Scammell COMMANDER gallery

Commander & Chieftain
(Commander prototype with Chieftain MBT image). The search for a replacement for the Thornycroft Antar tank transporter began in early 1968 when the firms Thornycroft and Scammell, both belonging to the Leyland Group, received sketches of what the next tank transporter should be. The Fighting Vehicles Research & Development Establishment (FVRDE) indicated that it must be a six-wheeled tractor with a two-axle semi-trailer capable of carrying loads of up to 55 tons with a gross train weight of 95 tons and a power to weight ratio of 8hp/ton with maximum load, that is, with a power of 760hp.
proto Commander & Centurion 4
(Commander prototype with Centurion MBT image). Apparently, at that time the MoD thought that a simple modernization and improvement of the Thornycroft Antar Mk.3 design would do, but things would not turn out to be so simple. Thornycroft and Scammell set out to design a vehicle that would meet the requirements expressed by the FVRDE, but instead of doing it together, each firm made its own design. The prototypes were to be available by September 1970, and after the corresponding tests, 10 pre-production vehicles were to be delivered to the Army in April 1971.
proto Commander & Centurion 5
(Commander prototype with Centurion MBT image). In September 1971, Leyland mediated and Scammell would finally be the firm that would be in charge of designing the successor to the Thornycroft Antar Mk.3. Finally, in May 1973, the project began to be developed, maintaining basically the same requirements, although now the possibility was contemplated that the tractor could be a vehicle with 6×4 or 8×4 traction. At first, Scammell presented 14 different tractor configurations with 4 different engines from Rolls-Royce, MTU, GM Detroit Diesel and Cummins with powers ranging from 530 to 600hp. The installation of a six-speed semi-automatic Allison transmission or a five-speed ZF transmission was also studied, but at this time the project was developing at a very slow speed.
proto Commander Iran & Centurion
(Commander prototype with Centurion MBT image). Finally, in October 1976, Scammell was awarded the contract as main contractor and Crane-Fruehauf as contractor for the manufacture of the semi-trailer. The main changes included in the final design were the reduction of the power-to-weight ratio to 6-7hp/ton, increase of the winch capacity to 35 tons and the use of a four-man sleeper cab with two bunks. After obtaining the contract, Scammell built a life-size model where the main components of the new tractor could be seen. At the beginning of 1977, the construction of two identical tractor prototypes (06SP02 and 06SP04) and two semi-railers (06SP03 and 06SP05) began, which were joined in March 1978 by a third prototype equipped with a Rolls-Royce engine with a view to its possible sale to Iran (on the image). It was on this period when the designation “Commander” is adopted to designate the 3 prototypes.
proto Commander & Centurion 2
(Commander prototype with Centurion MBT image). In October 1978 Rolls-Royce announced its participation in the project with the contribution of the 625hp CV12 TCE 12-cylinder engine. Also on this date, a prototype of the Scammell Commander equipped with a Rolls-Royce engine is presented for the first time in public at the British International Motor Show held in Birmingham. During 1979 the prototypes were subjected to demanding tests by both Scammell and the Military Vehicles Engineering Establishment (MVEE) to verify that the required requirements were met. At the end of 1979, the MoD requested that the payload capacity of the Scammell Commander be raised to 65 tonnes to accommodate the weight of the new Challenger I tank, which was soon to replace the Chieftain MBT.
proto Commander & Chieftain
(Commander prototype with Chieftain MBT image). In June 1980, final tests began to complete the final configuration of the production vehicles and the two prototypes were sent to Germany for 4 months. During this period, the two Commanders joined the Number 7 Tank Transporter Regiment and visited a good number of units so that they came into contact with the future vehicle. Unfortunately and surprisingly, in February 1982 the MoD informed Scammell that the project was going to be canceled due to the economic recession and the cuts made to the United Kingdom’s defense budget. From this moment on, Scammell tries by all means to get the MoD to reverse its decision and offer other cheaper vehicles so as not to completely lose the investment made in the Commander project. The Contractor, S24 and S26 tractor models were offered as alternatives, but none of them come close to the capabilities of the new Commander, a model created specifically for the transport of tanks and heavy military vehicles.
