Thursday, 12 July 2012

The Centurion Tank - A Life of Long Service

When examining the military industrial complex, those who approve military spending on vehicles and weaponry should take a lesson from the Centurion Tank, as its service to the British Army lasted more than half a century.

First introduced in late 1945, as Britain's main battle tank for the post-WWII era. The design process for the tank began in 1943, with British Generals hoping the tank would see service in Europe before the end of the war. Six prototypes made it to mainland Europe, 1 month after the German surrender in May of 1945. 

It would not be long before the Centurion could prove its worth on the battlefield. In 1950 with the outbreak of the Korean War, the Centurion was shipped to the Korean peninsula to support British and UN troops in their battle against communism. When the tanks first arrived, it was sub-zero, with heavy amounts of snow on the ground. Tank crews feared that the Centurion would have difficulty navigating through snow, and freezing temperatures. Surprisingly, despite not having been greatly tested in winter conditions, the Centurion out performed all other UN tank and tracked vehicles while in Korea.

Following Korea, the British would deploy the Centurion on multiple occasions to the Middle East, including, but not limited to, The Suez Crisis of 1956, The Six Day War (1967), Yom Kippur War (1973), and The First Gulf War under Operation Desert Storm. The British army would also deploy the Centurion during the Falklands War in the 1980s before it was retired from the British Army in the mid 1990s.

India would operate a Centurion model during its Indo-Pakistan War of 1965 with great success, as well as during the Liberation of Bangladesh in 1971.

South Africa would deploy former British Centurions during the Angolan Civil War (1975)

Australia, would send the Centurion into one of the most heavily contested wars of the 2oth Century, Vietnam. At first the Australian tank crews had great difficulty navigating the jungle territory that is Vietnam, and it took a few disastrous defeats before crews learned how to protect their exposed side armour plating, as well as how to keep the mud and plant-life out of the tracks to keep the tanks moving. Once tanks crew learned how to operate the Centurion in Vietnam, it became a deadly machine on the battlefield, as it had done numerous times before.

A Few African countries still operate the original design Centurion. All Western nations that once operated it, retired their remaining Centurions in the late 1990s, and have replaced it with the Leopard Tank, a tank that may just rival the Centurion in a few decades as the longest serving tank

Remembering History - the Centurion Tank