British Armour 1991 Gulf War

Operation Granby, commonly abbreviated Op Granby, was the code name for the British military operations during the first Gulf War in 1991. During the ground phase, the British 1st Armoured Division took part in outflanking Iraqi forces. It participated in the Battle of Norfolk where British Challenger tanks destroyed approximately 300 Iraqi tanks and other vehicles, including achieving the longest-range tank-kill in the war. The British Army destroyed approximately three Iraqi divisions and overran elements of several others in 66 hours of combat.

The British 7th Armoured Division consisting of the 4th and 7th Armoured Brigades saw distinguished active service during WWII. The division was formed in Egypt during 1938 as the Mobile Division (Egypt). In February 1940, the name of the unit was changed to the 7th Armoured Division and it fought in most major battles of the North African Campaign, including Operation Crusader in November 1941 where it fought at Sidi Rezegh to try to relieve the besieged Commonwealth forces at Tobruk. Its actions in the Western Desert Campaign gained it the nickname the “Desert Rats” and its insignia became a red jerboa (a nocturnal rodent indigenous to North Africa). In 1942 after taking heavy combat losses, the 4th Armoured Brigade was refitted and became an independent armoured brigade but was still under the command of the 7th Armoured Division. In April 1943 during the final attacks on the Mareth line in southern Tunisia, the 4th Independent Armoured Brigade began wearing the “Black Rats” (Jerboa) emblem instead of 7th Armoured Division’s red “Desert Rats” one. Later the 4th Armoured Brigade and the 7th Armoured Division fought in the Italian Campaign during the early stages of the invasion of Italy then they were transported back to the UK where they prepared for the Normandy invasion. After landing in Normandy, they fought their way across Europe and was in Germany at the end of the war.

After the war, the 7th Armoured division remained in Germany as part of the occupation forces and then into the 1950s as part of the British Army of the Rhine standing guard against the Warsaw Pact. The British Army had reduced in size as its higher numbered divisions were removed from the order of battle. The division’s long and illustrious career finally came to an end in April 1958 when it was converted into the 5th Infantry Division. However, the 7th Armoured Brigade adopted its insignia and nickname, continuing the history of the famed division. The 7th and 22nd armoured brigades were assigned to the British 1st Armoured Division when it was reformed in 1976. After being briefly converted to “Task Force Alpha” in the late 1970s, the 7th Armoured Brigade was reinstated in 1981 and assigned to the 1st Armoured Division again.

Saudi Arabia

The invasion of Kuwait by the Iraqi Army on 2 August 1990 led to the largest deployment of British forces into a theater of war since WWII. In September 1990, Britain announced that the 7th Armoured Brigade will join the Coalition forces of 34 nations in Saudi Arabia. Later, in November 1990, Britain announced that the 4th Armoured Brigade and the HQ 1st Armoured Division, and divisional troops such as reconnaissance and heavy artillery units, would reinforce the British troops in the Gulf under the code name of Operation “Granby”. Most of the British forces deployed were drawn from units stationed in Germany. After the announcement of their contribution, the units were busy packing, repainting their vehicles in desert camouflage and conducting final training, including extensive live firing on the ranges. The first British troops departed from Germany on October 11. While the troops were flown in, all of more than 5000 vehicles were shipped to Saudi Arabia and arrived at the port of Al Jubal in December 1990. Upon leaving the port, the British units moved to their formation areas to setup operations and begin their desert training.

Film: Gulf War And Op Granby

British 1st Armoured Division

COIC: Major General Sir Rupert Anthony Smith

4th Armoured Brigade

  • 4 Brigade Headquarters & Signals
  • 14th/20th King’s Hussars – 43 Challengers, 8 Scorpions
  • 1st Battalion, The Royal Scots – 45 Warriors, 8 Scimitars
  • 3rd Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers – 45 Warriors, 8 Scimitars
  • 16th/5th The Queen’s Royal Lancers – 16 Scimitars (1 Squadron)
  • 2nd Field Regiment RA – 24 M109
  • 23 Engineer Regiment – ARVE, AVLB, CET
  • 46th Air Defense Battery – Javelin (man-portable surface-to-air missile launchers)

7th Armoured Brigade “Desert Rats”

  • 7 Brigade Headquarters & Signals
  • The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards (Carabiniers and Greys) – 57 Challengers, 8 Scorpions
  • The Queen’s Royal Irish Hussars (QRIH) – 57 Challengers, 8 Scorpions
  • 1st Battalion, The Staffordshire Regiment – 45 Warriors
  • The Queen’s Dragoon Guards – 16 Scimitars, 4 Sultans (A Squadron)
  • 40th Field Regiment RA – 24 M109
  • 21 Engineer Regiment – ARVE, AVLB, CET
  • 10th Air Defense Battery – Javelin

Divisional Troops

  • 1st Armoured Division HQ and Signals Regiment
  • 16th/5th The Queen’s Royal Lancers – 24 Scorpions, 8 Scimitars, 16 Strikers (minus 1 Squadron)
  • 12th Air Defense Regiment RA – 24 Towed & Tracked Rapiers
  • 26th Field Regiment RA – 16 M109
  • 32nd Heavy Regiment RA – 12 M110
  • 39th Heavy Regiment RA – 12 MLRS
  • 32 Armoured Engineer Regiment – ARVE, AVLB, CET
  • 4 Regiment Army Air Corps – 18 Tow Lynx, 18 Gazelle (helicopters)

The massed armour and support vehicles of the British 1st Armoured Division at a staging area prior to Operation Desert Sabre and the liberation of Kuwait.

