The Meteor Crusader– The A15 Crusader with the 600 horsepower Rolls Royce Meteor

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A15 Crusaders modified with the Rolls Royce Meteor engine undergoing testing. Photo from Ed Francis

History

Development of the Crusader began in 1938, when Nuffield Mechanizations and Aero Ltd produced a design for a heavy cruiser tank utilising Christie Suspension. This design was not accepted by the British Government, who instead requested that Nuffield aided production of the A13 ‘Covenanter’ tank. Nuffield somewhat obliged, and started working on their own version of the Covenanter. This new design birthed the A15 ‘Crusader’.

Within the British Army doctrine, ‘cruiser’ tanks were expected to play the role of mechanised cavalry, and the Crusader was no exception to this. It was designed with comparatively thin armour, with only 40mm of flat plate on the front of the hull, but with a decently powerful 300hp Liberty Engine, Christie Suspension, 5 Road Wheels, and a top speed of 42 kph on roads.

Production was commenced and the Crusader entered service in 1940, first being deployed in early 1941 against advancing axis forces in North Africa. The Crusader saw moderate success in its early days, but it was let down by reliability issues and its anaemic armament (the 2 pounder). However, the Crusader quickly saw iterative improvements, with the mk. II providing additional armour and improving reliability, and the mk. III improving the armament to the famous 6 pounder, and increasing armour yet again. Several other variants of the Crusader were also developed, including anti-air, command, and recon vehicles.

However, due to the rapid tank development in Europe at this time, the Crusader was very quickly facing obsolescence. Compared to contemporary Panzers and T 34s, it was hopelessly outgunned, out-armoured, and still plagued by reliability issues stemming from its outdated Liberty engine. Britain needed a new tank, and a new engine. The solution quite literally fell from the sky.

It was decided that the most viable engine for a new Armoured Fighting Vehicle was to be the Rolls Royce Merlin, currently in service with the RAF in planes like the Spitfire. Engineers at Rolls Royce designed and constructed an un-supercharged Merlin Engine, sourcing parts from wrecked airplanes. The un-supercharged Merlin, known as the Meteor, was able to produce an outstanding 600 b.h.p., but its performance in ground vehicles was uncertain. Without the A27 Cromwell project anywhere near completion, alternative vehicles were required to prove the Meteor’s capabilities.

Through a challenging design and modification process, this engine was fitted into a Crusader hull for testing. Though some aspects of the tank were modified out of necessity (such as the air filters being moved from the top of the engine deck to inside the engine compartment), most major components, including the driveshaft and gearbox, remained the same.

The Meteor Crusader was dispatched to Aldershot proving grounds upon completion. As part of endurance tests, the Army decided to put the Meteor through their standard speed course. I’d recommend reading pages 150 - 151 of Silver Ghosts and Silver Dawn, attached below, because I could not put it in better words myself. To summarise to speed course: The Crusader blitzed down the straight at a speed of over 50mph, caused spectators to flee in panic, and then failed to make the corner at the end of the straight and careened into adjacent woodland.

The testing was overall a huge success. The tank covered 1000 miles in 43 days, exceeding speeds of 40kph cross-country. Unfortunately, after several months of development and improvements, the project was dropped due to a lack of support from Leyland, a major tank and engine manufacturer and the time. Nonetheless, this ingenuity and excellent design work deserves to the recognised.

Why should it be added to War Thunder

In-game, Britain lacks a late-war light tank, an equivalent to say the American M24 Chafee or the Soviet BT-7A (F-32). Britain could very reasonably be given a Chafee, as several hundred were operated by Britain during the war, and this would fill the gap in the tech tree. However, the Chafee is an extremely widespread vehicle in game, being present in 4 tech-trees (with half a Chafee in the French tree, too). Because of this, adding yet another one to the British tree is, to be brutally honest, not particularly interesting, and it would contribute even further to the lend-lease copy paste.

This is doubly true when Britain developed and tested a domestic alternative – the Meteor Crusader. This would be an excellent vehicle to round off the Crusader line and provide Britain with a ≈3.7 BR light tank.

Specifications

Armour: 20/14/14 Hull, 30/28/28 Turret

Crew: 5

Engine: Rolls Royce Meteor @ 600 hp

Primary Armament: Ordnance QF 2pdr

Secondary Armament: 2x7.92mm BESA (3375 RPG)

Auxiliaries: Smoke grenades and launchers

Top Speed: 50mph

Elevation: -15/+20

Rotation: 24 degrees/sec

Armament

The armament of this vehicle at the time of testing is the Ordnance QF 2pdr, familiar to British tankers in War Thunder from vehicles like the Matilda, Valentine, and Crusader II.

Images

The legendary Rolls Royce Meteor Engine


The Crusader II

Sources

The Engineer July-December 1944: Vol 178 : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive Page 372 – 373. PDF available here

Silver Ghosts and Silver Dawn. William Arthur Robotham (1970). Page 146 - 151. PDF available here

https://web.archive.org/web/20080802094057/https://www.rrec.org.uk/History/Clan_Foundry_Belper.php

https://www.theengineer.co.uk/content/news/this-week-in-1944-the-rolls-royce-meteor-tank-engine/

The 27 litre Rolls-Royce Meteor Engine -

Cruiser Mk.VI Crusader (1940)

Cruiser Tank Mk VI Crusader (A15)

Cruiser Tank Mk.VI Crusader Mk.III

1 Like

Yes, but Cromtilda when?

Somewhere, Rosehip is drooling. +1

2 Likes

You have the service number for the upengined crusader?

Just to clarify the version that has been accepted will be with the 2 pounder gun as that is what was fitted to the trials vehicles. (credit to Ed Francis for the picture)

4 Likes

nice find :)

Curse you, Ed! Nah, just kidding, I’m glad we have a picture now

Is it possible for you mods to edit my post after the 24 hour limit has passed? If so, I would be happy for you guys to add that photo into my main post (with credit to Ed Francis) and update the armament details.

Can you not edit it? If you can’t I can make the changes

I believe authors of posts and comments can only make edits for up to 24 hours after they have been posted, after that they are locked.

it is until the next tier up then you get like a month or something, its why i post additional photos below my older posts if i find them

Ah I see, thank you for clarifying.

Also, well done on getting the Scorpion 90 suggestion through, I tried myself a few weeks ago but it got rejected. I have some photos from British Army Equipment Exhibition, Aldershot, 1988 if you are interested.

sure toss them my way, i am just autistic enough to know the demonstrator differed from the export ones so it worked out :)_

From my understanding about the Crusader with the Meteor engine, the variant of the tank, is one of the first prototypes that was modified.

Source:
David Fletcher
Crusader and Covenanter Cruiser Tanks 1939-45
ISBN: 978 1 85532 512 8