general engineering products. Initially employment was provided for 700 people. At the same time the company, from its own resources, extended the range of vehicles to cover not only tanks and recovery vehicles, but bridge layers, self-propelled guns and personnel carriers.

The company would not have gone ahead with this project, code named "Dreadnought", had it not been for the substantial regional development grants provided by the Department of Industry, and the direct benefit the on-going business would derive from the advantages of the enterprise zone, in which the factory was located.

For the battle tanks of the third postwar generation, the important tank-building nations began in the 1970s with the development of socalled special armor, in the form of multipleply armor or combination bulkhead armor. As early as mid-1976, the socalled Chobham armor, which is a combination armor consisting of steel, ceramic and aluminum parts, was introducedin England: it is said to offer greater protection against KE and CE projectiles while weighing less. The Chobham armor was used in the beginning of the 1980's in the Vickers Valiant, and the prototypes of the future British Challenger tank. At the request of the company, and at its expense, by 1982 proving trials of the Vickers Valiant main battle tank were being carried out at Ministry of Defence establishments. The trials were intended to assist Vickers with its overseas sales efforts.

Vickers Mk5 / Vickers/FMC VFM5

The Vickers Mk5 was a light tank aimed for the export market. Despite the designation sequence, the design is unrelated to the Mk1-Mk4 series. The hull was supplied by another country, the US firm FMC, hence its designation Vickers/FMC VFM5 tank. The Vickers turret housed the legendary British L7 rifled 105mm main gun. The vehicle was powered by the US Detroit Diesel V6, which generated 992hp. This light tank's armor protection was made of light aluminium, and so lacked the protection of an MBT like the Mk7. Completed in 1987, it never attracted any sales.

Vickers Mk.6

Designation seemingly not used??

Vickers Mk.7 Valiant 120mm

In 1982 the Vickers Valiant turret was redesigned, replacing the 105mm gun used on the Mk.4 with a 120mm tank gun. The Vickers Universal Turret could mount either the L7 105mm or L11 rifled 120mm or the Rheinmetall 120mm smoothbore. In 1985 the Mk7 Vickers tank was developed in its initial, experimental-model form for sale to other countries. The tank was tested in Egypt the same year. It used the track chassis of the West German Leopard-2 and a modified turret of an experimental model of the Valiant tank built previously by Vickers. The Mk7 Vickers tank was outfitted with the L11 120-mm rifled cannon and a new fire control system manufactured by the Marconi firm.

The Vickers Mk.7 main battle tank was a further development of the earlier Mk.4 Valiant main battle tank, based on the hull of the German Leopard 2 main battle tank, as well as the Leopard 2 engine, developing 1,500 horsepower. Developed in the late 1980s to replace the Challenger 1 MBT. the Vickers Mk.7 was not accepted to service with the British Army. Actively offered for export customers, no production orders were placed. Only one Vickers Mk.7 was built. The turret of the Vickers Mk.7 was similar to that of the Vickers Mk.4 Valiant MBT, with the front of the turret and hull enhanced by Chobham composite armor.

The vehicle was armed with the L11 120-mm rifled gun, firing the same munitions developed for the Challenger 1 main battle tank. For export customers it was offered with a choice of three guns: British L11 120-mm rifled gun, German Rheinmetall 120-mm smoothbore gun and French GIAT 120-mm smoothbore gun. All of these guns loaded manually. Secondary armament consisted of two 7.62-mm machine guns, one mounted coaxially with the main gun, another placed on the turret roof. The digital fire control system and gun control system were considered revolutionary at the time. The vehicle had a crew of four, considting of commander, gunner, loader and driver. Combat weight was 54,000kg with a 1500bhp engine.

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Page last modified: 03-08-2012 18:34:14 ZULU