Sunday, November 8, 2009

Armored Vehicles: Centurion Tank

In 1943, the United Kingdom's Ministry of Defence began a survey and evaluation of the tanks that had been in use during the war. They ultimately decided that the types being used were deficient in many respects, most notably armor and the firepower of the main gun.
A new design would be needed to ensure that the proper balance of firepower, mobility, and protection. Simply put, a tank must meet a basic level on each of these characteristics to be able to survive and be effective on the battlefield. One of the major considerations that designers faced was the German 88mm gun. It was one of the most effective weapons used in the first half of the 20th Century, and was able to easily knock out most Allied tanks throughout the war. The new tank had to be able to withstand a direct hit from the 88mm.

Centurion Mark 3

Manufacture of the Centurion began in 1945 and they were delivered just after the end of combat in the European Theater. Upgrades were immediately implemented, including heavier armor on the Mk 2 and a stabilized gun on the Mk 3 which allowed it to fire accurately on the move, which most tanks of this era could not do, and greatly increased the lethality and effective protection of the crews. By the introduction of the Centurion 5/2 in 1959, the gun had been upgraded to the excellent L7 105mm rifled cannon, which became the standard tank gun for most of NATO and the West for many years and is still in use in the US Army's Stryker Mobile Gun System. Many different types of equipment has been mounted on the Centurion, from IR scopes to laser rangefinders, to anti-tank missiles and

British AVRE (Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers) with 165 mm demolition gun and a dozer blade

The Centurion has seen more combat in the latter half of the 20th Century than any other tank type. Simply put, throughout the heyday of the Centurion, it was faster and more mobile than most Western tanks, more survivable than most Soviet tanks of the era, while having a similar weapons load to both. Centurions have been used or served in combat on 6 continents in the hands of at least 20 nations. Heavily modified specialist versions are still in use today. It is the longest serving tank design in history, serving in both the British and Australian Armies from the Korean War to Desert Storm. Its heavy armor and chassis have been the basis for all this use. Many other types of tanks have been heavily modified like the Centurion, but no vehicle of its type, designed for WWII is still with us giving good service today.

Centurion 11 with IR equipment and ranging gun

One of the greatest strengths of the Centurion is its easy adaptability. It has been used as a main battle tank, armored personnel carrier, combat engineer's vehicle, self propelled artillery gun and even as an bridge layer. This attests to the sound design of the chassis more than anything else. It has been as basis for an entire line of armored vehicles in Israel like the Nagmachon, which was featured on an earlier post.

Centurion 5
Country of Origin:United Kingdom
Crew:4 (Commander, Gunner, Driver, Loader/Operator)
Length:32 feet 3 inches
Width:11 feet 11 inches
Height:9 feet 7 inches
Weight:111, 966 lb.
Engine:Rolls Royce Meteor 12 cylinder, gasoline
Maximum Speed:21.5 mph
Range:62.5 miles (road)
Armament:20-pounder (84mm) mounted in turret / 2 x .30cal Browning MGs

Israeli Sho't Kal Alef

In an interesting side note, a particular Australian Army Centurion, number 168041, was used as a "target" for a nuclear test at Emu Field in Australia in 1953. Later nicknamed The Atomic Tank, later saw combat in Vietnam. Although other tanks were subjected to nuclear tests, 169041 is the only tank known to have withstood atomic tests and subsequently gone on for another 23 years of service, including 15 months on operational deployment in a war zone. Now if that is not tough, I just don't know what is.

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