Chieftain Mk 3
|This page is about the British medium tank Chieftain Mk 3. For other versions, see Chieftain (Family).|
- 1 Description
- 2 General info
- 3 Armaments
- 4 Usage in battles
- 5 History
- 6 Media
- 7 See also
- 8 External links
The Chieftain Mk 3 is a rank VI British medium tank with a battle rating of 8.7 (AB) and 8.3 (RB/SB). It was introduced in Update 1.57 "Battle March" and established the series of end-game ground vehicle for the British tree. The Chieftain imposes a formidable force of reckoning on the battlefield with its heavily sloped armour and powerful 120 mm armament.
The Chieftain series maintains the traditional UK lower front plate weak spot and strong turret armour of the Centurion series of tanks while increasing the firepower. Top speed increases from the Centurion line, but overall mobility is comparably worse.
Survivability and armour
- Cast homogeneous armour (hull front, turret front half, cupola)
- Rolled homogeneous armour (hull sides, hull rear, hull roof, turret rear half, turret roof, cupola roof)
|Armour||Front (Slope angle)||Sides||Rear||Roof|
|Hull|| 70-127 mm (43-79°) Front glacis
76.2 mm (43-44°) Lower glacis
| 88-220 (8-30°) + 13 mm Front Top
50 mm (1-31°) Center Top
37 mm (30°) + 13 mm Rear Top
37 (10°) + 13 mm Bottom
|37 mm (1-7°)||13-28 mm|
|Turret|| 125-250 mm (2-81°) Turret front
100-220 mm (1-53°) Gun mantlet
|45-196 mm (1-65°)||45 mm (1°)|| 50.8 mm Front |
25 mm Rear
|Cupola||150 mm||25 mm|
- Suspension wheels and tracks are 20 mm thick while bogies are 19 mm thick.
- Armour thickness throughout the vehicle is very complex and the tank relies more on sloping thickness to enhance its effective armour.
- The metal boxes on the sides of the turret and hull are 13 mm of structural steel.
- The belly of the Chieftain Mk 3 is 15 mm thick (6°).
A major improvement from previous British MBTs is the Chieftain's thick, sloped armour. Reaching a compound-angled 152 mm on the turret and a respectable 86 mm at 71° on the upper front hull, the Chieftain can actually resist point-blank shots from some cannons it will face at its battle rating. In an up-tier, however, most of these benefits have less impact. This tank should avoid exposing its hull as certain tanks at 8.3 and above can penetrate the hull with an APFSDS shot, knocking out the entire crew or detonating an ammo rack. The armour around the gun breech leaves something to be desired. Lower-rank APDS rounds (e.g. a T-54/55's APDS) can penetrate the right turret face at closer ranges, incapacitating the gunner and commander. The lower glacis is 76 mm at 45°, leading to a significant disadvantage in close-range engagements. Even 7.3 tanks (and many below 7.3) will always penetrate the lower glacis. The Chieftain also has thin side armour, meaning that the tank is vulnerable to flank attacks. The thin side armour also means angling the hull is not effective. A Chieftain should remain hull down (at the very least covering the lower frontal plate) to best take advantage of its armour profile.
|Game Mode||Max Speed (km/h)||Weight (tons)||Engine power (horsepower)||Power-to-weight ratio (hp/ton)|
The Chieftain Mk 3 suffers from a poor power-to-weight ratio. It is slow to reach its top speed of 45 km/h on almost any surface and will turn very slowly even when all mobility modules are researched. The Chieftain Mk 3 especially struggles uphill and when pivoting. It has decent reverse speed (~ -9.4 km/h, compared to the -13 km/h reverse speed of tanks on the Centurion chassis).
Modifications and economy
The first upgrades to head for are Parts and FPE for increased survivability. Then prioritize mobility upgrades (the Chieftain Mk 3 needs all the mobility it can get) and gun accuracy upgrades (to further enhance its accurate fire).
- Modules to get in order, maximizing recovery and speed first
- Tracks (critical for hull rotation speed)
- Adjustment of Fire
- Elevation Mechanism
- Horizontal Drive
- Other mobility upgrades as needed
|120 mm Ordnance BL Tk. L11||Turret rotation speed (°/s)||Reloading rate (seconds)|
The cannon's reload rate is much faster than average for its calibre at its BR (7.5 seconds with an ace crew).
The Chieftain's 120 mm gun has access to APDS and HESH when stock, with a smoke shell as only unlockable ammunition. The L15A3 APDS shell has a very good slope modifier compared to other APDS and will penetrate essentially any vehicle at its battle rating, but has relatively weak post-penetration effects. The L31A7 HESH shell is slow and behaves similarly to other HESH shells in the game. It is a more situational round.
