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  • Chieftain MBT Main Battle Tank


    The Chieftain Main Battle Tank saw many years of solid service with British forces while export sales were primarily with Middle East customers.



     Updated: 4/27/2017; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.MilitaryFactory.com


    The original Centurion Main Battle Tank (A41) of 1945 was a hugely successful British Army initiative enacted during World War 2 and realized shortly after the conflict had ended. The type saw service in the Korean War under the banner of the United Nations and went on to see extensive action in both Indo-Pak wars. Additional service saw them in the hands of the Israeli Army during the Six Day War and the upcoming Yom Kipper War where the type gave a good account of itself. In all, some 4,400 units were ultimately produced (strong production numbers for a Cold War tank) and these served well beyond the British Army inventory, seeing service with European powers as well as Middle East players. At the time of her inception, the Chieftain marked the most powerful Western combat tank in existence until unseated by the equally excellent German Leopard 2 series of the 1980s.

    Despite the Centurion's dominance, the Cold War battlefield was an ever-evolving chessboard of technology-driven pieces and this produced ever more efficient weaponry in the process. As such, the impressive nature of once-formidable tanks such as the Centurion soon began to give way to new anti-armor measures being developed and fielded primarily by the Soviet Union - to which many of these weapons would inevitably be passed on to allies and satellite states within time. Work therefore began on finding the "next British Army main battle tank" and this led to a Leyland-designed tracked vehicle mounting the new and powerful L11 120mm series rifled main gun. Whereas historical approaches to British armor valued speed and battlefield mobility above all else, the Leyland submission decidedly focused on a heavily armored vehicle with firepower to boot. By 1959, a pilot vehicle was ready for formal review leading to the evaluation of six more prototypes spanning from 1961 to 1962. The vehicle - known as the "FV 4201" - was adopted for service in May of 1963 with service beginning in 1965. Production was managed along two separate assembly lines and eventually included the Leyland and Vickers brand labels.


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    Chieftain MBT Technical Specifications


    Service Year: 1965
    Type: Main Battle Tank
    National Origin: United Kingdom
    Manufacturer(s): Leyland Motors / Vickers / BAe Systems Land Systems - UK
    Production: 2,083



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


    Operating Crew: 4
    Length: 35.40 feet (10.79 meters)
    Width: 11.48 feet (3.50 meters)
    Height: 9.48 feet (2.89 meters)

    Operating Weight: 61 tons (55,000 kg; 121,254 lb)

    Nuclear / Biological / Chemical Protection: Yes
    Nightvision Equipment: Yes

    Installed Power and Standard Road Performance


    Engine(s): 1 x Leyland L60 2-stroke 6-cylinder multi-fuel diesel engine developing 750 horsepower.

    Maximum Road Speed: 30 mph (48 km/h)
    Maximum Road Range: 280 miles (450 km)

    Armament and Ammunition


    1 x 120mm L11 main gun
    1 x 12.7mm ranging machine gun (later removed)
    1 x 7.62mm coaxial machine gun
    1 x 7.62mm machine gun at commander's cupola
    2 x 6 smoke grenade dischargers

    Ammunition:
    64 x 120mm projectiles
    300 x 12.7mm ammunition
    6,000 x 7.62mm ammunition
    12 x Smoke Grenades

    Global Operators / Customers


    Kuwait, Oman, Iraq (captured Iranian); Iran; Jordan; United Kingdom

    Model Variants


    Chieftain Mk 2 - Fitted with 650 bhp engine

    Chieftain Mk 3 - Improved Chieftain

    Chieftain Mk 3/3P - Export Variant

    Chieftain Mk 5 - Featured an uprated engine

    Chieftain Mk 5/3P - Export Variant

    Chieftain Mk 5/2K - Kuwaiti export models; 165 examples devlivered.

    Chieftain Mk 6 - Standardization of previous production mark; ranging machine gun added to main gun; improved engine performance.

    Chieftain Mk 7 - Standardization of previous production mark; ranging machine gun added to main gun; improved engine performance.

    Chieftain Mk 8 - Standardization of previous production mark; ranging machine gun added to main gun; improved engine performance.

    Chieftain Mk 9 - Revised intermediate production mark; IFCS.

    Chieftain Mk 10 - Revised intermediate production mark; IFCS (Improved Fire Control System); night and all-weather fighting capability with Thermal Observation and Gunnery Sight implementation; "Stillbrew" passive armor.

    Chieftain Mk 11 - Revised intermediate production mark; IFCS; night and all-weather fighting capability with Thermal Observation and Gunnery Sight implementation; "Stillbrew" passive armor..

    "Shir 1" - Modified Chieftain; Iranian export; 125 examples delivered; later named "Khalid".

    "Shir 2" - Iranian Export; 1,225 examples ordered though never produced or delivered due to the regime change of 1979 in Iran; based on late model Chieftains; would be used as basis of the proceeding Challenger MBT series.

    Chieftain ARV - Armored Recovery Vehicle

    Chieftain AVLB - Armored Bridgelayer

    Chieftain AVRE - Armored Vehicle Royal Engineer

    Chieftain ARRV - Armored Recovery and Repair Vehicle.