All You Need to Know about Nigeria’s Scorpion Light Tanks

The concept of rapid deployment has been a mantra of both the Nigerian Army because of the volatile situation of the Nigerian state, where internal strife presented a far bigger challenge than external aggression…until recently. Nigeria’s preference for cheaper light, air-deliverable armor light tanks for operations made economic sense given no other country’s army in the region operated main battle tanks.

The Nigerian army’s entire concept of the modern light tank is the same as installing your DSTV and paying subscriptions; the basic plan will meet your cost and other requirements, but it won’t actually give you what you want until you add all the options that will make it exceed the cost and other requirements. In other words a weapons system that only works well in domestic  force-on-force operations, and needs to be completely changed in order to use it in real combat with a near peer adversary.

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Nigerian Army Vickers Mk.3 tank (right) and Scorpion light tank at the entrance of the Nigerian Army Bori Camp, Port Harcourt. 

 

In the campaign’s against Boko Haram however the Nigerian army have deployed light tanks so Airborne Paratroopers will have their very own tank support.

The Nigerian army 7th Infantry Division already has REAL tanks on the ground in the northeast ( T-72M1 and Vickers Mk.3 tank) but the Airborne Mafia wants their own distinctive equipment so they’ll have something cool to put on their report cards. As was proven in failed Bama offensive (Bama was taken after two failed attempts in 2015), light troops need heavy support, not armoured personnel carriers  that got the crap shot out of them by RPG wielding Boko Haram fighters.

In the first two attempts the Nigerian army’s benchmark for light amour being used is “protect against 14.5mm and .50 caliber automatic weapons,” which completely ignores the fact that the enemy, every enemy, has several RPG-style rocket launchers for every auto-cannon, plus a hundred IEDs. It was a disaster waiting to happen. Several soldiers lost their lives when their tracked APCs were ripped apart by IED’s and RPG’s.

The Nigerian Army acquired 200 Scorpion tanks from Great Britain of which 150 remain in active service . The 150 remaining tanks are used in Light Tank Battalions.

 

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Nigerian soldiers take part in a parade marking the country’s 58th anniversary of independence, on October 1, 2018, on Eagle Square in Abuja. (Photo by Sodiq ADELAKUN / AFP) (Photo credit should read SODIQ ADELAKUN/AFP/Getty Images)

OVERVIEW

The Scorpion is a 9 ton vehicle utilizing a track wheel over wheel arrangement. It’s dimension includes a length of 17.4 ft, a widht of 7 ft and a height of 7 ft. It’s fast deployable and can be carried in a C-130 Hercules plane in pairs.

Her crew of three include a driver, commander and gunner. The driver sits in a hollowed front left. The remaining two crew reside in the 360 traversable turret found along the aft section of the hull superstructure. Amour protection is against heavy small arms fire and a welded aluminium.

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The vehicle is amphibious by design, requiring some preparing by the crew by way of raising a flotation screen prior to entering into a water source. It also has an NBC (Nuclear, biological, chemical) kit.

As a light tank, the Scorpion as modestly armed with a 76mm L23 main gun. In 2001 the Nigerian army upgrade program on about half of its Scorpion tank fleet. the upgrade involved the removal of 76mm guns on some early variants and their replacement with 90mm Cockerill Mk.3 main guns and the conversion of their power plants from petrol to diesel engines.

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Scorpion tank from the 223 Light Battalion northeast Nigeria.

 

A coaxial 7.62mm L43 A1 machine gun was part of the upgraded armament. An optional 7.62mm could with one of the turret roof hatches. It’s smoke grenade dispensers are located to either frontal side of the turret.

The Scorpion can reach road speeds of 45 miles per hour and its operation range is 470 miles.

Although deployed in the fight against Boko Haram, the Scorpion tanks was used more prominently in the Nigerian military intervention in Liberia and Sierra-Leone where its speed and fire support capabilities were out to excellent use. Together with the Panhard AML 90 they formed the backbone of the Nigerian Army armoured units in those theatres.

Against Boko Haram it has been used mostly as an armoured reconnaissance vehicle. They go in sneaky, then get out fast rather than chance encountering Boko Haram RPG-7 weapons. The RPG-7 is the one weapon the Scorpions would rather avoid. The RPG-7 comes with a shaped charge design. This weapon sends a jet of molten steel that will burn through the armor and cuts the inhabitants to piece. Not a pleasant way to die.

PROS

SPEED. The Scorpion tank is built for speed. In fact it was regarded as fastest production tank in the world in 2002. The maximum speed is about 80km/h and can accelerate from zero to 48km/h in 16 seconds. The maximum speed on water with its flotation screen deployed is 5.8/ km/h.

It’s agility makes it ideally suited for airfield defense and local duties and excellent for infantry support.  It’s agility is simply unmatched.

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A Nigerian Air Force personnel beside a Scorpion light tank deployed for airfield defence.

 

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Operation Crocodile Smile. Scorpion light tanks in Port Harcourt.

 

 

DRAWBACK

Although a beautiful design, this vehicle has some serious disadvantages in amour. It’s alluminuim-zinc-magnesium burns like hell when hit.

 

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