It is impossible to tell the tale of CVR(T), and by extension, FRES, without understanding the role of the ‘Tank Factory’ At Chobham Common, or more commonly, Chertsey. The area had been used for armoured vehicle research and development since 1942 under various names but more recently, the Fighting Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (FVRDE) and Military Vehicles and Engineering Establishment (MVEE).
FVRDE and MVEE would play a significant role in a number of projects described in this document.
Armoured Vehicle Reconnaissance (AVR)
In 1960 the Army stated a desire to replace the Saladin wheeled fighting vehicle with a new design defined by General Staff requirement (GSR) 1106. The Fighting Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (FVRDE) developed a number of wheeled and tracked concepts including the Lightweight High Mobility Tactical Vehicle concept in response.
The LHMTV vehicle family was to be constrained by the payload capacity and internal dimensions of the Armstrong Whitworth Argosy transport aircraft. The Argosy’s payload capacity was very low by today’s standards, at just 4.5 tonnes.
Early concepts eschewed the combined gun/missile launcher being developed for the US Armoured Reconnaissance/Airborne Assault Vehicle (M551 Sheridan). It proposed, instead, a conventional 3 man tracked design that weighed just under 14 tonnes, mounting a 76mm or 105mm gun with box launchers for the Swingfire Anti Tank Guided Weapon (ATGW). The turret arrangement was its most unusual feature, limited in traverse to 180 degrees.
Although not proposed for AVR, a 20 tonne test vehicle called the TV1000 (powered by a Rover Meteorite V8 petrol engine rated at 535 bhp) introduced a number of concepts that were to appear in the final design. The ‘skid steering system’ of the TV1000 (it was actually much more sophisticated than that) caused many problems: tire wear, poor stability at speed and poor turning performance on soft ground.
The vehicle never progressed beyond being a test bed.
By 1963 the original concepts for the Armoured Vehicle Reconnaissance project had been supplanted by recognition that a more versatile family of vehicles was needed, and that the as then envisaged AVR baseline vehicle was too heavy. A separate study completed by the Concepts section of the Fighting Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (FVRDE) had resulted in a proposal for a family of light tracked vehicles that included one with a 120mm WOMBAT Recoilless Rifle. Another had a turreted 76mm gun. One of the more interesting concepts saw the same vehicle mounting a 105mm howitzer that could be dismounted and fired independently of the carrier; echoes of the much later gun portee designs using the M777 155mm.
General Staff Requirement (GSR) 3301was issued in August 1964 and with progress in transport aircraft capabilities, the Argosy constraint was lifted as AVR became CVR (Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance).
The wheeled requirement had originally been dropped from AVR, but would now re-appear in CVR.
Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (CVR)
A short time after proposing their family of fighting vehicles, the Fighting Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (FVRDE) developed and tested the TV 15000. This would become the precursor to CVR(T). TV 15000 featured a range of new innovations. Aluminium armour, for example, had never been used on a British vehicle, before. Its hydro pneumatic suspension and lightweight tracks were also at the cutting edge.
In parallel to work by FVRDE the Government entered into a fruitless agreement with the USA, Canada and Australia to explore concepts for a light reconnaissance vehicle with the detailed design work being carried out by FMC in the USA.
Meanwhile, work on TV15000 had continued and by the end of 1966 FVRDE had produced two test rigs, one static and one mobile, with the mobile test rig rolled out of the workshops on Christmas Eve 1965, shown in the image below.
The Test Rigs were intended specifically to prove the automotive components: engine, transmission, track and suspension. The TN-15 transmission was a scaled down variant of the Self Changing Gears Ltd Merritt Wilson TN12 as used in the Chieftain. This system was so far ahead of its time that the designer reputedly had a nervous breakdown trying to figure out how to design the final drives!
The original hydro pneumatic suspension of the TV 15000 was eventually replaced with a more conventional torsion bar design and the Rolls Royce Vanden Plas B.60 engine swapped for a new version of the 4.2 Litre Jaguar XK . The petrol engine was de-rated to 195 bhp in order to allow it to use low octane fuel, and this produced a power to weight ratio of approximately 26 bhp/tonne, delivering a range of 600km.
