Military Review

Chiftain Crazy Horse target tank


Museum tank Chiftain. Photo The Tank Museum /

The British main battle tank Chiftain at one time became the base for a number of armored vehicles for various purposes. Perhaps the most interesting project of such a revision appeared at the final stage of its operation. Decommissioned from the army Tanks it was proposed to rebuild into radio-controlled targets called Crazy Horse.

End of service

The Chiftain entered service with Great Britain in the mid-sixties and then became the mainstay of the armored forces for two decades. In 1983, the delivery of serial tanks of the new type Challenger I began, which in the foreseeable future should have led to the decommissioning of the outdated Chieftain.

Some of the withdrawn from service tanks were planned to be sent for disposal. Some of the machines could be converted into equipment for other purposes. Other tanks were proposed to be sent to training grounds for use as targets and "tactical objects". In this way, it was planned to distribute approx. 1000 tanks remaining in stock.

In 1987, an interesting proposal appeared on the combination of two methods of using decommissioned equipment. It provided for the restructuring of the main battle tank into a self-propelled target for use at training ranges. Such a model could provide a more effective preparation of calculations for anti-tank missile systems. At the same time, the production of a new model would be quite cheap - through the use of a ready-made platform.

"Crazy Horse"

In the same 1987, the development of a set of measures began to turn a linear tank into a self-propelled target. The works were named Crazy Horse project - this name reflected the originality and even some madness of the original idea. The design was undertaken by the Royal Armament Research and Development Establishment (RARDE). These or those components were ordered from different commercial organizations.

Crazy Horse tank at the training ground. Photo The Tank Museum /

For the construction of an experimental target, RARDE received a serial Chiftain tank of the Mk I modification with serial number 00EB33, built by Vickers in the sixties. Before being transferred for alteration, this machine was operated in one of the training units.

It was planned to include a remote operator-driver console in the new training complex. For its manufacture, RARDE received an Alvis Stormer armored vehicle.

Technical features

The Crazy Horse project envisaged the use of the maximum number of units of the base tank while simultaneously removing and replacing individual components. By dismantling some units, it was proposed to reduce the weight of the vehicle, while increasing speed and maneuverability.

The armor parts of the hull and turret were not finalized, although most of the external equipment was removed from them. The power plant and chassis were not finalized. At the same time, all standard fuel tanks were removed from the tank and a small-volume container was installed in their place. It was assumed that this would reduce the likelihood of unwanted damage to tanks and fuel spills.

View to the other side. You can consider the emblem with the Indian. UK Department of Defense Photo

Curiously, a small internal tank could provide a cruising range of no more than a few miles. This was done in case of breakdowns in the remote control system. It was assumed that an armored vehicle that lost control would quickly run out of fuel, stop and not have time to go beyond the range.

Removed from the tower and fighting compartment weapon, fire controls and other devices. The frontal embrasure of the tower was closed with a solid plug. The tank no longer needed collective anti-nuclear protection. Some sources mention the removal of the radio station as unnecessary.

The habitable bays and their equipment have changed markedly. A remote control post was placed in the tower. The transmission of commands to the actuators was carried out by newly developed hydraulics. A camera above the driver's seat and a monitor in the tower were used to monitor the road.

"Crazy Horse" received remote controls. It was made on the basis of Skyleader devices originally used on aviation technique. The target tank was connected to the control vehicle via a two-way radio channel. The equipment received commands for the actuators from the console and sent back the video signal from the camera.

Control vehicle on the Alvis Stormer chassis. UK Department of Defense Photo

The experienced tank retained its original green color. At the same time, the edge of the fenders, handrails and some protruding parts were made red. Probably for the greater convenience of trained missilemen. On the left side of the tower there was a drawing - the head of an Indian in a traditional dress and the inscription "Crazy Horce".

The steering machine on the Stormer chassis has not undergone major modifications. An operator's workplace with a monitor and controls was installed inside the troop compartment. A folding mast with an antenna for radio communication was installed on the roof.

Work principles

The operating principle of the new complex was quite simple. A self-propelled target with a driver and a control car were supposed to go to the range. After that, the driver left the tank and took his place at the console on board the Stormer BMP. From that moment on, control was carried out remotely.

Using the video signal from the target, the driver had to follow a given route. At the same time, ATGM calculations or grenade launchers could fire at the tank using inert ammunition. The armored vehicle, without additional protection, had to withstand the strikes of blank missiles and continue to move. Upon completion of the firing, the tank could return from the target field, take on board the driver and go to the box.

