The Alvis FV107 Scimitar is a light armored reconnaissance platform primarily in service with the British Army. The vehicle is part of the successful line of CVR(T) (Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked)) family produced by Alvis for the British military and was designed specifically to replace the aging series of Saladin armored scout cars then in service. The Alvis family of light vehicles consists of fast, agile and relatively small developments that fulfill a variety of dedicated battlefield roles including reconnaissance, armored personnel carrier, command vehicles, battlefield ambulance, anti-tank missile carriers and recovery. All of the designs were branched from a base design so as to allow for increased commonality in parts between the various roles. Out of the 3,500 or so family vehicles ultimately produced, over 600 were of the Scimitar variety. The first Alvis CVR(T) pilot vehicle was completed in 1969, subsequently trialled and formally accepted into British Army service. Initial production models were delivered in 1971. The Scimitar is called upon to conduct sorties in the realm of light observation and reconnaissance but can also engage "light" quality targets as needed and is characterized in some sources as a "light tank".
Outwardly, the Scimitar promotes a profile not unlike its sister, the FV101 Scorpion. However, the Scimitar is armed with a long-barrel 30mm cannon as opposed to the latter's 76mm short-barrel main gun. The 30mm cannon is capable of defeating light armor and is suitable for engaging soft-skinned vehicles or structures. She is crewed by three personnel made up of the driver, commander and gunner. The driver resides in the hull while the commander and gunner take their places in the two-man turret (commander at left and gunner at right). The Scimitar is protected over by aluminum based armor. Her listed weight is just over 8 tons. She fields a running length of 4.9 meters with a width of 2.2 meters and a height of 2.1 meters. The hull bow is rounded and the glacis plate lies nearly flat. The driver maintains a hatch along the upper left side of the hull with the engine fitted to his right. The engine's placement is marked by a vented grill on the right side of the hull roof and an exhaust pipe can clearly be seen along the right side of the tank body. The top of the hull is flat and the rear panel is vertical to the ground. The turret is mounted well aft of the vehicle's center and sports the available weaponry. The turret sides are sloped to help with small arms and grenade ballistics protection. External storage box options are abundant accessories on the Scimitar. Passive night vision support is standard as is NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) protection. The Scimitar can be fully "buttoned" down in the latter mode and includes such basic comforts as a forces air system, a water heating element and a toilet found under the commander's seat. Thermal sighting and a laser rangefinder are optional.
Primary armament of the Scimitar is a 30mm L21 RARDEN cannon fitted to a 360-degree traversing turret offering some elevation (+35 to -10 degrees). The main gun is rated at 90 rounds per minute and 165 x 30mm projectiles are carried aboard. The gun extends a distance away from the turret and tapers off, ultimately capped by a flash cone. Ammunition types include High Explosive Incendiary (HEI), High Explosive (HE), Armor Piercing (AP), Armor Piercing Secondary Effects (APSE) and Armor Piercing Discarding Sabot-Tracer (APDS-T). A 7.62mm L37A1 machine gun is fitted in a coaxial mount alongside the main gun and can engage targets that are beyond the scope of the 30mm armament. Of course, this weapon relies on the turret facing the target or target area to be fully effective but serves well as an anti-infantry/anti-aircraft weapon system. Some 2,000 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition are carried aboard while more can be carried with additional storage boxes. Defense is handled by eight smoke grenade dischargers (in groupings of four) fitted to each turret side.
Power for the Scimitar was initially derived from a single automobile-style Jaguar J60 4.2 liter 6-cylinder gasoline 190 horsepower engine but these have since given way to the Cummins BTA 5.9 liter diesel engine delivering up to 190 horsepower thanks to a life extension program. This supplies the vehicle with a top road speed of 50 miles per hour and a range out to 279 miles. The vehicle sits atop a set of five rubber-tired tracked road wheels (five to a vehicle side) with the drive sprocket held forward and the track idler at the rear. No track return rollers are present. Suspension is of the torsion bar variety. The Scimitar holds a ground clearance equal to 0.35 meters.
The United Kingdom has remained the primary operator of the Scimitar system with some 325 examples delivered in whole. These Scimitars operate with reconnaissance elements of the British Army made up of five regiments with three squadrons of twelve Scimitars. The Royal Air Force has also found value in the little system and utilizes it in the bomb disposal role where its 30mm cannon is used to detonate unexploded ordnance. Scimitars in British service are expected to be retired some time in 2013.
Other operators have included the Jordanian and Belgian armies fielding 175 and 141 examples respectively. Jordan obtained over 100 Scimitars in a 2006 deal that netted the British $20 million. The Belgian Army has since retired their Scimitars beginning in 2005. Nigeria may operate as many as five examples while Honduras may have received up to three Scimitars.
The British Army fielded the Scimitar in a combat role for the first time in the Falklands War of 1982. The dictatorship of Argentina saw fit to invade the island chain, which was a British interest, and forced the British military to become involved. The war also marked the combat debut of the Harrier jump jet. In the conflict, the Scimitar played a vital role in supplying intelligence in day and night operations and its 30mm cannon worked well against Argentine targets. The tracked nature and durable suspension system of the Scimitar also played well in the damp, muddy terrain of the islands. The Scimitar participated in the night Battle of Wireless Ridge from June 13th to June 14th that resulted in a British victory.
Further military actions involving the Scimitar came from its involvement in the Bosnian-Kosovo war during NATO peacekeeping missions. The Scimitar has recently seen activity in the 2003 American invasion of Iraq and in ongoing operations across Afghanistan. In the latter operational actions, the Scimitar has been criticized by some British officers for its four-decade old existence, leading to mounting in-the-field problems such as unreliable powerplants and jamming of the main gun. The FRES Scout program, intended to replace the Scimitar, is ongoing with a likely operational start date no earlier than sometime in 2015. The program is under danger of being curtailed or cancelled outright due to defense budget constraints for the British Ministry of Defense forecasting the future of the Scimitar as a cloudy one at best.