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Chieftain tank

Chieftain tank
Chieftain (FV4201)

Chieftain Mk 10 or Mk 11 with Stillbrew Crew Protection Package.


Main battle tank


United Kingdom

Service history



UK, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman


IranIraq War, Iraq-Kuwait War

Production history
Manufacturer Leyland Motors


55 long tons (62short tons; 56t)


7.5m (24ft7in) - hull


3.5m (11ft6in)


2.9m (9ft6in)



Glacis: 120mm (4.7in) (72)

Hull sides: 38mm (1.5in) (10)
Turret: 195mm (7.7in) (60)


L11A5 120 mm rifled gun


2 x L7 MG


Leyland L60 (multifuel 2 stroke

750hp (560kW) 12 Cyl, 26.1 litres.




500km (310 miles) on roads


Chieftain tank


Road: 48km/h (30mph)

Off road: 30km/h (19mph)

The FV 4201 Chieftain was the main battle tank of the United Kingdom during the 1960s and 1970s. It was one of
the most advanced tanks of its era, and at the time of its introduction in 1966 had the most powerful main gun and
heaviest armour of any tank in the world.[2] The Chieftain also introduced a supine (lying backwards) driver position,
enabling a heavily sloped hull with reduced height.

The Chieftain was a radical evolutionary development of the successful Centurion line of tanks that had emerged at
the end of the Second World War. The British had learned during the war that their tanks often lacked sufficient
protection and firepower compared to those fielded by the enemy, and that this had led to high casualty levels when
faced with the superior German tanks in World War II.
In the post war period, the British Army bolstered the Centurion with the 120mm (4.7in) gun Conqueror heavy tank
for long range anti-tank firepower against the Soviet IS-3.
Leyland, who had been involved in Centurion, had built their own prototypes of a new tank design in 1956, and these
led to a War Office specification for a new tank. The General Staff specification drew on experience of the Centurion
in the Korean War and the Conqueror. The tank was expected to be able to engage the enemy at long range and from
defensive positions, be proof against medium artillery. To this end, the gun was to have a greater angle of depression
than the 8 degrees of Conqueror and better frontal armour. The tank was expected to achieve 10 rounds per minute in
the first minute and six per minute for the following four.
The design was accepted in the early 1960s. Chieftain was designed to be as well protected as possible and to be
equipped with a powerful 120mm rifled gun. The heavy armour came at the price of reduced mobility, chiefly due
to engine power limitations, which was perhaps the Chieftain's main drawback. In 1957 NATO had specified that its
forces should use multi-fuel engines. The engine as introduced gave less than the planned output; improvements to
the engine did not increase power to the desired value.
The early BL Engine delivered around 450bhp (340kW) to the sprocket which meant a top road speed of around
25mph (40km/h) and cross country performance was limited. Due to the cylinder linings being pressure fitted
coolant leaks within the cylinder block were common, resulting in white smoke billowing from the exhaust. In the
late 1970s engine design changed with the introduction of Belzona which was used to improve the lining seals.
Engine output also increased with later engines delivering some 850bhp (630kW) to the sprocket. This meant better
performance and an increased speed. However the engine was the main failing of this overly maligned vehicle, along
with its rather uncomfortable Horstmann coil spring suspension that made it a challenge to drive cross country and
provide the crew with a comfortable ride.
Several aspects of the Chieftain design were trialled by the production of the FV4202 "40-ton Centurion" with a
reclined driver position and mantleless gun mounting.
The first few prototypes were provided for troop trials from 1959, this identified a number of changes. Changes to
address engine vibration and cooling resulted in redesign of the rear hull. This increased to the design weight to
nearly 50 tons and as such the suspension (which had been designed for 45 tons) was strengthened. Track pads had
to be fitted to protect German roads from damage and the ground clearance increased.