The available ammunition allows for engaging all types of targets:
- L15A3: APDS; an armour-piercing round with a discarding sabot that has a good penetration power and no explosive filler. As it lacks post-penetration damage, the tactic with an APDS shot is to either knock out the majority of the tank's crew or to provoke ammo or fuel detonation by targeting their respective locations. This requires good knowledge of the layouts of potential opposing vehicles. Use the Protection analysis feature in the hangar menu to analyse potential foes for their weak spots! Also, keep in mind that with increased armour thickness the number of shrapnel shrinks.
- L31A7: HESH; a high-explosive squash head projectile works very differently from other shell types. It ignores any angle, except for ricochet, and deals damage by metal-flakes which are blown off inside the armour by the exterior explosion. To create this deadly shrapnel inside the tank, make sure to only hit armour plates which are a direct part of the interior crew compartment of the tank. Hitting exterior parts of a tank like spaced armour, the suspension, tracks etc. will not harm crew members/modules at all. Currently, only true armour thickness (as opposed to the line of sight thickness) will provide sufficient means of protection, benefiting the USSR turret designs and in general German tanks. Like all high-explosive shells, the fuse is very sensitive and can be set-off by most objects e.g. fences, trees, posts. The slow muzzle velocity of this shell can make it quite hard to hit targets at longer distances, but at the same time it can be handy because its arc trajectory allows it to land hits on enemies hiding behind shallow hills.
- L34: Smoke; useful to blind enemy vehicles that are too remote for you to disable so that you can progress towards objectives.
|Ammunition|| Type of
|Penetration @ 0° Angle of Attack (mm)|
|10 m||100 m||500 m||1,000 m||1,500 m||2,000 m|
|Ammunition|| Type of
| Fuse delay
| Fuse sensitivity
| Explosive mass
(TNT equivalent) (kg)
|Smoke shell characteristics|
| Screen radius
| Screen deploy
| Screen hold
| Explosive mass|
(TNT equivalent) (g)
| 52 (+1)
| 49 (+4)
| 43 (+10)
| 41 (+12)
| 39 (+14)
| 37 (+16) |
| 35 (+18)
| 30 (+25)
| 25 (+30)
| 18 (+35)
| 11 (+42)
| 5 (+48)
| 1 (+52)
- The Chieftain Mk 3 uses two-piece ammunition, composed of projectiles (yellow) and propellant bags (orange). Both have separate racks.
- Projectile racks 10 to 13 and propellant racks 4 to 7 are first stage ammo racks. They total 24 shots and get filled first when loading up the tank.
- To go into battle with the front hull empty of ammunition, pack 25 (+28) shells (projectile racks 1 to 9 emptied / propellant racks 1 to 3 emptied).
Optics and night vision
The magnification of the gunner's optics on the Chieftain Mk 3 is ok, but not anything special compared to other tanks it faces. There is only a minimal difference between the default magnification and the zoomed in magnification.
The Chieftain Mk 3 is equipped with a fairly basic night vision system, consisting of image intensifiers and an IR searchlight, there is no thermal imager. The image intensifiers are fairly standard compared to those fitted to vehicles of the same time period, they have a lower resolution and higher noise than those fitted to later vehicles.
|Chieftain Mk 3 Optics|
|Type of optic||Magnification||Night Vision Devices|
|Gunner's Sight||X7.25 - X8||800 x 600||8.0||High||Not Fitted||Image intensifier unlocked by "NVD" mod (tier 3)|
|Commander's View||X6||800 x 600||8.0||High||Not Fitted||Image intensifier unlocked by "NVD" mod (tier 3)|
|Driver's View||X1||800 x 600||5.0||High||Not Fitted||Image intensifier unlocked by "NVD" mod (tier 3)|
The IR searchlight on the Chieftain Mk 3 is mounted in a distinctive box on the left hand side of the turret, it has a wide beam compared to other searchlights; however due to its placement some of the turret blocks some of the light which would otherwise go to the right. In practice this slightly narrows the beam, compared to the theoretical angle listed below (it is still much wider than other searchlights though).
|Chieftain Mk 3 IR Searchlight|
|Max Range||Beam Width||Location / Notes|
|1,500 m||15.3°||Searchlight mounted in box on left hand side of turret, does not pitch up or down.|
|12.7 mm L21A1|
|Mount||Capacity (Belt)||Fire rate||Vertical||Horizontal|
The 12.7 mm L21A1 machine gun is specifically used to determine ranging for the main gun. While the game indicates a very short clip of 3 rounds, it is in fact more accurate to say that the MG only fires small bursts of 3 rounds. It is not fired alongside the other machine guns but through the "Fire from secondary guns" option (Controls > Ground Vehicles > Weaponry).
|7.62 mm L37A1|
|Mount||Capacity (Belt)||Fire rate||Vertical||Horizontal|
|7.62 mm L8A1|
|Mount||Capacity (Belt)||Fire rate||Vertical||Horizontal|
The small calibre of the 7.62 mm machine gun makes them largely ineffective against all armoured vehicles but the ones with an open compartment.
