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FV438 Swingfire

Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) Carrier Vehicle

For a time in modern British military history, the FV438 Swingfire weapons carrier took up the mobile anti-tank role, fielding the potent Swingfire ATGM series.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Edited: 12/17/2018
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Year: 1975
Manufacturer(s): State Factories - UK
Production: 100
Capabilities: Anti-Tank/Anti-Armor;
Crew: 3
Length: 16.73 ft (5.1 m)
Width: 9.84 ft (3 m)
Height: 8.86 ft (2.7 m)
Weight: 18 tons (16,200 kg); 35,715 lb
Power: 1 x Rolls-Royce K60 multi-fuel engine developing 240 horsepower.
Speed: 32 mph (52 kph)
Range: 298 miles (480 km)
Operators: United Kingdom (retired)
The FV430 family of vehicles proved critical to the British armored force during the Cold War period (1947-1991). This designation encompassed a "common chassis" deisgn developed to undertake a variety of battlefield roles - troop-carrying, fire support, airspace denial. Among the lot was the FV438 "Swingfire", a tracked, light-armored vehicle assigned the Anti-Tank, Guided Missile (ATGM) role - carrying the potent "Swingfire" ATGM (the FV102 "Striker", detailed elsewhere on this site, was also arranged with the Swingfire missile series but instead used an elevating five-missile launching pack over the rear hull).

The wire-guided Swingfire missile was born under a British requirement of the 1960s and 46,650 units were eventually produced from the period of 1966 to 1993. Development was headed by Fairey Engineering with assistance from British Aircraft Corporation (BAC). Its chief advantage was the missile's capability to quickly turn 90-degrees in-flight, allowing for in-the-field flexibility. Furthermore, a remote system allowed the weapon to be fired from 100 meters away - helping the firing team to remain concealed during an attack. In British Army service, the Swingfire was used to succeed the Vickers "Vigilant" missile developed during the 1950s.

The FV430 chassis proved a viable candidate for being fitted with a two-missile launching unit atop its hull roof line and the FV432 Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) form became the actual model seelcted for conversion to the new form - retaining the existing and proven drive arrangement of the original: five double-tired roadwheels to a hull side, the drive sprocket at front with the track idler at rear (torsion bar suspension system). The hull utilized slab-sides with a slightly-angled glacis plate while the operating crew numbered just three. The total missile load was fourteen Swingfires ready-to-fire and held under the protection of the hull - the reloading process was entirely handled from within the confines of the vehicle (thus protecting the crew from the elements and battlefield dangers).

An optional 12.7mm Heavy Machine Gun (HMG) could be installed to provide point-defense against low-flying threats and land-based vehicles up to light armor. Optional secondary armament was the 7.62mm L7 General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG) for an anti-infantry measure. Three smoke grenade dischargers were fitted to the forward corners of the hull for a total of six - this provided the crew with a self-screening option to conceal the vehicle's movement.

The completed vehicle weighed 16 tons and had an overall length of 5 meters, a beam of 3 meters and a height of 2.7 meters. Armor protection reached up to heavy small arms fire (12.7mm caliber) and artillery spray but little else - these were not to be direct-contact fighting vehicles but more of a ranged deterrent against enemy armor, principally the Soviet Main Battle Tanks (MBTs) of the period. Power was from a single Rolls-Royce K60 multi-fueled engine of 240 horsepower allowing for a road speed of 52 kmh and a range out to 480 kilometers to be reached.

Initially, the British Army assigned their new FV438 missile carriers to the Royal Armoured Corps but the role was later overtaken by Royal Artillery.

The FV438 is no longer in service and was never exported, its role overtaken by other, newer developments for the modern battlefield.


2 x "Swingfire" missile launchers.
1 x 7.62mm L7 General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG).
2 x 3 Smoke Grenade Dischargers.

14 x Swingfire missile reloads.
650 x 7.62mm ammunition.
6 x Smoke Grenades

Variants / Models

• FV438 "Swingfire" - Base Series Designation.
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