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Chieftain

Main battle tank

Chieftain tank

At the time of its introduction the Chieftain was the most powerful main battle tank in the world

 
 
Country of origin United Kingdom
Entered service 1965
Crew 4
Dimensions and weight
Weight 55 t
Length (gun forward) 10.8 m
Hull length 7.5 m
Width 3.66 m
Height 2.9 m
Armament
Main gun 120 mm rifled
Machine guns 1 x 12.7 mm, 2 x 7.62 mm
Elevation range - 10 to + 20 degrees
Traverse range 360 degrees
Ammunition load
Main gun 53 rounds
Machine guns 300 x 12.7 mm, 6 000 x 7.62 mm
Mobility
Engine Leyland L60 diesel
Engine power 585 hp
Maximum road speed 48 km/h
Range 500 km
Maneuverability
Gradient 60%
Side slope 40%
Vertical step 0.91 m
Trench 3.15 m
Fording 1 m
Fording (with preparation) 4.5 m

 

   Development of a new British tank began in the late 1950s. First prototypes were completed in 1959. The Chieftain entered British service in 1965. It replaced in service the previous Centurion and Conqueror tanks. Production continued until 1978. A total of 870 Chieftains were delivered to the British Army. It was the main British main battle tank until the introduction of Challenger in 1983. It was in operational service until 1996, when it was replaced by the new Challenger 2. This tank was exported to a number of countries, including Iran (707 units), Jordan (274 units), Kuwait, and Oman (27). A number of these tanks were captured by Iraq. Some of the exported Chieftains are still operational.

   The Chieftain was exceptional tank for a number of reasons. It had impressive firepower and protection. When introduced it was the most powerful main battle tank in the world. It outperformed contemporary tanks, such as the US M60 Patton, German Leopard 1 and the Soviet T-62. It held this title for around 15 years when the Germans adopted their Leopard 2. This tanks was specifically designed to have a multi-fuel engine.

   The Chieftain was armed with a fully-stabilized L11 series 120 mm/L55 rifled gun. It was an evolved version of the L11 gun, that was developed for Conqueror heavy tank. At the time most other tanks were using smoothbore guns. The gun was fitted with a thermal sleeve. The gun is loaded manually. Maximum rate of fire of up to 8 rounds per minute could be achieved.

   Interestingly unlike other tanks the 120 mm Chieftain's gun could not use shaped charge (HEAT) ammunition. Instead this British tank used Armor-Piercing Discarding Sabot (APDS), Armor-Piercing Fin-Stabilized Discarding Sabot (APFSDS) and High Explosive Squash Head (HESH) ammunition against armored targets.

   British insisted on use of two part ammunition with projectile and charge as opposed to single charge tank ammunition that everybody else was using. This feature improved ammunition capacity and survivability of the tank as explosive bag charges were stored in the hull below the turret ring in the most heavily armored part of the tank. The charges were stored in glycol-sealed containers, hence these were unlikely to explode. The penetrators were stored around the turret. These were completely inert and would not explode even if the turret was penetrated.

   There was a coaxial 7.62 mm machine. Another 7.62 mm machine gun was mounted on commander's cupola. Initial versions used a 12.7 mm ranging machine gun, mounted above the gun. However it was eventually replaced by a laser rangefinder and a computerized fire control system on improved versions.

   There was a night vision equipment for commander, gunner and driver.

   This tank has a welded steel hull and a well-sloped cast turret. The Chieftain had a number of unusual design features, that allowed to improve armor protection without increasing weight. For example the driver had adjustable seat and was driving while lying. This allowed to reduce height of the forward hull. The tank was fitted with NBC protection system for the crew. In the 1980s upgraded Chieftains were fitted with additional Stillbrew passive armor over the front arc of the turret.

   The Chieftain is operated by a crew of 4, including commander, gunner loader and driver. Crew stations were rather comfortable. Also the crew could stay in the tank for 24 hours and even longer. The tank had a boiling vessel - a device that boiled water for the purpose of brewing tea. It was often used for heating field rations.

