Wheeled Armored Personnel Carrier (APC)
The Saxon became a proven battlefield performer for its time and continues to serve some nations even today.
Authored By: JR Potts, AUS 173d AB and Dan Alex | Last Edited:
The Saxon AT105 is a 4-wheeled armored personnel carrier (APC) used by the British Army and supplied in small numbers to several countries overseas. Developed by GKN Sankey Corporation (GKN Defense) as a private venture to be a low cost APC, the vehicle is constructed on a Bedford 4x4 truck body with a commercial-grade engine and transmission system. The first prototype was made ready in 1976 with production vehicles following in that year. Its design made of many common and widely available components in use across other British Army vehicles and that facet proved a high selling point for the British military when inking the contract. The logic toward military standardization and economy of spares and repair operations has also made the AT105 an attractive option to European markets.
The AT105 concept was an improvement over the AT104 differentiated by more armor protection in the AT105. At its core, the vehicle is a lightly-armored truck with limited off-road mobility and can only resist small arms fire. The armor can protect the passengers from 7.62mm/0.30 caliber AP (Armor Piercing) rounds at point-blank range as well as deflect or retard incoming 155mm artillery shell fragments. The frame of the truck has a V-shaped steel plate welded under the hull to counter mine explosions to a degree. The two-man base crew sit forward in the design layout and up to ten passengers can sit in the rear compartment on bench seating, albeit in tight quarters. The driver controls the vehicle by an automobile-style wheel and transmission stick. Some storage for gear is allocated across the roof and a pair of large doors fitted to the rear provides for quick exits and entry. The main cab maintained two rectangular doors for side entry/exit. The vehicle commander has a 7.62mm general purpose machine gun (GPMG) mount positioned just above the cab in a fixed cupola complete with vision blocks. Wheels are set far apart from one another and promote a high profile for the Saxon, helping to achieve the needed off-road performance. Armor is both slab-sides and angular and gives the Saxon its distinct appearance.
Saxon Army groups were based in Britain but saw their first deployment in Germany in 1983 to mechanized infantry battalions during the Cold War. Should the Cold War have gone "hot", the Saxon would most assuredly been placed into immediate action as with most other battlefield implements in the region at the time. In 2005, the Saxon was issued to the 3rd Infantry Division in the United Kingdom.
In 1983 values, each AT105 cost British tax payers over 100,000 British Pounds. The British Army ordered 47 systems in 1984 and added another 250 over the following five years. By 1990, the British military had 524 such vehicles in inventory. Beyond her presumed action roles, the Saxon was also utilized as a taxi for personnel needing to make road journeys in support of British forces stationed across Germany and served British infantry in Ireland as well. As a lightly armored wheeled vehicle, the Saxon could make a road speed of 60mph and cover over 300 miles on internal fuel. Performance, no doubt, suffered when going off road. Sharing many parts with commercial trucks, and military vehicles helped to cut the operating cost and time in the motor pool down to an extent. The vehicle was cleared to cross a 3 foot, 8 inch stream.
The Saxon has a number of variants that came about from ongoing operations in Northern Ireland, this primarily against hostile civilians within the ever-deadly urban environment. One such development was a modified Saxon having special security equipment and metal "wings" along the sides for her troops to stand behind. Additional equipment could include a removable front barricade ram attachment with extra spotlights for dusk, night time operations. An armored ambulance derivative was also devised as was a battlefield recovery unit with an integrated front-seated winch system. In 1991, The British Army purchased another 100 Saxons for mostly patrol duty and some ambulance models to further back the ranks. These were fitted with an improved Cummins 6BT 5.91 diesel fueled, 6-cylinder engine delivering 160 base horsepower and tied to an automatic transmission. Most units have a built-in smoke discharge machine. Other options have included air conditioning kits, heater, grenade launchers and an upgraded 190 horsepower Perkins T6.3544 diesel engine running at 2,500rpm.
The British Army was, at one time, the largest operator of the Saxon APC with over 600 examples in service. Later British Army Saxons are known as "Saxon Patrol". The Saxon in British Army service was set to be replaced by the winner of the Future Rapid Effect System (FRES) program but this program has since split to become to separate requirement fulfillments - the Specialist Vehicle (SV) and Utility Vehicle (UV) programs. The new multi-role vehicles are set to number in the thousands and supply the British Army for decades to come with a quick-reaction, cost-effective end-product based on currently evolving needs and enemies.
The British Army no longer operates Saxons, many having been sold off.
GKN Defense was later formed with Alvis, becoming Alvis Vehicles. Since then, the company has evolved to become Alvis Vickers after their merger to Vickers Defense. Ultimately, both companies were absorbed into BAE Systems, Land Systems.
Operators today (2015) include Bahrain, the rebuilding Iraqi military, Malaysia, Mozambique, Nigeria, Oman, Somalia, and Ukraine. As many as 75 vehicles were sold to Ukrainian forces prior to its war against Russia in the Donbass region. Hong Kong police forces retired their Saxons in 2009 and accepted the UNIMOG U5000 series in its place.