The Vll Corps, deployed on the right flank of the XVIII Airborne Corps, consisted of the US 1st Infantry Division (Mechanized), the US 1st Cavalry Division (Armored), the US 1st and 3d Armored Divisions, the British 1st Armoured Division, the US 2nd Armored Cavalry, and the 11th Aviation Brigade. On the right flank of the VII Corps were the Egyptian, Syrian, and Saudi-Kuwait units of the Joint Forces Command North.

The major ground offensive was launched at 0300 hours (H Hour) on ‘G Day’ Sunday, 24 February 1991. The US divisions of VII Corps breached the enemy mine fields, sand berms and trenches along the Saudi Arabia/Iraq border and overran the Iraqi infantry divisions and advanced north to seek and engage the Iraqi Republican Guard armor divisions.

At 0315 hours on Monday, February 25, the British division crossed their line of departure. The 4th Brigade was used for breakout operations and to clear the ground at the breach while the armour heavy 7th Brigade was used for tank on tank engagements. With helicopters providing overhead reconnaissance, the tanks advanced forward at speed. The first contact was not until 1628 hours when an Iraqi trench position was engaged with machine gun fire before surrendering. The 1st Armoured Division broke into the western flank of the Iraqi 48th Infantry Division which was commanded by Brigadier General Saheb Mohammed Alaw. That night, the Iraqi 48th Division was destroyed and General Alaw was captured. The British cleared two lines of enemy positions during close combat engagements. Several Iraqi companies of T-55 tanks were destroyed and other elements of the division engaged the Iraqi 31st Infantry Division.

On February 26, British artillery units unleashed an hour long artillery barrage on Iraqi positions. It was the greatest British artillery display since WWII or Korea. That night, the 7th Brigade fought a tank battle against an Iraqi tank battalion from the Iraqi 52nd Armored Division. After 90 minutes of battle over 50 Iraqi tanks and armored personnel carriers were destroyed. That same night the 4th Brigade destroyed a headquarters and artillery site belonging to the 807th Brigade of the Iraqi 48th Infantry Division. British infantry units cleared Iraqi defensive positions which were occupied by the Iraqi 803rd Infantry Brigade.

After 66 hours of combat, the division destroyed two Iraqi infantry divisions (the 48th and the 31st) and the Iraqi 52nd Armored Division in several sharp engagements. For several hours, the 4th Brigade engaged in a battle against a battalion of dug in Iraqi soldiers and T-55 tanks. In the process, the Brits while moving 180 miles (289.68 km) through enemy held territory overran elements of at least three infantry divisions belonging to the Iraqi VII Corps and destroyed approximately 120 Iraqi tanks and twice that number of armored and support vehicles.

Video: A Squadron The Life Guards Gulf War Tour 1990/91

Video: Iraq T55 tank destroyed by British forces the Gulf war Desert Storm 1991

Video: Desert Rats, gulf war, Rifle Company attack with Tank support

Video: Gulf War British Mechanized Combat Infantry with Tanks


The FV4030/4 Challenger 1 was the main battle tank (MBT) used by the British Army from 1983 to 2001, when it was superseded by the Challenger 2. The most advanced aspect of the Challenger design was its Chobham armour, which gave protection far superior to any monolithic Rolled Homogeneous Armour (RHA), the then standard western tank armor material. This armor was later adopted by other tanks designs, including the US M1 Abrams. In action, the Global Positioning System (GPS) and Thermal Observation and Gunnery System (TOGS) fitted to the Challenger proved to be decisive, allowing attacks to be made at night, in poor visibility and through smoke screens.

Video: Challenger 1 Tank Walk Around


  • Crew: 4 (Commander, Gunner, Loader and Driver)
  • Main Armament: fully-stabilized Royal Ordnance L11A5 120mm rifled gun (52 rounds)
  • Secondary Armament: Two 7.62 mm machine guns (4000 rounds)
  • Automatic fire suppression and NBC protection systems
  • Hydro-pneumatic suspension system
  • Engine: Rolls-Royce Condor CV12 TCA turbocharged diesel engine, 1200 hp
  • Auxiliary power unit
  • Weight: 62 tonnes (70 tonnes with additional armour)
  • Operational range: 450 km (280 miles) on road
  • Maximum speed: 56 kilometers per hour (35 MPH)

Challenger tanks of the 14th/20th King’s Hussars, 4th Armoured Brigade arrived in Saudi Arabia. Grease had to be cleaned off, sand filters etc. fitted before the regiment was moved by tank transporters into the desert. Here the crews are mounting their exterior stowage on their tanks. The main gun of the closest Challenger is at the 5 o’clock position.

Two British tank crewmen display a decoy painted `Challenger’ designed to confuse enemy gunners. This is similar to the dummy tanks the British used in the North Africa campaign in WWII.


All Challengers in the Gulf were up-graded to Mk. III standards which included fitting two 200 Liters (52.83 Gallons) drums on the rear for increasing their operational range. The black chevron or inverted V was the Coalition Invasion Marking applied to all Coalition vehicles just before the start of the ground war.

