Military Review

"Controversial" tank destroyer FV4401

Often, new projects of weapons and military equipment in addition to the alphanumeric index get their own names. Such names sometimes look strange or surprising (this is even an occasion for appropriate jokes), but there are other cases when a favorite word is excellent for designating a project. A model example of such a coincidence is the British experimental fighter project tanks FV4401 Contentious. So many innovations and bold ideas were simultaneously used in this machine that its future turned out to be a subject of mass debate.

"Controversial" tank destroyer FV4401

In the sixties of the last century, Great Britain was actively working on a large-scale project Prodigal, whose goal was to create a family of light armored fighting vehicles for various purposes. Before starting the main design work it was necessary to determine the requirements and appearance of promising technology. The result of this development phase of the project Prodigal was an experimental tank destroyer FV4401. The main project at that time was in its early stages, thanks to which British tank builders received the most extensive opportunities.

However, at the insistence of the customer, the FV4401 project had to combine a lot of different technical and tactical qualities, which led to its considerable complication. In the near future, the military wanted an air-transportable anti-tank self-propelled artillery installation with high firing characteristics, including firing rate. By this time, the tanks of the probable enemy received sufficiently serious protection, which required installing a powerful and, consequently, heavy weapon with corresponding recoil characteristics on the FV4401. In addition, designers were faced with the problem of air transport. Fortunately, the experimental nature of the project made it possible to embody the most ambitious ideas in the metal.

Tank destroyer at the Bovington Museum (c)

Selection of the main weapons for the experimental tank destroyer was simple. Back in the late forties, the British military had at their disposal a Ordnance QF 20 pounder 84 millimeter rifled tank gun. At the beginning of the sixties, a sub-caliber projectile with an initial flight speed of 1465 m / s, capable of piercing about 290 millimeters of homogeneous armor, appeared in the arsenal of this weapon. The presence of such a powerful, but comparatively small and light instrument simply did not leave a choice. Tank destroyer FV 4401 Contentious decided to do it under the gun Ordnance QF 20 pounder.

Requirements for mass and dimensions associated with the need to transport self-propelled guns by aircraft, in combination with the selected model of the gun identified the main features of the appearance of a combat vehicle. In the cargo compartments of the military transport aircraft that existed at that time, only a tank destroyer could be fitted, made according to a turretless scheme. Requirements for the rate of fire were solved in an obvious way: it was necessary to create an automatic loading of the gun. But the use of such a mechanism required to take certain measures related to the return of the barrel to its original position for loading after each shot. Because of this, the British tank builders decided to install the gun hard, without the possibility of vertical guidance. The horizontal guidance was kept at the level of the previous turretless ACS: with a slight deviation from the machine axis.

The original solution to the problem of the mutual arrangement of the automatic loader and gun gave rise to a new task, namely, vertical guidance without using any lifting mechanisms of the gun itself. It is not known for certain whether the British tank builders knew about the Swedish project Strv-103, but they followed the same path as their Swedish colleagues. Already in the preliminary version of the project, the tank destroyer FV4401 had to raise and lower the barrel of the gun, tilting its entire body back and forth.

View of the fighting compartment (s)

The non-standard way of aiming the gun in the vertical plane necessitated the creation of a new undercarriage, namely a suspension that can not only reduce the shaking of the car when it is moving, but also change the angle of the body. As a basis for the chassis of the Contentious tank destroyer, they chose the appropriate parts of the Comet cruising tank during the Second World War. In the course of reworking under the new requirements, the undercarriage lost two track rollers (one on each side), and the hull became shorter. Due to this, the machine together with the barrel had a length of about 8,5 meter. The case width did not exceed the 3,1 meter. Regarding the engine ACS FV4401 accurate data are not available. According to some sources, when modifying the hull of a Comet tank, the engine and transmission remained the same. Thus, the tank destroyer was equipped with a Rolls-Royce Meteor Mk III petrol engine with an HP 600 power.

