The Dark Side - Part 1 - Models of British Cold War Military Vehicles

Vickers Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank, Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, (in support of 3 Cdo Bgde RM) Basrah 2003.

Trumpeter 1/72 - An excellent kit that is easy to build.

The Challenger 2 was developed to replace the UK's long serving Chieftain and Challenger 1 MBTs. Fitted with second generation Chobham armour, the Challenger 2 is probably the best protected tank in the NATO armoury. Initially it suffered from the poor reputation and reliability of its predecessors, but an astonishing effort from Vickers successfully raised the Challenger 2s performance so that it is now proven to be one of the most reliable AFVs in the world.

The Challenger's performance in Iraq in 2003 was nothing less than a revelation. Its 120mm rifled gun proved lethal against all opposition and it took a massive roadside bomb before the first and only case of a Challenger's armour being defeated. One tank that shed a track spent several hours immobilised, under direct and close Iraqi RPG and anti tank fire, but without injury to any its crew. It was recovered, repaired and placed back in service within 24 hrs.

During the assault on Basrah, 14 Challenger 2 tanks of C Squadron, Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, Scotland's only remaining Cavalry Regiment, were on their way to reinforce 3 Commando Brigade, Royal Marines on al-Faw peninsula, when they encountered a column of 14 Iraqi T-55 tanks. In what was the biggest and most decisive tank battle fought by the British since El Alamein, all 14 Iraqi tanks were destroyed with no damage to the Scots tanks.


Vickers Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank, Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, KFOR, Kosovo, Former Yugoslavia, 2004.

Trumpeter 1/72 - The same kit as above but with different sprues for the European armour package and dozer blade.

Challenger 2s of the RSDG also participated in the NATO KFOR operation in the former Yugoslave Repoublic of Kosovo.


Challenger 1 Main Battle Tank, The Queens Royal Hussars, Bosnia 1996.

Revell 1/72 - Another easy build.

The Challenger tank was designed around the revolutionary Chobham ceramic armour. Based on an improved variant of the British Chieftain Tank, that had been produced for Iran but not delivered due to the Iranian revolution, the Challenger 1 shared many of the Chieftain's faults, including a less than effective gun aiming system and unreliable power plant. However, its very high protection levels and the lethality of its main armament remained powerful factors and it was quickly introduced to service with the British Army.

Challenger 1 was succeeded by the much improved Challenger 2, with the original variant withdrawn as part of arms reduction and savings measures. Some Challenger 1s were transferred to friendly nations including Jordan, where they have seen upgrade programmes to bring them to similar levels of effectiveness as Challenger 2.


GKN Warrior MCV, 3 Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, Basrah, 2003.

Revell 1/72 - with Kingfisher accessories.

The Warrior MCV was introduced to British Army service in the early 1980s, partly to replace the ubiquitous FV430 Armoured Personnel Carrier, but also to support a new infantry concept, with fast highly mobile protected and armed vehicles transporting troops quickly around the battlefield, providing them with organic fire support from a 30mm Rarden Canon when dismounted.

Apart from a few incidents in Bosnia, where the Warrior's low ground weight made is susceptible to slipping on snowy slopes, the vehicle has been a great success, seeing combat in Afghanistan, both Gulf Wars and the Former Yugoslavia.

It is currently (2012) undergoing a lethality improvement programme to introduce a new turret and more powerful gun.

GKN Warrior MCV, 1 Bn Grenadier Guards, Fallingbostell, Germany, 1988.

Revell 1/72


Alvis/Haggelunds Bv206 all-terrain carrier, 3 Commando Brigade, Royal Marines, Norway 2008.

BW Models 1/76 - White metal kit, slightly modified to reflect the current RM vehicles.

Haggelund's quaint Bv206 was developed for arctic use with the Swedish Army, but is now widely deployed with NATO nations in several variants, including COBRA, Satcoms and Air Defence .

The UK's Royal Marines deployed their BVs to Afghanistan in 2003, where this snow vehicle adapted well to operation in rough mountainous/desert conditions. A larger armoured and armed version, known as the Viking in UK service, has been even more successful thanks to its phenomenal off-road abilities, its high protection levels and ability to lay down heavy supporting fire.


Centurion Mk.5, 6 Royal Tank Regiment (in support of 3 Cdo Bgde RM), Suez Crisis 1956.

