Once mechanized warfare became an entrenched part of the battlefield it quickly became apparent to war planners that dedicated engineering-minded vehicles were needed to help clear obstacles in the path of advancing allied forces and to assist in preparing defenses of friendly-held territories. This then led to the accepted practice of modifying existing tank chassis to become such solutions and the practice has continued to this day. During the latter half of the Cold War, the British Army's Royal Engineers relied on types like the FV180 Combat Engineering Tractor (CET) to fill the role.
Origins of the vehicle lay in a 1962 requirement calling for a bull-dozing, armor-protected military vehicle. To offset design, development and production costs, the solution would be jointly-developed between Britain, France and what was then West Germany. The Royal Ordnance Factory (ROF) at Leeds provided the initial pair of prototypes for review. However, the French abandoned their commitment to the program in 1968 and West Germany followed in 1970 - each deciding to pursue other avenues.
The British Army persisted with the design into the 1970s and implemented a slew of cost-saving measures including use of commercially-available components making up the drivetrain and steering functions. The vehicle became the "FV180 CET" for the British Army in 1975 following successful trials and serial production ramped up in 1977 to which the first service-quality forms arrived for service in May of 1978.
In its finalized form, the system was given a proven track-and-wheel chassis with a large earthmover dozer at the bow. The fixed armored hull superstructure was fitted over the chassis and provided some base protection for its crew of two. Power was served through a Rolls-Royce C6TFR 6-cylinder diesel engine of 320 horsepower giving the vehicle a range out to 320 kilometers and road speeds fast enough to keep up with the main fighting force. An amphibious feature was built into the design to allow passage through water sources with little preparation needed. The drive system included four road wheels with a front-mounted idler and rear-mounted drive sprocket to each hull side.
The FV180 series has since been superseded by the newer "Terrier Armoured Digger" (detailed elsewhere on this site). The product sports modern features including improved crew protection and increased situational awareness in all-weather and low-light level environments.