To change the "trim" of the hull chassis got the original hydraulic system. Two medium-sized skating rinks from each side kept the old suspension completely borrowed from the Comet tank. Front and rear track rollers, in turn, received a suspension of a new design. These rollers were mounted on new L-shaped balancers, attached to the hull for their middle part. A skating rink was mounted on one of the balancer arms, the other was connected to a hydraulic cylinder. Thus, by changing the pressure in two pairs of cylinders connected to the front and rear support rollers, it was possible to tilt the whole self-propelled gun forward or backward.

Guidance of the gun in the vertical plane was made using the original suspension

Due to the experimental nature of the project, the first prototype of the FV4401 tank destroyer was assembled from ordinary steel, the armor was not used at this stage. Also, the prototype with the UXM 127 symbol had a simplified layout: fuel tanks of relatively simple design on the fenders, an open wheelhouse with a grid over the engine compartment, etc. Crew jobs of two people (driver and commander-gunner) were placed in front of the hull, on the sides of the breech of the gun.

Taking advantage of this opportunity, British engineers decided to try out other new technologies on the FV4401. Thus, the electronic equipment of the experimental machine included television surveillance systems for the environment. The purpose of another part of the Contentious electronics is unknown. The photos from the tests captured self-propelled with some equipment above the breech of the gun. Two boxes with wires running from them probably contained a part of electronic equipment, but there is no exact data on their purpose. A variety of assumptions are made, from the original method of installing instrumentation to the compact radar of target search and guidance.

Tests of unarmored lightweight prototype FV4401 took place at test sites in Kirkubri and Luluorte. Under the conditions of landfills, the possibilities of the original chassis, capable of adjusting the slope of the hull, were primarily studied. After a little fine-tuning and correcting a number of minor flaws, the prototype tank destroyer is crew positioned with ease. It is noteworthy that at the maximum elevation angle the driving wheels touched, and at the maximum descent angle, the guides. This fact markedly limited the possible value of the vertical guidance angles, but for a machine designed to destroy tanks with direct fire, this was considered acceptable. The gun mount could independently turn a small angle and in a vertical plane, which increased the accuracy of the fire, since turning the whole machine did not provide a sufficiently thin guidance.

Horizontal guidance was carried out by the rotary module.

During the tests, as far as is known, the firing qualities of the experimental ACS were tested. The FV4401 machine fired with sufficient success at various targets imitating the enemy tanks. During the tests, some problems of automatic loading were identified. The exact values ​​of the rate of fire using the feed mechanism of the projectiles, unfortunately, are unknown, but there is information according to which this parameter was higher than that of tanks with a similar gun and manual loading.

The FV4401 Contentious project clearly demonstrated the possibility of creating a light air transportable self-propelled artillery mount capable of striking a large number of modern and promising tanks. However, in the early sixties, another direction showed its success. The latest anti-tank guided missiles, despite their imperfections, could fully compete with heavy and sophisticated tank destroyers. They were already capable of destroying targets at comparatively large distances with acceptable accuracy, and also allowed them to mount launchers and control systems on any suitable equipment.

The appearance of anti-tank missiles almost led to the closure of the FV4401 project. Rather, work on the initial version of it after the tests stopped, but after a while an attempt was made to increase the firepower of this tank destroyer with a L7 rifled 105 millimeter caliber gun. According to reports, the Contentious prototype ACS dismantled the old QF 20 pounder gun and installed a new one, thanks to which the firepower of the combat vehicle grew accordingly. However, in this form, the FV4401 project had no particular prospects.

Breech L7 (c)

During the FV4401 project, at least one prototype was built, armed with a 84-mm cannon and later receiving a new weapon. Some sources claim that up to three experimental machines were used in the tests, but there is no serious evidence of this. Be that as it may, only one copy has survived so far - the same machine with the “UMX 127” sign captured in most photographs of the sixties. Now this self-propelled gun is stored in one of the pavilions of the Bovington Tank Museum. The location of the other prototypes — if they really existed — is unknown. Probably, during the project, only one copy of the “controversial” tank destroyer was assembled.

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  1. Pashhenko Nikolay
    Pashhenko Nikolay 31 July 2013 09: 13
    The original devil is that.
    1. Mister X
      Mister X 31 July 2013 12: 58
      An even more original idea from the “Contentious” series: FV44011
      It was also created as part of the “Prodigal” program for the development of air transport anti-tank SAU.

