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The Royal Ordnance L7 is the basic model of Britain'smarker most successful tank gun. The L7 was a 105 mm L/52 rifled design intended for use in armoured fighting vehicles. It was so successful that it armed not only British post-war designs, but was used almost universally in "the West" as the main armament of almost every main battle tank of the period.

The L7 was developed by Britain's Royal Ordnance Factories to equip British tanks of the postwar (Cold War) period as the successor to the 20 pounder (84 mm) used on Britain's postwar tank—the Centurion.

The L7 was a popular weapon and it was maintained in use even after it was superseded by the L11 series 120 mm rifled tank gun, for some Centurion tanks operating as Artillery Forward Observation and Armoured Vehicle, Royal Engineers (AVRE) vehicles. The L7, and adaptations of it, can be found today as standard or retrofitted equipment on a wide variety of tanks developed during the Cold War. It is also being used as the main armament of the U.S. Army's Stryker-based Mobile Gun System.

History

During the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, a Soviet T-54A medium tank was driven onto the grounds of the British embassy in Budapest by the Hungarians. After an examination of this tank's armour and 100 mm gun, British officials decided that the 20 pounder was apparently incapable of defeating it. Hence there was a need to adopt a 105 mm gun.

The L7 was specifically designed to fit into the turret mountings of the 20 pounder. This would enable the Centurions to be upgunned with minimum modifications, hence the fleet could be upgraded in a shorter time and at a lower cost.

The first tank to be equipped with the L7 was the Centurion Mark 5 in 1959. The gun was subsequently adopted by several other nations for their own MBT, most notably the Germanmarker Leopard 1 (for which the L7A3 variant was developed), the Japanesemarker Type 74 (produced under license by Japan Steel Works), the Swedishmarker Stridsvagn 103 (as the L74, with a longer barrel and automatic loader), Indiamarker for its upgraded T-55A, the USmarker M60 series and earliest versions of the M1 Abrams (with the M68), and the Israelimarker Merkava. In addition, several countries have used the gun to improve the firepower of existing main battle tanks. Derivatives have even been mounted in Warsaw Pact-built T-54 and T-55 tanks in Israel, Egypt and Iraq, and Type 79 tanks in China.

Technology

The breech uses a horizontally-sliding breechblock for loading the fixed cartridge cases. The gun recoils approximately 29 cm (in most applications), automatically ejecting the empty cartridge case upon reaching full recoil. The barrel of the L7 is fitted with a bore evacuator approximately halfway down its length. It is eccentric mounted, which is a key recognition feature.

Specification

  • Caliber: 105 mm (4.13 in)
  • Barrel length: 52 calibres
  • Weight: 1,282 kg (2,826 lbs)
  • Length: 5.89 m (19.3 ft)
  • Rate of fire: 10 rounds per minute (maximum)


Ammunition Available



Variants

  • L7A1
Standard British production variant.
  • L7A3
Variant for the (West) German Leopard 1 MBT. The upper rear corner of the breech block reduced in size so gun can be depressed without hitting the turret roof.
  • L74
Swedishmarker variant with a 62 calibre (6.51 m) barrel used only for the Stridsvagn 103 MBT.
  • M68
USmarker built variant for M60 Patton. Uses a round breech with a vertically-sliding breechblock, and a different design of bore evacuator. Also used on the M1 Abrams up until its replacement by the M256 on the M1A1.
  • KM68A1
Republic of Korea Army's license-produced variant of the U.S. M68 gun. Used on M48A3K, M48A5K and K1 tanks.
  • Type 79/81/83
Chinese copies of an L7 supplied by Austria.
  • FM K.4 Modelo 1L
Argentine Army's license produced by Fabricaciones Militares in Argentinamarker. Used on the TAM medium tank.


Use

and derivatives such as Olifant


Notes

  1. Starry, p. 113
  2. Zaloga 2004, pp 13, 39.
  3. M60 Patton Series - Globalsecurity.org


References

  • Zaloga, Steven J. and Hugh Johnson (2004). T-54 and T-55 Main Battle Tanks 1944–2004. Oxford: Osprey. ISBN 1-84176-792-1.
  • Starry, Donn A., General. "Mounted Combat In Vietnam." Vietnam Studies. Department of the Army. First printing 1978.
  • Hunnicutt, R. P. "Patton: A History of the American Main Battle Tank." 1984; Presidio Press. ISBN 0-89141-230-1.



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