Airfix 1/76 - a rather simple and crude kit updated with some simple scratch mods.

The Centurion is widely acknowledged as one of the most successful tank designs ever, combining the hard won experience of WW2 to produce the first ever true Main Battle Tank, a classic design that saw first-line service from 1945 until the end of the 20th Century, with converted Israeli Centurions deployed as recently as 2006 in Lebanon.

Although designed for the central european front, Centurions saw their first combat during the Korean War, but it was in the desert that the Centurion earned its enduring reputation. In the hands of the Israeli Army, its devastatingly lethal performance against the Egyptians, Jordanians (who also operated the Centurion) and Syrians has become legend, but Centurions also saw combat with the British Army in Aden and Suez, the Australians in Vietnam, South Africans in Angola and with the Indian Army against Pakistan.

Originally powered by a Rolls Royce Meteor petrol engine (a derivative of the Merlin), Israel modified its remaining Centurion based vehicles to take a modern diesel powerplant.

Centurion Tanks of the 6th Royal Tank Regiment were landed from Tank Landing Ships at Port Said in November 1956, during the Anglo-French occupation of the Suez canal, Operation Musketeer. Marked with a white recognition "H" on their turret (for Operation Hamilcar, the original code-name for the invasion) and a black stripe around their turret, the tanks were hurriedly and rather crudely camouflaged in desert sand.


Chieftain Mk.2 , Royal Armoured Corps, Germany 1971.

Airfix 1/76 - the only small scale Chieftain kit currently available. Not bad though!

For many years, the Chieftain was the best armoured and gunned tank in the world. If only it had been fitted with a reliable engine; the Leyland L60's ability to run on all fuels, from chip fat to paraffin was a nice idea, but left the Chieftain with a rather less than reliable reputation.

In combat (with the Iranians and the Kuwaitis, both against Iraq), when it was actually working, the Chieftain acquitted itself very well indeed. But hey, BL built it - and like so many British products of that era, it was an innovative and sound design that never reached its real potential.

Vickers AS-90 Self Propelled 155mm Gun, 2005

Trumpeter 1/72 - a nicely detailed kit.

The Vickers AS-90 is felt by many to be a Cold War relic; modern artillery is moving away from traditional guns, toward precision guided missile systems such as the MLRS. Nevertheless, the AS-90 is a competent and capable design, which compares well with the German PzH2000 and US Paladin/M109 systems.

The British Army used it with success in the former Yugoslavia and (after some hot weather and sand related issues had been resolved) it played a significant role in the 2nd Gulf War. The AS-90 turret design has also been acquired by Poland to retrofit some existing ex-Warsaw Pact tank chassis as SPGs.

The Braveheart, an improved AS-90 design with larger NATO standard calibre gun was cancelled (or postponed) in 2006 due to budget priorities and constraints.


BAeD Tracked Rapier, 11 (Sphinx) Air Defence Battery, 22 Air Defence Regiment, RA 1982-83

Cromwell 1/72 - very hard to come by, but a very nicely detailed kit.

Tracked Rapier was originally developed in the late 1970s for the Shah of Iran, but adopted by the British Army following the Iranian Revolution. Unlike the more common towed Rapier, this version can be ready to fire within 30 seconds of stopping, making it an ideal air defence companion for fast advancing heavy armour.

The tracked variant was retired from British service at the end of the Cold War, but several units were quickly re-instated for the first Gulf War. The launcher and its support systems sit on an M548 tracked carrier, a variant of the ubiquitous M113 Armoured Personnel Carrier.

Although the towed Rapier system saw combat during the 1982 Falklands conflict, the tracked version has never (yet) been fired in anger.


GKN Sankey FV432 Armoured Personnel Carrier, 2002

Cromwell 1/76 - An inexpensive but exquisitely detailed resin model.

This variant is fitted with a Peak Engineering GPMG turret.

The FV432 originally entered service in 1962 and production ceased in 1972. It is still very widely used by the British Army, in a range of variants.

More recently, FV432s are being refurbished by BAE SYSTEMS as the Bulldog patrol vehicle for service in Iraq, with extensive add-on armour, uprated transmission and mechanical running gear, as well as modern diesel engines.

Despite their age (most are now double the age of their crews), the modernised vehicles are proving a big success and it is expected that many more will be converted.

