Vickers MBT

The Vickers MBT is a series of main battle tanks (MBTs) developed as a private venture by British company Vickers-Armstrongs for export. The design makes use of proven components, such as the L7 gun of the Centurion, the Leyland L60 multi-fuel engine, the transmission and fire control system of the Chieftain. Many tanks were also built by India under licence as the Vijayanta.

Vickers Mark 1
Vijayanta MBT, a variant of the Vickers MBT
TypeMain battle tank
Place of originUnited Kingdom
Service history
In service1965–present
Used bySee users
WarsIraq-Kuwait War
Somali Civil War[1]
Boko Haram insurgency
Production history
ManufacturerVickers Defence Systems
Mass38.8 t (42.8 short tons)
Length9.728 m (31 ft 11.0 in) overall gun forward
Width3.168 m (10 ft 4.7 in)
Height2.438 m (8 ft 0 in)

ArmourTurret front: 80 mm
Turret sides: 40 mm
Glacis: 60 mm
Hull sides: 30 mm
1 x 105 mm L7A1 gun (44 rounds)
1 x 12.7 mm L6A1 ranging machine-gun with 700 rounds
1 x 7.62 mm MG (pintle mount) with 1,300 rounds
1 x 7.62 mm MG (coax) with 1,300 rounds
EngineLeyland L60 (multi-fuel 2-stroke opposed-piston compression-ignition)
535 hp (399 kW) 6 Cyl, 19 litres
Power/weight16.83 bhp/t
TransmissionMerrit-Wilson TN-12 (6 fwd / 2 rev) with a triple differential steering system
SuspensionTorsion bars
480 km (300 miles) on roads
SpeedRoad: 48 km/h (30 mph)
Off road: 30 km/h (19 mph)

Design and development

The Vickers MBT followed on from a 24-tonne 20-pdr gunned tank design intended for export.[2] This would be as well equipped as a Centurion but substantially cheaper and with Vickers Vigilant missiles as effective. However, with the appearance of the 105 mm L7 gun into the British, US and German tank designs, this light tank would have been less powerful while too large for the reconnaissance role, and so a new design was required. With armour twice that of the light tank design, it would still be 12 tonnes lighter than Centurion and hence more mobile. The design would use the new engine and transmission of the Chieftain tank then being developed. The development coincided with an agreement with India in 1961 to produce a tank design and help set up a factory there to produce it.

The Vickers MBT Mk 1 was designed to be a simple, low-cost, but effective tank.[3] The first prototype was completed in 1963.[3] In 1964, one of the prototypes was sent to India.

The Vickers was made of welded rolled homogeneous armour plates. It weighed 38,600 kg, carried a 105mm gun with 44 rounds and had a top speed of 48 km/h.[3] 70 tanks were sold to Kuwait and many of a modified version were made in India where the tank was called Vijayanta.[3]


Vickers Main Battle Tank Mark 2

The 1968 proposal for a vehicle specification that differed from the Mark 1 in the following respects:

  1. Transistorised gun-control equipment.
  2. New turret of cast front and mantlet-less design, with new gun mounting.
  3. Improved frontal aspect to the hull and turret.
  4. Improved track, suitable for 56 km/h continuously.
  5. Reduced ground pressure due to reduced total weight, increased track width and increased track on the ground by moving two (or three) rear wheel stations backwards (made possible by the change to a General Motors engine).
  6. Engine delivering full horsepower as for the Chieftain through redesigned final drives to give 56+ km/h (made possible by the General Motors engine's potential for uprating).
  7. Improved commander cupola to take the Chieftain vision devices.
  8. Provision for fitting four Swingfire wire-controlled anti-tank missiles (intended as a response to weapons of greater range, such as the 120-mm L11 tank gun.

The Mark 2 did not proceed beyond a mock-up although a Vickers Mark 1 MBT with four Swingfire missiles, two mounted either side of the turret towards the rear, was shown at Farnborough. A note in Vickers's files dated from 20 November 1970 explains the probable reason:

"Guided missiles have an inherent disadvantage in that is almost impossible to fire them from under armor since the rocket motor efflux presents a serious problem. Generally speaking, the best that can be achieved is to put the crew under armour and mount the missiles externally. This presents reloading problems and leaves the missiles vulnerable to small arms and mortar fire."

