Book Alert: Haynes Manual Chieftain MBT

After a fairly quite summer, there has been a veritable flood of new books on tanks and armor recently.  We are happy to note that on top of all the other titles we have reported on this past week, there is a new entry in the Haynes Manual series, a title by Dick Taylor on the British Chieftain MBT.  This is a hardcover book of 160 pages, with many photos, color illustrations and drawings and is slated for an Sept 1 release.  Those who have read any of the other tank books in the Haynes series will know what to expect.  While we have not had a chance to examine this particular one yet, we have several of the other books in the series and have found them to be handy and useful references.  Author Dick Taylor is a former British Army Challenger tank commander.  Over the past several years he has been quite prolific, producing titles such as the Haynes manual on the Challenger I MBT, Firing Now!, Men Inside the Metal, Into the Valley: The Valentine Tank, and several entries in the Armor PhotoHistory series.

Publisher’s Description:

The Chieftain was the British Army’s Main Battle Tank for twenty years, first entering service with the 11th Hussars in 1966. One of the first true Main Battle Tanks, it was designed to replace both medium (Centurion) and heavy (Conqueror) tanks in front line service and provided the backbone of the British Army’s heavy armour at the height of the Cold War. It incorporated a lot of revolutionary design features, although some did not work as well as expected. For example, in order to reduce height the driver lay in a reclining position and changed gear with his foot. The L11 120mm gun used a self-combusting bagged charge instead of a brass cartridge case (the gun proved to be highly successful); and the tank was powered by a multi-fuel engine. The Chieftain was continually upgraded during its service life: later marks were fitted with a laser rangefinder; a computerised fire-control system (IFCS), thermal sights (TOGS) and additional compound armour on the front of the turret and around the driver’s hatch (so-called Stillbrew armour). The L60 engine was continually modified and improved to increase its output and reliability. The end result of all these changes was a formidable AFV. The Chieftain hull was also used for a range of specialised AFVs, including armoured recovery vehicles (ARV and ARRV), bridge layers (AVLB) and combat engineering tanks (AVRE). A total of more than 2,200 Chieftains of all types were manufactured by the Royal Ordnance Factories and Vickers Ltd. Some 900 of these served with the British Army while the remaining 1,300 tanks were exported to Iran, Jordan, Kuwait and the Oman. Chieftains saw their share of combat with the Iranian Army in the 1980s when they engaged Iraqi tanks during the Iran-Iraq War, while Kuwaiti Chieftains fought the Iraqi Army during the invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Chieftain gun tanks were withdrawn from front-line service with the British Army during the late 1980s and early 1990s, but Chieftain recovery and combat engineering vehicles served with the British Army during the operations to liberate Kuwait in 1991 (Desert Storm).

From the Vault: Chieftain Articles and Documents

Today we present our most substantial “From the Vault” post yet, consisting of several articles and archival documents pertaining to the British cold war era Chieftain MBT.

First we have a three page article about the Chieftain from the Jan-Feb 1970 issues of ARMOR written by Staff Sergeant Edmund L. Devereaux III.  The author of the article is a US tanker and is writing out his first hand experience with the then new Chieftain tank during a training exercise with the British.


Next up is an article from International Defense Review from 1970 titled “Chieftain-Main Battle tank for the 1970s.”


Next is a 1976 IDR article titled “The Combat-Improved Chieftain – First Impressions” by Geneva F. Schreier.


Our final IDR article is one from 1976 titled “Improved Chieftain for Iran.”  This piece describes the improved Chieftain offered to Iran and dubbed the Shir Iran meaning Lion of Iran in Farsi.  This vehicle would lay the groundwork for the later Challenger I tank accepted by the British Army in the 1980’s.


Archival Documents

We also have some archival documents relating to the Chieftain to present.  These contain quite a few more pages than the article posted above so we have posted them on their own separate pages.  The pages may be viewed by clicking on the links below.

WO 194-495 Assessment of Weapon System in Chieftain – 1970 report on the Chieftain fire control system and chances of first round hit with 120mm APDS.

WO 341-108 Automotive Branch Report on Chieftain Modifications – From 1969, a report on modifications to improve the automotive performance of Chieftain.

DEFE 15-1183 – L11 Brochure – A report describing the 120mm L11 gun of the Chieftain.

WO 194-463 – Demonstration of Chieftain Gun –  1962 report on results of test firing of 120mm gun against various targets.

WO 194-1323 – Feasibility study on Burlington Chieftain – 1969 study on equipping Chieftain with early version of Burlington armor.