Operator's workplace in the control machine. UK Department of Defense Photo

Such a training complex had several characteristic advantages. The main thing is the most accurate imitation of a real armored vehicle on the battlefield. Unlike other moving targets, the Crazy Horse was a real tank with all its features. At the same time, the lighter design made it possible to increase mobility and more accurately simulate modern tanks of a potential enemy. Accordingly, grenade launchers and ATKR operators received more useful experience.

Failed Savings

In 1987, RARDE built an experimental complex consisting of a target tank and control armored vehicle. Soon, tests began, pursuing several goals. It was necessary to check the driving performance and driving comfort from both driver's workplaces, as well as using the remote control. Then it was required to check the resistance of the tank to inert anti-tank missiles.

In the "manned" version, the Crazy Horse target retained all the basic qualities of the base tank. The remote control also performed well. The driver confidently controlled the armored vehicle at distances of up to 6 km, receiving a picture and transmitting commands. In general, "Crazy Horse" coped with the tasks.

However, there were some drawbacks. On the radio-controlled tank, the standard power plant and transmission of the Chieftain were used, which were not very reliable. There was a risk of breakage making operation difficult. There were also problems with the radio equipment, which turned out to be complicated and expensive. In addition, the video camera had a small viewing angle and insufficient picture quality, which made it difficult to control.

Chiftain Crazy Horse target tank
Chiftain tanks as stationary targets. Photo Wikimedia Commons

During the revision, the tank did not receive additional protection, which negatively affected its survivability. The standard anti-tank missiles of the British army, due to kinetic energy, could damage the external units of the tank or even break through the side armor.

As a result, already in 1987-88. it was decided to abandon the Crazy Horse project and continue using the existing target complexes. Lifting and movable shields, imitating armored vehicles, could not fully replace a real tank, but they were simpler, more convenient and more reliable.

However, the radio-controlled car was not written off. For some time, it has been used in various teachings and other similar activities. For example, in 1989, the complex was involved in the filming of the TV program Combat: A Battle Of The Regiment. With his help, the military participants of the show demonstrated their skills in fighting tanks.

At the turn of the eighties and nineties, the Crazy Horse complex was decommissioned. The control vehicle was apparently dismantled and returned to service in its original configuration. An experienced target tank was sent for storage. It is currently in the Bovington Armored Museum. Other Chieftain tanks were less fortunate. As previously planned, some were melted down, while others were sent to landfills - as fixed targets. The revolution in the training of missilemen was canceled.
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  1. Krasnoyarsk
    Krasnoyarsk 18 March 2021 18: 54
    Yes, to be sure, "Tommy" trained their tankers and anti-tank crews well. All the same, getting into a moving target is not the same as hitting a stationary one, which I observed at our training grounds.
  2. Jolly Roger
    Jolly Roger 18 March 2021 19: 00
    Thanks for the interesting article about the target tank. The name was right, people were friends with a sense of humor.
  3. Lara Croft
    Lara Croft 18 March 2021 19: 04
    British "Chiefs" never saw the war, but their Iranian "colleagues" drank the war so that it seemed bitter. On January 6, 1981, in the Kharkhi Valley, the 16th Panzer Division, which included up to 300 tanks (except for the Chieftains, there were also American M60s - the exact number of both is not known) practically in a head-on engagement with an Iraqi tank division of the same size, which consisted of Soviet T-62. By January 8, 1981, the Iranian division ceased to exist - as it turned out later, T-62 shells from all optimal distances of a tank battle pierced the frontal armor of British vehicles.

    The Iranians did not risk anymore and did not lead their "chiefs" into battle with modern enemy tanks head-on-forehead.

    The war in Kuwait in 1990 did not confirm this tendency, but did not deny it either - practically all "Chiefs" of the Kuwaiti army were left without a fight and went to Irau as trophies.
  4. Bolt cutter
    Bolt cutter 18 March 2021 19: 08
    Chieftain is spelled with "e", although this is not very important. Good article, thank you.
  5. Undecim
    Undecim 18 March 2021 20: 42
    It is currently in the Bovington Armored Museum.
  6. Monar
    Monar 18 March 2021 21: 07
    And I like the idea. Remove all unnecessary. "Stupid" to increase the thickness of the armor. And let the grenade launchers shoot at it with blanks.
    Yes, even for gunners and tankers, you can make a "rubber" projectile with ballistics as in combat.
    In general, tankers will have fun in the exercises. If operators and reals are swapped. ;)
    1. Bogalex
      Bogalex 20 March 2021 00: 23
      Quote: Monar
      ... you can make a "rubber" projectile with ballistics like in combat ...