In any case, only four spare missile rounds could be carried.[4]

Vickers Main Battle Tank Mark 3

The Mk. 3 retains most of the proposed features of the Mk. 2. Others were the provision for infrared/white-light searchlights and the abandonment of flotation gear. A laser rangefinder of the type being fitted to the Chieftain was also proposed since the range of the L7A1 105-mm gun was well beyond that of the 12,7-mm ranging machine-gun fitted. Some thought was also given the idea of mounting the heavier British L11 120-mm gun on the Vickers tank but this was abandonned because the 105-mm L7-series rifled gun was becoming the NATO standard, 120-mm ammunition was more expensive than 105-mm and was used only by the British Army in Europe, and the weight advantage of the Vicker's tank would be reduced.

The Mark 3 differs from the Mark 1 mainly in having a turret with well-shaped cast front welded to a fabricated armor plate body. It also has a cast gun mantlet which is better shaped from the point of view of its resistance to armour-piercing projectiles than the flat mantlet of the Mark. 1.[5] A distinctive additional feature of the Mk. 3 turret is the fitting of a commander's contra-rotating cupola. This was not used on the Mk. 1 supplied to India (Vijayanta) in order to keep the overall height of the tank within a fixed limit. The cupola of the Mk. 3 has 360 degree hand traverse and is fitted with one sight periscope with a magnification of X 1 and X 10, and six periscopes for all-around observation. The first production order for Mk. 3 tanks was placed in 1977 by the Government of Kenya.[6] In addition the Mark 3 embodies various other improvements, such as an increase in the depression of its gun from -7° to -10° below the horizontal and an increase in the ammunition stowage to 50 rounds.

The Mk. 3s supplied to Kenya between 1977 and 1981 also have a Pilkington PE Condor combined day/night sight. The gunner has a Barr & Stroud TLS (Tank Laser Sight) with a magnification of X 1 and X 10, which is also provided with a ballistic graticule. Mk. 3s for the Nigerian Army, for whom production began in 1981, are also fitted with a Vickers Instruments L23[7] gunner's laser rangefinder incorporating a Simrad LV352 laser.

  • Weight: 38,700 kg
  • Length gun forward: 9,78 m
  • Length gun rear: 8,53 m
  • Width: 3,16 m
  • Height: 2,47 m
  • Ground clearance: 0,432 m
  • Ground pressure: 0.89 kg/cm²
  • Engine: 800 bhp Roll-Royce CV12 TCA or 720 bhp General Motor Detroit diesel 12V-71T
  • Power/weight ratio: 18 bhp/t
  • Transmission: Self-Changing Gears Ltd TN 12V5 fully-automatic gearbox
  • Suspension: torsion bar with secondary bars at stations 1,2 and 6
  • Maximum gradient 58%
  • Maximum tilt: 30%
  • Trench: 3 m
  • Vertical obstacle: 0,83 m
  • Fording depth: 1,1 m
  • Main armament: L7 rifled gun firing NATO 105-mm APDS, HESH and APFSDS ammunition (50 rounds)
  • Secondary armament: one 12,7-mm ranging machine-gun (600 rounds) mounted co-axially with the main armament, together with another co-axial 7.62-mm machine-gun. One cupola-mounted 7.62-mm machine-gun operated from under armor by the commander (3000 rounds in total). Multi-barrel dischargers are fitted on each side of the turret to fire smoke or anti-personnel grenades.
  • Gun control: Marconi Command and Control Systems EC620 system providing full weapon stabilisation.
  • Fire control system: Marconi Command and Control Systems SFC 600 computerized system
  • Protection: Maximum protection is over the frontal arc of 60° on the welded hull and 45° on the cast turret. Elsewhere, protection is provided against near-burst medium artillery. Protection against mine is by means of additional floor patch plates.
  • Crew: 4
  • Speed: 50 km/h
  • Range: 530 km


Also known as Vickers AVLB, it was based on the Mk. 3 and is equipped with a hydraulically operated launch and recovery system for an MLC 60/70 scissors bridge with a length of 13.41 m.[7]