Vickers FV433 Abbot Self propelled 105mm Gun

Cromwell 1/76 - The level of detail on these inexpensive resin kits has to be seen to be believed.

The Abbot SPG shared much of its running gear with the FV432 APC.

Alvis FV101 Scorpion CVR(T), B Squadron, Blues and Royals, Falkland Islands, April 1982

Airfix HO/OO (1/76?) - with scratch modifications

The Scorpion entered service in the early 1970s as a fast armoured reconnaissance vehicle to replace the FV601 Saladin (see below) and was armed with a 76mm gun. It left British Army service in 1994, although some vehicles were converted to become the Sabre, retrofitted with turrets from the obsolete Fox armoured car, to undertake the same role as the Scimitar.

Scorpions saw active service around the world, including the 1974 Cyprus emergency, 1982 Falklands War and 1991 Gulf War.

Two troops of Scorpions from the Blues & Royals were deployed to the Falklands, providing essential fire support to the forces retaking the islands from their Argentine occupiers. The psychological effect on the Argentine occupying forces of knowing that the British had brought tanks with them was not insignificant.


Alvis FV107 Scimitar CVR(T) - Op Telic

Airfix HO/OO (1/76) - with lots of scratch add-ons

The Scimitars uses the same basic design as the Scorpion, but substitutes the 76mm gun for a quick-firing Rarden 30mm canon. Scimitars were deployed in both the first and second Gulf Wars in the armoured reconnaissance role.

The original version was found to be seriously lacking in stowage space, so quickly gained a variety of external stowage boxes.


Alvis FV 103 Spartan Armoured Personnel Carrier, 2003

Cromwell 1/76 - Once again, a superbly detailed resin model.

The Spartan shares its running gear and propulsion with the Scorpion and Scimitar. Very small by APC standards, it has been used to carry dismounted anti tank and anti aircraft teams, as well as small rapid reaction teams.

In 2011 a new upgraded Scimitar Mk.2 variant was introduced to Afghanistan, marrying the larger Spartan style hull with a Scimitar turret.


Alvis FV107 Scimitar CVR(T)

Airfix HO/OO (1/76?) - An ancient build of mine from the 1970s

The Scimitar is also a member of the highly successful FV10x series and has been in UK service since the early 1970s as a light reconnaissance vehicle.

Originally fitted with a 4.2 Litre Jaguar petrol engine, it and its 76mm armed Scorpion stablemate were considered the "sports car" of tanks, but remaining Scimitars have now been re-engined with a more economical Cummins diesel engine.

Alvis FV603 Saracen APC

JB Models 1/76 - or is it 1/87? (also issued by Airfix) - A rather crude little kit, with chunky detail, that seems to be undersized.

The Saracen was one of the successful FV60x series that included the Saladin armoured car and Stalwart amphibious ammunition carrier. It entered service in the early 1950s and remained in UK service (including in Northern Ireland) until the late 1980s.


Alvis FV601 Saladin Armoured Car

JB Models 1/76 (also issued by Airfix) - When built, this kit looks much nicer than the Saracen, although they share some sprues.

The Saladin was another of the successful FV60x series.


Alvis FV624 Stalwart REME Fitter's Workshop, British Army Of The Rhine, 1977

B.W. Models 1/76 - Another nice white metal kit from B.W. Requires some care in assembly and not for the fainthearted.

Entering service in the mid 1960s, the Stalwart, or "Stolly" used much the same running gear as the rest of the series, although the Rolls Royce engine was moved to a low central position underneath the load carrying deck and connected to a pair of steerable Dowty waterjets, making the Stolly fully amphibious.

As well as a 5 ton carrying capacity and creditable performance in the water, the Stalwart had a remarkable off-road ability, although its rather crude transmission was prone to excessive wear and breakdown when it was used on-road.

Stalwarts gave excellent service, but were finally withdrawn from service in the early 1980s, not least because of their thirsty petrol fuelled engines.


Daimler FV703 Ferret Scout Car

B.W. Models 1/76 - A very nice white metal kit.

The Ferret saw service with the British Army from the 1950s right up until Gulf War 1 in 1991. Light and manoeuverable, this variant also carries the Vickers Vigilant ATGW, the NATO equivalent of the Sagger Anti-tank missile.