   Initially it was planned that the Chieftain will be fitted with Rolls-Royce V8 diesel engine. However in 1957, during the design phase, NATO introduced a policy requiring all armored vehicles to have a multi-fuel capability. The Rolls-Royce engine was not suitable for this role. Leyland Motors was asked to develop a new multi-fuel engine. The resulting Leyland L60 was a 19-liter opposed-piston engine. It was compact and had high power output. The Leyland L60 was one of the first operational multi-fuel engines. It could run on diesel, petrol, jet fuel, kerosene, and even other flammable liquids. However it was one of the worst mass produced tank engine ever built. It was notoriously unreliable and smoked excessively. So excessively that the engine compartment was sometimes completely caked in black soot after a mission. Chieftain crews hated these engines. Actually few such engines have ever been successful. As a result the Chieftain tanks had low availability rates of only 32-35% at any given time, as most of the time these tanks were in the workshops having their engines repaired. Furthermore it would take mechanics 8 hours to perform modifications to the tank in order to run on other type of fuel than diesel. So basically there was little use of this multi-fuel capability. On the first production variant this engine developed 585 hp. It was improved and uprated over time. Due to its unsuccessful engine the Chieftain was rejected by the Dutch Army in favour of the Leopard 1, following the field trials that run in 1968. The same Leyland L60 engine, though in derated form, was also used on the Vickers Mk.1 and on Indian Vijayanta main battle tanks. Interestingly Soviets copied this unsuccessful British engine and installed it on their T-64 tank.

   The engine was mated to a semi-automatic transmission which had 6 forward and 2 reverse speeds. Engine and transmission were designed to to be quickly replaceable. Interestingly there was also an auxiliary power unit, developing 30 hp. Another element retained from the Conqueror was the use of the Horstmann suspension. Such suspension offered numerous advantages over torsion bars including greater suspension travel and easier maintenance. The Horstmann suspension was employed by many british armored vehicles, including the Centurion and Challenger 1 tanks, Warrior IFV, AS90 artillery system, Terrier armored engineer vehicle. The Chieftain can be fitted with a dozer blade and mine clearing equipment. Some sources report that this tank could be fitted with a deep fording kit. There was even a floatation kit developed for this tank.

   The Chieftain first saw combat during the Iraq-Iran War, with mixed results. They performed badly during the initial offensives, thanks in no small part to the Iranian government having purged or reassigned most of their experienced personnel and leaders. Many Chieftains fell into the hands of the Iraqi Army during this time, some of them hastily abandoned in working order. The Iraqis weren't so lucky when they faced Chieftains on the defense however, and their counteroffensive was broken. A fair number of ex-Iranian Chieftains remained in the Iraqi inventory following the war. According to some sources between 50 and 75 Chieftains were modernized and put into service with the Iraqi Army.

   Since the introduction of Chieftain in the mid 1960s anti-tank weapons evolved and the tank was showing its age. Soviets were introducing improved tank types at a rapid pace. A 1986 British report stated that armor of the Chieftain could be defeated by all modern Soviet anti-tank guns. This report also stated that newest Chieftain's and Challenger's anti-tank rounds stood a good chance of defeating the T-64 tank, but could not defeat the latest T-80.

 

Variants

 

   Chieftain Mk.1 was the first production variant. It was powered by a Leyland L60 Mk.4A engine, developing 585 hp. It was an early production version. Only 40 of these tanks were built between 1965-1966. These tanks were used for training duties. It had exceptionally long service life. This tank was used for training until the year 2000.

   Chieftain Mk.2 was an improved version, introduced in 1967 and produced until 1969. It was the first true operational version of the Chieftain. It had a new turret with better protection. This tank was powered by an improved Leyland L60 Mk.5A engine, developing 650 hp. This tank had a maximum road speed of 40 km/h.

   Chieftain Mk.3 was a further improved version of the Chieftain. It was powered by a Leyland L60 Mk.6A, developing 650 hp. This tank had a number of subvariants. It was produced between 1970 and 1973.

   Chieftain Mk.3/2 was powered by a Leyland L60 Mk.7A, developing 720 hp. This tank emerged in 1971.

   Chieftain Mk.3/3 was fitted with improved range finder of the main gun. There was also provision to mount a laser rangefinder. This tank was powered by a Leyland L60 Mk.7A, developing 720 hp. This tank emerged in 1971.

