Different Modifications for CVR(T), Part 3 - Sabre by Alan Ng April 2019
I wrote “Different Modifications for CVR(T), Part 1 - Scorpion” in February 2016, then Part 2 about Scimitar followed more than a year ago. Where has all the time gone? Anyway, I had better finish this one third part off to complete the story of the turreted CVR(T)s.
This article was supposed to be a continuation of Part 1 about the evolution of the Scorpion. Was Sabre a continuation or extension of the Scorpion when it was taken out of active service? It was neither. The 76 mm gun turret was taken out of service leaving the vehicles surplus to requirements.
As far as our models are concerned, modifications concerning the lower hull of the Scorpion will not be repeated here, unless it is relevant. See Part 1 for previous Scorpion modifications.
Part 3 – the Sabre
A Brief History
Scorpion and Scimitar were the gun vehicles of the CVR(T) family. Fox, on the other hand, was one of two variants developed in the CVR(W) programme. The second vehicle was Vixen which never saw service. In case you are wondering, CVR stands for Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance, and (T) stands for ‘Tracked’ while (W) stands for ‘Wheeled’.
As mentioned in Part 1, Scorpion was withdrawn from service in 1993 and Fox was also withdrawn at approximately the same time - during 1993-94.
Therefore, at that time, there were surplus Scorpion hulls and Fox turrets which had the same 30 mm Rarden gun as the Scimitar. Sabre was developed to fill the gap left by the withdrawal of Scorpion. Some Fox turrets were reconstituted for use in the Sabre tracked vehicle by combining them with the hull and running gear from Scorpion. By the end of 1994 Sabre conversions had started at Base Ordnance Depot Donnington and by 1995, with 104 vehicles released to service, the programme closed. Sabre performed peace-keeping missions with IFOR, KFOR and SFOR in the former Yugoslavia. Sabre was retired from front-line service with the British Army in 2004.
Development of the Sabre was mired in setbacks. From the beginning, the idea was simply to attach the turret to the Scorpion hull despite its different turret ring size. The Fox turret was also lower than that of the Scimitar. Both of these issues were solved by adding an armoured adapter collar on top of the hull between the turret and the hull. This elevated the turret somewhat (partially negating its low-silhouette advantage) but at least it was operational.
Other modifications included the replacement of the standard British 7.62mm L37 machine gun from the Scorpion turret to the more modern 7.62 mm L94 chain gun, plus new smoke discharger mounts and added stowage boxes.
Starting with the chassis, Sabre’s distinguishing features included extra hull and turret stowage bins. Sabre was amongst the first CVR(T)s to have standardised additional stowage bins, including one on each side of the hull at the front, sloped to fit the angle of the front deck plate. Sabre never went through the LEP programme, so the air intake for the new engine associated with LEP Scimitar was not needed. Therefore, the RHS front bin was a Sabre-only fitting. It had three small bins fitted on the front trackguard, either side and between two large headlights with shrouds (also fitted to Ferret, Saladin etc.). This meant a change to the side indicator light clusters in horizontal cases so the lights could be seen above these bins. A large rear hull bin was also fitted.
Sabre used the bolted transmission cover as per the original Scorpion hull as found in service photos. However, hinged covers were occasionally seen, as the final production Scorpions for the RAF Regiment had these fitted.
Suspension was believed to be Messier dampers (as included in the AFV Club kits) as it made sense to choose hulls with new components for the Sabre. The sprockets varied from the ‘late’ ones supplied in the kit, or even later six-spoked sprockets as used in the LEP programme. That is pretty much it for the Sabre hull.
Now we move to the more complicated part, the turret. As mentioned earlier, an adapter turret ring was needed to fit the Fox turret, but there was a lot more to this. From the front of the turret, as the co-axial 7.62 mm MG was replaced with a 7.62 mm Chain Gun, there was a much larger flash suppressor for the chain gun, a prominent feature of a Sabre compared to Scimitar when viewed from any forward angle. Smoke discharger mounts were redesigned from those fitted to Fox, extending sideways from the upper turret wall. Clansman was the standard radio fit at the time.
Extra turret bins were fitted to the turret sides which were much smaller and square looking compared to those fitted to the Scimitar. The way they were attached was quite different, too, given the shape of the turret. The large rectangular bin for OTIS was fitted at the rear of the turret. On top of the turret, the commander’s sight had the OTIS mounting ring, while the gunner’s sight was similar to Scimitar, for obvious reasons, some fitted with rubber sun shields. In addition, the same domed commander’s hatch was also installed for the gunner to improve his headroom. In-service photos also show some Sabres fitted with the ESPIRE gunner’s sights, obviously a later modification, notably in photos on peace-keeping duties with IFOR and SFOR.
That pretty much includes all the modifications needed for a Sabre. If you are using the original Fox turret for your model, be prepared to do a lot of work. Cast-off did a conversion set a few years ago - but it is hard to find nowadays.
A new conversion set is now available from SMM.
This concludes my comprehensive description of the three (turreted) CVR(T)s using AFV Club kits. However, while preparing these documents, I have read quite a number of books, magazines, and obviously searched on the internet. There are quite a few international CVR(T) users, and other gun vehicles have been exported such as Scorpion 90, also available from SMM.
I hope you have enjoyed reading the above and the other articles. I am a modeller and NOT a pen pusher, so excuse me for any mistakes! Happy Modelling!
Osprey New Vanguard 13 Scorpion Reconnaissance Vehicle 1972-1994, Foss, Dunstan, Sarson, ISBN 1 85532 390 7, published 1995
Tanks Illustrated – Scorpion, The CVR(T) Range, Dunstan, Arms and Armour Press, ISBN 0 85368 747 1, published 1986
Museum Ordnance Special Number 23, Scorpion, Scimitar and Sabre, Darlington Productions, Prigent, published 1998
Modern Combat Vehicles 5, The Scorpion Family, Forty, Ian Allan, ISBN 0 7110 1175 3, published 1983
Scorpion and the CVR(T) family, Bob Morrison, Concord Publications Company 1044, ISBN 962 361 044 0, published 1994