      How is it this way, one might ask?
      1. Monar
        Monar 20 March 2021 04: 33
        Well, the most primitive thing is that cumulative shells are not supplied with explosives, but with a mass and size piece of plastic. So shoot them at a radio-controlled target.
        The problem "my own range + my targets + I know everything by heart" is reflected in Soviet cinema. And the operator of the tank's control system introduces the factor of surprise.
        1. Bogalex
          Bogalex 20 March 2021 17: 34
          So what is it after that "rubber"? The same structural steel, even though the projectile itself is not undermined. But the demolition of external ends of sighting devices and other attachments when hit is guaranteed to be ensured. As well as the operation of dynamic protection, by the way. Precisely the authorities sanction such "fun" at the landfills?
          1. Monar
            Monar 20 March 2021 18: 52
            Well, did you notice that I took the rubber in quotes?
            I will repeat myself. RU tank as a target. From which even dynamic protection is removed. About the sights and the gun with all the bells and whistles (you can put a log for realism), I will keep silent. :) Saving weight - plus additional armor plates on the sides and MTO. Structural steel of imitators of projectiles to the most fragile (if only it does not collapse itself until it reaches the target).
            At the same time, the operator of such a target will create much more realistic battle conditions on the range than lifting and moving plywood shields.
            1. LastPS
              LastPS 21 March 2021 22: 01
              The thought also arose that they shouldn't have dropped this idea in vain. Most likely, the chiefs were fragile, and the control equipment was too expensive to massively implement such targets, as the author noted. The problem with ATGMs could be solved by creating a new inert projectile, with the same ballistics and speed. In general, I am surprised that an inert projectile can inflict such injuries on a tank.
              1. Monar
                Monar 22 March 2021 05: 02
                Over the past decades, the cost of such equipment has dropped several times. Its capabilities have also grown. So I am surprised that they have not returned to this idea now.
                Well, mutilations with blanks ... I think that here the quantity simply turns into quality over time. :)
                1. LastPS
                  LastPS 25 March 2021 21: 48
                  It is possible that advances in teaching aids, namely the creation of realistic combat simulations, have rendered such a technique pointless. Shooting is still needed and it is there, but the parameters, such as wind, weather conditions, the position of the target and its parameters, etc. easier to set on the simulator, not to mention the infinite number of shots and their price of zero conventional units.
                  1. Monar
                    Monar 27 March 2021 07: 50
                    The simulator is a good thing. But it does not replace reality. The same civil aviation pilot will not be allowed at the helm after them. Until it flies into reality.
  7. Aviator_
    Aviator_ 18 March 2021 22: 02
    As my student's father told me, their regiment on the MiG-27 in the GSVG was practicing a star raid with live fire on remotely controlled tanks. It was in the 80s of the last century.
  8. The leader of the Redskins
    The leader of the Redskins 18 March 2021 22: 11
    And to me "crazy horses", all the same, they are more associated with ...

    The famous cabaret ....
  9. Narak-zempo
    Narak-zempo 19 March 2021 11: 50
    I don’t understand why it was necessary to fence this whole vegetable garden with remote control?
    It is much cheaper, due to the mass of weapons and equipment, to build up armor in weak spots, and use a target with a live driver. Training ammunition. Yes, and the Indians already at that time came in large numbers in small Britain, which is not a pity if something happens.
    1. Monar
      Monar 19 March 2021 12: 15
      Sit in a barrel. And ask someone to hit it with a sledgehammer. There will definitely not be any penetration of the "armor".
      1. Narak-zempo
        Narak-zempo 19 March 2021 12: 27
        Quote: Monar
        Sit in a barrel. And ask someone to hit it with a sledgehammer. There will definitely not be any penetration of the "armor".

        And like in battle nothing will knock on the armor? If mechanized waters are so delicate and unstress-resistant - why are they needed at all?
        A barrel, by the way, is a bad example, because it has thin walls that transmit a significant part of the impact energy in the form of acoustic waves inward.