This Challenger was Brigadier General Christopher John Anthony Hammerbeck’s tank, the commander of the 4th Armoured Brigade. Note the Coalition Invasion Markings on the turret and hull sides.

The Challenger can be fitted with a front-mounted dozer blade or mine clearing systems. This Challenger of the 7th Armoured Brigade Headquarters troop has a dozer blade mounted on the front hull.


A 7th Armoured Brigade Challenger flying a Union Jack flag paused during the advance. Note the Coalition invasion markings on the side hull skirt and turret are not completely filled in.

A Challenger tank moving at high speed. Note the rolled up camouflage netting snaking along the hull of the tank.


A Challenger tank of the squadron commander of D Squadron, Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, moves into a base camp along with other support units.

Three Challenger tanks at ease in a defensive leaguer where each tank covers 120 degrees arc of fire. Tarps are setup beside the tanks to provide the crews some shade from the hot sun. Note the crews sleeping bags or bedding are draped on the gun barrels.

A Challenger of the 14th/20th King’s Hussars under camouflage netting in the desert during a rest period. On the left is one of the tank crew asleep on a camp bed (cot).


A Challenger has its power pack (engine) changed in the desert by a Chieftain Armoured Repair and Recovery Vehicle (ARRV). The engine and transmission are mounted in one module which can be replaced in the field within 45 minutes.


A Challenger waits by the Basrah-Kuwait Highway (80) northwest of Kuwait City following the retreat of Iraqi forces. In the background on the left is a British FV432 armored personnel carrier ambulance and behind the tank commander is a US built M548 tracked cargo carrier. Iraqi troops fled from Kuwait in whatever civilian vehicles they could find, including the destroyed yellow garbage truck in the background.

Lieutenant Colonel Arthur George Denaro is standing next to Challenger named “CHURCHILL”, the traditional name for the QRIH’s commanding officer’s tank. It has been up armoured and carries the inverted V coalition invasion marking. Just prior to the Gulf war, Denaro recovered from a polo accident where he had broken his skull in four places requiring a metal plate inserted.

World Record

A Challenger tank in head-to-head battle achieved the longest range confirmed kill of the war. The Challenger was able to achieve this feat due its 120mm gun barrel was rifled compared to the US M1A1 Abram’s 120mm gun barrel which was smooth bored.

On 26 February 1991, Intelligence reports of an Iraqi counterattack began to arrive at 7th Armoured Brigade headquarters. D Squadron, Queen’s Royal Irish Hussars under Captain (acting Major) Toby Madison picked up fourteen thermal image contacts at maximum range and engaged them. The battle went on for 90 minutes. Captain Tim Purbrick commanding 4th Troop fired at a dug in Iraqi T-55 tank. His first and second rounds failed to hit the T-55 in its hull down position. His third round finally penetrated the T-55’s glacis plate and exited through the gearbox at the rear, igniting its ammunition destroying the tank at a range of 3.6 km (2.24 miles). However there was no time to confirm the kill as Purbrick spotted another T-55 tank directly to his front at a range of 4.7 km (2.9 miles). Purbrick fired at the second T-55 and destroyed it with one shot which was more than three times the normal firing range of the Challenger’s 120mm gun.

Video: The Longest Recorded Tank-on-Tank Hit | February 1991

Purbrick’s kill would been a world record, however, the Guinness World Records recorded the official world record as:

The longest documented range at which a tank has scored a hit on another is 4.1 km (2.54 miles) by a British Challenger tank of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards during the land offensive of the Gulf War (24 to 28 February 1991). The Iraqi tank was a Russian-made T-55.

Guinness World Records as the authority on the exact requirements for them and with whom records reside would send arbitrators to the events to verify the authenticity of the record attempt. There probably was not enough or no evidence for the arbitrator to confirm the kill. Apparently, the tank commander’s word was not good enough for Guinness. Guinness recorded the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards kill because there was evidence to confirm it. Regardless of which regiment’s Challenger achieved the world record, both regiments at the time belonged to the British 7th Armoured Brigade, the “Desert Rats”.


The FV510 Warrior tracked vehicle is a series of British armoured vehicles originally developed to replace the FV430 series armoured vehicles which was service since the 1960s. The project began in 1972 and the Warrior became the MCV-80, Mechanized Combat Vehicle of the 1980s. GKN Defense won the production contract in 1984 and the Warrior was accepted for service with the British Army in November 1984. Later GKN Defence was purchased by BAE Systems. The Warrior is probably the best vehicle in it’s class. Brigadier Hammerbeck had stated that at no time were more than two of his 155 Warriors down during 4th Brigade’s 350 km (217.48 miles) advance under fire.

The Warrior was fitted with a NBC protection system which protected against (N)uclear, (B)iological and (C)hemical threats and hazards. A hinged cover plate on the left side of the hull was for access to the NBC pack. The Warrior’s fire protection system used Halogen gas as an extinguishing agent and was located in the front of the vehicle behind the engine compartment. It can be triggered by two external handles positioned on the left and right hull sides or by an internal operating handle located in the driver’s compartment.

Warriors waiting to be shipped to Saudi Arabia. On the left side of the hull, the flap cover of the emergency handle for the fire protection system is located above the first road wheel. Note on the rear, the mud guards are pinned up.

In Saudi Arabia during training in the desert, the Warrior’s clean lines were quickly covered by a mountain of exterior stowage.

