MCV-80 Makes Progress and Industrial Revolutions

In response to General Staff Requirement 3533 Sankey was awarded the main development contract in 1980. By this point, GKN had already completed one static and two mobile test rigs as part of earlier work.

Alec Daly joined GKN in 1978 to head up the Sankey division after 16 years at Ford. The new broom certainly swept clean and after the highs of the development contract award had subsided, he made it clear that should it not meet time and cost objectives, there would be little chance of the production contract going to GKN, and it was the production contract that he wanted.

Despite success with AT-104, MCV-80 was in a different league and the lack of business and project management at GKN seriously worried him.

To this end, he formed a partnership with the chief designer, Ken Lofts, introducing practices that were becoming more common in the automotive industry but were still rare elsewhere. One of these – at the time revolutionary – concepts was to ask the user what they wanted and what they thought was important.

[su_note note_color=”#c9cfd8″ text_color=”#151715″ radius=”1″]We went to the soldiers and asked what they wanted most from the vehicle. They picked out two things; one, they didn’t want a mine to be able blow it up when the vehicle went over it; and two, they wanted it to start every time you pressed the button.
Alec Daly[/su_note]

The end of the development phase was completed on time and to budget.

This vindicated GKN but more importantly, Michael Heseltine, who had insisted on splitting the development and manufacturing contract, allowing a single prime contractor to be wholly responsible for the design and development phase, making this subject to competition and culling the Cost Plus Contract model.

Warrior certainly had a whiff of industrial revolution about it.

The first prototype was completed in 1981, shown below.

Before it was shown to the public, there was business elsewhere.

A Trip down South

CVR(T)’s operational service in the seventies had demonstrated the vehicle’s exceptional mobility and ease of deployment. This meant it was to find a role in the Falklands Conflict in 1982, although many doubted it could cope with the terrain.

On the 4th of April 1982, two troops (3 and 4) from B Squadron The Blues and Royals and a Samson Recovery Team were tasked to travel south. Their vehicles were actually in containers at Southampton on their way Salisbury Plain for a forthcoming training exercise. After retrieval, the Troop’s started preparation and drawing stores a recommendation that a HQ element should also embark were rejected by the task force planning team.

On the 6th of April, vehicles were embarked aboard the M/V Elk while crews embarked on the SS Canberra. The vehicles taken were Scimitar, Scorpion and a single Samson.

After arriving at Ascension Island and engaging in some range practice the vehicles were then moved aboard HMS Fearless in readiness for the amphibious landing at San Carlos.

CVR(T) at Ascension Island - Ranges 1982

3 Troop were planned to be attached to 40 CDO at San Carlos and 4 Troop attached to 3 PARA and at Port San Carlos in the north.

After the initial landing had taken place the lodgement area was first enlarged in preparation for the move on Stanley.


During this time the Scorpions and Scimitars provided perimeter security from dug-in positions prepared by Royal Engineers Combat Engineer Tractor (CET) and acted as logistics carriers, shuttling stores from one place to another.


Even at this stage, many thought the terrain would defeat the CVR’s and that the vehicles would play little part in the continuing operations. But after some lobbying by The Blues and Royals officers they were tasked to support 45 Commando in their movement along the northern route, and 3 Para in their move to Teal Inlet.

2 Para, with their objective of Goose Green, were unsupported. It might be interesting to speculate on the effects armoured fire support would have had on the battle at Goose Green.

Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Jones (RTR) continues the story…

[su_note note_color=”#c9cfd8″ text_color=”#151715″ radius=”1″]Battles fought across the high ground above Port Stanley were planned to take place at night and involved close direct and indirect fire support. The first phase-attack was opened by 3 Para with their assault on Mount Longdon. Initial surprise was achieved in the darkness, but the enemy was soon alert and resisted fiercely with heavy accurate fire. 4 Troop provided valuable direct fire support with their 76mm, firing HESH. The battle for the eastern sector of Mount Longdon was to last 6 hours and, for the western half, 4 hours. The enemy positions were captured by a process of calling for very close fire support, at times within 50 meters of the leading British troops.

