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ATR 1 at Chertsey
United Kingdom

MBT80 Tank Project

MBT80 ATR 2 at TankFest
Unveiled / Entered Service
MBT80 ATR 2 at TankFest
Former Prototype
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Steel Aces Play for free
the highly anticipated MMO tactical tank shooter for 2024.


The MBT80 Tank project (Main Battle Tank 1980’s) is always a point of conjecture amongst historians, with bits of information being trickled out of Bovington Tank Museums archives over the last few years.

It was assumed that as there was no completed prototype or mock-up/model, that there were no finalised blueprints or completed design for the MBT80 Tank.

However, in the late 2010’s a member of the archive team stated that he had seen blueprints for a finalised design that was labelled as MBT80, though these are yet to still be released.


Throughout the 1960s to 1980’s the establishment was always working towards new technologies that could be implemented in the replacement tank for the Chieftain, namely Chobham Composite Armour, aluminium welded hulls, fire control systems, hunter-killer capability, improved and more powerful anti-tank main guns.

What We Do Know

A working prototype known as the Aluminium Chieftain or rather FV4211 had been developed in 1971 with working prototypes, which addressed the use of Chobham Armour and highlighted issues with welded aluminium technology but ended soon after.

Meanwhile, the US & Germany’s joint MBT-70 project had collapsed and thou Germany was working on its own new tank (the Leopard 2) it started the FMBT programme with the UK in 1974. No design was finalised, nor prototype built, and the project ended, still leaving the UK without a replacement for the Chieftain.

By the late 1970’s the UK’s private tank sector, namely Vickers had been experimenting with several tanks capable of being fitted with Chobham armour and offering improvements in Fire Control Systems for the export market. As an interim solution to having Main Battle Tanks with Chobham armour, the establishment selected Vickers Shir-2 tank, which was due to enter production prior to the 1979 Iranian Revolution.

Designated the Challenger 1, it was fitted with Chobham armour and offered several improvements over the Chieftain but was not seen as a replacement and continued to serve alongside Chieftain until the new MBT80 project could deliver its replacement.

The Autonomous Test Rigs

During the short time-scale of the MBT80 project, two ATR’s were assembled for testing using Chieftain and Shir-2 components and other technology.

ATR-1 used a non-finalised Shir-2 hull, could move under its own power and had a simplistic Windsor ballast turret with an unspecified replica main gun and steel modules to represent the weight of Chobham Armour and did not appear to have any other functions for testing.

ATR-1 is now in private ownership. Its engine has been removed from the hull as has the driving controls/drivers chair as well as the armour modules from the turret. It also has damage to the hull that resembles mortar hits.

ATR-2 has remained at Bovington and can be found in their conservation centre. ATR-2 has a more colourful history, with its hull comprising of two halves, one being steel and the other aluminium.

Aluminium being lighter in weight compared to steel, Chertsey had wanted to reduce the tanks overall weight to improve mobility. However, the visible welds joining the two halves together are slowly failing.

ATR-2’s turret has a more futuristic look and an unknown mock-up main gun, estimated to be a 110mm calibre. It was assumed that this turret design or something similar to it. Would be used for the MBT80, but until the blueprints are released, we will not know.

The MBT80 project was cancelled around 1980 due to cost. Vickers went on to develop and manufacture the Chieftains replacement for the British Army, which entered service in 1994 as the Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank.


Main Gun
110mm or 120mm
Secondary Weapons
Coaxial 7.62mm Machine Gun, Loaders Machine Gun
Ammunition Storage
1200hp Diesel
Top Road Speed
Road Range
Fuel Capacity
Vertical Obstacle
Water Capability
Trench Crossing
Side Slope
Length Gun Forward
Length Hull
Ground Clearance
NBC Protected
Standard Armor(s) Type
Steel, Composite, Modular
Optional Add-on Armor(s) Type
Active Protection Systems
Commander, Gunner, Loader, Driver


  • Bovington Tank Museum Conservation Centre
  • Author Robert Griffin
  • Tanks-Alot Driving Centre