A year later (they did not mess around in those days) Alvis were awarded a contract to produce 17 CVR(T) prototypes from the Mobile Test Rig design and test studies.
The first prototype was rolled out of the Alvis factory on January 23rd 1969 and trials would commence soon after.
30 prototypes were eventually built.
Meanwhile, the wheeled variant of the CVR programme was in development to GSR 3358, issued in 1965.
The British Army had long made use of wheeled armoured cars in the reconnaissance role, the FV700 Ferret and FV600 Saladin being two good examples. FVRDE proposed the Ferret Mark V and Ferret Mark VI, the former having a one man turret and the latter, a two man turret armed with a 30mm RARDEN cannon s fitted on Scimitar. The FV721 Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Wheeled) or CVR(W) Foxwas developed further by Daimler under a separate development contract and by 1967, the first prototype was delivered.
By 1969, all 15 prototype vehicles had been delivered ready for user acceptance trials.
Fox was an obvious development of the big wheel Ferret, with a much larger turret that could accommodate the 30mm RARDEN cannon as fitted to Scimitar. It also had the same Jaguar engine as found in CVR(T).
The story of the FV432 actually starts in 1958 when the MoD contracted the Fighting Vehicle Development Division of GKN Sankey to design, develop and produce 17 prototype and test vehicles. Once could even make a convincing argument that the FV430 series has its roots in a number of post war studies that resulted in the FV401 Cambridge Carrier and FV420 series, the latter of which progressed to prototype stage in 1958.
Following troop trials, the first production FV432 vehicles entered service in 1963 and by the end of the production run in 1971 over 3,000 vehicles had entered service with the British Army.
The FV430 series of vehicles has progressed through several marks and many variants although it was never given a formal name. The original suggestion of Trojan was dropped after objections from the Trojan car company.
The 432 would also be used for many tasks and have role specific equipment, carriage for WOMBAT, ground surveillance, command, mortar, ambulance, recovery, Carl Gustav, Barmine layer, Milan, sonic detection, a 30mm RARDEN Scimitar turret and even provide OPFOR vehicles.
FV432 Armoured Personnel Carrier, a basic APC with 2 crew and 10 dismounts.
FV433 Field Artillery, Self-Propelled, more commonly known as the Abbot 105 mm self-propelled gun and FV434 Carrier, Maintenance, Full Tracked. REME repair carrier with hydraulic jib.
FV436 Command and Control. Originally intended for the Green Archer radar it did not enter service. 432’s were converted to the command and control role, taking the unused 436 designation. The FV435 variant was a carrier for the Wavell communications system. Recognisable by the numerous masts and antennae, and fitted with a wide variety of signals equipment over the years they were in service, the FV439.
The FV437 was a pathfinder vehicle equipped with a snorkel but never entered service. The FV438 was similar to the CVR(T) Striker, armed with Swingfire missiles.
The FV431 Light Tracked Load Carrier was also tested but the Stalwart was eventually selected instead.
Infantry Fighting Vehicle Concepts
Even though the FV432 had been in service for a relatively short period of time initial concepts for its replacement were developed by FVRDE starting in 1967. This work was at the concept stage only but they all involved the evolution to an infantry fighting vehicle.
Mines were a particular problem in Aden and a number of vehicle modifications introduced to deal with them.
Protected mobility would go on to be a significant issue in the development of FRES, especially regarding IED protection.
Although they were not used for route clearing it is interesting to note that for operations in Aden during the late sixties a number of ‘mine protected’ vehicles were developed and deployed to good effect. Specifically, these were modifications for Land Rovers and 3 Ton Trucks.
The FV430 series of vehicles entered service in 1963 and by the early seventies production was in full swing.
The Fighting Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (FVRDE) and the Military Experimental Engineering Establishment (MEXE) at Christchurch amalgamated in 1970 to form the Military Vehicles and Engineering Establishment (MVEE).