Two techniques used by the British employing the CVRs proved very successful. The first involved a diversionary attack on the night of 12 June. In the attack, the Scots Guards employed 4 Troop in a reconnaissance role and then a direct fire role in support of the diversionary assault. The impact of the use of the CVRs was instrumental deceiving the enemy.

The Argentine commander later admitted that “…he had been entirely deceived by the diversionary attack into thinking it was the main attack on his position”

The other technique employed by the CVRs is known as “zapping”: …the CVR crew would engage the Argentine position with a brief burst of machine gun fire provoking a response, which was promptly silenced by the main gun. The 30mm RARDEN cannon, with its high velocity and great accuracy, was much favoured for this technique.

Few Argentines felt able to reply after being zapped.

Light armour, played key roles during the Falklands War performing reconnaissance, security, and support of dismounted manoeuvre missions. The presence of the CVRs during the initial build-up phase provided a degree of security otherwise not available had an attack been launched by the Argentineans, particularly if they had used their 90-mm gun equipped Panhard wheeled armoured vehicles. Once again, armoured vehicles surprised their supporters and silenced the critics with their great mobility in terrain considered unacceptable. When employed in support of infantry, the CVRs provided critical direct fire, especially with their passive sights during the hours of darkness. Additional roles of air defence and aiding the logistics only enhanced the primary fire support role provided by the CVRs.

The two troops deployed provided fire support for the 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment during the Battle of Wireless Ridge and for 2nd Battalion Scots Guards during the Battle of Mount Tumbledown.[/su_note]

CVR(T) was well suited to the boggy terrain of the Falklands because of its very low ground pressure, a point it proved many times, more often than not to the surprise of locals and Royal Marines who though their Snow Cats were the epitome of poor terrain mobility.  Coupled with skilled driving, kinetic energy recovery ropes and the occasional assistance from the Samson of B Squadron meant that all fears surrounding their mobility were allayed.

An example of this was the point at which both Troops were ordered to Fitzroy to support 5 Infantry Brigade, a journey that was thought would take 48 hours. In fact, it took six.


[tab title=”Falkland Islands 1″ ]


[tab title=”Falkland Islands 2″ ]

CVR(T) Falkland Island 1[/tab]

[tab title=”Falkland Islands 3″ ]

CVR(T) Falkland Island 2[/tab]

[tab title=”Falkland Islands 4″ ]

CVR(T) Falkland Island 3[/tab]

[tab title=”Falkland Islands 5″ ]

CVR(T) Falkland Island 4[/tab]



Meanwhile, the Argentine Panhard wheeled armoured cars stayed in Port Stanley because of mobility issues.

CVR(T) also proved resilient.

A Scimitar was damaged by a mine and was recovered by the sole Chinook in theatre, repaired by the attached REME section and returned to service in short order. The immediate vicinity of the mine strike was subsequently cleared of 57 mines of various types.

The sole Sampson recovery vehicle also tipped over the side of a small bridge but was also quickly returned to service.


Yet again, CVR(T) usefulness was proven.

[adrotate group=”1″]

MCV-80 Becomes Warrior

GKN produced 14 prototypes, most of which were destroyed (in mine tests, for example) but some would be retained for trials and development purposes. One of the Mobile Test Rigs was deployed to Germany for Exercise Lionheart in 1984.


The manufacturing contract saw GKN pitched against Vickers Defence Systems, Royal Ordnance and Alvis.

Instead of caving in to pressure to reduce the cost per vehicle GKN stuck to their original bid price, emphasising quality. It would prove to be a winning strategy, GKN won the contract in 1984 and MCV-80 became Warrior.

Production started at GKN in Telford in 1986, the first production vehicle shown below.

The original order was for 280 vehicles with the final number of 789 completed in 1995, down from the initial requirement of 1,053. The plan was for a Warrior to replace the FV432’s in the nine 9 newly formed Armoured Infantry Battalions, but the costs meant the FV432 would have to continue on in secondary roles. An Armoured Infantry Battalion would, therefore, comprise 3 distinct families of armoured vehicles: CVR(T), Warrior and FV432 plus the various odds and sods of B Vehicles likes trucks and Land Rovers.