It was based on the Mk. 3 and is equipped with a main winch, pulleys, cables and towbars. Some vehicles have a crane capable of lifting 4,000 kg.[7]


In 1985, design work began on a Mk. 3 (improved) tank. The improvements over the previous Mk. 3 specification comprise the following:

  • 850 bhp Roll-Royce CV12 TCE diesel coupled to a new T1200 transmission with six forward and two reverse gears.
  • Two additional periscopes for the driver.
  • The fitting of a muzzle reference system (MRS) to allow for rapid compensation to be made for barrel movement due to the effects of ambient temperature or heat from firing.
  • Ground clearance raised by 25 mm.
  • Some design changes to the hull, most noticeably a front cast glacis plate which improves its ballistic shape.[2]

The Vickers Mark 3(I) was unveiled at the 1986 British Army Equipment Exhibition.

  • Weight: 41,000 kg
  • Length gun forward: 9,50 m
  • Length gun rear: 8,53 m
  • Width: 3,24 m
  • Height: 2,44 m
  • Ground clearance: 0,46 m
  • Ground pressure: 0.85 kg/cm²
  • Power/weight ratio: 22 bhp/t
  • Maximum gradient 58%
  • Maximum tilt: 30%
  • Trench: 3 m
  • Vertical obstacle: 0,91 m
  • Fording depth: 1,1 m
  • Crew: 4
  • Speed: 59 km/h
  • Range: 530 km


The Mk. 3 (modernized) is dated back to the early 1990s. It features an improved protection against shaped charge warheads by adding a Royal Ordnance ROMOR-A explosive reactive armor or the or Vickers Defence Systems VARMA Series 2 explosive reactive on the forward portions of the hull and turret. In addition, the Mark 3M gunner's station features a day/thermal sight (the Avimo NVL 3200 or Thales Optronics Falcon), with a remote display for the commander. In April 1997, Vickers selected the Officine Galileo modular day/night panoramic periscopic for installation on the Mark 3M. A Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver and the Avimo LIRD-2 laser warning system (linked to the smoke grenade dischargers) are also part of the Mark 3(M) package.

Vickers Main Battle Tank Mark 4 (Valiant)

In 1977, Vickers produced a design for a vehicle that incorporated Chobham composite armour protection within a battle weight of 43 tonnes. This first prototype, designated the Vickers Main Battle Tank Mark 4, mounted the L7 105-mm rifled gun and, in 1978, underwent automotive tests with the Roll-Royce CV12 TCA developing 1000 bhp and with the General Motors Detroit diesel 12V-71T developing 915 bhp. The prototype of the Mk. 4 was exhibited at the British Army Equipment Exhibition in 1980, along with a mock-up of a new universal turret fitted with a 120-mm L11 gun. By the time of the 1982 British Army Equipment Exhibition, the tank had undergone extensive testing with the new turret. The design of the Universal Turret was a radical change from the original and included installation of many state-of-the-art components. This quantum leap in turret evolution led to a decision to give the Mk. 4 a new identity, and it was named the "Valiant".

The basic hull structure of the Valiant was fabricated from aluminium armour, allowing optimum use of Chobham armour within an overall weight of 47 tonnes. Emphasis was placed upon frontal protection covering a 60° arc. In addition, however, Chobham armour was also applied along the full length of the hull sides (heavy ballistic skirts). The turret was made of welded steel plates, with a layer of appliqué Chobham armour added to the front and sides.

The gunner was provided with a Vickers Instruments L30 telescopic laser sight as a main sight. The sight was monocular, with a magnification of X 10, and was fitted with a Neodimium-YAG laser rangefinder and a cathode-ray tube for injection of fire-control data. In addition to his main sight, the gunner was also provided with a Vickers Instruments GS10 periscopic sight. This was mounted in the turret roof and provided a X 1 wide angle field of view and was used for surveillance and target acquisition. The commander had a ring of six fixed X 1 periscopes around his hatch to give all-around vision. The commander's main sight was a French SFIM VS580-10 gyrostabilized panoramic sight. Two degrees of magnification X 3 and X 10 were provided, it also incorporated a Nd-YAG laser rangefinder. In addition, a gyrostabilised panoramic thermal sight, the Philips UA 9090, was also mounted on the turret roof.


