Tank Craft #15: Chieftain

Author/Artists: Robert Jackson


Pen & Sword


$22.95 from Casemate


Scott Van Aken

Notes: 64 pages, softcover, 200 illustrations
ISBN: 978-1-5267-414-24

This book from Pen & Sword's series on military vehicles concentrates on the British Chieftain. This tank served in several armies during the Cold War period and is probably still in service with some.

Designed to combat the then new Soviet T-54, it was a natural progression from the previous Centurion. As the Soviets had designed a 120mm main gun, it was imperative that the next generation tank not only have an equivalent gun, but be able to handle the increased armor needed. To say that the tank had a fairly long gestation period would be about right as it wasn't ready for unit service until the mid 1960s and even then the initial Chieftain I was unfit for combat and used for training.

One of the innovations used in this tank was that the powder and shell were separate, similar to the way that naval rifles operated, This allowed more ammunition to be stored and also allowed the charge to be kept deeper in the tank body where it would be less likely to be hit in battle. The Chieftain went through multiple upgrades during its service life until replaced by the Challenger in 1983. Even then surplus hulls were used for armored recovery vehicles, bridge layers and other vehicle types.

Pretty much all of its foreign sales were in the middle east with Iran receiving over 900 examples until delivery stopped with the Islamic revolution. Iraq used tanks captured during the Iran/Iraq war and deliveries were also made to Kuwait, Oman, and Jordan. The only times it was used in battle were by Iran and Kuwait, the latter using them during the Iraqi invasion of 1989.

Since so few units operated the tank (compared to something like the M60), the historical section is not as large as in other volumes. However, its development is a bit more completely covered and a bit more detail is provided in the 'in action' portion of the book. You get some very nice four views of various camouflage schemes and the usual model build, kit and accessories section. Since the Chieftain has not gotten a lot of plastic pressed compared to other tanks, these latter sections are not as large as in other books, obviously.

The book is a welcome addition to the series and fans of British armor will definitely want this one.

September 2019

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