Throughout most of the training conducted by the British Forces in the desert prior to the ground war, Warriors were seen without add-on passivearmor, during the war all infantry vehicles, as well as the artillery variants were fitted with a Chobham-type add-on armor kit. The existence of this kit was a kept secret by the few people in the know but a media hacker leaked the secret a couple of weeks before the January 15th UN deadline.

Troops work to install Chobham passive add-on armour onto Warriors of the Fire Support Company of the 1st Battalion, The Staffordshire Regiment. This armour was installed on the vehicles by their crews with the assistance of REME technicians just days before the ground offensive started. After the soldiers had gained experience in handling and installing the protection kit, the vehicles were fitted in four hours instead of the original estimated twelve hours. On the left is a FV512 Mechanized Combat Repair Vehicle.

The FV512 Mechanized Combat Repair Vehicle is based on the Warrior chassis and was assigned to Warrior squadrons. It is equipped with a 6.5-tonne crane with power tools and is capable of towing a trailer carrying two Warrior power packs or one Challenger power pack. Note the tow bars mounted across the front hull.


  • Crew: 3 (commander, gunner, driver) + 7 troopers
  • Armour: Aluminium and appliqué
  • Main Armament: 30 mm L21A1 RARDEN cannon
  • Secondary Armament: coaxial 7.62 mm L94A1 chain gun, 7.62 mm MG
  • Weight: 25.4 tonnes (25.0 long tons; 28.0 short tons)
  • Engine: Perkins V-8 Condor Diesel, 550 hp (410 kW)
  • Suspension: Torsion bar with hydraulic damper
  • Operational Range: 410 miles (660 km)
  • Maximum speed: 46 mph (75 km/h) on road, 31 mph (50 km/h) off road

Ready for the offensive with additional armour and the Coalition invasion markings, this Warrior prepares to move out. The hole on the forward armour skirt allowed access to the external operating handle on the hull for the fire extinguisher system.

It’s not often that the Americans covet an armour kit of another nation, but they held the British Warrior in higher esteem than their own M2 Bradley IFV. The US M2A2 Bradley entered service in 1988 with improved passive armor, but not Chobham armor.

This Warrior was used by the commanding officer of 40 Field Regiment, Royal Artillery during operations in Iraq and Kuwait.


The standard Coalition invasion marking was meant to be of a prescribed size and thickness. This Warrior has it taped on the stowage box mounted above the front left fender, but the correct larger marking had not been applied. Note the hessian tape camouflage netting applied to the turret and all the Jerry cans mounted on the hull side.

Warriors and their crews of C Company, 1st Battalion, the Staffordshire Regiment are making final preparations just hours before advancing into Iraqi territory. The troops are putting on their NBC suits to protect themselves against the possible threat of Iraqi chemical weapons. Note the covers on the headlights of the first vehicle are designed to defuse their light.

This Warrior belonging to the 1st Battalion, The Royal Scots, 4th Armoured Brigade has captured Iraqi troops. Rucksacks, tents and other equipment stored on the outside of the vehicle are wrapped in Chemical Agent Resistant Material (CARM). Note that the officer in the foreground wears a NBC suit in DPM (Disruptive Pattern Material) rather than in desert camouflage, over which he wears the newly introduced combat body armour.

This Warrior of the Royal Scots has halted somewhere on the Basrah-Kuwait highway northwest of Kuwait City. It carries a small Coalition invasion marking beneath the Jerry cans and a larger marking is painted on canvas (probably CARM) covering a field modified Jerry can rack on the hull side. Note the storage box mounted above the front right fender appears to have a smiling face painted on it.

This Warrior of the Staffordshire Regiment is resting during the offensive. Stenciled on the lower edge of the armour panel is “I STAFFORDS” over “BFPO 38”. A sleeping bag is draped over the gun barrel of the 30mm cannon.

Unfortunately there were a couple of friendly fire incidents involving Warriors. This is the reason why many British vehicles started to fly large flags.

  • A British officer was severely injured when his FV510 Warrior was attacked by a Challenger tank of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards.
  • A US Air Force Fairchild A-10 Thunderbolt II “Warthog” tank killer attacked British Warriors, resulting in 9 British killed and numerous casualties.

No Challengers were lost to enemy fire, although it is believed that only one Warrior was knocked out by enemy fire when it was hit by an enemy Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) from an unexpected quarter. Private Carl Moult of the Staffords, who was dismounted at the time, was tragically killed but the Warrior fire was extinguished by one of his mates and the crew were rescued.

The Imperial War Museum has incorrectly captioned this US M2 Bradley as being a British Warrior Infantry Fighting Vehicle. This Bradley most likely belonged to the US 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment which was on the left flank of the British units to the north.

This is my close up of IWM GLF 128.

CVR(T) Series

The Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked) or CVR(T) was a series of armoured fighting vehicles (AFV)s in service with the British Army and other NATO nations. They were small, highly mobile, air-transportable armoured vehicles designed by Alvis in the 1960s which shared common automotive components and suspension. Aluminium armour was used to keep the weight of the vehicle down.

