COMBAT VEHICLE RECONNAISSANCE (TRACKED)
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.
First 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 CVRBy 1996 more than 3,500 had been built for British Army use and export.
In the early 1960s, the United Kingdom's overseas commitments were proving costly to garrison and 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. 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. An 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 APC. The final weight of the prototype was over 13 tons, which exceeded the weight limit if it was to be to be transported by air.
To reduce weight, aluminium armour was selected instead of steel; research revealed that it provided greater protection from artillery shell-splinters because of its density. 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 (1 ft 6 in) wide. The width also dictated the engine used had to fit next to a driver in full winter clothing. The engine compartment could only be 0.60 m (2 ft 0 in) wide. No tank engines in production or development at the time were suitable except one, the Jaguar 4.2-litre petrol engine.
The driver, 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 and SARACEN, 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 were 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.