The first unit to receive Warrior was 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards in Germany, followed by 1st Battalion the Staffordshire Regiment between 1987 and 1988.

Like CVR(T), Warrior is a family of vehicles built with a common hull and automotive components.

The Warrior powerpack consisted of a 550hp Perkins CV-8TCA Condor diesel engine and General Motors X-300-4B automatic transmission. The same engine, albeit in 12 cylinder format, was used for Challenger and the Scammell Commander tank transporter, a rather intelligent piece of commonality that seems to elude us these days.

Hull armour is welded aluminium designed to provide protection against 155mm shell splinters, 14.5mm armour piercing rounds and 9kg anti-tank mines. Torsion bar suspension and aluminium road wheels enable a cross-country speed of 35kph.

Other mobility characteristics include a ground clearance of 0.48m, 1.3m fording depth, 2.5m trench crossing distance, a maximum vertical obstacle height of 0.75m, the maximum gradient of 60% and side slope of 40%. The 82 link tracks are 0.48m wide and maintain a contact length of 3.82m for those interested in ground pressure per square metre.

Although the prototype had two fuel tanks in side-mounted external panniers the production models use a translucent polyethylene fuel tank situated underneath the turret that delivers a range of approximately 600km. During the Gulf War, it was reported that the movement of fuel in the tank induced motion sickness so it is often painted.

The basic infantry section vehicle is 6.3m long, 3m wide, 2.8m high, and with a combat weight of 28 tonnes. This combat weight has, of course, increased with those still in service. Fuel capacity is 772 litres which provide a maximum range of 660km.

A number of variants came into service with the British Army and GKN developed and proposed a number of others.

British Army Variants

FV510 Infantry Section Vehicle

The most common variant is used to transport an infantry section, defeat enemy APC’s and positions. Housed in the Vickers Defence developed 2 man welded steel turret is an unstabilised 30mm RARDEN cannon and McDonnell Douglas EX-34 chain gun, designated L94A1. Traverse is powered, but elevation is manual, 360 degrees traverse and +45 degree -15 degree elevation, storing 200 rounds for the RARDEN and 2,000 for the chain gun. The turret also mounts a pair of smoke grenade launchers.

Distinguished from the other turreted variants by its single powered door, the infantry section vehicle carries 7 infantry soldiers in addition to the 3 crew (commander, gunner and driver).

FV510 Warrior represented a significant departure from FV432. The older doctrine foresaw NATO forces retreating gradually in face of Warsaw Pact forces and defeating them by attrition. The overwhelming superiority of opposing forces meant this was increasingly unrealistic and resorting to tactical nuclear responses meant in reality, strategic nuclear exchanges. One alternative was to take a more aggressive stance and instead of retreating in good order, NATO forces would aggressively manoeuvre to engage those advancing forces at the most advantageous point to inflict maximum damage.

This needed combined arms manoeuvre, infantry vehicles working closely with tanks, artillery and close air support. Warrior was designed to keep up with main battle tanks, destroy enemy infantry vehicles and fight forward to dismount their infantry practically on top of enemy positions. Warrior would then withdraw and provide fire support.

Total orders for the FV510 numbered 384 plus an additional 108 placed after the Gulf War. These 108 were to be equipped with the TRIGAT anti-tank missile but were fitted with Milan in the interim. There were 3 replacement vehicles for those that were destroyed, leaving a final total of 492.

A version for Kuwait called the Fahris had a different engine, improved air conditioning and firing ports for embarked infantry,

These main variants came into service between 1988 and 1990.

FV511 Infantry Command Vehicle

Double rear doors, externally mounted antennae and a rear compartment full of map boards and various radios distinguish the 84 FV511 Infantry Command Vehicles from their siblings. The radio fit differs depending on whether the vehicle is intended for the Company or Battalion command role.

Other than those changes, the FV511 is designed to look just like the FV510.

FV512 Mechanised Combat Repair Vehicle

The 107 FV512s can tow the T4 High Mobility Trailer which is used to carry two complete Warrior powerpacks (or one for a Challenger for that matter). The FV512 is used by the REME Light Aid Detachment supporting the Armoured Infantry Battalion.

