The FV603 Saracen is a six-wheeled armoured personnel carrier built by Alvis and used by the British Army. It became a recognisable vehicle as a result of its part in the policing of Northern Ireland.
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The FV603 Saracen was the armoured personnel carrier of Alvis' FV600 series. Besides the driver and commander, a squad of 8 soldiers plus a troop commander could be carried. Most models carried a small turret on the roof, carrying a Browning .30 machine gun. A .303 Bren gun could be mounted on an anti-aircraft ring-mount accessed through a roof hatch and there were ports on the sides through which troops could fire. Although removed from active service, it saw extensive use into the 1980s in Northern Ireland and was a familiar sight during "The Troubles". At times they even appeared on the streets of Hull, a less-hostile atmosphere for driver training in a city of similar appearance to Belfast, and only a few miles from the Army School of Mechanical Transport.
As a member of the FV 600 series it shared a similar chassis with the FV601 Saladin armoured car, the Salamander fire engine and the Stalwart High Mobility Load Carrier. The chassis, suspension and final drive remained similar, but the engine, transmission and braking systems varied significantly.
The Saracen was in turn used as an armoured personnel carrier, armoured command vehicle and ambulance. The FV 603 model saw many variants in detail, including radio or command fitments and specialist equipment for Artillery or Signals use.
The Saracen series also includes:
- FV 604 Armoured Command Vehicle (ACV): with extra radio equipment and distinctive "penthouse" roof extensions to support .
- FV 610 Armoured Command Post Royal Artillery (ACP): no turret and higher roof to the armoured compartment allowed headroom for the Battery Command Post Officer and Technical Assistants RA to sit at a fitted table and use their plotting instruments and ALS 21 in front of the CPO. There were also fittings for a canvas penthouse to the rear and sides. A small generator was sometimes carried on a front wing.
- FV 606/ FV 611 Armoured Ambulance.
Saracen was produced before Saladin because of the urgent need for a personnel carrier to serve in the Malayan Emergency, entering production in 1952.
The Saracen was produced both with and without turrets fitted.