Chieftan Tank

Photo: Peter Trimming.


Formally known as the FV 4201 Chieftain, the Chieftain tank was the reigning MBT (main battle tank) for the United Kingdom throughout the late 1960s to the 1970s and a revolution in armored vehicles. Prototypes were built from as early as 1956 by Leyland and the design gained approval in the early 1960s. The tank was officially introduced in 1966.

A member of the Centurion tank line that became dominant at the end of World War II, kt was the pioneer in supine driver position. The design allowed the driver to lie backwards. The main advantage of this feature was that it allowed a reduction in the hull’s height.

The Chieftain’s main gun was the most powerful of its time. It was designed with a rifled gun while its contemporaries were still using charges and projectiles that had to be separately loaded. This along with its heavy armor, ranked it as the most advanced tank of its time. The downside to the armor was the tank’s decreased mobility caused by a limitation in its engine’s power. This is still considered to be the biggest disadvantage of the tank.

The engine was made to use diesel, petrol or anything that was available but proved unreliable with a breakdown rate of 90%. Modifications were made but the desired engine output was never achieved. To compound the problem, the more they improved the engine the heavier the vehicle got which further hampered mobility.

The line remained in service from 1966 to 1995 and was instrumental in the Iran–Iraq and Iraq-Kuwait wars. It was used by in UK, Oman Jordan, Kuwait, Iran and Iraq making the Middle East its biggest market.

The Chieftain line underwent upgrades until the 90s and was eventually replaced with the Challenger tanks, a line inspired by it. During the time it was used, at least eighteen variants were manufactured.



Weight: 55 long tons
Length: 7.5 m (25 ft) the hull included
Width: 3.5 m (11 ft)
Height: 2.9 m (9 ft 6 in)
Capacity: a crew of four (a gunner in the turret to the right, with the commander behind, the loader on the left of the turret and the driver).


Glacis: 120 mm (72º)
Hull sides: 38 mm (10º)
Turret: 195 mm (60º)


FV 4201 Chieftain Tanks came equipped with 120 mm rifles (L11A5) as their primary armament and two L7 MGs (machine guns) as the secondary armament.


The tank was designed with the multi-fuel compression ignition Leyland L60 which had a power of 750 hp (560 kW), Horstmann suspension and a maximum speed of 48 km/h (30 mph) or 30 km/h (19 mph) off-road. It covered a maximum road range of 500 km (310 miles).

Other features

  • One tank from each squadron could be outfitted with an optional bulldozer blade
  • One C42 1 B47 Larkspur VHF radios.
  • The turret was fitted two 6-barrel smoke dischargers.
  • Twin Clansman VRC 353 VHF Radios.

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