Why have British tanks not changed very much? The USA have moved from the VSS, VVSS, HVSS (Lee and Sherman) suspensions to the torsion bar suspension (T26 and Patton family), USSR - from twin bogies (T-28) and christie suspension (BTs and T-34) to the torsion bar suspension (T-44 and it successors), Germany - from springs, bogies and christie suspension (Pz I, Pz II) to the torsion bar (Panther, Tiger and modern Leopard), etc., but Great Britain changed christie suspension (Cromwell, Comet) to... bogies (Centurion, Chieftain). Another oddity is the rejection of smoothbore tank guns and HE/HE-FRAG APERS rounds (only HESH).

What the reason? Conservatism of the british military or tactical considerations?

  • Is any particular historical period in scope? Could the conversation focus on Challenger/Abrams/Leopard for example. Also, is there a particular interest in tank suspension? Jan 9 '13 at 10:05
  • @NathanCooper I am very interested in the history of different vehicles, including MBTs, from a design standpoint. All counties, except Great Britain, moved to torsion bar suspension (and smoothbore guns later) after WW2. I'm interested in the reason of this refusal of the British military. My guess - the conservatism of the military. I would like to hear a confirmation or refutation.
    – spyder
    Jan 9 '13 at 10:13
  • @NathanCooper countRies, of course :)
    – spyder
    Jan 9 '13 at 11:17
  • 2
    I'm going to assume that AFV does not equal the first response that google provides. (America's Funniest Videos); perhaps you could expand your acronyms?
    – MCW
    Jan 9 '13 at 11:50
  • 1
    @MarkC.Wallace - Armoured Fighting Vehicle (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armoured_fighting_vehicle)
    – DVK
    Jan 9 '13 at 12:04

Why do the British use rifled barrels? From wikipedia: "Uniquely among NATO main battle tank armament, the L30A1 is rifled, because the British Army continues to place a premium on the use of high explosive squash head (HESH) rounds in addition to APFSDS armour-piercing rounds. HESH rounds have a longer range (up to 8 kilometres / 5 miles) than APFSDS, and are more effective against buildings and thin-skinned vehicles."

Now having rifled barrel's isn't ideal for APFSDS as it's not required for a fin stabilised projectile and means you have to use slip rings to prevent rifling. Also rifled barrels wear quicker. The APFSDS is the more obvious choice for an anti tank round due to it's high effectiveness on armour, but does not (or at least did not) hold the accuracy or range of the HESH. However, perhaps in anticipation of fighting a holding action against soviet invasion the British wanted weapons which could keep the numerically superior soviets at arms length, that's just speculation.

There were plans to update to the smoothbore Rheinmetall L55 for the Challanger 2, but these were shelved for budgetary reasons.

As far a suspension goes, here is a link. It's from a games forum, but the guy knows his suspensions and correctly points out that different bogies are different. more here

If you were wondering why the British (and germans) still use diesel engines rather than gas turbines like the Abrams that's because the turbines poorer of range and reliability.

Maybe the combination of these, although individually justifiable, does suggest conservatism. But I would point out that it was the Chieftan tank that introduced the supine driver position, enabling shorter and more sloped hulls. Also I can't find any evidence of the British dragging their feet on targeting systems, with both introducing laser ranging finding in the eary 70s, on the UK's Chieftan and USA's Sheridan respectively.

  • 1) Why HESH, not HEAT and HE-FRAG? HESH less effective against infantry than HE-FRAG and less effective against vehicles than HEAT. 2) Only advantage of horstman bogies is it simple to replace damaged bogie with new one?
    – spyder
    Jan 10 '13 at 3:18
  • I agree and I don't know. HESH is perhaps a compromise round and better than both of those against structures. These days you use KE rounds against armour so HEAT doesn't have an advantage, unless it had a higher velocity or something (HESH low velocity is what makes it worse against light armour than KE rounds). But don't knock ease of maintenance, it made the T34 a great tank. Jan 11 '13 at 13:00
  • HESH is far more a multi purpose round, plus its design is intended to set off a shockwave inside multi layered armour that would defeat a HEAT round, breaking off chunks of metal that would fly inside the vehicle, killing crew and damaging equipment, without having to physically penetrate (as is required by both HEAT and APFS/APFSDS rounds).
    – jwenting
    Mar 25 '13 at 12:48
  • One thing often forgotten is that the US were themselves late to the smoothbore game, only adopting it several years after the Germans. In fact the original production M1 had the same L30A1 gun as was used by the Challenger and later model M60 and Leopard 1 tanks. AFAIK those are still in service with Guard units, unless they've since been sold abroad.
    – jwenting
    Mar 25 '13 at 12:50
  • @jwenting Nope, M60 and first M1 armed with M68 gun - a variant of 105mm L7, not 120mm L30 or L11. Leopard 1 armed with 105mm Bordkanone L7A3 - a variant of british L7 too
    – spyder
    May 21 '13 at 3:00

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.