Personal Interest - Cancelled/Unbuilt British Army Projects

This blog show cases  a few of the unrealised projects that were either studied or developed for the British Army but due to changing requirements or budget constraints were never pursued. This draws from different references including; secret-projects forum; ukarmedforcescommentary; tanknutdave and flight-global archive.


The British MBT-80 was planned as a replacement for the Chieftain MBT. The Chieftain had patrolled  along the border between West and East Germany through out the 60’s and 70’s as a MBT, its replacement was scheduled for the mid 80’s to take on the might of the Soviet Armies MBT’s like the T-72 and T-80. The replacement for the Chieftain had to be capable of being fitted with Chobham armour. 

The design of the MBT-80 was never finalised nor working prototypes built, though there were two test rigs built used for experimenting and testing systems/equipment that would have been used on the MBT80 if it had entered production.

The new tank was to have the latest variant of Chobham armour, independent gunner’s and commander’s sights and an advanced power pack (~1,500 hp engine with new TN38 transmission). The fire control system was to include the “STAMP (Sight, Thermal, Armoured, Periscope), with a CO2 laser rangefinder, hence called STAMPLAR”. This sight wasn’t fully panoramic but could traverse 45 degrees to the left and right of the bore-sight  It was located on the loader’s side of the turret due to its size. 

A combination of factors led to the MBT-80 being cancelled and replaced by the Shir-2 later Challenger MBT. Though with the Challenger 2 many of the systems trialled and tested in the MBT-80 would come into service.  

Warrior tracked armoured vehicle unbuilt versions

The MoD started to make proposals for their future APC requirement from 1967 until 1971 as a replacement for the FV430 family of AFV. GKN were selected to undertake competitive studies and subsequently won the bidding for the contract in 1976 and production begun in 1979, where it was called the MCV-80. It had to meet several criteria, firstly it had to have the capacity for ten infantry men which was to inc the crew and their equipment, secondly it had to be able to match the speed of the newly appointed British Army MBT, the Challenger 1, thirdly its protection had to be strong enough to with stand indirect artillery, hand held rockets and small arms fire. It also had to be versatile in the jobs it could be used for, such as a support maintenance vehicle or air defence, creating its own family of different versions of the vehicle.
In 1984 GKN had completed its contractual obligation and produced 12 MCV-80’s, four of which participated in exercise Lionheart in Germany to see if they could match the speed of the Challenger 1’s and in the same year the British Army welcomed the MCV-80 into service, were it was renamed The Warrior.
Initial orders by the MOD for the Warrior were 1053 vehicles, made up of seven variations, but this number was reduced and by 1995 the British Army had received 789 Warriors. 7 variations of the Warrior produced, WR Section Vehicle (WR510) WR Infantry Command Vehicle (WR511) WR MILAN Vehicle (WR510) WR Repair (WR512) WR Recovery (WR513) WR Observation Post Vehicle (OPV) WR Battery Command Vehicle (BCV).

At one point the Warrior was planned to replace all variants of the FV430 family. But due to budget constraints it was only a partial replacement and continued to serve alongside the FV430 family. Also, some the roles the Warrior was proposed for were used by different vehicles instead.


British Aerospace's Military Aircraft Division during the late 80s created design studies for a Small Agile Battlefield Aircraft (Saba). The Saba was intended to meet the evolving and increasing threat posed over the battlefield by attack helicopters, in particular the air-to-air capable Mil Mi-28 Havoc, tilt-rotor aircraft such as the 15-seat Mil Mi-30 (which never entered service) or 30-seat Mi-32, and cruise missiles.

Studies indicated that the Saba be capable of a 180° turn in five-seconds at combat speeds, with a minimum turning radius of 500ft. It will be able to take off in 1,000ft from a soft field, transiting at 400kt and loitering for four hours.

Saba's armament comprises six AIM-132 advanced short-range air-to-air missiles and  an internal 25 mm cannon with 150 rounds. An infrared seeker/laser designator ranger is mounted in the nose. The primary role of the Saba will be to intercept and destroy enemy helicopters crossing the Forward Line of Own Troops (Flot), either on close air support or combat air patrol. "The combination of low wing loading, advanced wing design, and high power-to-weight ratio will provide an unbeatable advantage in combat manoeuvrability over even the most agile battlefield helicopters of the present and the foreseeable future at both short and long range.

The design was pitched to the US airforce, RAF and the Army Air Corp. Though with the end of the cold war the design was shelved.

Several airframe configurations were considered.  Examples include the first, design P .1238, had a pod/twin-boom layout with a single-disc pusher unducted fan. The P.1238 had a maximum take-off weight of 5,034 kg and a wing loading of about 40-451b/ft2. Its metal airframe was basically stable and would have needed a fly by-wire system to produce carefree-handling with high agility. The war-load was six missiles, two under each boom and one on each wingtip. A bubble canopy ensured good all-round vision. 
The P.1234-1 was a tailless delta design weighing 5,754 kg  with a wing area of 35 • 95 m , and powered by a 25-4kN Rolls-Royce Adour turbofan.  At this time helicopter, suppression was regarded as the main role, and the armament consisted of two air-to-air missiles and a 25 mm cannon mounted in a belly  mounted cupola that could be trained through 360°. The idea was that the aircraft could engage targets through-out a spherical envelope by combining the cannon's 360° traverse and the aircraft's 360° of roll.

The design would later be expanded to include the ability to launch attacks on columns of Soviet and Warsaw Pacts tanks. Using high velocity cannon fire and the then in development merlin mortar round. 

Royal Ordinance Merlin Mortar Round

The British Royal Ordnance 81 mm Merlin millimetric radar guided round was one of the first-generation smart mortar rounds. It was developed at considerable expense by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) but a production order was never placed because of the high cost of the weapon. Merlin had a range of 4 km  Guidance was by millimetric radar, seeking its' own target within a 330 x 330 yard (300 m x 300 m) area at the top of the trajectory. Service entry was projected 'in the 1990s'. 

There where severe problems in reducing the size of the millimetric radar components to a sufficient level for use in a round that has a max diameter of 81 mm  it was feasible but costly and of course would delay the programme for a considerable while. It was basically cancelled the day the Berlin wall came down. The reason why the Merlin was cancelled was because of economy.  It was a round designed specifically to counter tanks. Because it was designed primarily for the defensive battle against attacking Warsaw Pact columns of tanks, when the Cold War ended, it was felt that its utility against other targets was too limited and so its development was discontinued.

BAe Dynamics had an agreement with Thomson-Brandt to extend the Merlin technology to 120 mm mortars. Though today the technology has come to point where it is more economical to apply to mortar weapons partly due shrinkage of electronics  Also, on the focus on making weapons smarter and more precise in how they acquire and strike targets.


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