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  • Cruiser Tank Mk VI Crusader (A15) Cruiser Tank

    The Cruiser Tank Crusader proved itself a critical component to the early war effort of the British Army and its allies.

     Updated: 3/16/2017; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.MilitaryFactory.com

    The British used the "tank" to good effect during the many late-war offensives of World War 1 (1914-1918). These slow-moving systems spearheading infantry advances into enemy territory, providing some protection from battlefield hazards while supplying cannon and machine gun fire in turn - akin to mobile bunkers. In the post-war years, the British moved to adopt a new two-pronged approach set to utilize lighter "cruiser" tanks alongside heavier "infantry" tanks. Doctrine called for cruiser tanks to break through weaker spots along the enemy's defensive line, allowing these crews to wreak havoc on weaker flanks and rear sections. The infantry tank would then crush the enemy head-on while supporting advancing infantry used to take and hold ground. To fulfill these roles, each tank type was designed with certain qualities in mind - cruisers were lightly armed and armored to preserve their speed and maneuverability and infantry tanks were heavier armed and armored, thus slower during the advance but holding greater battlefield survivability.

    This concept continued into the pre-World War 2 days of the 1930s. As another war in Europe seemed inevitable, many tank projects were furthered and the British Army ended up using a large collection of tanks before the end of World War 2 (1939-1945) and the standardization to Churchill infantry tanks and the American M4 Sherman medium tank.

    In the latter part of the 1930s, a new cruiser tank was considered as the "A13" which became the "Cruiser Tank Mk V", best remembered as the "Covenanter" (detailed elsewhere on this site). The design was intended to replace the more costly Cruiser IV series by Nuffield but carry on the same cruiser tank qualities (lightweight, speed, maneuverability). London, Midland, and Scottish Railway became responsible for its design using a Nuffield turret and 1,771 examples were ultimately produced. However, the tank was soon found to have poor engine cooling qualities which relegated her to second-line duties for all of World War 2. It was obsolete as soon as 1943.

    During production of the A13, Nuffield moved ahead on its own modified, improved version of the A13 tank as the "A15". Initially, the new tank design carried two small, machine gun-armed turrets along the glacis plate - one at the driver's position and the other alongside to be operated by a bow gunner. Each mini-turret held a 7.92mm BESA machine gun. During testing, these installations proved wanting and were eventually deleted in the finalized design. Evaluation also showcased the same cooling issues as found on the Covenanter and the transmission gear change system proved unreliable. Ventilation of the crew compartment was also a concern. On the whole, the tank retained the major features of the Covenanter including a turreted main gun armament, rear-mounted engine, crew of four, and track-over-wheel running gear.

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    Cruiser Tank Mk VI Crusader (A15) Technical Specifications

    Service Year: 1941
    Type: Cruiser Tank
    National Origin: United Kingdom
    Manufacturer(s): Nuffield Mechanisation and Aero Ltd - UK
    Production: 5,300

    Design (Crew Space, Dimensions, Weight, and Systems)

    Operating Crew: 4
    Length: 19.65 feet (5.99 meters)
    Width: 8.66 feet (2.64 meters)
    Height: 7.32 feet (2.23 meters)

    Operating Weight: 22 tons (20,067 kg; 44,240 lb)

    Nuclear / Biological / Chemical Protection: None
    Nightvision Equipment: None

    Installed Power and Standard Road Performance

    Engine(s): 1 x Nuffield Liberty Mk III V12 gasoline-fueled engine developing 340 horsepower.

    Maximum Road Speed: 27 mph (43.4 km/h)
    Maximum Road Range: 127 miles (204 km)

    Armament and Ammunition

    Crusader Mk I and Mk II:
    1 x 40mm QF 2-pounder main gun
    1 OR 2 x 7.92mm Besa machine gun(s)

    Crusader Mk III:
    1 x 57mm (6-pdr) main gun
    1 OR 2 x 7.92mm BESA machine gun(s)

    110 x 40mm projectiles (Mk I / Mk II)
    65 x 57mm projectiles (Mk III)
    4,950 x 7.92mm ammunition

    Global Operators / Customers

    Argentina; Australia; France; Italy; Nazi Germany; Netherlands; Poland; South Africa; United Kingdom

    Model Variants

    A15 - Prototype Model Designation

    Crusader I - First Prototype Model; fitted with 40mm main gun.

    Crusader II - Increased Armor Protection

    Crusader III - Fitted with new 57mm main gun

    Crusader IICS - Fitted with 76.2mm howitzer

    Crusader ARV - Armored Recovery Vehicle; sans turret.

    Crusader III AA I - Anti-aircraft variant fitted with a single 40mm BOFORS type cannon.

    Crusader III AA II - Anti-aircraft variant fitted with twin or triple 20mm cannons.

    Crusader Dozer - Engineering Vehicle fitted with dozer blade.

    Crusader Gun Tractor - Open-top Artillery Tractor.