The Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked) —or CVR(T)—is a family of armoured fighting vehicles (AFV)s in service with the British Army and others throughout the world. They are small, highly mobile, air-transportable armoured vehicles designed to replace the Alvis Saladin armoured car.
Designed by Alvis in the 1960s, the CVR(T) family includes Scorpion and Scimitar light reconnaissance tanks, Spartan armoured personnel carriers (APC)s, Sultan command and control vehicle, Samaritan armoured ambulance, Striker anti–tank guided missile vehicle and Samson armoured recovery vehicle. All members of the CVR(T) family were designed to share common automotive components and suspension; aluminium armour was selected to keep the weight down. By 1996, more than 3,500 had been built for British Army use and export.
Design and development
In the early 1960s, the United Kingdom’s overseas commitments were proving costly to garrison and were a drain on the defence budget. A new strategy was proposed, that troops and equipment would be airlifted to trouble-spots from their bases in Europe. To support the air-landed troops, a requirement was identified for an AFV that could provide fire support with an anti-armour capability and be light enough to be airportable by the projected Armstrong Whitworth AW.681. At the same time, consideration was being given to the replacement of the Saladin armoured car.
In 1960, work began on what was called the Armoured Vehicle Reconnaissance. The vehicle would mount a 76 or 105 mm main gun in a limited-traverse turret, which also housed the three-man crew; namely: driver, gunner and commander. The anti–armour capability would be met by a Swingfire missile system (then under development) mounted at the rear. The design would come in both tracked and wheeled versions and share the same engine and transmission as the FV432 armoured personnel carrier. The final weight of the prototype was over 13 tons, which exceeded the weight limit if it was to be transported by air.
To reduce weight, aluminium alloy armour – using AA7017 made to Alcan E74S specification (Al + Zn 3.9; Mn 2.6) – was originally selected instead of steel; research revealed that it provided greater protection from artillery shell-splinters because of its areal density. However, this alloy suffered from stress corrosion cracking over time, especially around the gun mantlets of the Scimitar, and an improved specification armour (AA1707 made to MVEE-1318B with strict quality control) was fitted from 1978.
To fit inside the transport aircraft of the time, the vehicle’s height had to be less than 2.5 m (8 ft 2 in), its width had to be less than 2.102 m (6 ft 10.8 in). To meet the ground pressure requirement of five psi, the tracks had to be 0.45 m (18 in) wide. The width also dictated the engine used – it had to fit next to a driver in full winter clothing. Thus the engine compartment could only be 0.60 m (24 in) wide. No tank engines in production or development at the time were suitable, so the Jaguar 4.2-litre petrol engine was used. This was modified to use military-grade fuel, with a compression ratio lowered from 9:1 to 7.75:1 and a single Solex Marcus carburettor, resulting in a power output reduction from 265 bhp to 195 bhp.
The driver position, being located at the front of the vehicle alongside the engine, dictated that the turret would have to be at the rear. The fire support version, armed with a 76 mm gun, was named Scorpion as the rear-mounted turret suggested a sting in the tail. Following the example of Alvis predecessor vehicles Saladin, Stalwart (load carrier) and Saracen (personnel carrier), all CVRTs started with the letter ‘S’. The other vehicles were named to reflect their function; Striker anti–tank guided weapons, Spartan armoured personnel carrier; Samaritan ambulance; Sultan command and control and Samson recovery vehicles. In addition, the British General Staff had requested another vehicle armed with a 30 mm cannon, which became Scimitar.
In 1967, Alvis was awarded the contract to produce 30 CVR(T) prototypes. Vehicles P1–P17 being the Scorpion prototypes, P18–P30 were prototypes of the other six CVR(T) versions. Having to work under strict cost limitations imposed by the Ministry of Defence, the first prototype was completed on time and within budget on 23 January 1969, after extensive hot and cold weather trials in Norway, Australia, Canada and Abu Dhabi. In May 1970, the CVR(T) was accepted into British Army service; a contract was agreed for 275 Scorpions and 288 Scimitars. The first production Scorpion being completed in 1971, initial delivery to the British Army was in January 1972.
