The Scorpion is a British armoured reconnaissance vehicle. It was the lead vehicle and the fire support type in the Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked), CVR(T), family of seven armoured vehicles. Manufactured by Alvis, it was introduced into service with the British Army in 1973 and served until 1994. More than 3,000 were produced and used as a reconnaissance vehicle or a light tank. It holds the Guinness world record for the fastest production tank; recorded doing 51 mph at the QinetiQ vehicle test track, Chertsey, Surrey on 26 March 2002.
The Alvis Scorpion was originally developed to meet a British Army requirement for the Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked) or CVR(T). In 1967 Alvis were awarded the contract to produce 30 CVR(T) prototypes.
Vehicles P1–P17 being the Scorpion prototypes were delivered on time and within the budget. After extensive hot and cold weather trials in Norway, Australia, Abu Dhabi and Canada, the Scorpion was accepted by the British Army in May 1970, with a contract for 275 which later rose to 313 vehicles.
The first production vehicles were completed in 1972 and the first British regiment to be equipped with the Scorpion were the Blues and Royals of the Household Cavalry in 1973. In November 1981, the RAF Regiment took delivery of its first of 184 Scorpions and other variants of CVR(T).
Alvis built more than 3,000 Scorpion vehicles for the British Army and Royal Air Force Regiment and the export market.
All the CVR(T) vehicles were to be air-portable and two Scorpions could be carried in a C130 Hercules. Another requirement of the CVR(T) project was the low ground pressure – similar to that of a soldier on foot – and this would serve it well in the boggy conditions of the Falklands War.
The Scorpion was armed with the low velocity 76 mm L23A1 gun, which could fire high-explosive, HESH, smoke and canister rounds. Stowage was provided for 40 or 42 rounds.
A 7.62mm coaxial machine gun (3,000 rounds carried) and two multi-barrelled smoke grenade dischargers were also fitted each side of the turret. Main armament elevation is 35 degrees and depression of 10 degrees with a full 360 degree traverse.
The original engine was the Jaguar J60 4.2-litre petrol engine, which was replaced by a Cummins or Perkins diesel engine. The maximum speed was about 50 miles per hour and it could accelerate from nought to 30 miles per hour in 16 seconds. The maximum speed on water (with the flotation screen deployed) was 3.6 mph.
The Irish engineering company (IED) replaced the existing Jaguar engine in a successful re-powering process with a STEYR M16 TCA HD engine (6-cylinder, 145 kW), making the Scorpion more powerful and more reliable in critical environment.
The vehicle was fitted with a nuclear, biological, chemical protection system, image intensification sights for gunner and driver and a floatation screen. A commode was located under the commander’s seat, an internal water tank and a boiling vessel for cooking and heating water was also provided.
The Scorpion was or is used by the armed forces of Belgium, Botswana, Brunei, Chile, Honduras, Iran, Indonesia, Ireland, Jordan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Oman, Philippines, Spain, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Venezuela and the United Arab Emirates.
The Scorpion on occasion deployed in main UK airports as a measure against possible terrorist threats, e.g., Heathrow Airport in 1974.
Two troops from B Squadron The Blues and Royals served in the Falklands War. The CVR(T) were the only armoured vehicles used in action by the British Army during the Falklands conflict.
Scorpions also served in the Gulf War. The 1st Queen’s Dragoon Guards a reconnaissance regiment had 32 and the close reconnaissance troops of the armoured regiments each had eight. Also used by 1 Squadron RAF Regiment, who were attached to the 1st British Armoured Division.
14th/20th King’s Hussars
The Regiment was equipped with Scopions whilst stationed in Herford, West Germany. They have also used them in various other roles including a Troop detached to patrol the jungles of Belize.