      Armament: 2x 120mm recoilless guns of the “BAT” family (Mobat, Wombat)
      Horizontal aim: + 10 ° / -5 °
      Loading mechanism: revolving type, 7 shots per gun
      Additional weapons: machine guns, coaxial with guns.
      Suspension: hydraulic, with variable clearance.
      Engine: Rolls Royce “B” Series.
      Crew: 1 people.
      There is no evidence even of the existence of a prototype.

      1. Lopatov
        Lopatov 31 July 2013 17: 41
        These, it seems, are the same automatic recoilless ones that never appeared in the troops
        1. Mister X
          Mister X 31 July 2013 20: 28
          Quote: Spade
          These, it seems, are the same automatic recoilless ones that never appeared in the troops

          Found information that was accepted.
          L6 WOMBAT (Weapon Of Magnesium, Battalion, Anti Tank) -
          British-made 120 mm recoilless anti-tank gun.
          Adopted at 1962 in the UK and Australia.
          Used in the Vietnam War and the Falkland Conflict.

          A modification of the BTR FV1965 appeared in 432:
          With a 120-mm L6 "Wombat" recoilless gun mounted on the roof and 40 rounds of ammunition.
          It seems like they were delivered in small batches to Canada and some countries in Asia and Africa.

          There was a version of the L6 "Wombat" self-propelled gun based on the Snow Trac ST4 snowmobile.

          British Marines ride a Snow Trac ST4 without a top with an L6 "Wombat" mounted on it in Norway.
          (It is written that they patrol there. With what fright do they patrol there?)

          And for dessert - a bit of humor. A play on words, as they say.
          Wombat is not only a recoilless gun model.
          It is also a marsupial mammal from Australia - a relative of the koala.

          1. megavolt823
            megavolt823 18 February 2017 14: 11
            looks like me in the morning. laughing
  2. dian
    dian 31 July 2013 09: 31
    Interesting article, thanks!
  3. Bae likhte
    Bae likhte 31 July 2013 09: 39
    it’s a pity there are no dates, otherwise it might become clear where the legs of the Swede STRV 103 grow
  4. Evgeny_Lev
    Evgeny_Lev 31 July 2013 09: 40
    Good article.

    British scientists, as always, create toilet paper, which can be used only through the ears.
  5. 0255
    0255 31 July 2013 09: 48
    Soviet minesweeper "Progrev-T" and tank Object 279 cooler)))
  6. The comment was deleted.
  7. ed65b
    ed65b 31 July 2013 10: 03
    and already read about this miracle.
  8. Constantine
    Constantine 31 July 2013 10: 22
    The British have long been distinguished by peculiar tastes and decisions. smile Just look at the same V-series bombers. smile
  9. Gorchilin
    Gorchilin 31 July 2013 12: 30
    Here are those times! It turns out that the Swedes with their crazy miracle were far from the first! Thank you, I have never heard of this car before.
    1. Srgsoap
      Srgsoap 31 July 2013 18: 19
      You probably talk about this car.
      1. Sirius-2
        Sirius-2 1 August 2013 17: 46
        This is a swedish tank. There was an article about this tank on the site a couple of months ago. For example: the photo shows that the gun in the horizontal plane did not rotate.
  10. Tan4ik
    Tan4ik 31 July 2013 16: 27
    It seems to me that there is one huge minus in such vehicles - with several tanks it is problematic to fight, since they will "twist" it and that's it.
  11. kotvov
    kotvov 31 July 2013 21: 41
    I wonder why the British almost always create an angular technique, is it in their blood or something.
  12. kavkaz8888
    kavkaz8888 1 August 2013 01: 07
    In WoT, in the English tank branch there is FV 215b. The reload is long, but it gets serious
  13. starhina01
    starhina01 1 August 2013 17: 41
    An interesting pendant can be laid in the analogue of Almaty hi
  14. xomaNN
    xomaNN 3 August 2013 14: 09
    For British mechanical engineers, an interesting task was. I read more about the Swedish reckless tank before.