By 1986, the United Kingdom had taken delivery of 1,863 CVR(T)s. Total production for the British Army was 313 Scorpions, 89 Strikers, 691 Spartans, 50 Samaritans, 291 Sultans, 95 Samsons and 334 Scimitars.
Life Extension Programme
In 1988, Alvis plc was awarded a £32 million contract to carry out a Life Extension Programme (LEP). The initial contract was for 200 CVR(T)s and supply kits for a further 1,107 vehicles. The LEP was carried out on the Scimitar and Sabre reconnaissance vehicles, Spartan APCs, Sultan command post vehicles, Samson recovery vehicles, Samaritan ambulances and the Striker anti–tank vehicle. The major part of this upgrade was the replacement of the Jaguar 4.2-litre petrol engine by a more fuel efficient Cummins BTA 5.9 diesel engine.
A second contract for 70 vehicles was divided between Alvis and the Army Base Repair Organisation (ABRO). ABRO was then contracted to upgrade about 600 of the remaining CVR(T)s to the LEP standard.
Alvis also offered a comprehensive upgrade for the export version of the CVR(T), which included a diesel engine, upgraded suspension, new track and vision enhancements. Brunei is the only country known to have returned vehicles for an overhaul.
Battle Group Thermal Imaging programme
In 2001, Thales Optronics won the contract for the Battle Group Thermal Imaging (BGTI) programme. The contract will replace the image intensification sights installed on British Army Scimitar and Royal Engineers Spartan vehicles. They were replaced by a new gunner’s sight with a day thermal image and laser rangefinder sight. The vehicle commander will have a monitor and a map display and the driver a navigation capability.
The FV101 Scorpion was originally developed to meet a British Army requirement for the Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked). Scorpion was accepted by the British Army in May 1970, with a contract for 275, which later rose to 313 vehicles. Main armament consisted of a low velocity 76mm main gun with a coaxial 7.62 mm GPMG and multi-barrelled smoke grenade dischargers. The first production vehicles were completed in 1972. The first British regiment to be equipped with the Scorpion was the Blues and Royals of the Household Cavalry in 1973.
In November 1981, the RAF Regiment took delivery of the first of 184 Scorpions and other variants of CVR(T). These were to be used for airfield defence and served at RAF bases in the United Kingdom, Germany and Cyprus. The 76mm gun was ideal for the role, especially the canister round, which could be used on base against attacking personnel whilst minimising the risk to aircraft and infrastructure due to its short range. The RAF Regiment tranche of vehicles is understood to have originally been part of an order for Iran, but which were not delivered following the revolution that overthrew the Shah. The vehicles differed by having no wading equipment, and the vehicle commander’s cupola on the RAF Regiment Spartan was a different design from that of British Army variants.
British Scorpions were withdrawn from service in 1995, principally because of the toxicity hazard in the crew compartment caused when the main armament was fired. In addition, RAF Bomb Disposal (EOD) teams used Scimitar and Spartan. Their protection and mobility allowed the teams to move around airfields that had unexploded ordnance (UXO) and CBRN contamination. The 30mm main armament on the Scimitar could be used to detonate the UXO or to crack the case of a bomb to allow the contents to drain or to deflagrate.
The FV102 Striker was the Anti-tank guided missile version of the CVR(T), which was armed with the Swingfire missile system. Striker had five missiles ready to fire in a mounting at the rear of the vehicle, with another five stowed inside. Secondary armament consisted of a commander’s 7.62 mm GPMG and multi-barrelled smoke grenade dischargers. Striker looked very similar to Spartan in appearance, becoming more easily identifiable only when the missile tubes were raised. In mid 2006, the British Army had 48 Strikers in service, although they were in the process of being phased out as the Swingfire missile was replaced by the Javelin in mid–2005.