The FV512’s hydraulic jib can lift 6.5 tonnes at 4.5m outreach. The vehicle carries 2 crew and 3 fitters.

FV513 Mechanised Recovery Vehicle (Repair)

The 39 FV513 vehicles are almost identical to the FV512 but have a large earth anchor and winch, capable of a straight pull of 20 tonnes.


FV514 Mechanised Artillery Observation Vehicle

The 52 MAOVs were to be used by Royal Artillery and Royal Horse Artillery forward observation teams. Intentionally designed to look like the more numerous Infantry Fighting Vehicle, the MAOV contains a collection of electronic fire control and communications equipment.

In addition to improved thermal imaging and day/night optics they were also fitted with the J Band Pulse-Doppler MSTAR radar, Battlefield Artillery Target Engagement System (BATES), and a navigation and attitude reference system called the Azimuth Positioning Elevation System (APES).

FV515 Battery Command Vehicle

The 19 FV515 Battery Command Vehicles were the final Warrior variant, providing AS90 battery commanders with armoured mobility.

Like the Artillery Observation Vehicle, it has a dummy RARDEN cannon.

Eighties CVR(T) Developments

At the 1980 British Army Equipment Exhibition Alvis demonstrated a diesel engined Scorpion and shortly after announced British Leyland were to sell their stake in Alvis to United Scientific Holdings.

Alvis purchased the design rights from the MoD for the FV4333, a concept vehicle developed from the Scorpion in the 1970s. Alvis christened it the ‘Stormer’.

With CVR(T) entering service with the RAF Regiment 1981 Alvis announced they would be developing Stormer, which was more or less a larger CVR(T) with an extra road wheel and a new engine/transmission.

Soon after this announcement Malaysia placed an order with Alvis for 25 Scorpion 90 vehicles, equipped with the Cockerill 90mm low pressure gun, and 25 Stormer APCs.

CVRT with 90mm

12 of the Malaysian Stormer APCs were fitted with a 20mm cannon turret and the remainder with a twin 7.62mm GPMG turret.

CVR(T) with Milan Compact Turret

The FV120 Spartan Milan Compact Turret (MCT) variant was introduced in 1986 although the Milan missile’s maximum range of 2,000 metres was a significant step down from Swingfire at 4,000 metres.

By the end of 1986, the UK had taken delivery of 1,863 CVR(T) comprising 313 Scorpions, 89 Strikers, 691 Spartans, 50 Samaritans, 291 Sultans, 95 Samsons and 334 Scimitars.

All the vehicles ordered for Belgium had also been delivered, with Belgium partly funding CVR(T) development and becoming a significant user.

After achieving export success Alvis further developed Stormer and in 1986 it was selected as the base vehicle for the lightweight air defence system, a competition between the Shorts Starstreak High Velocity Missile System and the British Aerospace Thunderbolt.

CVR(T) With Startstreak and Thunderbolt Missile

Whichever missile system was selected, it would be carried on Stormer.

Starstreak was a self-funded development of Blowpipe and Javelin, reportedly costing £225 million.

It won the competition and the base vehicles were ordered at a cost of £40 million.

CVR(T) Starstreak

Diesel engines had advanced significantly since the late sixties and, in response to a new single fuel policy, the MoD let an upgrade contract in 1988 that would see the Jaguar petrol engines replaced with Cummins BTA diesels.

This £50 million engine contract would also include a number of improvements across the vehicle fleet.

Meanwhile, Alvis continued to develop the CVR(T) and Stormer design, although some listed below did stretch into the nineties. Alvis also worked on a concept for a vehicle based on the Malaysian Stormer design called Sagitar and submitted details to the US for a programme called the Mobile Protected Weapon System (MPWS) having turrets based on Scorpion and Scimitar. Another version also had the rapid firing 75 mm ARES gun or Rheinmetall Rh 105-11 low recoil gun. Air defence and Light MLRS variants were also proposed for the CVR(T) and Stormer chassis, as were Forward Observation Vehicles and even a new concept called the Low Profile Experimental Vehicle (LPXV).


