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Conqueror-Tank-Mk1
United Kingdom

Conqueror Tank

Conqueror-Tank-Mk2-Image-3
Unveiled / Entered Service
1955
Conqueror-Tank-Mk1-in-the-foreground-Centurion-Mk3-in-the-background
Status
Retired
Steel Aces Play for free
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Table of Contents

Steel Aces Play for free
the highly anticipated MMO tactical tank shooter for 2024.

Introduction

The British Conqueror Tank FV214 was the last of the Heavy Tanks built by the British. Built to support the medium Centurion Tank with its 120mm main gun, it was built-in 2 Marks (Mk). Both Mk shared the same hull and turret, but with minor modifications.

The Mk2 had a revised upper frontal glacis plate welds, a single Drivers sight, revised electrical cabling to the headlights and different exhaust.

Despite the Mk1 hull also being used for the FV221 Caernarvon, the vehicle proved unpopular with British Tank Crews (as did the early Centurions) and had a limited service life.

However, it was the first British Tank to feature a Hunter Killer capability, a feature that would later be used to distinguish a 3rd Generation Main Battle Tank.

Background

The Conqueror was born out of two requirements. The first was the necessity to have a tank capable of taking on the Russian IS-3 Heavy tank, which was in full swing production from 1945.

The second was the need for a larger, universal tank that could be developed into a family of variants and also replace any other tanks and classes still in service after WW2. Despite only entering mass production, the Centurion Medium Tank was deemed incapable of these tasks.

Designs for a new universal tank known as the A45 were approved in 1946. The majority of development resources were put in to the hull as this would be used for all planned variants aka as the FV200 series, with the FV201 bring the Gun Tank variant.

Despite successfully marrying the hull with a Centurion Mk2 turret, confidence in developing the hull into the FV200 series started to wane and the project was eventually cancelled in 1948.

Still requiring a tank capable of defeating the IS-3,  the decision was made to continue with the completed universal tank hull and develop a new turret that could be fitted with the same American 120mm main gun used on the latter’s M103 Heavy Tank.

A total of 10 hulls were married to Centurion Mk3 turrets for the purpose of testing and trialling such a large tank during turret development. Completed in 1952, these vehicles were designated the FV221 Caernarvon.

After successfully developing the new turret housing the American M56 120mm main gun, it was married to the universal tank hull and was designated the FV214 Conqueror Heavy Tank.

The Driver was located on the right side of the hull. The Gunner was located on the right side of the turret and the Loader (Operator) was located on the leftside, with the breach in-between them. Located behind the breach was a mechanical ejection system for the empty brass shell.

The explosive 120mm ammunition (HESH and charges) was spread below the turret ring in the hull. The APDS was mounted along the left side of the turret wall. The Loader also operated the radios mounted at the rear of his station.

Located in the turret bustle (rear) was the Commanders sub-turret with its own large hatch.

Entering production in 1955, a total of Twenty Mk1 and 165 Mark 2 Conquerors were built, including conversions of Caernarvon. Production continued until 1959 and served with the British Army from 1955 to 1966. A few examples of both Mk1 and Mk2 tanks remain in museums in the UK, America and Russia.

Firepower

Main Gun

The Conqueror used the American M56 120mm main gun as used on the M103 Heavy Tank. This was designated the L1 and manufactured in two versions, the L1A1 (with no fume extractor) and L1A2, which had a fume extractor.

The L1 used a 2-part ammunition. The bag charge (propellent) was contained in a brass shell. This was loaded into the breach after the projectile was first loaded. This was either a Armour-Piercing Discarding Sabot (APDS) or High Explosive Squash Head (HESH).

Fire Control System

The Gunner was equipped with the No.10 Mk1 periscope as his primary sight. The Commander had a sub-turret that traversed independently of the main turret. This enabled him to detect and track enemy targets independently of the Gunner. He could then press a button that would lay the L1 gun on to the target ready for the Gunner to engage. He could then move on to detecting the next target.

This is refereed to by modern standards as a “Hunter Killer capability”. This system was called the “Gun Control Equipment” on the Conqueror.

Conqueror was taken into service with known defects on the FCS and GCE part of this. One fault was that of the FCT “twitching” after line up. The War Office felt the faults were acceptable and the tank was issued, mods to GCE were carried out to rectify the issues, but the only real Conquerors that did as it said on the tin were the 7 Mk2/1H, these were deemed to work 100%.