CVR(T) and CVR(W) Enters Service
After producing 17 prototype vehicles of the Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance, or CVR(T), Alvis were awarded a production contract for 2,000 vehicles in May 1970.
At the time CVR(T) was pretty ground breaking. One of the real breakthroughs was the use of welded aluminium armour throughout. Although both the United States M113 and Sheridan armoured vehicles made use of aluminium armour, it was either of lower quality as in the M113 (in which type 5083 alloy used) or not used throughout. The Sheridan, for example, had an aluminium hull of the same alloy as CVR(T), but the turret was steel. The CVR(T) hull and turret were made entirely of the new 7039 aluminium zinc magnesium alloy.
Trials took place in Australia, Abu Dhabi, Iran, and Canada.
By 1973 Scorpion had entered service with the British Army, specifically the Blues and Royals in Windsor and 17th/21st Lancers in West Germany – it had already been delivered to the Armour Centre at Bovington in Dorset, and the School of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering at Bordon in Hampshire, in 1972. During the initial deployments in Germany a Scorpion also set the record for a tracked vehicle around the Nürburgring!
The CVR(W) Fox entered service in 1975 with the 1st Royal Tank Regiment with deliveries peaking at 40 vehicles per month.
The CVR(W) Fox production contract was awarded ROF Leeds in 1970.
Warrior and Saxon Developed
Towards the end of the the seventies the FV432 had been in service for nearly a decade.
Concepts for its replacement had started as early as 1967 at the former FVRDE, with these initial studies examining trends in armoured vehicles, especially those of the Warsaw Pact. The UK (and other nations) came to the conclusion that FV430 and its peers were too poorly protected and that a heavier vehicle of up to 30 tonnes, and powered by a 750hp engine, would be needed to survive on the modern battlefield, i.e. West Germany.
The early Mechanised Infantry Combat Vehicle’s (MICV) concepts envisaged three weight classes, Light at 14.6 tonnes, Medium at 24.2 tonnes and an up-armoured version of the Medium that weighed 28.9 tonnes. The Light variant would use the same engine as the in-development Combat Engineer Tractor (CET) and a number of variants would be part of the family.
FVRDE also suggested that the FV430 replacement would benefit from the new Chobham armour and the same RARDEN cannon as fitted to CVR(T).
This 30 tonne Chobham-armoured concept was subsequently dropped but many of the proposed design features were carried forward.
Approval was given by the MoD to enter a Project Definition phase for stage 1 (PD1) and was completed by the new Military Vehicles and Engineering Establishment (MVEE) between 1972 and 1976. MVEE also contracted with a number of industry partners as part of PD1 to support their work. Following completion of PD1 a competition for the development phase was announced that would take forward the MICV4A concept. Manufacturing would be let separately, this being the first time such an arrangement was used.
GKN Sankey won the development contract in 1979, largely due to the technical prowess of the Sankey chief designer, Ken Lofts. It was an important win for GKN as the prevailing thinking was that the winner of the development contract would be in pole position for the separate manufacturing contract as well, at that time thought to be for in excess of 1,000 vehicles. The MCV-80 (Mechanised Combat Vehicle for the eighties) was selected on the basis of a study that compared the GKN design with the US XM2 vehicle that would go on to become the M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle.
Note: although Warrior does not necessarily have anything to do with FRES, the version of FRES SV Scout currently in development has obvious parallels with it.
The main role for Saxon was to provide protected mobility for reinforcements travelling to a West German theatre of operations. (FRES UV was originally intended to replace the Saxon.)
*despite having an ‘S’ name, this vehicle is not to be confused with members of the CVR(T) family.
AFV’s for the Eighties
As the MCV-80 project progressed into manufacture a separate study was started to examine the wider requirement for armoured vehicles, called Armoured Fighting Vehicles (AFV’s) for the Eighties.
The first stage looked at medium weight vehicles, stage 2, main battle tanks and stage 3, a self propelled anti tank gun (SPAT) with an air portable variant called ASPAT. All the concepts except ASPAT used an evolved MCV-80 design with greater protection, weighing 43 tonnes, ironically, about the same weight at the latest Warrior and Scout variants. ASPAT was to reuse on CVR(T) components and weigh 12 tonnes, about the same as the latest CVR(T) Mark 2 vehicles.
