CONQUEROR Mk.1 & Mk.2 gallery

The Conqueror heavy tank is the result of a program started in 1946 called “FV.200 Universal Concept”, with which it was intended to manufacture a series of armored vehicles with the same mechanical base to facilitate manufacture and subsequent maintenance. The new tank would be the evolution of the A45 project (on the image) started in 1944 to provide the Army with an infantry support tank with which to complement the new A41 Heavy Cruiser Centurion tank. In principle, the A45 would be a 55-ton tank with a top speed of about 30 km/h and thick frontal armour.
As development progressed, it was decided that the A45 tank (on the image) would be the “FV.200” family gun tank and was designated as FV.201. The hull of the A41 Centurion was used, which was enlarged, but the turret was the same. The thickness of the glacis and the upper part of the hull was increased, and new heating and ventilation equipment for the crew was added. The Meteor engine power was increased to 750 hp and a new metered fuel injection system was incorporated.
(Conqueror Mk.1 image). The running gear was modified incorporating two more wheels, widening the tracks up to 820mm to improve the pressure on the ground. However, the basic weight and speed requirements were maintained, incorporating a minimum range of 180 km and the possibility of being easily converted into a flamethrower tank as well as allowing the installation of a dozer blade. Finally, it was requested that the tank could wade rivers at a speed of 8 km/h and have a system equal to that of the DD tanks composed of floating screens. Finally, in October 1947, the first prototype was ready for field testing.
(Conqueror Mk.1 image). Once the prototype was built, problems began with the alleged concept of “universality.” It turned out that in the engineering flail variants the hull had to be modified and that the DD tank and bridgelayer presented insurmountable problems for combined use with other logistics vehicles. However, it was not until 1949 that the “universal” concept had to be canceled because it became clear that it was not economically feasible to develop many different vehicles to be produced in small quantities.
At the end of 1949 it was decided to cancel the FV.201 tank in favor of the Centurion MBT, which would become the standard tank within the British Army. However, it was decided to use the basic design of the FV.201 to develop the FV.214 Heavy Tank Gun (on the image), which should be able to beat the heavier Soviet tanks like the IS.3. Development of the rest of the “FV.200” family was canceled, except for one type of armoured recovery vehicle (ARV). The hull and suspension of the FV.201 were used practically unaltered, but the turret had to be totally modified to be able to house the huge 120mm gun that would be its main weapon.
While the new turret was being developed it was decided to start the chassis tests of the FV.214, and for this purpose a Centurion Mk.3 tank turret was installed in several of them. In 1952, this combination resulted in the prototype of the FV.221 Medium Gun Tank Caernarvon (on the image), similar in external appearance to the canceled FV.201, but weighing 60 tonnes and endowed with numerous internal modifications. Vickers built a prototype of the Caernarvon and two of the FV.214 tank, one in mild steel and the other in armor plate, with which the troops could train themselves in handling such large vehicles.
(Conqueror Mk.1 image). The new turret was delayed due to the installation of a separate fire control for the commander and the elimination of the automatic loader, but finally, in mid-1955 the first 20 pre-series Conqueror heavy tanks were built. These first tanks were designated as Conqueror Mk.1 and were almost entirely sent to BAOR units in Germany for troop trials. Between 1956 and 1959 another 160 tanks would be manufactured, designated as Conqueror Mk.2, in addition to 8 ARV Mk.1 (FV.219) and 20 ARV Mk.2 (FV.222) vehicles.
(Conqueror Mk.2 image). Actually the differences between the Conqueror Mk.1 and Mk.2 were minimal and concerned mainly the installation of a single periscope for the driver, instead of the three of the Mk.1, and the prominent joint between the glacis plates. and the hull, located just in front of the driver, which in the Mk.2 were eliminated, aesthetically changing the front of the tank. A stowage rack was later added to the rear of the turret, but the tank’s capabilities were not altered between the two variants.
(Conqueror Mk.1 image). The internal layout of the Conqueror tank was conventional, with the driver at the front, combat chamber in the center and the engine group in the rear of the vehicle. The fighting compartment was separated from the engine and transmission by a fireproof bulkhead. One of the novelties presented in the Conqueror Mk.1 was the installation of a commander’s cupola that could move independently from the turret, as can be seen in this image, in the upper left. Another novelty was the installation of “lift and swing” hatches that allowed their opening regardless of the position of the barrel.
(Conqueror Mk.1 image). The Conqueror was powered by a 810-hp liquid-cooled Rolls-Royce Meteor M120 V12 gasoline engine. This engine was equipped with an injection system that improved gasoline atomization and allowed it to optimize the amount of fuel that reached the cylinders as well as a better thermal efficiency. The engine was feeded by two fuel tanks with a combined capacity of 1,000 liters that allowed it a range of only 156 km. The engine compartment was air cooled by means of two fans installed on the bulkhead between the engine and the transmission over the gearbox. The air was drawn through louvres in the engine decks. The Conqueror had an electric generator powered by a 29 hp auxiliary motor installed alongside the main engine. Their use was independent, but the cooling and fuel systems were interconnected.