Protection

The Conqueror was an all steel construction. This was thickest at the front as shown in the diagram and would further rely on sloping the steel to increase its thickness.

Conqueror Tank Spaced Armor Trials Vehicle

To assess the future armor requirements of a “future heavy tank” (potential successor to Conqueror) the Conqueror was subject to several trials against different current and in development ammunitions. This was not intended as an upgrade for the Conqueror.

To get accurate results of the improvements of the future tanks armour, added armoured plates were mounted across the hull and turret front, fixed with tubular spacing’s doubling up as spaced armour.

Mobility

The Conqueror was powered by a 810hp Rolls-Royce Meteor M120 engine and Horstmann suspension. The Drive Sprocket is at the rear of the hull and Idler Wheel at the front. It has x8 Road Wheels and x4 Return Rollers.

Despite its weight as a heavy tank, its mobility and speed was good enough for it to keep pace with the lighter medium Centurion Tanks it was tasked to provide anti-tank support for against the Soviet Joseph Stalin IS-3 heavy tank.

Variants and Marks

Gun Tank

The Conqueror Mk1 and Mk2 are very similar with small changes between the two. You can spot the Mk1 as it has the following differences:

  1. The Driver has x3 vision blocks on the Mk1 sitting on top of the upper glacis plate, the Mk2 has x1 which is sunk into the front glacis plate
  2. The electrical cabling for the headlights on the Mk1 runs along the top of the glacis plate and is not contained in any trunking. The Mk2 uses trunking on the right side of the glacis and then runs horizontally behind the headlights on the glacis plate
  3. Due to the changes in the Drivers station the upper plate welding, shape and slope changes
  4. On the Mk1, the exhaust is x2 narrow protruding pipes with a thin curved shield. On the Mk2 the exhaust is fully under a new thicker shield and a single vent
  5. The Conqueror used the L1 120mm main gun. The initial model fitted on the first production Mk1 was the L1A1. This had no proper fume extractor. The L1A2 was the second model of the gun and had a fume extractor in the center of the barrel

FV221 Caernarvon

A total of 10 hulls were married to Centurion Mk3 turrets for the purpose of testing and trialling such a large tank during turret development. Completed in 1952, these vehicles were designated the FV221 Caernarvon.

Some publications refer to these as the Caernarvon Mk1, while others say these are Mk2 and 21 were built, referring to the older A24 hull project fitted with the Centurion Mk2 turret as the Caernarvon Mk1.

Armoured Recovery Vehicle

Conqueror ARV
Conqueror ARV

28 FV222 ARV’s were ordered in two different Marks. The second mk featured a new frontal armour plate for improved protection and other internal layout changes.

Specifications

characteristic
Result
Main Gun
120mm Rifled L1A1 or L1A2 Elevation -7 to +15
Secondary Weapons
Coaxial 7.62mm Machine Gun, Commanders 7.62.mm Machine Gun
Ammunition Storage
x35 120mm, x? 7.62mm, x? .30
Engine
810hp Rolls-Royce Meteor M120
Transmission
Manual (5 forward/ 2 reverse gears)
Top Road Speed
35 km/h
Road Range
161 km
Fuel Capacity
?
Vertical Obstacle
?
Water Capability
?
Trench Crossing
?
Gradient
?
Side Slope
?
Length Gun Forward
11.58m
Length Hull
7.72m
Width
3.98m
Height
3.35m (Inc Sub-Turret)
Ground Clearance
0.5m
Weight
Weight 64,000kg aka
NBC Protected
no
Standard Armor(s) Type
Steel
Optional Add-on Armor(s) Type
Active Protection Systems
no
Crew
Commander, Gunner, Loader, Driver

References

List of all preserved Conqueror Tanks (Mk1 & Mk2) http://preservedtanks.com/Types.aspx?TypeCategoryId=3960
Bovington Tank Museum Archive
Bovington Tank Museum Collection
Imperial War Museum Duxford
National Archive (Kew)
Bob Griffin, author of “Conqueror” (ISBN: 9781861262516)
Collection of Conqueror Mk 1 and 2 https://www.flickr.com/photos/bronpancerna/albums/72157649216473876
http://tankmuseum.org/museum-online/vehicles/object-e1965-16-1
ISBN: 978-1-4728-3335-8