Scorpion Combat Reconnaissance Vehicle (Tracked) (UK)


The UK's economic situation in the early 1960s led to pressure to reduce the defence budget and to cut the number of troops stationed overseas. It was proposed that the Army would retain a significant capability to rapidly deploy forces from Europe to trouble spots around the world, with light infantry travelling in the newly acquired transports such as the Argosy, Belfast and Hercules, while reinforcements with heavy armour would follow by sea. This necessitated the development of a lightweight AFV that could be air-transported.
Scimitar
Scimitar varient of the Scorpion Combat Reconnaissance Vehicle
In 1960 design started on the Armoured Vehicle Reconnaissance (AVR) which was to mount a 76mm or 105mm gun in a limited traverse turret with a crew of three including the driver. The complex design eventually arrived at a vehicle (which included the Swingfire anti-tank missile) which weighed around thirteen tons - too much for it to be air transportable. The advent of aluminium alloy, which had advantages over thin steel armour such as greater rigidity, ease of manufacture and superior protection against shell splinters came at just the right time (it was pioneered by FMC in the M113 APC series).

As the 1960s progressed, the General Staff and the Royal Armoured Corps gradually refined the design parameters of the new vehicle. There were to be two complementary vehicles, one being a combat reconnaissance vehicle tracked (CVR(T)) and the other, a wheeled one (CVR (W)). The tracked vehicle was to have a weight limit of 17,500lb, and have a width of no more than 84in. It was also to be as quiet as possible, be able to swim and negotiate soft ground (therefore having a ground pressure of no more than approximately 5 psi). There were to be four variants, an ambulance, a command vehicle, an APC and a recovery vehicle. This fixed the basic configuration of the design as the superstructure would be at the back and the engine and driver at the front, added to the fact that the ratio between the length of track on the ground and the track centres is set within strict limits for steering considerations. The space and weight restrictions, along with the power-to-weight ratio requirements (25 bhp/ton) limited the engine choice to a single unit, the Jaguar 4.2 litre petrol engine.

Two test rigs were built by the Fighting Vehicles Research and Development Establishment at Chertsey near Chobham to conduct further testing. In September 1967, Alvis Ltd of Coventry was awarded the development contract to produce thirty prototypes of the CVR (T). Protoypes 1 - 17 were Scorpion, while 18 - 30 were of the six other variants(Striker - ATGW; Spartan - APC; Samaritan - ambulance; Sultan - command and Samson - recovery). Alvis used innovative manufacturing techniques and proven commercial components to deliver the first prototype on time, on budget and within the weight limit. Extensive trials followed in many areas of the world to test performance in hot and cold temperature. Scorpion was accepted for service in May 1970, production started in 1971 and the first vehicle was delivered in January 1972. The hull of the Scorpion is made of welded aluminium alloy armour, which provides protection against small arms fire of up to 14.5mm (front) and shell splinters. The engine is a derated (192 down from 265) Jaguar 4.2 litre petrol engine.

The commander and gunner have day sights with magnifications of x1 and x10. The gunner also has a passive night sight, although this can be upgraded to a thermal sight with laser rangefinder. The suspension is of the torsion bar type, with five rubber coated road wheels and an idler and drive wheel. British Army Scorpions had an NBC system fitted, but if not fitted, then an extra five rounds of 76mm gun ammunition can be stored. The vehicle can ford to a depth of 1m without preparation or a floatation screen can be erected around the hull by the crew. It is armed with a Royal Ordnance 76mm L23 gun and a 7.62mm machine-gun, coaxial with the main armament.

Scimitar is armed with the 30mm Rarden cannon. Scorpions have been exported to Belgium, Ireland, Jordan, New Zealand and Oman among others. All have been modified and / or upgraded to meet local conditions. Alvis has continued to develop the vehicle and there is a Scorpion 90 (armed with a 90mm Cockerill Mk 3 gun) available for the export market, which has been ordered by Malaysia and Venezuela. The remaining Scorpion vehicles in British Army service are undergoing a Life Extension Programme, which entails the replacement of the Jaguar engine with a Cummins BTA 5.9 diesel developing 190 bhp and the fitting of a modified David Brown TN15D transmission. Repaircraft is also offering their Scorpion 2000 upgrade specifically for the export market. This upgrade package includes auxiliary power unit secondary generator for standby battery charging, new night sights, turret fume extractor, better engine cooling, twin automatic fire suppression systems and has laser rangefinder, driver's passive night scope, externally mounted machine guns, larger storage bins and upgraded sensor and communications equipment are optional.

Hull length: 4.79m. Hull width: 2.24m. Height: 2.1m. Crew: 3. Ground Clearance: 0.356m. Weight: 8,073kg (combat). Ground pressure: 0.36kg/sq.cm. Max speed: 80.5km/h. Max range (internal fuel): up to 644km on road. Armament: 76mm main gun (Scimitar has 30mm Rarden cannon), 1 x 7.62mm MG coaxial.

BIBLIOGRAPHY
Forty, George.The Scorpion Family, 1983, 1st Edition, Ian Allen Ltd, Shepperton, Modern Combat Vehicles No. 5.
Foss, Christopher. 'Scorpion scout in UK show debut' in Jane's Defence Weekly, 28 April 1999, p. 28.
Foss, Christopher. 'New lease of life for Scorpions' in Jane's Defence Weekly, 5 May 1999, p. 15.
Foss, Christopher and Dunstan, Simon. Scorpion Reconnaissance Vehicle 1972 - 1994, 1995, 1st Edition, Osprey Publishing, London, New Vanguard Series No. 13.
How to cite this article: Antill, P. (23 February 2001), Scorpion Combat Reconnaissance Vehicle, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_scorpion.html

Help - F.A.Q. - Contact Us - Search - Recent - About Us -  Subscribe in a reader - Join our Google Group - Cookies