Laird Centaur Air Defence (Oerlikon GAM-BO 20 mm cannon)
Vehicle Design History:
Land Rover as a brand, had a reputation for making rugged and reliable vehicles from their inception when they created the now famous series 1, which was a vehicle based on the concept of the American WW2 era Jeep with none of the mechanical problems, as a utility vehicle for the civilian market. Design choices such as its duralumin body made the vehicles both affordable and easy to maintain, resulting in over 1 million vehicles being sold by the end of 1976. Due to this reputation, the brand was well established in not just the civilian market, but also the military, as several armies had adopted various marks for service including the British army. Because of this, at the end of 1977, the Anglesey-based firm Laird, decided to add their own spin on the design and create a more capable off-road platform for military use. They intended to create a versatile and cost-effective tracked platform, capable of performing numerous roles, based on the requirements of the client.
To achieve this, they mated the front half of a Landrover, to a lengthened high-strength load platform chassis mounted upon a shortened version of the suspension from the Alvis Scorpion CVR(t). The concept was quickly approved by December of 1977 and an engineering model was started in January of 1978 which would then appear at the BAEE in June of that year. Happy with the concept the company then underwent a period of modification which ran to September of 1978, when a pre-production prototype was approved for construction. This confidence in the design came from the fact both the Land Rover and Scorpion had been widely exported, allowing a lot of parts commonality, reducing the logistical footprint for both operating and maintaining the Centaur. This was shown by the short turnaround in constructing the demonstrator, as it was finished in April of 1978 and was undergoing trials in May of the same year.
The testing of the first vehicle would be finished in April of 1979 after travelling 3,687 miles (5,934 km) and proved promising. This would be followed by a 3 month stint for cold-weather testing in Norway, then by tropical trials in Libya and Tunisia. A second prototype P2 would go on a sales tour of Nigeria and Kenya, whilst prototype P4 would do a tour of Oman. P5 would be allocated to the British MOD for their own testing, with a final vehicle P6 being sent to Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates for sales tours. In total six pre-series vehicles would be built and prepared in various configurations for both testing and proof of concept, and all vehicles were extensively trialled for various roles. P5 which was assigned to the MOD was used for testing of an Air Defence derivative, which involved fitting it with a pair of 20mm cannons in order to test the viability of the design.
The Air Defence concept involved fitting the platform with a 20mm cannon for both fire support and air defence. This involved fitting a gun-shield-equipped S20 pintle mount on the rear cargo deck, in order to provide a highly mobile air defence vehicle. The 20 mm Rheinmetall Mk.20 Rh 202 cannon, was selected for testing first, as it had previously proven itself in German service. This gun would potentially protect convoys or troops against targets up to 2,000m and was capable of firing 1,000 rounds per minute. A second version was also trialled, mounting the Oerlikon GAM-BO 20 mm cannon instead, though ultimately neither version would be adopted for service. The issue with the Centaur was clear to most customers, as though it was cheaper then buying a CVR(t) it was still very expensive compared to the cost of a normal 3.5 ton offroad truck, which would offer similar performance, along with its lack of armour meant that Laird had essentially created a vehicle without a clear role, and as such it did not see adoption with any military, instead resulting in a series of pre-production vehicles now confined to armoured vehicle collections.
|5.62 long x 2 m wide
|Total weight, battle ready
|3.05 tonnes empty
|115 kW Rover 3.5 litre V8 petrol producing 1260 Nm of torque at 2,500 rpm
|80 km/h (road)
|700 km (road)
|Oerlikon GAM-BO 20 mm cannon
|Protected fuel tanks, 5 mm hull floor anti-mine protection as standard. Other ballistic protection options available
|Semi-elliptical leaf springs and shock absorbers for wheels (front), modified (shortened) CVRT Scorpion tracks (rear)
|70% gradient (31.5 deg. slope)
|Tilt Angle (side slope)
|100% gradient (45 degree)
Additional historical photo:
- Laird Centaur - Tank Encyclopedia (Lots of info on the project)
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DgBkSBk2BoA&ab_channel=ArmouredArchives (Armoured archives video on the centaur)
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=luTIPzwXJEQ&ab_channel=TheTankMuseum (Tank museum video on the centaur)