GKN also proposed a shorter and lower variant of Warrior to be used in the reconnaissance role called LOVATT, once again, shades of FRES and SV Scout.
None of these concepts progressed beyond the study phase but it is somewhat ironic that current vehicles seem rather similar.
CVR(T) was designed to focus specifically on mobility, both on the battlefield and crucially, in getting to the battlefield. Although born in the Cold War it was not solely intended for Western Europe, but was envisaged as a vehicle to be used in the long retreat from Empire.
Supporting this rapid deployability requirement for far flung places meant air transport. Air transportability was a key design requirement of CVR(T). Weight limits were aligned with the carrying capacity of the proposed Hawker Siddeley HS681 STOVL transport aircraft, with two vehicles carried on a single aircraft. The HS681 was subsequently cancelled so this requirement changed to the C130 Hercules.
A maximum width of 2.1 metres was specified so that CVR(T) could move freely between rubber trees in plantations in Malaya, and negotiate narrow tracks. (This is the same width as the modern US HUMVEE.) The image below was taken in Belize but it shows how CVR(T) could move comfortably through trees.
Steering geometry and track width-to-length ratios determined the hull width. In order to squeeze the driver in while wearing winter combat gear the resultant engine compartment width meant the final engine choice was limited. The Jaguar XK was the only suitable off-the-shelf engine that would both fit and provide sufficient power. The end result was a very compact and mobile vehicle with a weight of just under eight tonnes and a ground pressure of less than 0.35 kg/cm2. Its height was less than 2.1m, not much different to a Land Rover.
Sling loading by Chinook was also a crucial capability, one that would be exploited in the Balkans and the Falklands campaigns.
A quote from an out of print armour magazine summed up early experience with CVR(T) , its mobility and compactness:
Not only was the Scorpion allowed into areas where no other tracked vehicles had been allowed, opening up new exercise possibilities, but it was also able to go where no other vehicle had been able to go before. We did an exercise early on called “Lobster Quadrile”, where our aim was to infiltrate behind the enemy. We achieved it by driving up a river bed at night, a route the enemy had not anticipated anybody using. You could motor along at very low revs making it very difficult for anyone to hear you, or to place you if they could hear the engine
Transport by truck was also an important consideration and many trials with the new Foden/Ampliroll hooklift pallets (now commonly known as DROPS pallets) demonstrated that the vehicle family could be transported long distances and deployed using this method.
Using trucks to deploy tracked vehicles is not unique to CVR(T), but their low weight and compactness allowed two to be carried on each transporter. Most standard civilian trucks could also easily be pressed into service. Specialist low loaders and their equally specialist drivers were, thus, not needed for CVR(T) to achieve excellent intra-theatre or inter-theatre mobility (by road).
Their low weight also meant that if they did need bridging support, it could be of a lower bridge class and use more rapidly built types, like the Medium Girder Bridge, for example.
CVR(T), therefore, was built around a set of requirements that placed mobility, both strategic and tactical, at the forefront of the designs requirements. This was a decision that would be vindicated time after time.
CVR – A Family of Vehicles
The initial prototypes only included the Scorpion variant but the Army always had the intent to develop a family of vehicles, the engine front layout being ideally suited for the other variants. Over the next half dozen or so years a number of these variants would enter service.
FV 101 Scorpion
Scorpion was the original CVR(T) variant equipped with the L23A1 76mm medium velocity gun, a lighter version of the L5A1 used on the Saladin. The range of
munitions included a very effective canister round, High Explosive Squash Head (HESH), High Explosive (HE), smoke, illuminating and various practice types. In addition to 40 rounds of 76mm ammunition, several hundred 7.62mm rounds for the coaxial GPMG were also carried.
FV 102 Striker
Of all the CVR(T) variants Striker was the most ingenious. Intended to provide anti-tank top cover for the other variants, Striker was equipped with a launch system for the Swingfire anti-tank guided missile.