Chieftain tank

The Chieftain design included a heavily sloped hull and turret which greatly increased the effective thickness of the
frontal armour - 388mm (15.3in) on the glacis (from an actual thickness of 120mm (4.7in)), and 390mm (15.4in)
on the turret (from 195mm (7.7in)).[1] It had a mantleless turret, in order to take full advantage of reclining the
vehicle up to ten degrees in a hull-down position.
The driver lay semi-recumbent in the hull when his hatch was closed down, which helped to reduce overall height.
The commander, gunner and loader were situated in the turret. To the left side of the turret was a large infra-red
searchlight in an armoured housing.
The Leyland L60 engine is a two-stroke opposed piston design intended for multi-fuel use so that it could run on
petrol or diesel or anything in between. In practice the engine did not deliver the expected power, and was unreliable,
estimated to have a 90% breakdown rate, but improvements were introduced to address this. Primary problems
included, cylinder liner failure, fan drive problems and perpetual leaks due to vibration and badly routed pipework.
However, as the engine power improved the tank itself became heavier.
The tank was steered by conventional tillers hydraulically actuating onto external brake discs. The discs worked via
the epicyclic gearbox providing "regenerative" steering. In reality the discs and pads became soaked in oil and diesel
and the steering became difficult. The gearbox was operated motorcycle-style with a kick up/kick down "peg" on the
left which actuated electro-hydraulic units in the gearbox; the accelerator was cable operated by the right foot. In the
turret the loader was on the left and the gunner on the right of the gun with the commander behind the gunner. The
suspension was of the Horstmann bogie type, with large side plates to protect the tracks and provide stand-off
protection from hollow charge attack.
The main armament was the 120 mm L11A5 rifled gun. This differed from most
contemporary main tank armament as it used projectiles and charges which were
loaded separately, as opposed to a single fixed round. The charges were encased
in combustible bags. Other tank guns, such as on the Conqueror, needed to store
the spent shell cartridges or eject them outside. The combustible charges were
stored in 36 recesses surrounded by a water/glycol mixture - so-called
"wet-stowage". In the event of a hit which penetrated the fighting compartment,
the jacket would rupture, soaking the charges and preventing a catastrophic
propellant explosion.[3]
The gun could fire a wide range of ammunition, but the most commonly loaded
types were high explosive squash head (HESH), armour-piercing discarding
Chieftain display at the Bovington
sabot (APDS), or practice round equivalents for both types. The Chieftain could
tank museum, 2006
store up to 62 projectiles (though a maximum of 36 APDS, limited by the
propellant stowage). The gun was fully stabilised with a fully computerized integrated control system. The secondary
armament consisted of a coaxial L8A1 7.62 mm machine gun, and another 7.62mm machine gun mounted on the
commander's cupola.
The Chieftain had an NBC protection system, which the Centurion lacked.
The initial Fire-control system (FCS) was the Marconi FV/GCE Mk 4. A .50-cal (12.7mm) ranging gun was
mounted above the main gun (with 300 rounds available). This fired ranging shots out to a maximum of 2,600 yards
(2,400m), at which point the tracer in the ranging rounds burned out. The tank commander had a rotating cupola
with nine vision blocks and a periscope, plus the 7.62mm machine-gun and an infrared (IR) projector coaxial with
the weapon. The aiming systems were provided for both gunner and tank commander; they had 1x or 8x selectable
magnification power, and they were replaceable with IR vision systems for the night operations (3x magnification
power). The left side of the turret had a large white light/infra-red searchlight inside an armoured box. It had a
relatively long range for this kind of system up to 11.5 kilometres (0.620.93 mi).[4]

Chieftain tank
From the beginning of the '70s, the Mk 3/3 version replaced the ranging gun with a Barr and Stroud LF-2 laser
rangefinder with a 10km (6.2mi) range. This allowed engagements at much longer ranges, and also could be linked
to the fire control system, allowing more rapid engagements and changes of target.
From the Mk 5 onwards, fire control was provided by the Marconi IFCS (Improved Fire Control System), using a
digital ballistic computer. The upgrade was not finished until the end of 1980, when some examples (but not the
majority) had the IR searchlight replaced with TOGS, the Thermal imaging system already fitted to the Challenger.
Many examples had Stillbrew armour as well, meant to face Soviet 125mm tank guns and heavy anti-tank missiles.
These became the Mark 13 version.[4]