The CVR(T) series includes:

  • FV101 Scorpion light reconnaissance tank
  • FV102 Striker anti–tank guided missile vehicle
  • FV103 Spartan armoured personnel carrier
  • FV104 Samaritan armoured ambulance
  • FV105 Sultan command and control vehicle
  • FV106 Samson armoured recovery vehicle
  • FV107 Scimitar light reconnaissance tank


The FV101 Scorpion entered into service with the British Army in 1973 and was withdrawn from service in 1995. More than 3000 were produced and used as a reconnaissance vehicle or a light tank. It holds the Guinness world record for the fastest production tank with a recorded speed of 82.23 km/h (51.10 mph) at Chertsey, Surrey, on 26 January 2002. It was armed with the low velocity 76mm L23A1 gun, which fired HE, HESH, smoke and canister rounds with internal storage of 40 or 42 rounds. A 7.62mm co-axial L7 GPMG (3000 rounds) was also mounted, as were two multi-barrelled smoke grenade dischargers, one on each side of the turret. It had a crew of three (commander, gunner and driver).

This Scorpion has the large Coalition Invasion Marking painted across the turret and hull side. Note the Union Jack flag on the rear.

An Irish Hussars Scorpion from the Recce Troop is surveying the damage inflicted upon an Iraqi tank unit following a night engagement.

The 1st Squadron RAF Regiment was flown from Germany to Al Qaysumah to reinforce the airbase. Equipped with Scorpion and Spartan armoured vehicles, the squadron reinforced Muharraq airfield on the island of Bahrain (off the coast of Saudi Arabia near Al Khobar). On the February 26, elements of the squadron moved across the border through ‘the breech’ into Iraq. Flight Lieutenant Brunt’s (call sign 41C) Combat Fighting Group was the first across, followed by Squadron Leader Hughes’s Land Rover Group.

These 1st Squadron Scorpions are moving up somewhere in the Saudi/Iraqi desert. The date and location are unknown.


The FV102 Striker was the anti-tank guided missile vehicle which was armed with the Swingfire missile system. It had five missiles ready to fire in a mounting at the rear of the vehicle, with another five missiles stowed inside. Secondary armament consisted of a commander’s 7.62 mm GPMG and multi-barrelled smoke grenade dischargers. The Striker was very similar to the Spartan in appearance and was only easily identifiable when the missile launch tubes were raised.


The FV103 Spartan was a small Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC). It carried seven troopers in all, the crew of three and four others in the rear compartment. The British Army used it to carry small specialized groups, such as engineer reconnaissance teams, air defense sections or mortar fire controllers.

This Spartan has a two-tone sand and desert pink camouflage paint scheme. The crew wears a mix of temperate and desert camouflage. Note the red air horn, used as a NBC alarm, stowed on the inside of the open rear door.


The FV104 Samaritan was the armoured ambulance version and 50 were produced for the British Army. In appearance it was similar to the Sultan Command and Control vehicle. The normal crew was the driver and commander who doubled as an orderly, but in combat a medical orderly was also carried. It can carry four stretchers and being an ambulance it is not armed except for multi-barrelled smoke grenade dischargers. The Red Cross and Red C resent markings indicate that this Samaritan belonged to a Royal Army Medical Corps unit.


The FV105 Sultan was the command and control vehicle based on the CVR(T) platform. It had a higher roof than the APC variants, providing a more comfortable “office space” inside. A large vertical map board and desk are located along one side, with a bench seat for three on the other side. Forward of this are positions for the radio operator and the vehicle commander, with provision for four radios. It carried mainly signalers and the main compartment was air conditioned for the communication equipment it carried. Armament consisted of a pintle mounted GPMG and multi-barrelled smoke grenade dischargers. The Sultan is the British equivalent of the US M577 Command Post Carrier based the M113 chassis.

This 7th Armoured Brigade Sultan command post is on the move during training. Note the red jerboa painted on the side hull.

The rear of the Sultan was designed to be extended by an attached tent to form a covered briefing area.


The FV106 Samson was an armoured recovery vehicle. The hull of the Spartan was adapted to contain a winch, which was operated to the rear of the vehicle. A hinged spade anchor was designed in two-halves to allow access to the rear door. Mounted on the side hull is the boom for the winch.


The FV107 Scimitar was very similar to the Scorpion but mounted a 30mm RARDEN cannon as its main weapon. Secondary armament consisted of a co-axial GPMG and multi-barrelled smoke grenade dischargers. Internal stowage was provided for 201 rounds of 30mm and 3000 rounds of 7.62mm GPMG ammunition.

By draping shredded hessian over the hull and turret of their Scimitar, the crew has broken up its outline appreciably.

A Scimitar with Coalition invasion markings flying a Union Jack flag. Note the spare road wheel mounted on the front fender and the spare track links on the hull side.


At the time of the 1991 Gulf War, the Ferret armoured car had been in British service for about 39 years and was the oldest vehicle type used by the Desert Rats. Commonly called the Ferret scout car, it was designed and built for reconnaissance purposes. The Ferret was produced between 1952 and 1971 by the UK company Daimler and it was widely used by regiments in the British Army, as well as the RAF Regiment. The crew was two 2 (commander, driver/radio operator) and the armament was a 7.62×51mm NATO GPMG.

An old vehicle got new technology. This Ferret Mk 1/1 is fitted with the latest Megellan GPS Satellite navigation system. The Magellan “Green Egg” is mounted beside the antenna mount.

Royal Artillery

During the 1991 Gulf war, the British Royal Artillery units were mainly equipped with US built M109/M110 Self Propelled Howitzers (SPH) and the M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS).