   Chieftain Mk.4 was a modified Chieftain Mk.3 with increased fuel capacity. Only 2 of these tanks were built.

   Chieftain Mk.5 was the last Chieftain's production variant. It was introduced in 1975 and production continued until 1978. Later Marks were upgrades of existing tanks. The Mk.5 was fitted with a computerized fire control system with a built-in laser rangefinder. This improved accuracy of the tank. The Chieftain Mk.5 used an improved NBC protection system. It was powered by a Leyland L60 Mk.8A, developing 750 hp. This tank has a maximum road speed of 48 km/h. This tank had an ammunition load of 64 rounds. In 1975 all previous British Chieftains, except the initial Mk.1, were brought to the Mk.5 standard.

   Chieftain Mk.6 is a designation of the Chieftain Mk.2 upgraded to the Chieftain Mk.5 standard. It was refitted with the Leyland L60 Mk.8A engine, developing 750 hp. In 1975 all Chieftain Mk.2 tanks were upgraded to this standard.

   Chieftain Mk.7 is a designation of the Chieftain Mk.3 upgraded to the Chieftain Mk.5 standard. It was refitted with the Leyland L60 Mk.8A engine, developing 750 hp. In 1975 all Chieftain Mk.3 tanks were upgraded to this standard.

   Chieftain Mk.8 is a designation of the Chieftain Mk.3/3 upgraded to the Chieftain Mk.5 standard. It was refitted with the Leyland L60 Mk.8A engine, developing 750 hp. In 1975 all Chieftain Mk.3/3 tanks were upgraded to this standard.

   Chieftain Mk.9 is a further upgrade of the Chieftain Mk.6 fitted with improved fire control system. It emerged in 1979.

   Chieftain Mk.10 is a further upgrade of the Chieftain Mk.7 fitted with improved fire control system and Stillbrew add-on passive armor to the front arc of the turret. It emerged in 1984-1986.

   Chieftain Mk.11 is a further upgrade of the Chieftain Mk.8 fitted with improved fire control system and Stillbrew add-on passive armor to the front arc of the turret. It emerged in 1984-1986.

   Chieftain Mk.12 is a further upgrade of the Chieftain Mk.5 fitted with improved fire control system and Stillbrew add-on passive armor to the front arc of the turret. It emerged in 1984-1986.

   Chieftain Mk.13 is a heavily modernized successor to the Mk.12. Development of this variant ended up being cancelled in favor of the Challenger.

   Khalid is a Jordanian designation of the Chieftain tank. It was originally built as a Shir 1 (Lion 1) for Iran. It had a modified running gear (eventually it was used on the new Challenger tank). However due to 1979 Iranian revolution the order was cancelled. The tanks that were originally built for Iran eventually ended up on Jordan.

   Shir 2 (Lion 2) was another version designed for Iran. It was the first British tank with a composite armor. Iran made a huge order for 1 225 of these tanks. However the order was cancelled due to Iranian revolution . The Shir 2 tank was further reworked and became the Challenger.

   Chieftain 800 was advanced variant fitted with Chobham composite armor and an improved powertrain. Did not enter service.

   Chieftain 900 was improved Chieftain 800, with the addition of a Centaur fire control system. Did not enter service.

   Self-propelled howitzer. A proposed version which would use a new turret mounted on a Chieftain hull.

   Chieftain Armored Recovery Vehicle (ARV).

   Chieftain Armored Recovery and Repair Vehicle (ARRV).

   Chieftain AVLB armored bridgelayer.

   Chieftain AVRE (CHAVRE) armored engineer vehicle. A total of 60 surplus Chieftain tanks were converted to engineer vehicles.

   Chieftain Marksman self-propelled anti-aircraft gun, fitted with Marksman turret.

   Chieftain Sabre self-propelled anti-aircraft gun, fitted with Sabre turret. Never reached production.

 

 

 

 
Chieftain tank

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Chieftain tank

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Chieftain tank

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Chieftain tank

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Chieftain tank

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Chieftain tank

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Chieftain tank

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Chieftain tank

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Khalid tank

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Chieftain tank

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Chieftain tank

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Chieftain tank

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Chieftain tank

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Chieftain ARV or ARRV

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Chieftain AVRE

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