Like its European competitors, the Chieftain found a large export
market in the Middle East, but unlike the earlier Centurion, it was not
adopted by any other NATO or Commonwealth countries.
The Chieftain proved itself capable in combat and able to be upgraded
with enhancements both for overall improvement and to meet local
requirements. The Chieftain tanks were continuously upgraded until
the early 1990s when they were replaced by the Challenger series of
tanks whose design was influenced by that of Chieftain. The final
Chieftain tanks of 14th/20th King's Hussars on
Chieftain version used by the British Army until 1995, incorporated
parade with urban camouflage, Strae des 17.
Juni, West-Berlin, 18 june 1989.
"Stillbrew" armour named after Colonel Still and John Brewer from the
Military Vehicles and Engineering Establishment (MVEE), the
Improved Fire Control System (IFCS) and the Thermal Observation Gunnery Sight (TOGS).
The first Chieftain model was introduced in 1967. Chieftains were supplied to at least six countries, including Iran,
Kuwait, Oman and Jordan. An agreement for sale of Chieftains to Israel was cancelled by the British Government in
1969[5], despite considerable Israeli input into the development of the tank.[6] The largest foreign sale was to Iran,
which took delivery of 707 Mk-3P and Mk-5P, 125189 FV-4030-1, 41 ARV and 14 AVLB before the 1979
revolution.[7] Further planned deliveries of the more capable 4030 series were cancelled at that point. The tank's
main combat experience was in the IranIraq War of 1980-88.


Crew: 4
Combat Weight: 55 tons
Overall Length: 10.8m (35ft5.2in) (gun forward)
Hull Length: 7.5m (24ft7.3in)
Height: 2.9m (9ft6.2in)
Width: 3.5m (11ft5.8in)
Powerplant: Leyland L60 (diesel, multi-fuel compression ignition) 695bhp (518kW)
Range: 500km (310mi)
Max Road Speed: 48km/h (30mph)
Cross-Country Speed: 30km/h (19mph)
Armour: turret front, 195mm (7.7in) RHA (60)

Chieftain tank

120 mm L11A5 rifled tank gun
Rate of fire: 8 rounds per minute
Elevation: -10 to +20 degree
Laser rangefinder
Coaxial L8A1 7.62mm machine gun
Cupola-mounted L37A1 7.62mm machine gun
Mark 1 and Mark 2 models had coaxial .50 cal. ranging machine guns prior to the introduction of the laser

Twin Clansman VRC 353 VHF Radio sets
1 C42 1 B47 Larkspur VHF radios
2 X 6-barrel smoke dischargers on turret
Bulldozer blade (optional - fitted to one tank per squadron)

Chieftain Mk 1
40 training vehicles for 19651966. Issued to 1 RTR and 5 RTR for troop trials.
Chieftain Mk 2
First service model with 650hp engine.
Chieftain Mk 3
Extra equipment fitted giving rise to several sub-marks. New cupola.
Chieftain Mk.5
Final production variant, with upgrades to the engine and NBC protection system.
Chieftain Mk.6-9
Incremental upgrades to earlier Marks of tanks, including addition of Clansman radios.
Chieftain Mk.10
Mark 9 upgrade, addition of Stillbrew Crew Protection Package to the turret front and turret ring.
Chieftain Mk.11
Mark 10 upgrade, searchlight replaced with the Thermal Observation and Gunnery System (TOGS),
manufactured by Barr and Stroud.
Chieftain Mk.12/13
Proposed further upgrades, cancelled when the Challenger 2 was introduced.
Chieftain 900
Chieftain with Chobham armour
Bridge-laying vehicle
Armoured Recovery Vehicle, Armoured Recovery and Repair Vehicle.

Chieftain tank

Chieftain AVRE
Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers, a British Army combat
engineering variant used by the Royal Engineers.
Chieftain Marksman
self-propelled anti-aircraft gun version, equipped with the
Marksman twin gun turret.
Chieftain Mineclearer
Mine-clearing development.

