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A history of excellence: British tanks

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posted on May, 5 2006 @ 12:24 PM
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Despite huge numbers of surplus WW2 tanks at the end of the war, tank designers around the world took stock of eight years of rapid development (~37-45) and redefined the concept of tank; the Main Battle Tank (MBT) was born. Going into the war most tanks had been too lightly armored and under-gunned, whilst others were too heavy and too unreliable. Numerous light, medium and heavy tanks had been designed, some successful, many more not. Despite pioneering the deployment of tanks in WW1, Britain had not excelled at tank design in WW2; instead relying heavily on US designed tanks (although production rates was a major factor in this choice). Having said that, it wouldn’t be fair to say that the British designers were incapable of designing good tanks, in fact they designed what is arguably the best tank of WW2 but for a quirk of history: the Centurion arrived too late to see action.

After the war tank designers wanted to combine the best characteristics of the best tanks of WW2; the armor and firepower of the infamous German Tiger II, the robustness and mobility of the Soviet T-34.

Then current technology however, still did not allow designers to combine the heaviest armor of the time with the mobility of the MBT concept, and therefore designers continued to develop Heavy Tanks in addition to the new generation MBTs.

Centurion
Originally designed in WW2, the Centurion was progressively up-armored and up-gunned whilst retaining its great mobility to become the best MBT of its day. Outperforming its Russian and American counterparts in Korea, it went on to have further combat success, particularly in the hands of the Israelis.

The famous Royal Ordnance Factories L-7 105mm main gun was deployed in 1959 and soon became the benchmark tank gun and has since been used on many other MBTs – 20 years later the M1 Abrams was being introduced to service using the same gun. Even the state of the art Korean K1 MBT still uses the L7 gun and the latest STRYKER MGS (Mobile Gun System) uses this gun; it’s that good.

Conqueror
The 65 ton Conqueror was the heavy tank counterpart to the “Universal Tank” (read MBT) Centurion. It featured heavier armor and a US designed 120mm gun which left much to be desired. It suffered reliability and mobility problems and although it saw service, it is generally seen as a bit of the black sheep of post war British tank design.

Generally analogous with the Soviet JS-3 heavy tank (i3.tinypic.com...), the Conqueror did not see combat, much to everyone’s relief.

Caenarvon
Another tank best forgotten, the Caenarvon combined the massive and slow chassis of the Conqueror with the turret of the Centurion with a 20-pounder gun (pre-L7). Although a number were produced, the idea didn’t catch on.


Conway & similar experiments
The Conway was an attempt to up-gun the Centurion with a 120mm gun. The high profile turret was not optimum for an MBT:

A similar attempt to up-gun the Centurion was this lightly armored turret with a massive 183mm main gun!


Vickers MBT (Mk1~3, Vijayanta etc)
Based on the Centurion, Vickers produced a series of tanks for export, notably to India and Kenya. The most common version was the Indian Vijayanta. All main variants featured 105mm main gun.
Vijayanta:


Chieftain
The natural evolution of the Centurion, the Chieftain was the first production MBT in the world to have a 120mm main gun. It was also heavily armored but suffered from modest performance due largely to being underpowered although this was partly overcome in the Khalid variant sold to Jordan.


MBT-80
The project to design a successor to the Chieftain was called MBT-80. The tank introduced the distinctive glacis plate now seen on the Challenger. It had Chobham armor and the now ubiquitous British L11 120mm rifled main gun. The project ultimately led to the Challenger.

(Note: the tank pictured has an experimental turret which was associated with the MBT-80 program)

Chieftain 900
One of the most notable improvements to the Chieftain was the Chobham armored Chieftain 900 which featured a distinctive glacis plate (the front bit).


Challenger
Another famous and very combat successful tank, the Challenger (since referred to as Challenger I) was rivaled only by the Abrams for armor and weight.

The Challenger was exported to Jordan where it is now forming the basis for very advanced future MBTs. In British service it was replaced by the Challenger II in the ‘90s, being retired due to arms limitation treaties rather than obsolescence.

Vickers Mk 4
Basically a progression from the “Vickers MBT” series of export tanks, the Mk 4 incorporated updated armor and the L11 120mm gun. It never sold.


Vickers Mk7
Acknowledging the limitations of the Challenger’s chassis, particularly when compared with the German Leopard II MBT, Vickers designed the Mk7 export tank combining the Vickers turret with 120mm rifled gun with the Leopard IIs chassis. Although a cool tank, no customers were found.


Challenger II
An improved Challenger with a new turret, the Challenger II is undeniably one of the foremost MBTs today:



[edit on 5-5-2006 by planeman]

[edit on 5-5-2006 by planeman]




posted on May, 5 2006 @ 12:49 PM
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The Challenger I apparently was a piss-poor shooter and routinely came last during regular exercises between the western Allies in Germany and other test shootings. It also lost export competitions because of that.

