Laird Land Rover Centaur Half Track

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).

Alvis FV1010 Scorpion CRV(T) at the tank museum at Bovington
Alvis FV1010 Scorpion CRV(T) at the tank museum at Bovington

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.

Land Rover Halftrack

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…

The British are coming…

Two columns of British Army Fox armored combat reconnaissance vehicles drive along 17th of June Street during the annual Allied Forces Day parade. The "Siegessaulte" (Victory Column) is in the background.

…in the meantime let’s take a look at the Germans.

One thing that I thought that Battlefront would do when they released the Germans for Team Yankee was that they would do a minimal release and was pleasantly surprised by the range of models they did in fact bring out.

With the initial releases for the US (and Soviet) I was slightly disappointed with the limited number of models that we got. Though we had the M1 Abrams, we didn’t get the M60A3 MBT.

Two M-60A3 main battle tanks move along a road during Central Guardian, a phase of Exercise Reforger '85.

It felt like a really limited release, so when I saw that Battlefront were going to release German and British forces my expectation was that we would get a limited number of vehicles. So to get thirteen sets for the Germans compared to the seven for the US was really refreshing.

I did like the Raketenwerfer model, something very different.

Raketenwerfer

I also was pleased to see the Marder too.

marder

I think it would be nice to have seen the Kanonenjagdpanzer, but you can’t have everything.

Reportage Bundeswehr Kanonenjagdpanzer, Munsterlager, KTrS III [Munsterlager, Truppenübungsplatz in der Lüneburger Heide]

As a result I have higher expectations for the future British releases. I am hoping to see the following models release for the BAOR forces.

I would like to see both the Chieftain and Challenger 1 main battle tanks, but if the American releases are anything to go by then we might only get one tank and I suspect that will be the Challenger.

I think we might also see the light tanks or armoured reconnisance vehicles the FV101 Scorpion and FV107 Scimiatar. They are very similar vehicles I can see how we could have both. The Scorpion and the Scimiatar were part of the Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked) family. As they shared common automotive components and suspension I can see how easy it would be, if we get the Scorpion we could also get other members of the CVR(T) family such as the Spartan armoured personnel carrier (APC).

FV103_Spartan_IFOR

As well as the Sultan command and control vehicle, Samaritan armoured ambulance, Striker anti–tank guided missile vehicle and possibly even the Samson armoured recovery vehicle.

The main British APC in 1985 was the FV432 APC so I suspect that may be a likely contender for a model. 1985 is a bit early for the Warrior IFV that entered service in 1987.

In terms of artillery, though the British will probably get the M109 it would be interesting to see if we get the FV433 Abbot SPG. If we get the FV432 then we may get the FV438 Swingfire variant (as well as other FV430 series variants).

We already have the German Tornado, so no surprise if we have an RAF version.

I would also like to see, but don’t expect to see various British armoured cars such as the Humber Pig, the Ferret armoured car or even the Alvis Saladin Armoured Car.

Humber Pig

So what do you think we will see for the Team Yankee releases for the British?

Image credits: Wikipedia and Battlefront