Bedford MK 4 Tonner Truck

JB Models 1/76 (also issued by Airfix) - A very nice kit from JB. Cab is moulded in clear plastic.

The Bedford MK Series was a 4x4 military development of the ubiquitous TK Series light truck introduced in 1969.

It remained in limited UK service until very recently.


Bedford MK Tactical Refuelling Bowser

JB Models 1/76 (also issued by Airfix) - Just what you need for those dioramas!

This 4x4 Bedford MK variant provides forward refuelling of vehicles and aircraft.

Land Rover Long Wheel-Base

JB Models 1/76 (possibly 1/87) (also issued by Airfix) - Again looks underscale to me. The wheels also look wrong for some reason.

The Land Rover needs little introduction. Originally designed for the Ministry of Supply for farm use, modern Land Rovers have little in common with their forebears except name and general boxy shape!

Cararama 1/72 Series III 109 Land Rover - If you want a Land Rover for a diorama then this is probably a better bet than the JB/Airfix kit. Cararama vehicles are remarkably cheap, with excellent details and come pre-assembled and painted.

These are both the RAF Mountain Rescue issue, but the green one has been repainted.

Oxford 1/76 Land Rover Defender - If you are after a more modern Land Rover variant, then Oxford make this nice pre-assembled Defender model.


Land Rover 101 1 Ton Forward Control Truck

JB Models 1/76 - Another nice JB kit, now available (as are all the JB range) from Airfix

Land Rover produced an air transportable 101 inch wheelbase forward control vehicle to tow the 105mm light howitzer and up to a ton of stores and ammunition.

BAe/RO 105mm Light Howitzer

JB Models 1/76

The air transportable Royal Ordnance light gun is in worldwide service.

Bristol/Ferranti Bloodhound Mk1 (Airfix 1/72)

It seems to be de-rigeour to provide these kits with an appropriate base to match the box art.

So here it is...............

Dark Side Index British Cold War AFVs NATO, WARPAC & others WW2 Tanks & others Ship Models

Daimler/RO Leeds FV721 Fox Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Wheeled) - CVR(W)

Matador Models 1/76 - An excellent little resin kit.

The Fox was developed to replace the Saladin and the Ferret in the scout and reconnaissance role and served with armoured formations from 1975 to 1994. Armed with a modern Rarden 30mm canon and using aluminium armour, it was less than half the weight of the Saladin, allowing for easier air transportation and limited river swimming capability when fitted with a flotation screen. Powered by the same Jaguar 4.2L petrol engine as the Scorpion and Scimitar (its tracked equivalents) the Fox was very fast, with a top speed of around 65mph and a 270 mile range although its large turret made it somewhat top heavy, adversely affecting its stability at speed or on steep terrain.


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Daimler FV711 Large Wheeled Ferret Scout Car

Matador Models 1/76 - A detailed little Resin kit.

The Mk.4 Ferret was upgraded with improved armour, larger wheels and a permanent flotation screen to allow river crossings.


Daimler FV712 Large Wheeled Ferret Swingfire Carrier

Matador Models 1/76 - A very nice Resin kit.

The Mk.5 Ferret added a large new wide aluminium turret that was able to carry 4 Fairey Swingfire anti-tank missiles. These were a significant improvement on the Vigilant.  As their name implies, they were able to swing around rapidly toward their target after being launched off-boresight from behind cover.

The UK MoD acquired a small batch of 24 Thales Bushmasters in 2008, apparently for use by SF around Basra in Iraq.  Supposedly going under the code-name of Escapade, the vehicles were fitted with an enhanced armour package, bull bars for crossing barricades, mission specific comms,  ECM and anti-IED packages as well as a Thales CROWS remote weapon station equipped with a 50mm machine gun.  The vehicles were subsequently reported in Syria in 2017 although the user units (and possibly their nationality) is less clear.

Thales UK-built variants of the Bushmaster, including open-backed logistics vehicles and an ambulance are currently (2021) candidates for Package 2 of the British Army’s delayed Multi-Role-Vehicle -Protected (MRV-P)  programme.

Thales Bushmaster PMV (UKSF Variant) - Dragon 1/72)

This is one of 2 very nice Bushmaster kits released by Dragon in 2020. This one contains an additional sprue to provide the extra armour and remote weapons station of the version used by UKSF.  More pictures on the build page