Video: UK M110 Artilery in action Gulf War 1991

The US built short-barrel 155mm M109 SPH entered British service in 1965 and was subsequently up-gunned to the long barrel versions, the M109A1 and later the M109A2. In 1994, all the M109s were sold to Austria.

Although the M109A2 had a very high profile, it was well liked by the crews as the large turret provided a fair amount of working space inside.

These M109A2s are in firing positions during the ground offensive.

These captured Iraqi M109s were claimed by the 40th Field Regiment, 7th Armoured Brigade. Some lucky units were able to take home more vehicles than what they arrived with.

The M110A2 203mm (8-inch) SPH is a US army vehicle that saw service in the British Army from around 1965. It was capable of firing nuclear shells and was intended for use well behind the front lines, hence the lack of crew protection.

M110A2s of the 32nd Heavy Regiment fires on Iraqi positions.


This M110A2 is in a firing position somewhere in the Kuwaiti desert with a M548 tracked cargo carrier in support. Beside the M110A2 is a tent for the gun crew. Note that the number “666” is painted on the side of the M110A2. 666 is called the “number of the beast” in (most manuscripts of) chapter 13 of the Book of Revelation of the New Testament, and it was also the British heavy metal band Iron Maiden’s third studio album “The Number of the Beast” released in 1982.

In 1989, the 39 Heavy Regiment took delivery of the US built M270 MLRS based on a stretched Bradley chassis, being given a year to convert, complete training and become operational. This was curtailed with the regiment deploying to Saudi Arabia as part of British 1st Armoured Division. The British MRLSs were first fired in anger, to soften up Iraqi positions, a couple days before the ground war began. The MRLS was a valuable asset due to its shoot and scoot capability. Without leaving the cab, the crew of three (driver, gunner and section chief) can fire up to 12 MLRS rockets in fewer than 60 seconds and seconds later the launcher can have vacated the firing position before enemy counter fire has locked onto its location.

The launcher can elevated to 60 degrees and transversed 360 degrees. It carried two pods with 6 launch tubes each. The rocket in each tube contained 644 M77 grenades (called “Steel Rain”). Three MLRSs firing an entire salvo would drop 23,184 grenades in the target area. After launching their rockets, the launchers immediately moved away to a reloading point where the reload time was 4 minutes by replacing the pods, then they would move to a new firing position.

A 39 Heavy Regiment MLRS probably at a reloading point during the ground offensive. The Coalition invasion marking was painted on the front of the cab and on the sides of the launcher. In the background is a Warrior.

Royal Engineers

During WWII, the Royal Engineers developed many special assault vehicles, the Armoured Vehicle, Royal Engineers (AVRE), Armored Vehicle Launched Bridge (AVLB) and the Armoured Recovery Vehicle (ARV) based on the Churchill and Sherman tank chassis, which were able to move forward in support of the main battle tanks with the same degree of mobility and protection. In the 1991 Gulf War, the next generations of these vehicles were employed by the British Army.

The successor to the Churchill AVRE was the Centurion AVRE 165. Although most of them were 30 years old in 1991, they were still formidable fighting vehicles.

The 165mm gun on the Centurion AVRE fires a 30kg High-explosive Squash Head (HESH) demolition charge over 2OOO m (2187 yards). This charge can be used to bring down bridges and take out fortifications. While HESH projectiles are not armour-piercing, they are capable of defeating armored targets by causing spall (fragments) which can injure or kill a vehicle’s occupants.

Centurion AVRE named “EASY POSSE” at Mutla Pass (north of Jahra) on the Basra-Kuwait highway at the end of war in early March 1991. It is helping clear abandoned and destroyed vehicles off the infamous “Highway of Death”.

The FV4205 Chieftain AVLB was originally designed to lay either the No. 8 (scissors) or No. 9 bridge over a gap under fire in about 3 minutes. Pictured here is the No. 9 bridge which was a one piece 13.4 m (43.96 feet) length bridge. This AVLB was also fitted with up-armoured side skirts.

The Chieftain AVLB hamper frame, which can be tilted hydraulically, can carry up to 6 rolls of Class 60 track or 3 bundles of pipe fascines for filling ditches. This AVLB also has been fitted with mine clearing devices.

The oldest tracked vehicle fielded by the British was the Centurion ARV Mk. II which first entered service 35 years before the war. Despite its age, the ARV Mk. II performed a valuable role in support of the British advance.

This Centurion ARV was named IRRETRIEVABLE and had registration number “00ZR48”. It was also fitted with up-armoured side skirts.

Designed specifically to support the Challenger in the field, the ChallengeR Armoured Repair and Recovery Vehicle (CRARRV) was brought into service several months early to support the British 1st Armoured Division. The large dozer blade could be used as a spade anchor to allow the CRARRV a double reeved winch pull of 100 tons. It has a telescopic boom which can lift 6500 kg (14330 lbs) with a lift height of 7 meters (22.96 feet). The normal crew is three but four more personnel can be carried under armour protection.

All CRARRVs carried names, the first four to enter service were named FAITH, HOPE, CHARITY, and BIG GEORDIE. This CRARRY belonging to the 7th Brigade is named HOPE.

This front view of a CRARRV shows the large dozer blade and it has bows erected for holding up camouflage netting.


A CRARRV of the Armoured Workshop Forward Repair Group 6 (FRG6), 4th Armoured Brigade, recovering a Centurion (probably an ARV) belonging to the brigade. Note the two Coalition invasion markings painted on the hull side, a small one and a large one.

