Saladin and Saracen

Saladin British armoured car.

Following the success of the AEC Mk III and Daimler Mk II armoured cars during World War II the British army issued a requirement for a new armoured car with a 2-pdr gun. But it was soon decided that this weapon would be ineffective against the newer vehicles expected in the 1950s, and the Armament Research and Development Establishment then designed a new 76-mm (3-m) gun called the L5.

The chassis of the Saladin, or FV601, is very similar to that of the FV603 Saracen armoured personnel carrier, which was also under development by Alvis at that time. Because of needs of the guerrilla war in Malaya, development of the Saracen was given precedence over that of the Saladin, and because of the high work load at Alvis the first six preproduction Saladins were built by Crossley Motors at Stockport in Cheshire.

The Saladin was accepted for service with the British army in 1956, and production started two years later at Alvis in Coventry. Production continued for the home and export markets until 1972, by which time 1,177 vehicles had been completed.

During the Second World War the British Army probably placed more reliance on armoured cars than any other combatant, and once the war was over they demanded a replacement vehicle. The design was entrusted to Alvis of Coventry, and the result was a six-wheeled vehicle with excellent cross-country performance. It was hoped to begin issuing the vehicle in the early 1950s, but many of its components were common to the Saracen APC which had higher priority. The resulting delay was used to good effect, since it allowed the obsolete 2-pdr gun to be replaced by the new 76-mm (3- in).

Saladin uses a welded steel hull with six independently suspended and driven wheels; the front four wheels are steered, and the vehicle can still be driven with one wheel missing. The driver is seated at the front, the engine is at the rear, and the centre of the hull acts as the fighting compartment into which the fully rotating turret is placed. The 76-mm gun can elevate to 20° and carries a 7.62-mm (0.30-in) machine-gun mounted coaxially. A second machine-gun is carried on the turret for antiaircraft defence, and smoke dischargers are mounted on the turret exterior. The 76-mm gun is provided with HE, HESH, smoke and canister ammunition, and has a maximum range of 5000 m (5470 yards). Saladin can wade to a depth of 1.1 m (3 ft 6 in) without preparation.

There were very few variants of the Saladin, one of the more interesting ones being the amphibious model. This was fitted with a flotation screen around the top of the hull, and when this had been erected the vehicle could propel itself on water with its wheels.

Most first-line units of the British Army had replaced Saladin with the Scorpion CVR(T) by early 1978, but large numbers were held in reserve. An interesting adaptation was carried out by the Australian army who removed the turrets from their Saladins and fitted them to US M113 APCs to turn them into support vehicles. A similar modification which has been suggested is to remove the Saladin turret and replace it with the turret of the Fox CVR(W). The Saladin was also put forward as a possible vehicle for the Swingfire ATGW, but the advent of the Scorpion family ended this idea.

A small number of Saladins remain in service in Cyrpus with the British army, and the type is also used by Bahrain, Ghana, Indonesia, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Oman, Nigeria, Portugal, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and both North and South Yemen, although in some cases spares must be a major problem as the UK is no longer handling spares for some countries as a result of political considerations.

First-produced in 1952, the FV 603 Saracen APC was a member of a family of 6×6 vehicles. The turret mounts a 0.30-calibremachine-gun.

Saracen British armoured personnel carrier.

After the Second World War the British Army required a new armoured car, and this was placed under development by Alvis, to become the Saladin. In the meantime, however, it became apparent that an armoured personnel carrier was urgently required, particularly for anti-guerrilla operations in Malaya, and the basic design of the Saladin was taken as the starting point for the APC. This was eventually given priority over the armoured car version, so that the Saracen APC appeared some years before the Saladin. In fact it appeared too soon, and early production was upset by several ‘teething troubles’ which might have been avoided had the work been less rushed.

Saracen has a welded steel hull suspended on six wheels, the front four being steerable. The driver sits at the front of the passenger compartment, with the engine ahead of him as in a conventional automobile. The compartment is fitted with bench seats to take eight infantrymen; the infantry section commander and radioman are seated behind the driver. The vehicle commander occupies the small turret mounted in the roof of the vehicle which carries a 7.62-mm (0.30-in) machine-gun. A hatch in the rear of the roof gives access to a ring mounting upon which an antiaircraft machine-gun can be fitted. Smoke dischargers are carried at the front of the hull, and entrance to the interior is via two large doors at the rear end. Transmission is by a five-speed preselector gearbox and fluid coupling, which makes a characteristic screaming noise when the vehicle is moving.

Although the FV603 Saracen had the same automotive components as the FV601 Saladin 6×6 armoured car, its layout was quite different with the engine at the front and troop compartment at the rear, The driver is seated in the centre, with the section commander to his left rear and radio operator to his right rear. To their rear are the eight infantrymen, who are seated on individual seats (four down each side of the hull facing inwards). The troops enter and leave via twin doors in the hull rear, and firing ports are provided in the sides and rear. On the forward part of the roof is a manually-operated turret with a 7.62-mm (0.3-in) machine-gun (this turret is identical with that fitted to some Ferret scout cars), and over the rear part of the troop compartment is a 7.62-mm (0.3- in) Bren light-machine gun for air defence. Steering is hydraulically assisted on the front four wheels, and the vehicle can be driven with one wheel missing from each side. Some vehicles supplied to the Middle East were not fitted with a roof

The most important variant, apart from the basic APC model, is probably the Command Post vehicle for Royal Artillery units. This has the hull raised to give more headroom, does away with the turret, and carries a variety of fire-control instruments and radios. Some vehicles also carry the FACE (field artillery computing equipment) fire-control computer. A similar vehicle, though without the additional headroom, is used as a command vehicle. An ambulance version has been developed, but only a few were made. There were not many variants of the Saracen as the FV602 ambulance was cancelled fairly early on in the development programme. The FV604 is a command vehicle, while the FV610 is also a command vehicle with a much higher roof to allow the command staff to work standing up. The FV611 is an ambulance model and also has a high¬ er roof. The FV610 was also fitted with the Robert surveillance radar but this never entered service; the same fate befell the 25-pdr self-propelled gun version and a roller-type mine clearing vehicle. Numbers were built for Kuwait with no turret and with the top of the compartment left open.

Production of the whole FV600 series was undertaken by Alvis Limited at Coventry, and 1,838 vehicles had been completed by the time production came to an end in 1972, Throughout the 1950s the Saracen was the only real armoured personnel carrier in service with the British army, used in the Far East and Middle East (for example Aden and Libya) as well as in the United Kingdom and with the British Army of the Rhine. From the early 1960s replacement of the Saracen in the BAOR started by the FV432 full-tracked armoured personnel carrier, which has better cross-country performance, improved armour protection and longer operational range. In 1984 the Saracen remained in service with the British army in Northern Ireland, where it is used in internal security operations, with the Territorial Army and in Hong Kong. Sales of the Saracen were also made to Indonesia, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, South Africa, Sudan, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates and Uganda.