Usage in battles
Fundamental advantages of Chieftain Mk 3 are its fast fire rate and high penetration. Few vehicles within its BR range can resist the Chieftain's firepower, with some exceptions possibly being a well-positioned T95 or Maus. Because the 120 mm APDS shells have such high penetration, one should aim for critical internal modules rather than armour weak points. This requires good knowledge of the enemy tanks. You should know where shells, fuel tanks, and crew reside in the vehicles you'll face.
The Chieftain's gun is very accurate when equipped with all gun modules -- move to a location overlooking enemy movements from long range. Maintain a hull-down position whenever possible to hide your weaker hull. Consider placing camouflage bushes on your turret to force your enemy to spend more time aiming.
The Chieftain's common enemies are the German Leopard 1 tanks and Soviet T-54s. Aim for the hull to either knock out the enemy crew or detonate the hull ammunition stowage. Don't hesitate to try this on IS-3/4 or T-10M as your gun still has sufficient penetration. Other tanks can be easily knocked out or disabled by aiming for crew members. Don't forget that reload time is your best friend. While manoeuvring, beware to the width of Chieftain; it's very easy to make the mistake of exposing weak areas of the hull.
Pros and cons
- Turret armour strong enough to resist APDS, HEATFS and even some APFSDS shells
- Upper frontal plate is heavily sloped, providing adequate protection against enemies of the same rank
- Excellent reload time for a 120 mm (7.5-9.5 seconds)
- Access to 320 mm penetrating APDS shells and powerful HESH shells immediately
- 10 degrees of gun depression
- Has access to a dual plane stabiliser
- Includes an additional range finding .50 calibre machine gun that can be bound to a separate key
- Unlike other British tanks, it has a respectable reverse speed
- Only armour piercing round is unlocked from stock, so no need to grind for best shell
- Weak hull armour overall
- Lower frontal plate is very poorly armoured and has an ammo rack behind it
- Very weak side and rear armour
- Ammo rack everywhere
- Small ammo variety (APDS or HESH only) means that it struggles with modern composite armour
- APDS deals minimal, punctual damage
- Slowest of all MBTs
- Poor mobility on rough terrain
The idea of a "universal tank" began in Britain in 1944 when Montgomery and other influential people began advocating for a more standardized tank to replace the cruiser and infantry tank classes used on the field. Efforts did not start until after World War II under the General Staff designation A45, with development starting just as the new cruiser tank Centurion started to enter military service. The A45 was cancelled in 1948 after development troubles and its inability to be used as a "universal" platform. Ironically, the Centurion proved to be a better "universal tank" platform than the A45.
The Centurion tank series was very successful in British and its allies' service, but the development of new Soviet armour such as the IS-3 and T-54/55 caused the British tank arms race to take another leap forward. The development of the Centurion's successor began in 1951 under the name Medium Gun Tank No. 2. The project's priority was gun and armour, but with mobility to be equal to the Centurion's and a weight of fewer than 45 tons. The weight limit caused a program known as the Concept Study Programme to commence in order to find ways to keep the tank under that weight limit yet meet all the armour and firepower specifications. One of the concepts that came out was the usage of bagged charges, which were already in use on naval ships but were a new concept for tank ammunition. Thus, a gun using the bagged charge propellant system began development in 1954, along with a new specification by General Staff that the Medium Gun Tank No.2, now known as FV4201, uses a conventional four crew tank with a turret and a better gun and armour than the Centurion. Though the Conqueror heavy tank was one such response to the firepower requirement, limited production cut that to only 200 units built.
The biggest bump to the firepower of the FV4201 was the recommendation of a 120 mm calibre tank cannon. Though the Conqueror used a 120 mm, the new one would incorporate more innovative features such as the bagged charges. Other design features added were the usage of a Rolls-Royce V8 engine, an auxiliary engine, an automatic gearbox, and a reclining seat for the driver. The reclining seat was a very new feature in tank design as it reduced the vehicle's hull height and thus gave it a lower profile. Leyland Motors was assigned to be the main designer for the tank despite their commitment to the Centurion production lines. The manufacturing process of the tank was decided to be cast rather than welded. In 1957, several specifications added to the FV4201 impeded its attempt to fit into the specifications. A bigger turret was designed and it mounted IR equipment for night fighting. Troops requested more frontal and turret side armour, which along with the turret change caused an increase in the tank's overall weight. A controversial decision was also made in 1957 by NATO that tanks should have multi-fuel engines. The FV4201 installed a new engine conforming to these standards in 1958, a German engine derived from a Junkers Jumo aviation engine. This extended development time since the engine compartment had to be redesigned to fit the engine, raising the total tank weight to 50 tons. The engine, designated the L60, was received with a mixed reception by the Royal Armoured Corps (RAC) and other users due to its novel features. Britain stayed as the only user of a multi-fuel engine in the Cold War as many other nations found the concept impractical and abandoned it.
