The original Chieftain Main Battle Tank weighed 55 tons combat-loaded and was armed with a 120 mm main gun, a 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun and a 7.62 mm anti-aircraft gun. Powered by a Leyland 750 hp 6 cylinder diesel engine, it had a road speed of about 30 mph and a range of action of about 280 miles. The tank had a crew of four and was equipped with night vision equipment.
The development of the Chieftain with a 1000hp engine and enhanced transmission was a project by Vickers Defence Industries, in partnership with the German companies RENK, MTU and Krupp-MAK, to offer a significant performance and reliability upgrade for existing Chieftain tanks. The first customer was to be Kuwait immediately before the first Gulf War. The MoD expressed an interest in upgrading their engineer vehicles and the BARV (Beach Armoured Recovery Vehicle) of the Royal Marines. Subsequently most of Kuwait’s Chieftain fleet was scrapped. The improved design was not developed further, however, leaving this unique prototype as the most powerful Chieftain Tank ever built.
The prototype was donated by Vickers Defence Industries to the Museum and delivered on 15th January 2002. The German engine and transmissions include features which are still regarded as industrial secrets and there are strict conditions relating to access attached to the donation. The tank, which still functions, has been partially restored with support from RENK, Vickers and 150 Regiment, Royal Logistics Corp.