After the cancellation of the Orange William missile in 1959, Fairey had continued development work on wire guided anti-tank missiles that would would result in Swingfire. Introduced in 1969, Swingfire was a brute of a missile. The warhead weighed in at 7kg alone and it had a couple of unique features that set it apart from its rivals.
Upon launch, the missile could immediately switch direction by 90 degrees by using a ‘jetivator’ which controlled the direction of the rocket motor exhaust, and a remote sighting assembly which allowed the launching vehicle to adopt a hull down, or concealed, firing position. The remote sight could be located up to 30 metres away horizontally and 15 metres higher or lower. Striker could carry five missiles in ready to launch boxes with an additional five stowed in the hull. With the missile launcher in the stowed position, Striker looked like just any other armoured personnel carrier, not the lethal anti-tank machine that it was.
In true research establishment fashion, the boffins reportedly determined that the kill probability of each Swingfire was 40%. Thus, it would take precisely two and a half missiles to kill each enemy tank. They also calculated that a vehicle engaging enemy tanks with ATGW (Anti-Tank Guided Weaponry) would only kill two before itself being destroyed.
Therefore, five missiles were all that were needed!
FV 103 Spartan
Intended to provide protected mobility for four dismounted personnel, such as Pioneers or Blowpipe teams, Spartan was a simple adaptation of the base Scorpion design. Although it had a higher roof line it was still compact and, despite weighing slightly more than Scorpion, performance was largely the same. Spartan could also mount the advanced (for its time) ZB298 ground observation pulse Doppler radar.
A stretched Spartan was considered as a future replacement for the FV430. The stretched version would have had an extra road wheel, and accommodated three more dismounted personnel (for a total of 7 dismounts + 3 crew). The Jaguar petrol engine would have been replaced with a Perkins diesel to provide greater range.
The image below shows the CVR(T) Scorpion prototype number 11 after it had been cut and extended with the addition of an extra road wheel.
After meeting with some success with the stretched Scorpion, MVEE built another prototype, this time from scratch and called it the FV4333. Many years later, after Alvis purchased the design rights from the MoD, it was to be called Stormer.
FV 104 Samaritan
With a high roofline Samaritan was the armoured ambulance variant, able to carry four stretchers.
FV 105 Sultan
Sharing the same high roof as Samaritan, Sultan was a command variant equipped with map boards, bench seats, radio equipment, lighting and a penthouse (tent) to provide additional space.
FV 106 Samson
Equipped with earth anchors and a three tonne straight pull winch, Samson was the recovery variant.
FV 107 Scimitar
In order to counter enemy personnel carriers at longer ranges, the high velocity L21A1 30mm RARDEN cannon was developed by Royal Armament Research and Development Establishment and the Royal Small Arms Factory (Enfield).
RARDEN could fire ammunition from the Hispano Suiza 30mm HS 831L, but the Armour Piercing Discarding Sabot, or APDS, ammunition (that would contribute so much to RARDEN’s accuracy and effectiveness) was developed specifically for the new gun. At only 90kg the gun was also much lighter than comparable weapons of the era, and the external spent case ejection system meant that fumes inside the turret were reduced.
FV 721 Fox
The production Fox was equipped with the Rank Precision Industries SPAV L2A1 night sight and carried 99 rounds of ammunition for its RARDEN 30mm cannon.
In addition to the reconnaissance role, Fox was also intended to be used to counter insurgents and Warsaw Pact airborne forces in Germany, where its high road speed and long range permitted rapid intervention. A number of other Fox variants were developed but these never entered service.
A variant of Spartan was also proposed with the TOW Missile.
The Cutting of Teeth
Scorpions from A Squadron 16th/5th The Queen’s Royal Lancers were transported by RAF C-130 Hercules aircraft to Cyprus in August 1974. They were to protect the British Sovereign Base Areas during the Turkish invasion of the island.
Rapid effects and air deployability in action, 1974, 40 years ago!
A number of Scorpions were also airlifted to Belize in 1977 to quickly reinforce the garrison after border tensions rose.
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