Land Weapons

Main Battle Tank (1946)

Leyland Motors


Centurion Mk. 5
Mk. 5

The A41 Centurion was the principal British tank of the immediate post-war era, and arguably the finest Western tank of its day (as well as possibly the first true main battle tank). It was developed during World War II but prototypes arrived in Germany too late to see action in 1945. Nevertheless, its ability to be constantly upgraded allowed it to be viable front line tank well into the 1960s and remains in service to this day with foreign users. In its original incarnation, the Centurion was armed with the tried and tested 17-pounder gun, but this was later replaced by a 20-pounder and later the definitive 105-mm L7. Armor was of an all-welded steel design, and despite being thinner than the wartime Churchill tank, had the advantage of a sloped hull that gave it much higher effective protection. Later variants also included removable armor skirts, while equipment upgrades included infra-red systems. However, there was no NBC protection or amphibious capability (aside from a deep fording kit), and operational range was deficient in early versions notwithstanding the tank's good mobility. The Centurion was eventually adopted by nearly 20 foreign users, including NATO partners Canada, Denmark, and the Netherlands. In British Army service, the Centurion saw extensive action in the Korean War, and AVRE versions were still in use during the Gulf War. It is in foreign service, however, where it has seen most action, notably with Israel during the various Arab-Israeli Wars, India during the Indo-Pakistani Wars, Australia during the Vietnam War, and South Africa during various regional conflicts.

Development of the A41 began in 1943, with prototypes completed in 1945. The initial production Chieftain Mk. 1 entered service in 1946 and was followed shortly by the up-armored Mk. 2, both of which were fitted with a 17-pounder gun. This was later upgraded into a 20-pounder in the Mk. 3 and Mk. 5. Sub-variants of the latter were up-armored in the Mk. 5/1 and fitted with the definitive 105-mm L7 gun in the Mk. 5/2. Additional fuel capacity and infra-red equipment resulted in the Mk. 6 series. The Mk. 7 and Mk. 8 series were also fitted initially with a 20-pounder and followed a similar development to the Mk. 5, notably with the L7 gun in the Mk. 7/2 and Mk. 8/2. Further armor upgrades to the Mk. 7 and Mk. 8 resulted in the Mk. 9 and Mk. 10 which also had additional ammunition capacity. The last three variants, the Mk. 11, Mk. 12, and Mk. 13 also incorporated numerous incremental upgrades to previously-built variants. Non-combat variants included the Centurion ARV (Armoured Recovery Vehicle), the Centurion BARV (Beach Armoured Recovery Vehicle), and Centurion AVRE (Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers). Israeli units were designated Sho't and had numerous local upgrades over the years, while South African versions were known as the Olifant with Israeli-designed modifications. It remains in front-line service.

Preceded by:

Comet (1944)

Succeeded by:

Chieftain (1967)


DesignCenturion Mk 5Centurion Mk 13
TypeMain Battle TankMain Battle Tank
Length (w/Gun)7.56 m (9.83 m)7.82 m (9.85 m)
Width3.390 m3.390 m
Height3.009 m3.009 m
Ground Clearance0.510 m0.510 m
Track2.641 m2.641 m
Track Width610 mm610 mm
Track on Ground4.572 m4.572 m
Combat50,728 kg51,820 kg
Ground Pressure0.90 kg/cm²0.95 kg/cm²
SuspensionHorstmann Horstmann
Speed (Off-Road)35 km/h35 km/h
Range (Off-Road)102 km190 km
Fording1.45 m (2.7 m)1.45 m (2.7 m)
Vertical Obstacle0.91 m0.91 m
Trench3.35 m3.35 m
Engine1 x 650-hp
1 x 650-hp
FuelGasoline: 458 LGasoline: 1,037 L
Power/Weight12.81 hp/t12.54 hp/t
Main1 x 84-mm L/66.7
QF 20-pounder Mk I

Rifled Gun
↑ 20° / ↓ -10° / ↔ 360°
1 x 105-mm L/52

Rifled Gun
↑ 20° / ↓ -10° / ↔ 360°
1 x 7.62-mm
L3A1 (M1919A4)
1 x 7.62-mm
L3A1 (M1919A4)
1 x 7.62-mm
L3A1 (M1919A4)
1 x 7.62-mm
L3A1 (M1919A4)
1 x 12.70-mm
M2HB .50 cal
Ammo7.62-mm: 4,250
7.62-mm: 4,750
Thickness13 - 200 mm13 - 200 mm
Max Effective140 - 200 mm RHAe140 - 200 mm RHAe
Hull Upper Front76 mm / 57°76 mm / 57°
Hull Lower Front76 mm / 46°76 mm / 46°
Hull Upper Sides51 mm / 12°51 mm / 12°
Hull Lower Sides51 mm / 12°51 mm / 12°
Hull Upper Rear35 mm / 62°35 mm / 62°
Hull Lower Rear35 mm / 7°35 mm / 7°
Hull Top13 mm13 mm
Hull Bottom16 mm16 mm
Turret Mantlet200 mm200 mm
Turret Front165 mm165 mm
Turret Sides112 mm / 10°112 mm / 10°
Turret Rear112 mm112 mm
Turret Top30 mm30 mm