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Author: Dick Taylor, Hardbound, 156 Pages, H6059, ISBN: 9781785210594, First Published September, 2016

With its origins rooted in the technology of the 1950s, the Chieftain was the British Army’s Main Battle Tank from 1966 until 1986, providing the backbone of its heavy armour during the Cold War.

The story of its design is an object lesson in the many pitfalls associated with such a complex engineering project.

Chieftain incorporated a host of revolutionary design features, including a reclining position for the driver, a combusting bag charge for the 120mm Li 1 gun instead of a brass cartridge case, and a Leyland-designed L60 multi-fuel engine meant to be capable of running on a variety of fuels, but which proved to be chronically underpowered and unreliable.

The engine became the Chieftain’s main characteristic and enduring legacy.

Despite this, in many ways it was a very good tank, capable of both withstanding and dealing out heavy punishment, and was thus appreciated by its crews.

Constantly upgraded throughout its service life, later marks of Chieftain were fitted with a laser rangefinder, computerised fire-control system (IFCS), thermal sights (TOGS) and additional compound armour on the front of the turret and around the driver’s hatch (the so-called Stillbrew armour).

The Chieftain hull was also used as the basis for a range of specialised AFVs, including armoured repair and recovery vehicles (ARV and ARRV), bridge layers (AVLB) and combat engineering tanks (AVRE).

Chieftains saw combat in the 1980s during the Iran-Iraq War; Kuwaiti Chieftains also fought the Iraqi Army during the invasion of 1990; and British Army Royal Engineer Chieftains proved to be extremely useful in 1991 during Operation Desert Storm.

Author Dick Taylor, a former British Army Chieftain and Challenger tank commander, lifts the hatches on Chieftain to give an inside ‘warts-and-all’ insight into the design, construction, operation and maintenance of this heavyweight Cold War warrior.

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