proto Commander & Centurion 3
(Commander prototype with Centurion MBT image). However, the need for a new tank transporter became urgent when it was found that the Thornycroft Antar Mk.3 was not capable of transporting the new 62-ton Challenger I MBT. Therefore, at the end of December 1982 the MoD decided to continue with the acquisition of the Scammell Commander and ordered 3 new prototype tractors and 2 semi-trailers to carry out new validation tests for a maximum load of 65 tonnes. Finally, a new contract was signed for a total of 125 Scammell Commander tractor units and 117 semi-trailers, including test prototypes, which would be reconditioned to production standard after testing. The contract amounted to £27.25 million, at a unit price (tractor + semi-trailer) of £218,000.
proto Commander & Centurion 1
(Commander prototype with Centurion MBT image). In addition to Scammell, a large number of firms participated in the project. The transmission was from GM Allison, the cabs from Motor Panels (Coventry) Limited, the chassis from Rockwell Thompson, the hoods from Hunting Industrial Plastics and the fifth wheel coupling from Davies Magnet Works. The semi-trailers were built exclusively by Crane-Fruehauf at Dereham, Norfolk. Finally, it was decided that the engine would be the 625hp Rolls-Royce “Eagle” CV12-TCE and the winch would be the German Rotzler 914431 with a 20-ton capacity.
The first serial Scammell Commander was delivered on February 24, 1984 and by mid-June all those belonging to the first batch of 101 tractors and 93 semi-trailers had already been delivered. All the vehicles were part of the Number 7 Tank Transporter Regiment, the only unit that would operate them. Finally, after 6 years of gestation, the new tank transporter of the British Army could demonstrate its excellent capabilities under the official nomenclature of “Tractor, wheeled, semitrailer, 98 tonne GCW, 6×4, LHD, Scammell Commander“. Within the units it was identified at first as “VB1580” and later “B28 1580 8100” and from 2003, during Operation Telic, the Commanders were called “heavy equipment transporters (HET)”.
Commander & Chieftain 3
(Commander with Chieftain MBT image). The creator of the Commander‘s excellent performance was its Rolls-Royce “Eagle” CV12-TCE engine. It was a 26,100cc turbocharged 12-cylinder direct-injection liquid-cooled diesel engine that produced 625hp at 1,200 rpm and a maximum torque of 2,285 Nm. It weighed 1,815 kg and had a cold start system that allowed it to start at temperatures of up to -24ºC. The engine was designed and manufactured by Rolls-Royce, but in December 1983 after bankruptcy, the rights were sold to Perkins who changed the designation to “Condor”.
Commander & Centurion
(Commander with Centurion MBT image). The transmission was a GM Allison CLBT-6061 six-speed epicyclic gearbox and torque converter with semi-automatic shift system, although the driver could change gears manually if necessary. The front axle was rated at 12 tons and the two rear axles were based on those of the 240-ton Contractor model and supported a load of up to 40 tons and had a system that ensured the same load on each wheel regardless of the terrain. The driver had a manual inter-axle differential lock and the suspension was composed of semi-elliptical springs with hydraulic shock absorbers on the front axle.
The braking system was made up of double-line air brakes powered by two compressors and had an anti-lock system on each bogie. The handbrake was also operated by air and several connections were available to connect the semi-trailer brakes. The air compressors also powered a tire inflation system. The Scammell Commander had 2 fuel tanks located under the cab doors with a capacity of 454 liters each, which gave it an autonomy of about 900 km. The cabin accommodated two crew members and had space for two bunk beds behind the seats. It had a ventilation and heating system, and had a circular hatch in the roof that allowed observation and the installation of a light machine gun.
12 Commanders were manufactured with a welded steel ballast box (on the image) installed on the rear axles in place of the fifth wheel. The box could be filled with up to 20 tons of iron ballast weight, which improved traction and allowed the tractor to serve as a recovery vehicle. This ballast box could be mounted on any Commander tractor by removing the fifth wheel, since it had the same mounting holes. All tractors had a 20-ton Rotzler Type 914431 two-speed hydraulic winch. This winch was located behind the cab and was only used to load and unload damaged vehicles and was not used for self-recovery of the tractor. Each tractor had 2 tow bars, one straight and one type “A” frame.