As the FV4201 finalized its prototype stages, General Staff sent a revised specification for it. The tank was to have the firepower of the Conqueror with the mobility of the Centurion, an armour that maximizes the protection-weight ratio, a weight limit at 45 tons with a top speed of 26 mph and an operating range of 300 miles. The first wooden prototype was made in March 1959, with full prototypes ordered in June 1959 for troop trials. Vickers-Armstrong and Royal Ordnance Factory shared the manufacturing process and the first prototypes were built in January 1960. The first two prototypes FV4201 were trialled in Germany alongside their new Leopard 1. The greatest issue with the FV4201 was the engine, which caused many failures due to vibration, a result of the flawed multi-fuel concept. Trials were delayed due to a lack of parts to fix broken pieces and redesigns were requested to fix problems. After a lengthy trial period in 1962, the FV4201, now named the Chieftain, was sent to the operational unit in Germany for service and combat trials. The Chieftain was finally accepted for service in 1st May 1963, despite the many faults in the design. The first deliveries of the improved and redesigned Chieftains began in mid-1965. These were the Chieftain Mk.1's, which further revealed problems with the horsepower that the Mk.2 was designed and sent in April 1966. The Chieftain Mk.3 rolled out of the production lines in September 1969, it now weighed 53 tons and the L60 engine was producing 650 hp, still underpowered for the weight. Engine failures were still frequent and left the Chieftain with a sour note until the Mk.5 variant fixed these pressing issues with a new engine and NBC protection. The Mk.5 would be the main variant of the Chieftain in British service. During its production life from 1965 to 1985, a total of 2,265 Chieftains would be built by Britain, with about 1,000 used by the British Army.
The first British units to receive the Chieftains were the 1st and 5th Royal Tank Regiments back during the trials. The Chieftain, despite its initial engine flaws, proved to be combat-proof and could be upgraded to fit new requirements. Some of these upgrades were the addition of composite add-on armour to fight off new anti-tank technology such as the HEAT rounds. The Chieftain earned the title "most formidable tank in the world" during the 1960s Cold War period and also redefined the specifications of a "main battle tank". Its success is due to its novel main gun and heavily sloped armour, as well as satisfactory mobility and speeds able to compete with the Leopard 1. The Chieftain stayed in use by the British Army On the Rhine on the German border with the Warsaw Pact, which caused the Soviets to in turn station their best tanks such as the T-64 against the Chieftains. The British retained the Chieftains all the way until 1995 when it was replaced by the Challenger I.
The Chieftain was also successful in the export market, primarily in the Middle East to the hands of Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, and Oman. Another user of the Chieftain was Israel, with Britain initially agreeing to help set up production for locally produced Chieftains. Two Chieftains were sent for trials among the Israeli Defense Force in 1967. After two years of trials and deliberation for the acquirement of the Chieftains, Britain ultimately refused to offer the Israelis the Chieftain for political reasons. The Israeli trials benefit Britain with data on desert combat with the Chieftain, however, and the refusal did jump start Israel's tank program that would become the Merkava.
Despite that, sales to the Middle East soared, with Iran being the major buyer of the Chieftains with at least 887 of mostly the MK3 and MK5 variants sent to them before their revolution in 1979. The Chieftain saw prolonged combat in the Middle East in the Iran-Iraq War, including Operation Nasr which was the largest tank vs. tank battle of the war where the Iranian Chieftains and M60A1 Pattons fought against the Iraqi T-62s. After that war, the Chieftain in Kuwait then saw combat fighting the Iraqis during their invasion in 1990. Kuwait eventually replaced their Chieftains with the Yugoslavian M-84 tanks, which are a variant of the Soviet T-72s.
The Chieftain is still in service in Iran, Jordan, and Oman in varying numbers, about 100 in Iran, 350 in Jordan, and 27 in Oman. The Chieftains underwent local upgrades to keep them up to date against a modern threat, such as the Iran Mobarez Chieftain upgrade.
- Vehicles equipped with the same chassis
- Other vehicles of similar configuration and role
- [Devblog] The Chieftain tank: A very British warlord!
- [Wikipedia] Chieftain (tank)
- [Tanks Encyclopedia] FV4201 Chieftain
- [Military Factory] Chieftain MBT
- Dunstan Simon. Chieftain Main Battle Tank 1965-2003 Great Britain: Osprey Publishing Ltd., 2003
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