The Chieftain main battle tank is one of the most important vehicles of British armor history. A modernized version is still being used by several countries (most notably by Jordan and Iran) and even after forty years it is still a fearsome battle tank. We took a look at its development history in our previous article – but what about its service?
A first batch of test tanks appeared in Germany in December 1962 (in the 5th Royal Tank Regiment) and these were tested in some of the worst conditions possible for a tank. These conditions revealed some of the flaws of the early Chieftains. Their off-road capability was poor, the tank was underpowered, the radioman was a busy crewmember indeed (he had to load the gun, load machineguns and operate the radio) and the electro-mechanical rammer was very unreliable. It was operated by a light sensor that had a tendency to activate whenever any shadow fell over it and the rammer activated spontaneously – an unsuspecting loader was in danger of losing an arm to this infernal device. Some crews simply deactivated it and pushed the shell and charge forward manually (this later became standard after this procedure was proven safe by trials). The difficult three month trials also ended with a tragedy when one loader forgot to insert insulating inlays into the breech in the heat of action. The gun backfired into the crew compartment, killing two crew members (this incident caused the gun to be modified so the gun could not be fired without the inlays.