The FV601 Saladin is a six-wheeled armoured car developed by Crossley Motors and later manufactured by Alvis. Designed in 1954, it replaced the AEC Armoured Car in service with the British Army from 1958 onward. The vehicle weighed 11 tonnes, offered a top speed of 72 km/h, and had a crew of three. Saladins were noted for their excellent performance in desert conditions, and found favour with a number of Middle Eastern armies accordingly. They were armed with a 76 mm low-pressure rifled (spin-stabilised) gun which fired the same ammunition as that mounted on the FV101 Scorpion.
The Saladin also spawned an armoured personnel carrier counterpart, the Alvis Saracen.
Despite the vehicle’s age and dated design, it is still in use in a number of countries in secondary roles.
There are three surviving Saladins in The Tank Museum. One, in all over green, is displayed in the exhibition and is shown above. The second, in all over tan, is in operational condition and used in events.
The third, in a tan and green camouflage pattern, is part of the museum’s reserve collection and is stored in the vehicle conservation centre.
Land Rovers have been used by military forces across the world and many different conversions have been tried and utilised. The most radical conversion of a Land Rover for military purposes was the Centaur half-track back in 1978. It was based on a Series III with a V8 engine and a shortened belt drive from the Alvis Scorpion light tank. A small number was manufactured, and they were used by Ghana, among others.
This video is from the Tank Museum at Bovington who have one in their collection, though I didn’t see it on my last visit there.
The Laird Centaur was the brainchild of Laird (Angelsey) Limited and was the result of intensive engineering development combining the Land Rover and the Alvis designed tracks of the FV101 Scorpion light tank. The Alvis Scorpion was developed to meet a British Army requirement for the Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked) or CVR(T).
In 1967, Alvis was awarded the contract to produce 30 CVR(T) prototypes. The Centaur made use of a shortened version of the tracks.
The proposed design offered unique advantages in both performance and cost-effectiveness. In addition maintencena nd spares, as well as support could have been based on existing arrangements and mechanisms in place to support Land Rovers and the CVR(T) family of armoured vehicles.
What was interesting were the proposed variants for customers and these were detailed in a pamphlet from Laird (Angelsey).
They included armoured versions that could be used as an APC, reconnaissance and as a command vehicle. Their pamphlet also had weaponised versions including the Milan AT system and even one with a 106mm gun!
It was extensively tested by the British Army, I quite like this winter version that you can see on Flickr.
It’s a Land Rover Centaur on trial in Norway with the British army in the early eighties and with a special projects registration.
Here is a video of that vehicle undergoing testing in Norway.
Half track vehicles likes the Centaur have some advantages, it is not difficult for someone who can drive a car to drive a half-track, which is a great advantage over fully tracked vehicles which often require more specialised training.
The main disadvantage is the increased maintenance to maintain track tension, and the reduced life span of the tracks. In addition they perform less well cross country than fully tracked vehicles and perform less well on roads that fully wheeled ones. As a result they are a compromise across both and these disadvantages usually outweigh the advantages. As a result you don’t really see many hard tracks now in modern military service.
The Laird Centaur makes for an interesting what if vehicle and, well that story is for another time…
Outside the Land Warfare exhibit at the Imperial War Museum Duxford is an Alvis FV432 APC (Armoured Personnel Carrier).
This British tracked armoured personnel carrier has a crew of 2 with capacity for 10 personnel, powered by Rolls-Royce 6-cylinder multi-fuel engine, armed with one machine gun.
The FV432 is the armoured personnel carrier variant of the British Army’s FV430 series of armoured fighting vehicles. Since its introduction in the 1960s, it has been the most common variant, being used for transporting infantry on the battlefield. In the 1980s, almost 2,500 vehicles were in use, with around 1,500 remaining in operation – mostly in supporting arms rather than front-line infantry service.
Although the FV432 Series was to have been phased out of service in favour of newer vehicles, such as the Warrior and the CVR(T) series, 500 have been upgraded to extend their service into the next decade.
This particular FV432 entered service December 1964 with the 1st Battalion Gordon Highlanders BAOR.
On a recent visit to RAF Cosford Museum I took some more photographs of the RAF Regiment Scorpion that was on display in the Cold War exhibition.
The RAF Regiment’s mission is protection of RAF bases from ground attack, and patrolling a large area around main operating bases abroad, in order to defend aircraft on ingress and egress from surface to air attack.
It was in November 1981, the RAF Regiment took delivery of its first Scorpions.
The FV101 Scorpion is a British armoured reconnaissance vehicle. It was the lead vehicle and the fire support type in the Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked), CVR(T), family of seven armoured vehicles. Manufactured by Alvis, it was introduced into service with the British Army in 1973 and served until 1994.
In 1989 No. 1 Squadron RAF Regiment was based at RAF Laarbruch. It had 15x Spartan and 6x Scorpion. No. 51 Squadron RAF Regiment, at RAF Bruggen, also had 15x Spartan and 6x Scorpion.
RAF Bruggen was situated next to the village of Elmpt, approximately 43 kilometres (27 mi) west of Düsseldorf near the Dutch-German border.
RAF Laarbruch was also located in Germany, however it on its border with the Netherlands.
The role of the RAF Regiment would have been to defend the airfields from Warsaw Pact attack.
You can imagine in the world of Team Yankee (and Iron Maiden) that the RAF Regiment would be involved in fighting Warsaw Pact forces, though much of it would probably have been Spetsnaz, Soviet Special Forces. This is more appropriate to a 20mm or 25mm skirmish type game rather than the 15mm tank versus tank battles of Team Yankee.
Soviet Airborne forces made use of the BMD1 and BMD2 and these were air-portable.
These could be the ideal opposition for the RAF Regiment Scorpion tanks.
Though once the Cold War turned hot would the Soviets be able to push airborne troops that far west through contested airspace?
Maybe take an alternate perspective and use my own British Civil War background and have them as supporting Royalist forces, or as the Republican opposition.