British Army 31 Armoured Engineer Squadron

Chieftain AVRE in Canada

Chieftain Sabre
Twin 30mm AA turret.
Khalid (also designated 4030P2J - P = Phase & J = Jordan)/Shir (Lion)
Jordanian / Iranian variant with running gear of the Challenger 1.
Basically this was a transition vehicle from the Chieftain to the
Shir 2 which had been intended for Iran but was subsequently
cancelled. The Shir 2 tanks became Challenger 1 tanks after
reworking at ROF Leeds. The vehicle chassis comprised the
front half of a Chieftain Hull, Chieftain running gear and the rear
of a 4030/2 Chassis (Sloping Hull). This allowed the fitment in
the engine bay of a Rolls-Royce CV8 engine.

Khalid variant

Weapon Carriers
The Chieftain chassis was modified to mount air defence weapons ("Marksman" 2 x 35mm cannon) and a
155mm howitzer in various modifications.
Shir 2
Iranian variant. Visible external differences from the Chieftain Mk.5 included a sloping rear hull, Removal of
the Searchlight from the left turret area and storage baskets refitted, water channel removed from around
drivers hatch on the glacis plate, modified light clusters also on the glacis plate, Larger sight housing on
commanders cupola.
Mobarez Tank
Iranian upgraded version of the Chieftain.


United Kingdom: Used from 1965 to 1995.

Iran: 707 Mk-3P and Mk-5P, 125189 FV-4030-1, 41 ARV and 14 AVLB obtained before the 1979
revolution. Further planned deliveries of the more capable 4030 series were cancelled at that point. 100 in service
as of 2005. (100 in 1990, 250 in 1995, 140 in 2000, 200 in 2002).[8]
Iraq: 30 tanks in service with Iraqi Army in 1990. All destroyed or scrapped.
Jordan: 274 Khalid delivered between 1981-1985 + 90 MK5/5 From Iraq.[9] 350 in service
Kuwait: 175 in 1976, 45 in 1989, 20 in 1995, 17 in storage in 2000.[10]
Oman: 27 delivered 198185.[11]

Chieftain tank

[1] Richard Ogorkiewicz, Cold War, Hot Science: Applied Research in Britain's Defence Laboratories 1945-1990 (2002), p.128-129, edited by
Robert Bud & Philip Gummett, NMSI Trading Ltd, ISBN 1-900747-47-2
[2] Richard M. Ogorkiewicz, Jane's - The Technology of Tanks, Jane's Information Group, p.69
[3] Simon Dunstan, Chieftain Main Battle Tank 1965-2003, Osprey Publishing, p.6
[4] JP-4 dossier, 'Main battle tanks'(1990), p.35-36, edited by Ed.Ai. 1990, Florence
[5] Files reveal British-Israel tank secrets (http:/ / news. bbc. co. uk/ 1/ hi/ world/ middle_east/ 2623545. stm) BBC News 2 January 2003
[6] http:/ / www. military-quotes. com/ forum/ israeli-armor-magazin-chieftain-dirty-t443. html
[7] "Trade Register" (http:/ / armstrade. sipri. org/ armstrade/ page/ trade_register. php), SIPRI, , (Search UK to Iran, 1950-2008)
[8] Iranian Ground Forces Equipment (http:/ / www. globalsecurity. org/ military/ world/ iran/ ground-equipment. htm)
[9] "Trade Register" (http:/ / armstrade. sipri. org/ armstrade/ page/ trade_register. php), SIPRI, , (Search UK to Jordan, 1950-2008)
[10] Kuwait Army Equipment (http:/ / www. globalsecurity. org/ military/ world/ gulf/ kuwait-army-equip. htm)
[11] "Trade Register" (http:/ / armstrade. sipri. org/ armstrade/ page/ trade_register. php), SIPRI, , (Search UK to Oman, 1950-2008)

Norman, Michael, AFV Profile No. 18 Chieftain and Leopard (Development), Profile Publishing

External links (

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