Other than that, nice compilation.





[edit on 5/5/2006 by Lonestar24]



posted on May, 5 2006 @ 01:04 PM
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Originally posted by Lonestar24
The Challenger I was a piss-poor shooter and routinely came last during regular exercises between the western Allies in Germany. It also lost export competitions because of that.

Other than that, nice compilation.

Yes, but when it came to Desert Storm it was found that its gun was excellent IN COMBAT which is what really counts. The ability to fire HESH GP rounds was a key advantage over the Abrams. APFSDS isn't much good at demolishing a building or bunker. I'm not saying that it's a better shooter than the Leopard II or Abrams, but it was generally underestimated. The cold war centric outlook where MBTs were envisaged for tank-tank combat and where fire-on-move was considered crucial, was not how GW1 played out - the more versitile Challenger excelled.

[edit on 5-5-2006 by planeman]



posted on May, 5 2006 @ 02:24 PM
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If there's a need to defend the Union, we've at least well trained forces and we can raise an arsenal of weapons in no time. There will be a time we've to.



posted on May, 5 2006 @ 02:34 PM
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Looks to me like the Challenger II is utilizing a slightly modified Vickers Mk7 turret?



seekerof



posted on May, 5 2006 @ 02:44 PM
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The Challenger 2 is the shizzle IMO. It is the only NATO-allied army MBT with a rifled cannon. It's practically the fastest tank inthe world and it's the most heavily armoured western made tank using classified 2nd generation Cobham armour.


The nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) protection system is located in the turret bustle. On each side of the turret are five L8 smoke grenade dischargers. Challenger 2 can also create smoke by injecting diesel fuel into the exhaust manifolds. The Challenger 2E also has gauss coils fitted beneath its armour to protect against EMP blasts generated by a nuclear detonation.

Source - wikipedia.

Smoke screen

[edit on 5-5-2006 by Xeros]



posted on May, 5 2006 @ 03:08 PM
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Originally posted by Xeros
The Challenger 2 is the shizzle IMO. It is the only NATO-allied army MBT with a rifled cannon. It's practically the fastest tank inthe world and it's the most heavily armoured western made tank using classified 2nd generation Cobham armour.


[edit on 5-5-2006 by Xeros]


Fastest tank? Hell no. It is indeed heavily armoured, but it has a lack of speed, range and fire power.

Top speed:
59 KM/hour

Range:
250 KM

Gun:
L30!


Another post I made:

LEOPARD 2A6 MAIN BATTLE TANK - SPECIFICATIONS



Crew 4

Weight 62 metric tons
Length 7.7 m
Width 3.7 m
Height 3.0 m

Armament
1 x Rheinmetall 120 mm L55 smoothbore gun
1 x coaxial 7.62 mm machine gun
2 x 7.62 mm anti-aircraft machine gun

Maximum speed
72 km/hr

Maximum range
500 km

Powerplant
MTU MB 873 multi-fuel, 1500 hp

Power to mass ratio
25.21 hp/t

Armour:
Turret:
Against Kinetic Energy
(in mm of RHAe)
940
Against Chemical Energy
(in mm of RHAe)
1,960

Glacis:
Against Kinetic Energy
(in mm of RHAe)
620
Against Chemical Energy
(in mm of RHAe)
750

Lower Front Hull:
Against Kinetic Energy
(in mm of RHAe)
620
Against Chemical Energy
(in mm of RHAe)
750


ABRAM M1A2 MAIN BATTLE TANK - SPECIFICATIONS



Crew 4

Weight 62.1 metric tons
Length 9.77 m
Width 3.66 m
Height 2.44 m

Armament
1 x Rheinmetall 120 mm L44 smoothbore gun
1 x M2 12.7 mm BMG machine gun
2 x 7.62 mm anti-aircraft machine gun

Maximum speed
67 km/hr

Maximum range
391 km

Powerplant
AGT-1500 turbine engine

Power to mass ratio:
M1A2 - 21.57 hp/t).

Turret:
Against Kinetic Energy
(in mm of RHAe)
960
Against Chemical Energy
(in mm of RHAe)
1620

Glacis:
Against Kinetic Energy
(in mm of RHAe)
590
Against Chemical Energy
(in mm of RHAe)
1050

Lower Front Hull:
Against Kinetic Energy
(in mm of RHAe)
650
Against Chemical Energy
(in mm of RHAe)
950


Real life experience:

i have served by Trainings Battles (In the Wood) German Leopard 2A4 vs. US M1 and M60 ... lol The Leo takes it all ...

but no system are good if his Crew is bad ...



