Centurion Main Battle Tank

The Centurion Main Battle Tank

Manufacturers: Leyland Motors, Leyland, England; Royal Ordnance, Leeds and Woolwich, England; Vickers-Armstrong, Elswick, England.

Development of the A41 Centurion took place during the closing stages of the Second World War. Six prototypes were shipped to Germany, but they arrived too late to play any part in the allied victory. Production commenced shortly after the end of hostilities (with the vehicles eventually entering full-scale service in 1949) and continued until 1962, by which time 4423 had been built.

Britain’s first post-war tank has a distinguished record of service in several wars, despite weaknesses which are strikingly obvious today. The 650hp Rolls-Royce petrol engine was very thirsty, without compensating by providing a good maximum speed — and then there’s the question of the fuel’s dangerous flammability. The result was a woeful maximum speed of 34km/h and an operating range of well under 200km: compare this with its diesel-engined successor, the Chieftain, which managed over 400km per tankful at an almost impressive 48km/h. Some Centurions were provided with an armoured monowheel trailer carrying additional fuel, which boosted range if not manoeuvrability or the crew’s peace of mind.

The main gun of early Centurions was a three-inch 17-pounder. On the Mk III vehicle, this was replaced by a 3.28" 20-pounder. Most (but not all) later models used a fully stabilised 105mm L7 series gun.

At the time of writing, some derivatives of the Centurion were still in service — in Denmark, Isreal, Jordan (the Tariq derivative), Singapore, South Africa and Sweden. Predictably, most have new diesel power-packs.

Technical specifications

Engine: Rolls-Royce Mk IVB 12-cylinder liquid-cooled petrol producing 650hp at 2550rpm
Maximum speed: 34km/h
Fuel capacity & range: 1037l, 190km
Armament: 105mm main gun, 7.62mm MG coaxial, 12.7mm RMG, 7.62mm MG (commander’s cupola), 2x6 smoke grenade dischargers
Combat weight: 51.82t
Length: 7.823m excluding gun (9.854m gun forwards)
Width: 3.39m
Height: 3.009m
Armour: max. 152mm
Crew: four