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Vickers tank

By Sakhal

In the 1950s the Indian Army was equipped with several models of tanks, among them the French light tank AMX-13, the American medium tank M4 Sherman and the British medium tank Centurion. In the late 1950s it was decided to install in India a tank factory, and several work teams were sent abroad to select a project that covered the requirements of their army. It was selected an independent project from the British company Vickers, and in August 1961 it was signed a contract that allowed India to build the model under licence. The two first prototypes were built in United Kingdom and completed in 1963. One of them was retained by Vickers and the other was sent to India the following year. Meanwhile were being created the plans to build a production plant near Madras. Vickers delivered some finished tanks to India before the first exemplar were completed by the Indian factory, in the early 1969. The first tanks built in India carried numerous originally British components, but passing the years the participation of the Indian industry in the Vickers tank would increase, to the point of reaching the 90-95 percent of components of national production. The production in India exceded a thousand of units and this tank demonstrated good qualities during the Indo-Pakistani War in 1971. The Indians denominated this tank as Vijayanta (Victorious).

Vickers tank

The medium tank Vickers Mk 1 served in India (from 1965) and Kuwait (from 1971). More than 1000 were built in India by the company Avadi in Madras. Initially the tanks were assembled with components delivered by United Kingdom, but eventually the Indians produced by themselves the 95 percent of the tank.

When effectuating the project, Vickers set out the objective of achieving the best balance possible between the three main factors that characterize a tank: protection, mobility and firepower; this without exceding the limit of 38 English tonnes (38610 kilograms). The distribution of the tank was made conventional. The driver sat in the front right part, with the ammunition storage at his left. The other three crew members were installed in the turret: the commander and the gunner to the right and the loader to the left. Engine and transmission were placed in the rear and were initially the same installed in the Chieftain. Suspension was of the torsion bar type, with six road wheels, rear drive sprocket and three return rollers. Primary armament consisted of a 105 -millimeter cannon of the renowned series L7, with an elevation angle between +20 and -7 degrees. Secondary armament comprised a 7.62-millimeter machine gun co-axial with the cannon and a similar weapon installed in the commander's cupola. At each side of the turret there was a set of six smoke launchers. Ammunition supply comprised 44 projectiles for the 105-millimeter cannon and 3000 for the 7.62-millimeter machine guns. In the earlier models the cannon was aimed with the help of an auxiliary 12.7-millimeter machine gun, a method that had been tested with success in the Centurion, which was fitted with the same L7 105-millimeter cannon. The gunner had to align the cannon with the target and fire a burst with the auxiliary machine gun. The trajectory of the burst could be tracked because all the bullets were of the tracer type. If they hit the target then the cannon was properly aimed and if not the trajectory of the tracers would indicate the proper corrections to perform. For this machine gun 600 projectiles were carried. The ammunition of the cannon was of two types: false-ogive breaker and hard-core piercing. The cannon had incorporated a stabilization system GEC-Marconi, allowing the tank to aim and fire while in movement.

Vickers tank

A Vickers tank firing its L7 105-millimeter cannon in a maneuvers field. This renowned cannon was installed in the most part of the western tanks during the 1960s and 1970s, being the only exceptions among the medium tanks the British Chieftain, the American M-60A2 and the French AMX-30.

The version used by India and Kuwait was the Vickers Mk 1. It existed a project for a Vickers Mk 2 that carried four launchers for the anti-tank missile Swingfire developed by British Aircraft Corporation, but this project ended in nothing. The Vickers Mk 3 - that was produced in United Kingdom for Kenya - was equipped with a laser telemeter, a cast turret of new design and a redesigned cupola, which allowed the commander to aim, fire and load the machine gun from inside. It had installed a new turbocharged Diesel engine by General Motors, developing 730 horsepower at 2500 revolutions per minute. Previous versions used the poly-fuel gasoline engine Leyland L60 4B, which had proved to be troublesome. With the new engine operational range increased to 600 kilometers. Optional equipment included an NBC (Nuclear-Bacteriological-Chemical) system, night vision system for the driver, commander and gunner, air conditioning system and a flotation screen. This latter was installed in a canal around the upper part of the hull, and could be deployed by the crew in 15 minutes. The tank could then cross a water stream impulsed by the movement of the tracks on the very water. Without the screen, fording capability was reduced to a depth of 1.4 meters.

Vickers tank

The prototype of the Vickers Mk 3, fitted with a new Diesel engine General Motors, remodeled cupola, laser telemeter and thermal cover for the cannon.

Specifications for Vickers Mk 1

Crew: 4

Armament: One L7 51-caliber 105-millimeter cannon; one L7 7.62 millimeters co-axial machine gun; one L7 7.62-millimeter machine gun in the commander's cupola; one auxiliary 12.7 millimeters machine gun for aiming tracing; six smoke launchers in each side of the turret

Ammunitions: 44 x 105-millimeter cannon; 600 x 12.7-millimeter machine gun; 3000 x 7.62-millimeter machine guns

Armor: 40 millimeters in hull sides; 80 millimeters in hull front

Length (total): 9.728 meters

Length (hull): 7.920 meters

Width: 3.168 meters

Height: 2.640 meters

Weight: 38.6 tonnes

Ground pressure: 0.87 kilograms/square centimeter

Engine: Leyland L60 4B opposed-piston engine with 6 cylinders and 12 pistons and a maximum power of 650 horsepower at 2670 revolutions per minute

Maximum speed (in road): 56 kilometers/hour

Maximum operational range (in road): 480 kilometers

Maximum surmountable trench: 2.438 meters

Maximum surmountable step: 0.914 meters

Maximum surmountable slope: 60 percent

Maximum fording: 1.400 meters

Categories: Tanks - Cold War - 20th Century - [General] - [General]


Website: Military History

Article submitted: 2014-12-22

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