The FV180 Combat Engineer Tractor (CET) is a specialist armored vehicle of the British Army and its primary task is earth moving and other general engineering tasks. It has a twin-skin aluminum alloy armor hull which provides its crew of two (driver and engineer) protection against small arms fire and artillery shell splinters. It also has an NBC protection system and is armed with a single 7.62mm machine gun for self-defense.

The CET is amphibious and on water it is propelled by two water jets. The black tanks in the bucket provide additional buoyancy and stability in the water. To help the CET leave the water on steep slopes and riverbanks it is equipped with a 100 meter (109 yards) winch cable attached to an anchor that can be fired by rocket, so the CET can winch itself ashore.

The 1.75 meter (5.74 feet) wide earth moving bucket is ideal for filling trenches as well as preparing tank scrapes. The CET can be driven equally fast forwards or backwards, enabling it to quickly excavate, carry and conceal the soil. This CET is from the 7th Armoured Brigade probably belong to the 21 Engineer Regiment.

Although the FV430 series has been in service since the 1960s, and some of the designs have been replaced in whole or part by other vehicles, such as those of the CVR(T) series or the Warrior, many have been retained and had received some upgrades. The Royal Engineers still make good use of several of its variants. The FV434 Full Tracked Maintenance Carrier had a crew of four (commander, driver and two fitters) and a hydraulically driven crane with a lifting capacity of 3050 kg (6724 lbs). It was capable of changing light vehicle power packs, however, it was unable to replace the power pack of the Challenger tank.

This heavily stowed FV434 was named INCONCEIVABLE.

Air Defense

When the Desert Storm Air War began on 16 January 1991, the Coalition Air Forces “surgically” bombed key Iraqi military targets such as heavily-fortified command and communications centers, missile launch sites, radar facilities, and airports and runways. Iraqi ground forces were under heavy day-and-night air attack from that day on. The Iraqi Air Force was devastated by the Coalition Air Forces. Most airfields were heavily struck, and in air combat Iraq was only able to obtain four confirmed kills (and four damaged along with one probable kill), while sustaining 23 losses. Most Iraqi pilots and aircraft (of French and Soviet origin) fled to Iran to escape the bombing campaign because no other country would allow them sanctuary. By the time the ground offensive began in late February, the only possible aerial threat to the Coalition ground units would have been any surviving Iraqi Mil Mi-24 or Mi-28 Hind attack helicopters. A “significant number” of Iraqi helicopters remained in the KTO and were available for use, but the lack of coordinated command and control severely degraded their ability to use them for close air support operations.

The Rapier missile system entered service with the British Army and the Royal Air Force (RAF) in 1971 and it used an optical tracker. This FC101 Rapier Tractor is guarding a British formation in the Saudi Desert, January 1991. Note that the missiles are live, not training missiles.

A mobile tracked version of Rapier was developed for the Shah of Iran, but following the collapse of the Shah’s government before deliveries could take place the system was offered to the British Army. The Tracked Rapier entered service with the British Army in Germany in 1982. It was based on the same stretched Bradley chassis as the MLRS.

Iraqi Armor Units

By 24 February 1991, the average strength of the Iraqi armored divisions were down to 66% due to losses occurred during the air offensive since the start of the war. The Iraqi regular army units constituting the second echelon in Kuwait were ordered to reposition themselves. Using the dense smoke of the oil fires (ignited beginning February 21) as cover, elements of the second echelon of the Iraqi army (1st Mechanized Infantry Division, 3rd Armored Division, 5th Mechanized Infantry Division, 6th Armored Division, 10th Armored Division, and 12th Armored Division) were withdrawing north towards Basrah.

The US Army Central Command intelligence (ARCENT) watched the movement of the Iraqi armored reserve units as the VII Corps passed through the breach and fanned out across the desert. US analysts had inadvertently switched the identities of four Iraqi armored units. As these units entered the KTO or moved around inside the theater prior to the air operation, signals intelligence analysts picked up bits and pieces of unit call signs, movement orders, and other tip-offs that indicated, for example, the 12th Armored Division was moving to a new but unspecified location. If satellite imagery showed an armor unit moving or adjusting its positions around that time, the unit was labeled the “possible” 12th Armored. As more “hits” developed on the unit’s identity, the “possible” identification hardened to a “probable,” and might even be confirmed by another source. The units in question were the 12th and 52nd Armored Divisions as one pair and the 10th and 17th Armored Divisions as the other pair.

Of the four misidentified units, the 12th and 52nd Armored Divisions were most important to ARCENT because they were closest to VII Corps’ breach. Late on February 24, radio intercepts picked up Iraqi orders to the 12th Armored Division’s 50th and 37th Armored Brigades to move to unspecified blocking positions. Simultaneously, the Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) detected 10 vehicles moving north along the pipeline road west of the Wadi al-Batin. It also detected a battalion size convoy moving from the laager which was believed to be the 52nd Armored Division. Intelligence tracked the activity closely to determine whether the Iraqis were going to launch a counterattack or move to block the US VII Corps’ attack from the west. Movement indicators of the two Iraqi divisional areas continued, reinforced by JSTARS detected movement out of the Tawakalna laager toward Phase Line Smash.