Commander & Challenger II 2
(Commander with Challenger 2 MBT image). The Crane-Fruehauf semi-trailer consists of a fully decked load platform finished at the front in the shape of a swan neck that is hooked to the fifth wheel of the tractor. Behind the loading platform there is a two-axle bogie and at the end there are two width-adjustable loading ramps. This semi-trailer was designed for loads of up to 65 tons, but in the last years of service of the Scammell Commander, it was common to see them carry the 72-ton Challenger 2 MBT without apparent problems, showing the quality of the design.
Commander & AS-90
(Commander with AS-90 SPH image). The Scammell Commander was delivered to units at the end of March 1984 and was assigned mainly to Germany, within the British Army Of the Rhine (BAOR). There they served in Tank Transporter Squadrons 3 (36 tractors), 16 (36 tractors) and 617 (18 tractors), belonging to Number 7 Tank Transporter Regiment. There they would have been vital in the event of an attack by the Soviet Union, since the 3 squadrons could move an entire Armored Regiment in one go. In Britain the Commanders were assigned to 414 Tank Transporter Unit, based in Wiltshire.
Commander & M-270
(Commander with M-270 MLRS image). After the end of the Cold War, Squadron 617 was dissolved and its tractors were distributed between Squadrons 3, 16 and 414, the latter renamed 19 Tank Transporter Squadron. This unit was the only one in Britain capable of transporting heavy armored vehicles. In peacetime, their mission was to bring tanks to training areas, and the Commanders of 19 Squadron were in charge of bringing the new Challenger 2 MBT to the units.
Commander & Challenger I 6
(Commander with Challenger I MBT image). The first combat deployment came in September 1990, when a total of 23 tractors and 20 semi-trailers from 16 Squadron were sent to Saudi Arabia as part of Operation Granby. Later, many more Commanders were sent, reaching 76 tractors with trailers and 10 solo tractors. In the first 20 days of the mission, the Commanders of the 414 Tank Transporter Unit transported some 3,000 vehicles of the 1st Armored Division from the port of Al Jubail to the Division’s deployment area, some 300 km away.
Although Scammell Commander was not designed for off-road riding, it performed extremely well in the desert. In a period of 4 months, the fleet accumulated a total of 8,000 lifts and traveled 2,000,000 kilometers! In addition, its availability was 85%, a really high figure considering the harsh conditions of the Saudi desert. During the campaign, 7 Commanders were seriously damaged, and in January 1992 the Unipower firm was awarded a contract to return them to service. The rest of the fleet received a mid-life rebuild program that did not require extensive improvements and allowed the useful life of the tractors to be extended by another 200,000 km.
Commander & Chieftain CRRARV
(Commander with Challenger CRRARV image). In 1992 some Commanders from Number 3 Tank Transporter Squadron were sent to Bosnia, as part of Operation Grapple. Later, in April 1993, other Commanders from Number 7 Tank Transporter Squadron were sent and in 1995 their presence in the area was reinforced with the sending of more vehicles from Number 16 Tank Transporter Squadron. Some of these Commanders remained in the area until 2007, when British forces finally withdrew. In 2003 the Commanders returned to the heat of the Middle East, this time within Operation Telic. The mission was shorter than that of 1990 and the Commanders achieved 95% availability, demonstrating that they were in top shape.
Commander & Challenger I 4
(Commander with Challenger I MBT image). Despite the mid-life rebuild program, in December 1997 the MoD released requirements for a new tank transporter to replace the Commander. The imminent arrival of the new 72-ton Challenger 2 MBT put the Commander on the verge of being able to carry out its task in safe conditions. However, these tractors continued their service until May 2004, when the last convoy of British Scammell Commanders belonging to Number 19 Tank Transporter Squadron could be seen. Finally, the chosen replacement was the American Oshkosh M-1070F tank transporter, a worthy and powerful successor, all things considered.
But… at the end of 2004 one hundred Commander tractors were gifted to Jordan as part of an agreement for the acquisition of 288 Challenger I MBTs retired by the British Army. This agreement was actually signed in 1999, but in 2002 Jordan requested another 100 Challenger I tanks, and then the British MoD decided to accompany this last batch of tanks, (also gifted), with some of their “official transporters”, in order to modernize the Jordanian Army and replace the old Scammell Contractors in service. As far as is known, there are currently only 3 Scammell Commanders left in Britain, in the hands of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) Museum, and the Jordanian Commanders were decommissioned several years ago without it being known if any have been rescued.

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