L55 compared to L44




A new smoothbore gun, the120 millimeter L55 Gun, has been developed by Rheinmetall GmbH of Ratingen, Germany to replace the shorter 120 millimeter L44 smoothbore tank gun on the Leopard 2.
The 120 millimeter L44 gun barrel has a length of 530 cm and weighs 1,190 kg. The whole gun weighs 3,780 kg. By comparison, the 120 millimeter L55 gun barrel has a length of 660 cm and weighs 1,374 kg. The whole L55 gun weighs 4,160 kg. The extension of the barrel length from caliber length 44 to caliber length 55 (130 cm) results in a greater portion of the available energy in the barrel to be converted into projectile velocity.
An important characteristic of the new L55 gun is its compatibility with the Leopard 2 weapons system, meaning that it can be integrated without substantial alterations. The external geometry of the gun was designed to minimize the phenomenon of static sagging, as well as to achieve optimum constant curvature. With respect to both of these factors, the form of the barrel selected for the L55 plays a critical role. This was a prerequisite for the system's high first-shot hit probability. The L55 gun can fire any standard 120 mm round.
Especially when using the new DM 53 KE round, the L55 enables approximately an 30 percent increase in performance compared with conventional systems. For example, when fired from the longer barrel, the DM 53 (LKE II) KE round attains a muzzle velocity in excess of 1,750 m/s.


Even the armour has been upgraded on the new model Leopold 2 A6 EX, which makes it completely superior qua specs compared with the Abrams.



posted on May, 5 2006 @ 03:24 PM
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I stand corrected Mdv2. Thanks for that info. I'm probably a bit of a biased brit. I've heard the scorpion is fast, what do you know about that? D'you know if any other tanks use the smoke screen feature?

[edit on 5-5-2006 by Xeros]



posted on May, 5 2006 @ 03:49 PM
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I can't be bothered with a pointless Challenger-v-Abrams-v-Leopard argument but i can add this in to the pot:

It's a Challenger with a fully automatic L50 120mm main gun in a crewless turret.



posted on May, 5 2006 @ 03:56 PM
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I just want to note that the Challenger II design is about a decade younger than the Abrams. You need to take this into account when making stat comparisons.



posted on May, 5 2006 @ 03:59 PM
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Originally posted by skippytjc
I just want to note that the Challenger II design is about a decade younger than the Abrams. You need to take this into account when making stat comparisons.
I'd disagree with that. The Challenger 2 is an incremental update of the Challenger 1 in the same way the M1A2 is of the M1A1.



posted on May, 5 2006 @ 04:02 PM
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Planeman: Very nice! Do you know builds that cannon and the auto loader?

Yes, lets not get into these pointless and ever-repeating MBT arguments


Originally posted by Xeros
I stand corrected Mdv2. Thanks for that info. I'm probably a bit of a biased brit. I've heard the scorpion is fast, what do you know about that? D'you know if any other tanks use the smoke screen feature?

[edit on 5-5-2006 by Xeros]


For a tracked vehicle, the Scorpion is fast. For its size and weight, it is not. It has a rather weak engine. And the Smoke Screen has been an integral part of tank defenses (and other vehicles) for decades. It´s a simple oil that is injected into the exhaust.

[edit on 5/5/2006 by Lonestar24]



posted on May, 5 2006 @ 04:12 PM
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Originally posted by Lonestar24
Planeman: Very nice! Do you know builds that cannon and the auto loader?

Yes, a company called Claverham www.claverham.com...

The gun is the RUAG L50 smoothbore. I think that RUAG Land Systems is the new name for Rheinmetall but you'd have to check to be sure.

[edit on 5-5-2006 by planeman]



posted on May, 5 2006 @ 04:27 PM
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Thanks.

No, RUAG is a Swiss multi and has no connections to Rheinmetall AFAIK. They have for example constructed an independent midlife update for the Swiss Pz87, which are Leopard 2A4. Germany buys its double core 5.56mm Ammunition from them.



[edit on 5/5/2006 by Lonestar24]



posted on May, 5 2006 @ 04:29 PM
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Ah, thanks. I recognize the name now.



posted on May, 5 2006 @ 04:35 PM
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I understand that U.S. tank designers are studying the crew-in-hull concept. The idea is to fully automate the turret to remove human casualty potential. this is also being looked at to develop a lighter and more air-mobile vehicle.

Is there a British equivelent to this study?



posted on May, 5 2006 @ 05:44 PM
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Originally posted by Justin Oldham
I understand that U.S. tank designers are studying the crew-in-hull concept. The idea is to fully automate the turret to remove human casualty potential. this is also being looked at to develop a lighter and more air-mobile vehicle.

Is there a British equivelent to this study?

Well there seems to be a British program called "UK Future Tank" run by Defence Research Agency and involving a 140mm auto-loading gun but the exact nature is unclear (at least going by my google-ninjaring).