The FV103 Spartan is a small Armoured personnel carrier (APC); it can carry seven men in all, the crew of three and four others in the rear compartment. In the British Army, it is used to carry small specialised groups, such as engineer reconnaissance teams, air defence sections and mortar fire controllers. In mid-2006, the British Army had 478 Spartans in service, which from 2009 were being replaced by the Panther Command and Liaison Vehicle in some roles.
The FV104 Samaritan is the ambulance version of the CVR(T), 50 were produced for the British Army. In appearance it is similar to the Sultan Command and Control vehicle. It has a crew of two and capacity for four stretchers; being an ambulance it is not armed except for multi-barrelled smoke grenade dischargers.
The FV105 Sultan is the British Army command and control vehicle based on the CVR(T) platform, 205 were in service in 2006. It has a higher roof than the APC variants, providing a more comfortable “office space” inside. A large vertical map board and desk are located along one side, with a bench seat for three people facing it. Forward of this are positions for the radio operator, with provision for four radios, and the vehicle commander. Armament consists of a pintle-mounted GPMG and multi-barrelled smoke grenade dischargers. The back of the vehicle is designed to be extended by an attached tent to form a briefing area.
The FV106 Samson is an armoured recovery vehicle. The hull of the Spartan was adapted to contain a winch, which was operated to the rear of the vehicle. A hinged spade anchor was designed in two-halves to preserve access to the rear door.
The FV107 Scimitar is very similar to the Scorpion but carries the 30mm RARDEN cannon as its main weapon. Secondary armament consists of a coaxial GPMG and multi-barrelled smoke grenade dischargers. Stowage is provided for 201 rounds of 30 mm and 3,000 rounds of 7.62 mm ammunition. In 2006, the British Army had 328 in service; these are expected to be replaced by the scout version of the Future Rapid Effect System.
The Sabre was a hybrid vehicle, with the turret from a Fox Armoured Reconnaissance Vehicle on a FV101 Scorpion hull and armed with the same 30mm RARDEN cannon as the Scimitar. One hundred and thirty-six of these hybrid vehicles were brought into service in 1995, after some modifications were made to the turret. These modifications included redesigning the smoke grenade dischargers, replacing the standard machine gun with an L94A1 chain gun and domed hatches to improve headroom for the commander and gunner. They were assigned to the reconnaissance platoons of armoured and mechanised infantry battalions before being withdrawn from service in 2004.
Sturgeon and Salamander
Sturgeon (based on the Spartan) and Salamander (based on the Scorpion) are visually modified vehicles used to represent opposing forces in training exercises at the British Army Training Unit Suffield in Canada.
The Alvis Stormer was originally designed in the 1970s as a private venture APC, using the CVR(T) range as a starting point. It is a larger (0.48 m (1 ft 7 in) longer with a 6th set of road wheels) and heavier (12,700 kg) vehicle with steel and aluminium armour. Production began in 1982. Malaysia ordered 25 of the APC variant.
In 1986, the British Army selected Stormer to carry the Starstreak missile anti–aircraft system and a flatbed version fitted with the Shielder minelaying system.
BAE Land Systems, the descendant of Alvis military vehicles, market Stormer with various weapon systems for many purposes. Indonesia have received about 50 Stormer variants, including the APC, command post vehicle, ambulance, recovery, bridge-layers and logistics vehicle. Malaysia has 35, Oman has four and the United Kingdom has over 170.
|Mass||17,800 lb (8.074 tonnes)|
|Length||4.79 m (15 ft 9 in)|
|Width||2.23 m (7 ft 4 in)|
|Height||2.102 m (6 ft 10.8 in)|
|Crew||Between three and seven depending on variant|
- UK Army – Over 654 CVR(T) in active. Some variants have been partially replaced by the Iveco LMV, entire family to be replaced by 589 Ajax (Scout SV) starting 2017.