Vickers mk3

Vickers MBT Mk.3 Vanguard

The Vickers MBT Mk.3 Vanguard is a private venture main battle tank intended as a low cost alternative to the more sophisticated and expensive tanks in New Commonwealth service such as Chieftain. It has seen extensive service amongst African nations.


The all-welded rolled steel hull of the Vickers Mk 3 MBT is divided into three compartments: driver's at the front,

Vanguard MBT

fighting in the centre and the engine and transmission in the rear.

The driver's compartment is on the right, with a single-piece hatch cover opening to the right. Forward of the cover is a single AFV No 44 Mk 2 wide-angle periscope for closed-down driving. This can be replaced by a passive periscope for driving at night. To the left of the driver 25 rounds of 105 mm ammunition are stowed.

The steel turret has a cast front welded to armour plate to give improved ballistic protection. It has an ammunition reloading hatch in the left side and a stowage basket on the rear. The loader sits on the left of the turret and the commander and gunner on the right.

The commander's cupola has 360° hand traverse and has a rear-opening single-piece hatch cover. The commander has a Pilkington Optronics Condor combined day/night sight; this has day magnifications of x 1 and x 10 and a
Mk3 003

The tank was ideally suited to Africa

night magnification of x 4. Using the Condor, the commander can aim and fire the main 105 mm armament at night or in poor light. The sight has an injected ballistic graticule from the collimator, a range readout from the laser range-finder, and controls for operating the laser and for laying and firing the main armament. The commander also has six periscopes for observation.

The gunner has a British Aerospace Systems and Equipment-York L23 periscopic sight, with magnifications of x1 and x10, incorporating an Nd:YAG laser range-finder and a ballistic graticule. The gunner's sight is linked to the gun by a temperature-compensated link bar and to a collimator in the commander's cupola. The collimator projects an illuminated ballistic graticule image into the field of view of the commander's sight when the cupola and the turret are lined up.

The loader has a single-piece hatch cover that opens forward and an AFV No 30 Mk 1 observation periscope.

Optional equipment includes added passive night vision equipment, deep wading and flotation equipment, full NBC filtration and pressurisation, a heater, air conditioning, contrarotating gear for the commander's cupola, and an automatic fire detection and suppression system.


The main armament is the proven Royal Ordnance 105 mm L7A1 gun which fires APFSDS, APDS, HEAT, HESH,

Vanguard is armed with the proven 105mm rifled gun

HE, smoke and canister rounds. A muzzle system is fitted which allows rapid compensation to be made for barrel movement due to changes in temperature. The tank is fitted with the then GEC-Marconi Radar and Control Systems, Defence Control Systems Division, EC620 gun control and stabilising system which has three modes of operation: non-stabilised, stabilised and emergency.

The 12.7 mm ranging machine gun is retained. It is a very effective heavy machine gun for use against lightly armoured and soft-skinned vehicles. It also provides a back-up in the event of failure of the laser range-finder or fire-control computer.

The secondary armament is a coaxially mounted 7.62 mm machine gun. A further 7.62 mm machine gun is provided on the commander's cupola, in front of and to the left of the hatch. This weapon can be elevated from -10°
Mk3 006

The L7 gun is well proven and effective

to the vertical, and can be mechanically cocked, aimed and electrically fired from under armour. A spotlight is fitted to the cross shaft of the machine gun mounting. Elevation is achieved by the commander's sight elevation gear; thus the machine gun and the spotlight follow the commander's line of sight through all angles of elevation. A 12.7 mm machine gun can also be fitted on the commander's cupola in place of the standard 7.62 mm machine gun.

There are 50 rounds of 105 mm ammunition carried, 18 rounds in the turret below the ring, 25 stowed horizontally in the front of the hull and seven stowed vertically in the hull centre section.

Electrically operated smoke grenade dischargers are fitted on each side of the turret.


The engine, transmission, steering system and brakes are at the rear of the hull. The power pack consisting of the engine, radiators, coolant and oil filter can be removed as a complete unit. All connections to the power pack are by means of self-sealing couplings, plugs and sockets so that the power pack can be readily removed from the vehicle for major overhauls. Power is provided by a Detroit Diesel 12V-71T, two-stroke, turbocharged diesel developing 720 bhp at 2,500 rpm. If required the complete power pack can be run outside the vehicle.

Commonwealth OperatorsEdit


Kenya was a strong proponent of the Vanguard. Within it's region it faced many older generation Soviet tanks and their
Kenyan Vanguards

Kenyan Army Vanguard MBTS

Chinese copies. The Vanguard offered superior performance to these tanks but without the expense of Chieftain.

An initial order for 76 vehicles was placed in 1979 with a follow up order for an additional 56 vehicles placed in 1981. As part of the deal for the second order a production line was set up in Kenya using the New Commonwealth Economic Development Program. This not only allowed Kenya to build their own vehicles but maintain and upgrade them as well without outside support. The Kenyans also produced tanks for the Namibian and Nigerian Armies.

Kenyan Army examples saw extensive use in the Namibian Bush War primarily providing fire support to New Commonwealth forces. 12 examples were lost over the course of the conflict (a loss is considered to be a vehicle damaged beyond repair). Numerous vehicles were damaged but repaired and returned to service. Kenya replaced these losses with new-build vehicles.



Nigerian Vanguard MBT

Nigeria had similar requirements to Kenya and so the Nigerian Government placed an order for 136 Vanguards in 1981. These were to be assembled in Kenya with the first deliveries taking place in 1982. An additional 34 were added to the order in 1983 after the New Commonwealth council elected to fight in Namibia

Like Kenyan and Namibian examples, the Nigerian Vanguard's provided fire support to allied forces during the duration of the conflict. Nigerian Vanguards faced Angolan and Cuban tanks several times. The Vanguard proved superior to the T-55 but three examples were lost to a well organized ambush on March 17th 1985. The enemy tanks consisted of T-55s and newer Chinese Type 59 MBTs. Nigerian Vanguards were also used to crush barricades around a factory on the outskirts of Denin that was being used as Islamic extremist strong point in 1987.  

Non-Commonwealth OperatorsEdit


Vickers mk3 l2

Namibian MBT Mk.3

Namibia maintained strong economic and military links to the New Commonwealth and as such often purchased Commonwealth hardware. In the 1970s the increasing tensions with Angola forced Namibia to begin a military re-equipment program. As part of the program, 54 Vanguards were ordered to supplement the older Centurion MBTs then in service.

The Namibian units were built on the Kenyan assembly line. The first units were delivered in 1982 and these were thrust against the growing Communist insurgency in the north of the country.

Combat HistoryEdit

The Namibian Bush WarEdit

As well as Namibia both Kenya and Nigeria committed Vanguards to fight the Communist insurgency in Namibia. Namibian examples proved their worth against the poorly trained insurgents but when the Angolan and Cuban Air Forces got involved several were destroyed in air strikes.

There were several instances where they met Chinese Type 59 MBTs and these proved to be little threat to the more capable Vanguard. Some vehicles were damaged or disabled in the fighting but these were quickly repaired and returned to service.

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.