Early on February 25, the Iraqis were not counterattacking. The 52nd Armored, in conjunction with the Tawakalna Division, was moving less than a brigade out along Phase Line Smash. JSTARS had focused on these movements, calculating the precise number of tanks and armored vehicles, their direction, speed, and location along the phase line. It was believed that the 12th Armored Division was occupying similar blocking positions west of Wadi al-Batin. The Tawakalna Mechanized Division (Republican Guard) equipped with T-72s was severely weakened from combat with the US armored divisions the day before.

Commander, 52nd Armored Brigade, 52nd Armored Division –

I didn’t know a Challenger tank until I was looking at it outside my bunker.

Most of the Iraqi tanks encountered by the British were Soviet built T-55s and Chinese built copies, the T-59 and T-69. The Iraqi tanks were at a severe disadvantage as they had no night vision capability and were out-ranged by the Challengers with their thermal gunnery sights and superior tank guns.

Some Iraqi complaints about the quality of their tanks and equipment:

  • the Soviet built tanks were second hand and rusty under the paint.
  • the Chinese built tanks burned ten liters of oil moving ten kilometers.
  • some of the equipment had been warehoused without maintenance since the Iran-Iraq war.
  • The Republican Guard units got the best equipment, T-72 tanks and BMP-ls.

This is a destroyed Iraqi T-55 in a dug-in position.

British troopers are being photographed atop a captured Iraqi T-55. This tank was part of a convoy destroyed following the retreat of Iraqi forces. It has been fitted with side skirts of the type usually mounted on the Chinese built T-59 and T-69 tanks. Note the two rounds in the shipping crate.

This is my close up of the turret marking on the above T-55. The Arabic numbers 31 (read right to left) is on a white square which probably indicate the tank was attached to the Iraqi 31st Infantry Division.

British troopers pose in front of their war trophy, a captured Iraqi tank, a Chinese built T-69 II.

A Warrior halted beside a captured Iraqi T-59. Note the headlight clusters over both tracks and the laser range finder over the main gun barrel. This T-59 belonged to the Iraqi 16th Armoured Brigade, 6th Armoured Division. There appears to be a silver metal cooler chest on the rear fender.

A Challenger tank passing an abandoned or knocked out Iraqi T-69 IIA. The T-69 tank is painted in green over sand camouflage. The Arabic number on the front hull is “7621” or “7631”.


The Tank Museum at Bovington in the UK has a Challenger 1 Mk 3 in running condition on display and it has been an attraction at their Tankfest events.

It is painted in the markings of Lieutenant Colonel Denaro’s (QRIH commanding officer) Challenger named “CHURCHILL” however it does not have the up-armoured kit installed. In the 1991 photo above, the name was painted on the front skirt panel but on this tank it is painted on the hull side. Note the “Desert Rats” red jerboa painted on front skirt panel of this tank.

Video: Tank Chats #82 Challenger 1 | The Tank Museum

Video: Challenger 1 Circuit at Tankfest 2013

Video: Challenger 1 “Churchill” at Tank 100

The Tank Museum
BH20 6JG
United Kingdom


Video: Challenger 1 MBT 94KC37 at Tanks Trucks & Firepower Show 2020


Tamiya 35154 British main battle tank Challenger 1 (Mk.3) – 1992
Academy 1365 Warrior MCV Mechanised Combat Vehicle – 1996
AFV Club AF35S02 British CVR(T) FV101 Scorpion – 2008
AFV Club AF35013 British CVR(T) FV107 Scimitar – 2010
Hobbycraft HC6008 Iraqi Army Type 69-II – 2001
MiniArt 37094 T-55A Mod. 1970 w/interior – 2021

Star Decals 35-846 Challenger I in the Gulf War 1991 Queens Royal Irish Hussars – 2016
Star Decals 35-C1162 Royal Scots Dragoon Guards Challenger I in the Gulf War 1991 – 2018
Star Decals 35-C1301 British Warriors in the Gulf 1990-91 – 2021

Academy 13007 British Main Battle Tank Challenger – 2005
Tamiya 32598 Russian Medium Tank T-55 – 2020

Trumpeter 07105 Challenger I (Desert Version) – 2011
Ace Corporation 3344 Warrior MCV Add-On Armour – 2003
Trumpeter 07102 British Warrior Tracked Mechanised Combat Vehicle – 2012
ACE 72417 FV101 CVR(Tracked) Scorpion – 2006
ACE 72143 Chinese Main Battle Tank Type-59 = 2002

Star Decals 72-A1077 British Warriors in the Gulf 1990-91 – 2021

One thought on “British Armour 1991 Gulf War

  1. An excellent post, Mike that was very interesting to read. A couple of points that I noticed :

    1. The normal abbreviation of Armoured Vehicle, Royal Engineers is AVRE as correctly noted in the Royal Engineers section rather than the ARVE typo earlier on – it just proves that I wasn’t skim reading 🙂

    2. Are you sure that the destroyed IFV is not a Warrior? I am looking at the track pattern of a single rectangular track pad, the headlamp cluster of a main headlamp and two smaller lights outboard of that, the open rectangular drivers hatch and towing shackles high on the lower front glacis plate all of which suggest a Warrior rather than a Bradley?

    The IWM picture that you reference appears to be a Bradley, with its open D-shaped drivers hatch, towing eyes and shackles midway down the lower glacis plate, but has been labelled as a Warrior by IWM.

    Kind regards, Chris.


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