The "Falcon turret" upgrade for the Challenger 1 (pictured above with the 120mm smoothbore cannon) has a "below deck" crew config although the commander and gunner are below the turret ring rather than completely remote from the weapon. This project is bankrolled by Jordan and although it is probably still going on, has dropped off the radar screen. Rumour is that South Africa may join with Jordan on a new tank using the Falcon III turret. British companies have some involvement but as far as I know there is not gov-gov involvement.

In general it is widely speculated that the challenger 2 will be the last British MBT because of the general shift towards air-mobile forces. The challenger 2 is also thought to be pretty much up there with the best so no imediate need to replace it.


[edit on 5-5-2006 by planeman]



posted on May, 5 2006 @ 05:54 PM
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I think you will find that the Challenger II was actually made by Vickers.



posted on May, 5 2006 @ 06:25 PM
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LEOPARD 2A6 MAIN BATTLE TANK
Weight 62 metric tons
Maximum speed
72 km/hr

Maximum range
500 km

Powerplants
MTU MB 873 multi-fuel, 1500 hp


ABRAM M1A2 MAIN BATTLE TANK
Weight 62.1 metric tons
Maximum speed
67 km/hr

Maximum range
391 km

Powerplants
AGT-1500 turbine engine



The German's Leopard powerplant is by MTU. Followed by the initials, MB. Mercedes-Benz? But it is rated at 1500 hp.

The powerplant in the Abrams is by AGT. I guess AGT stands for American Gas Turbine. I thought Chrysler made this engine at the outset. Rated at the same 1500 hp as the Leopard. This sounds to me like it’s the same engine as used in the Leopard.

Pictures make me think the Leopard and Abrams came off the same drawing board. Both tanks weigh 62 tons. Or tonnes as the Brits like to spell it. So why is the Leopard's top speed given as 72 kph (45 mph) but the Abrams at the same weight and same power is given as 67 km/h (42 mph.) I guess it is gearing, if these numbers are accurate and not just PR for the consuming public. Maybe the Germans use the Autobahn? The lower top speed would give the Abrams fractionally better acceleration. Fractionally.

More important is the range. Leopard is given at 500 km. (310 miles.) A suspicious number. The Abrams is given at 391 km, (240 miles) a more believable number although not a guarantee that either is correct. After hearing about the short range of the Abrams, I'm inclined to believe its number, but dubious of the Leopards.

I also want to thank LoneStar24, planeman and Mdv2 for excellent additions to the thread. It's a real winner for me!

[edit on 5/5/2006 by donwhite]



posted on May, 5 2006 @ 10:08 PM
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Don,

I can answer some of your queries, but I am retecent to get into the "my tank is better than your tank" debate.

In WW2 most tanks used petrol engines which were very thirsty. The Centurion described in the original post started out with a modified Spitfire engine (the famous Rolls Royce Merlin, called a Meteor). Later/upgraded Centurions had diesel engines.

Most modern tanks have diesel engines because they are most efficient. The Russian T-80 and US Abrams being notable exceptions using gas turbines (i.e. Jet engines). The British experimented with a gas turbine tank in the 1950s or 60s (IIRC) but never adopted it.

So the Leopard and Abrams do NOT have the same engine. The Leopard's engine is always described as multi-fuel but that is slightly misleading - it's a diesel that you can put other stuff like heating oil in if you run out of diesel and it'll still run. The Challenger's engine is apparently also multi-fuel although I have no idea if anyone has tested that theory to the full extent.

The Chieftain and Challenger are often described as under-powered which is to an extent true. But combat is not a race and successive Challenger tanks and export Chieftains have featured more powerful engines.

As for comparison, the Leopard 2 is known for its mobility, even relative to the more recent Abrams. The Abrams is loved by Americans and some have some DU armor (health concerns for tank crew?) and the Challenger is known for its armor. The Merkava 4 is another top-rung MBT as are the French Leclerc and Italian Ariete. The Indian Arjun, Korean K1 and Japanese Type-90 need to feature... So whilst the big names are Leopard, Challenger and Abrams, there are in fact about 15 contenders for best current MBT including Russian and Chinese designs which are up there.

The short answer is that the Abrams isn't as far ahead of the crowd as is popularly percieved. They are all about the same in general respects. GW1 is often cited as proof of the Abrams' superiority, particularly to "Russian school" MBTs but I think that is misleading - it really only demonstrated Iraqi incompetence and lack of modern weaponary.

Next time some one describes a feature that the Abrams has, with the possible exception of DU armor (several countries have the ability to produce DU though!), then you can in fact find several tanks which also have said feature. There are tanks with better guns, better munitions, better servivability, better mobility etc etc.

[edit on 5-5-2006 by planeman]



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