(Conqueror Mk.2 image). The tank featured a Merritt-Brown-designed combination gearshift steering mechanism similar to the Centurion that made handling difficult for the driver. The gearbox had 5 forward and 2 reverse speeds. The turning radius depended on the gear selected, which demanded a lot from the driver and ended up reducing the average speed of the vehicle. The suspension was similar to that of the Centurion tank although it had two more wheels and they were smaller. The eight wheels on each side were mounted in four sets, three of which had horizontal springs, but the suspension lacked shock absorbers. The top run of the track was supported by three return rollers on each side.
(Conqueror Mk.2 image). The hull was of all-welded construction and protection was one of the strong points of the tank, reaching 178mm thick on the front, being one of the best protected tanks in the world when it entered service. The thickness of the massive gun mantlet was 250mm, necessary for the type of missions carried out by the Conqueror. The main mission was not to open breaches in the enemy lines but to destroy enemy tanks from a long distance, facilitating the advance of their own tanks. It can be said that they acted as tank destroyers, although they were not. In addition, this huge armour made them suitable to defend essential targets for the enemy.
(Conqueror Mk.1 image). The enormous size of the Conqueror is in large part due to the massive 120mm L1 riffled gun it carried. The gun was of American origin, derived from a 120mm AA gun and was the same one that was installed on the American M-103 heavy tank. This gun fired a separate loading type ammunition where the projectile and charge were separate so the amount of ammunition carried was only 35 rounds. The barrel had a 460mm recoil and had a pneumatic recoil. It was the first British tank to mount a 120mm gun, with which it was intended to give long-range anti-tank support to the lighter Centurion tanks in combat.
(Conqueror Mk.2 image). The gun had a fume extradtor in the middle of the barrel and only had two types of ammunition available, APDS and HESH. It could fire in an elevation of +15º and a depression of -7º, except over the rear part of the hull. An automatic ejection system for the spent cases was installed, which collected them from an ejection unit base located under the breech of the barrel and through a chain drive carried the empty case to a lifting bar that moved it to an armoured door located on the side of the turret through which it was expelled outside. Unfortunately the mechanism was quite prone to breakdown and in the end the loader had to do it manually.
(Conqueror Mk.2 image). The armament was completed with the mounting of two 7.62mm machine guns, one of them coaxial, and twelve smoke grenade dischargers, six on each side of the turret. The traverse and elevation of the gun was electrically powered, commanded by two gearboxes, and had an emergency manual elevation and traverse system. The gun had an automatic locking system that took it to a predetermined fixed position when the tank was moving at more than 3 km/h, this avoided damage to the gun’s movement mechanism, but had the disadvantage that the gunner could not control the gun until the tank was almost stopped.
(Conqueror Mk.2 image). The Conqueror was equipped with a new vision and fire control system that was capable of achieving an impact on the first shot, but like almost everything in this tank, it was messy and difficult to use effectively. The commander had an X6 periscope sight that was actually a binocular instrument, with a distance scale on the left lens similar to that used by the gunner and linked together by a servo. After acquiring the objective, he had to measure the distance using the rangefinder and then match the two images of the objective shown by the rangefinder and the periscopic sight, then he could read the distance on the scale of the left reticule and send the data to the sight of the gunner. Once this was done, he pressed the traverse controller and as the commander’s main turret and cuppola lined up, an injected image from the gunner’s sight appeared on the commander’s right lens. Once this was done, the commander could make fine adjustments and fire himself, or pass control to the gunner.
Most of Conqueror tanks served in units of the British Army of the Rhine, or BAOR, deployed in West Germany. Almost all Armored Regiments received 9 Conqueror to support the Centurion tanks. They usually made up 3 platoons of 3 Conquerors, one assigned to each Centurion tank squadron, although sometimes they were framed as the fourth tank within an ordinary platoon. Conqueror Mk.1 tank and his comrade-in-arms Centurion Mk.3 tank (on the image) formed the British armoured force with which it was intended to stop the dreaded Soviet advance through Europe in the 60’s during the Cold War.
(Conqueror Mk.2 image). Conqueror tanks could be used in the advance, always placing them behind the tanks located in the vanguard of the attack, or placing them in defensive positions to cover the enemy approach routes or to defend vital positions. It is true that the limited arc depression of its barrel and the lack of HE ammunition also prevented the full potential of this heavy tank from being exploited.
(Conqueror Mk.1 image). Although with an impressive aspect, the Conqueror tank was never liked by its crews. Unfortunately, this tank always had multitude of mechanical and electrical failures and the cumbersome of vital tasks like gun loading or even firing an enemy became permanent and insurmountable problems. On rough terrain the Conqueror proved to be at least so good as the lighter Centurion tank but its range was very short even for a heavy tank of that period. In addition, the massive dimensions of this tank were always a challenge for transport and logistics units within the British Army. Its huge weight also did not help it to be deployed quickly if necessary, and in the end, all these problems together led to all Conqueror tanks retirement when they had only been in service for 7 years, something really unusual for a new vehicle.
This amazing vehicle emerged from the conversion of the “P7” FV.214 chassis prototype (Caernarvon/Conqueror gun tank), used to build a 910 hp Turbine Test Vehicle in 1955. In 2003 it was used as commentators box during the dynamic exhibitions on the “arena” of The Tank Museum of Bovington, UK.

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