  • Weight: 43,600 kg (47,000 kg with the Universal Turret)
  • Length gun forward: 10,62 m
  • Length gun rear: 8,53 m
  • Overall length without gun: 7,51 m
  • Width: 3,6 m (3,3 m without appliqué armor)
  • Height: 2,48 m
  • Ground clearance: 0,5 m
  • Ground pressure: 0.916 kg/cm²
  • Power/weight ratio: 23,3 bhp/t
  • Maximum gradient 58%
  • Maximum tilt: 30%
  • Trench: 3 m
  • Vertical obstacle: 0,91 m
  • Fording depth: 1,1 m
  • Main armament: Royal Ordnance L7 105-mm rifled gun (56 rounds) in the first turret, the newer Universal Turret can mount either the Royal Ordnance L11 120-mm rifled gun (52 rounds) or the Rheinmetall Rh-120 L44 smoothbore 120-mm gun (44 rounds)
  • Secondary armament: McDonnell-Douglas Helicopter Co 7.62-mm Chain-Gun mounted co-axially with the main gun and a 7.62-mm or a 12,7-mm machine-gun mounted externally on the commander's cupola
  • Gun control: Marconi Command and Control Systems Centaur I fully-integrated gun-and-fire control system
  • Fire control system: Marconi Radar SFCS 600
  • Crew: 4
  • Speed: 70 km/h
  • Range: 550 km

Vickers Main Battle Tank Mark 7

The Vickers Mk 7 consisted of a third genereation Vickers Valiant turret mounted on a Krauss-Maffei-supplied chassis that in the prototype is essentially that of the Leopard 2 MBT. The tank had a Marconi digital fire control system, an SFIM panoramic sight and a Philips 2nd Gen thermal imager.[8] The Mark 7 has three features that reduces the likehood of its detection by night sights and other heat-sensing devices. These are its coat of infra-red relfective paint; the mixing of the hot exhaust gases with the cooling air before discharge; and a new design of thermal sleeve.[4]

Vickers Anti-aircraft Tank

Equipped with the Marksman turret,[7] as well as a self-propelled 155mm howitzer with the GBT 155 turret.[9] The GBT 155 was unveiled in 1982 and was armed with the same 155mm ordnance as the AS-90. It was designed primarily for existing tank chassis.[10]


Current operators

Former operators

  •  Iraq - Limited usage of captured Kuwaiti MK 1s, all scrapped or destroyed.[12]
  •  Kuwait - 70 MBT Mk 1 delivered in 1970–1972, probably no longer operational[7]

See also


  1. @Tom_Antonov (18 April 2015). "Kenyan army & AMISOM capture the port of Kuday #Somalia from #AlShabaab militants" (Tweet) via Twitter.
  2. Ogorkiewicz, R M (1973). Vickers Battle Tank, Profile Publications, August 1973.
  3. Gelbart, Marsh (1996). Tanks main battle and light tanks. Brassey’s UK Ltd. p. 108. ISBN 1-85753-168-X.
  4. F.Foss, Christopher F.; Mc Kenzie, Peter (1988). The Vickers tanks From Landship to Challenger. Patrick Stephens Limited. p. 256. ISBN 9781852601416.
  5. Ogorkiewicz, R. M. (September 1973). AFV Weapons Profile. Duncan Crow. p. 21.
  6. Gelbart, Marsh (1996). Tanks main battle and light tanks. Brassey’s UK Ltd. pp. 109–110. ISBN 1-85753-168-X.
  7. Jane's Armour and Artillery 2003–2004
  8. International Defence Equipment Catalogue 1988–1989 Volume II
  9. Tanks of the World (1990) ISBN 3-7637-5871-2
  10. Jane's Armour and Artillery 1993–1994
  11. @terror_monitor (23 June 2015). "#NIGERIA - Army Captured #ISIS Affiliated #BokoHaram Gang #Vickers #MBT Mk 3 Eagle After Combats In #Yola - Report" (Tweet) via Twitter.
  12. "Former Equipment of Iraqi Army". p. . Retrieved 17 July 2018.


  • Orgorkiewcz, R M AFV Profile No. 45 Vickers Battle Tank, Profile Publishing
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