[tab title=”Streaker”]

CVR(T) Streaker


[tab title=”Stormer 1″]



[tab title=”Stormer 2″]

Stormer 1


[tab title=”Sagitar”]


[tab title=”Lightweight MLRS Image 1″]


[tab title=”Lightweight MLRS Image 2″]


[tab title=”Stormer Rapier”]


[tab title=”FOV and LPXV”]



Stormer could have quite easily replaced all the FV432 variants.

The Battle of Cuito Cuanavale

An interesting marker on the general story of medium weight forces is a battle in southern Angola between the South African Defence Force (SADF) and UNITA on one side, and Cuba (with Russian advisers), the Angolan Army (FAPLA) and the Namibian SWAPO on the other. It is also useful to demonstrate the progress of mine protected combat vehicles.

The Union for the Total Independence of Angola (União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola, or UNITA) was one of the three groups fighting Portuguese colonialism but the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola eventually prevailed and formed the government in 1975. With support from Russia and the USA, the opposing forces engaged in an ongoing conflict for many years, often referred to as the Border War.

South Africa could not stand by as conflict spilt over into their country and this intervention eventually culminated in the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale, actually a series of battles between August 1987 and March 1998, designated Operation Modular, Hooper, Packer and Displace by SADF.

One could read different accounts of the battles and conclude everyone won, and everyone lost, depending on the account but it does illustrate the value of highly mobile medium weight forces and arguably, some of the perils. Debate on winners and losers is beyond the scope of this document.

The combination of Casspir, Buffel and Ratel vehicles proved to be highly effective but when they came up against T-55 tanks of the FAPLA 59 Brigade, things got problematical. However, a combination of T-55 long gun barrels in close terrain and the superior speed and agility of the Ratels allowed them to drive around the tanks in ever decreasing circles until they were able to fire into their rears, where armour is much thinner.

At the end of this engagement, by using superior skill in the counter-attack and the unique abilities of their vehicles the SADF destroyed five T-55’s and killed over 200 enemy soldiers for the loss of eight SADF killed and 3 destroyed Ratel/Casspir. Getting amongst tanks with armoured cars might seem counter-intuitive but the SADF did just that, on more than one occasion.

Other significant lessons were the value of artillery, especially the G5/G6, and combat engineering, especially bridging. Medium weight vehicles, when supported by engineers and artillery, were able to achieve challenging objectives against a numerically superior enemy and an enemy that out-gunned them to boot, in marginal terrain.


[tab title=”Ratel crossing SADF Engineer Pontoon Bridge”]


[tab title=”Video 1″]


[tab title=”Video 2″]



Another lesson is that despite the success of a medium weight force, when SADF tanks arrived they made a big difference, and yet suffered from mobility issues.

Saxon and Simba

The GKN AT-105 Saxon can trace its development back to the seventies era AT-104, with additional armour and more modern automotive components. It was developed by GKN Sankey as a private venture and introduced by the British Army in 1984.

Saxon was designed for one purpose, to provide some measure of protection for personnel deploying from the UK to the continent in response to a Warsaw Pact invasion, at as low a cost as possible. A crew of two and room for ten passengers, it was constructed of lightweight steel armour and provided basic protection against 7.62mm automatic weapons and artillery fragmentation. Saxon is 5.2m long, 2.5m wide and 2.6m high, with a combat weight of just under 12 tonnes and maximum range of 480km.

The basic variant obtained was the Saxon Patrol but subsequent variants have included recovery, ambulance and specialised variants for internal security. Over 600 entered service with the British Army and it was exported to Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Hong Kong, Kuwait, Malaysia, Nigeria and Oman.

Simba was developed as a complement to Saxon for nations that wanted to fabricate the vehicle locally, it was also designed to be capable of carrying a wider range of weapons and turrets.


Although not directly related the LAV-25 programme is important to the evolution of medium weight forces.

After the formation of the US Rapid Deployment Task Force in the late seventies, the US established a requirement for a light armoured vehicle that would deploy the force. In 1981, the US invited proposals from a number of national and international manufacturers. After a down-selection process, three manufacturers were left, Alvis, Cadillac Cage and General Motors Canada.

