FV4017 Tank Medium, Centurion Mark 13 (E1975.39)
The Mark 13 not only had thicker armour and better fuel capacity, it also mounted the excellent 105mm L7 gun and was provided with a ranging machine-gun (just above and to the left of the co-axial machine-gun). This additional weapon was linked to the main gun and provided the gunner with an easy and accurate means of engaging a target. He would fire the ranging machine-gun first, and when that hit the target he knew that his main gun would strike the same place.
The Mark 13 can also be distinguished by the large spotlight fitted to the turret. This could provide conventional white light or an infra-red beam for night fighting. It was adopted as a result of British experience in Korea and that of the Americans and Australians in Vietnam. Infra-red filters were also fitted for night driving and these may be seen as the outermost headlamps each side, on the front of the tank.
This tank was completed as a Mark 8, upgunned and uparmoured to become a Mark 10, and then fitted with a ranging gun and infra red equipment, becoming a Mark 13. It was the last Centurion gun tank to fire in British Army Service.
Precise Name: FV4017, Tank, Medium Centurion Mark 13
The Mark 13 was the ultimate British Centurion gun tank, although other armies continued to improve the design’s inherent potential.
It was developed by modifying the Centurion Mark 10 to incorporate a 12.7mm (0.5in) calibre ranging machine gun for the main gun, a searchlight that could emit white light or infra-red light for night fighting and infra-red filters on the outermost headlights on each side for night driving.
The ranging machine gun was mounted in the gun mantlet above and to the left of the co-axial machine gun. The gunner fired the ranging machine gun first and when that hit the target he knew that the main gun would strike in exactly the same place, as the ballistic path of projectiles from both guns was identical. The ranging machine gun had a maximum range of 1,800 metres
Designed by the Royal Ordnance Factories, the L7 105mm main gun fired a range of ammunition types, including Armour Piercing Discarding Sabot, Armour Piercing Discarding Sabot Fin Stabilised and High Explosive Squash Head rounds. The Mark 13 carried 70 rounds of 105mm ammunition. Armour Piercing Discarding Sabot Rounds had an effective range of 1,800 metres, while the High Explosive Squash Head rounds were still effective at 4,000 metres.
The L7 gun was very effective and was very widely used. It was manufactured under license in the USA and Israel and was fitted to many tanks, including the Leopard 1, the M48, the M60A1 and A3, the Merkava 1, the M1 Abrams, the S Tank, the Type 74 and the Swiss Panzer 61 and Panzer 68 and the Chinese Type 69.
Many features of the Centurion were little changed throughout its long life; these included the welded boat shaped hull, the Horstmann suspension and the Rolls Royce Meteor engine. The Centurion’s main weaknesses were its short operational range, (improved from the Mark 7 onwards), low speed and lack of agility due to the relatively low power of the Meteor engine.
The continual process of upgrading of the Centurion’s armament, fire control equipment and armour maintained the tank’s effectiveness throughout its’ service life. Replaced as a gun tank in the British Army by the Chieftain Main Battle Tank from the late 1960s, specialised versions remained in the front line until the 1990s.
The gun tank continued to serve in many foreign armies for many years, and was often extensively rebuilt. In all 4,423 Centurions were produced between 1945 and 1962, of which 2,500 were exported to 17 countries. It was the most widely used Western tank of its generation.
The Tank Museum’s Centurion Mark 13 started life as a Mark 8. It was then up-gunned and up-armoured into a Mark 10 before being finally converted into a Mark 13 by the addition of the ranging machine gun and infrared vision equipment. It was the last Centurion gun tank to fire its main gun in the British Army.
The Mark 13 is one of four Centurions displayed in the Tank Museum; the others are a Mark 1 (E1951.34) and two Mark 3s, one of which is in Korean War markings, (E1970.151) while the other is cut in two to reveal its anatomy, (E1984.235).
Summary text by Mike Garth V1.0