Alvis proposed Scorpion 90 and Stormer, Cadillac Cage, V-150S and V-300, and General Motors Canada, an 8 wheel variant of the 6×6 Piranha.

The General Motors LAV-25 was selected by the USMC in 1982, with the Army variant designated M1047.

The US Marine Corps, arguably a medium weight force, has used the LAV family of vehicles ever since, in a number of variants.


By the end of the eighties, it could be argued that the British Army was in a good state; CVR(T) had proven its worth on the Falkland Islands and had been evolved into Stormer (and variants), the new combined arms manoeuvre approach was being enabled with the introduction of Warrior.

Although not connected to UK forces, In southern Africa, evolving tactics and vehicle technology had shown that wheeled medium weight forces, when properly supported, could perform well against heavier forces.

This would of course not be a Think Defence document without some mention of ISO containers.…

Part of Exercise Lionheart in 1984 was also intended to prove the ability of British forces in the UK to make use of civilian transport to get to Germany.

The image below shows a CVR(T) Spartan being loaded into a container ready for transport to Germany.


Get in!

All good, but times, they were-a-changin’

British Army Medium Weight Capability – Table of Contents

Introduction and Notes

What this document is, sources and acknowledgements, and what this document is not

The Fifties and Sixties

Saladin and Saracen enter service, early work on their replacement commences and completes. The FV432 enters service, and the BMP-1 does likewise, work on Warrior gains pace.

The Seventies

CVR(T) and CVR(W) enter service, and the rapid deployment concept cuts its teeth with the C-130

The Eighties

CVR(T) continues to be developed and sees action in in the Falkland Islands and Warrior enters service. Oh, and Saxon.

The Nineties

A decade of major change; the end of the Cold War, operations in the Gulf and the Balkans. The microprocessor and communications revolution. VERDI, FFLAV, WASAD and the rise of the acronym in defence. ASCOD, CV90 and others developed. Protected mobility becomes a requirement, again, and finally, interesting materials development make an appearance in the defence vehicle world.

TRACER, MRAV and Project Bushranger

Three vehicle development projects that would have importance to the ongoing story of developing a medium weight capability.

Turning Points in the Balkans

Important milestones in the development of medium weight capabilities, a trip across the Sava and WWIII averted at an airport.

Change Comes to US and UK Forces

The Future Combat System, the UK follows suit, FRES and being a force for good.

FRES Gets into Gear but Iraq Looms Large

2001 to 2004, TRACER and MRAV continue but the new kid on the block called FRES is starting to take over whilst the shadow of Iraq falls on the project.

Snatch and the Trials of Truth

Between 2005 and 2007 the Army experienced significant change. FRES picked up speed but operations in Iraq overshadowed the medium weight concept.

FRES Changes Names and Changes Lane

2008 to 2009, it becomes increasingly difficult to balance the needs of operations with the desire to transform and bring FRES to fruition at the same time.

FRES Scout to the End of FRES

2010 to 2011, putting the embarrassment of FRES UV behind it, the Army switches to FRES SV, a replacement for CVR(T)

Return to Contingency

2012 to 2014, as an end to the Afghanistan deployment drew near, Scout continued and attention turned to Warrior.

AJAX to MIV and the Emergence of Strike

2015 to 2017, a new medium weight capability vision emerges, and this requires a new vehicle, the Mechanised Infantry Vehicle (MIV), but before that, Multi Role Vehicle (MRV).


A few thoughts and opinions.

Appendix A – Ajax

Weights, measures, variants and roles

Appendix B – 40mm Cased Telescoped Weapon System

A revolution in medium calibre weapons, but can we afford it?

Appendix C – Generic Vehicle Architecture

The essential glue that binds the increasing quantity of vehicle electronics

[adrotate group=”1″]

Discover more from Think Defence

Subscribe to get the latest posts to your email.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Ogden Dowcett

    I believe this section start a repeat of the last seven paragraphs.

  2. Think Defence

    Good spot Ogden, not sure how that happened but sorted now, cheers

Leave a Reply