Whether during war or at peace, main battle tanks and other armored vehicles can heavily rely on armored support vehicles—and for the British Army’s MTBs, it’s the CRARRV, Challenger Armored Repair and Recovery Vehicle.

This 70-ton behemoth is the “pocket healer” of all mechanized equipment on the battleground, tending to repair and recover during critical combat moments. It was developed alongside their main battle tanks when Brits were looking for equipment that could pull their heaviest armored fighting vehicles to safety.

A Mechanic Workshop On Wheels

As we all know, the British Army was the inventor of the tank on the battlefields of WWI, which other nations were quick to imitate. But like all machines, it is prone to malfunctions, getting bogged down, and, of course, damage from hostile and even friendly fires. So, they thought of something that could carry out the repair and recovery duties and could follow the combat vehicles wherever, whenever on the field. During the WWII, American tank units had entire battalion strength units dedicated to recovering and repairing damaged tanks and getting them back into the fight.

They initially thought of wheeled vehicles to play this essential role, but it wasn’t fit to traverse rugged terrain. Likewise, it wasn’t strong enough to tow the heaviest tanks they had, and it provided little-to-no cover for the mechanical crew. They need something that could navigate tough terrain, be armed to defend themselves and the mechanics, and drag vehicles back to base for proper repair or disposal. Then, a light bulb lit up. What better way to carry a heavy tank than a tank itself?

Hence, the repurposing of tank hulls and suspension as a foundation of what eventually became an armored repair and recovery vehicles (ARVs).

The first framework the British Army used was derived from Mark IV and Mark V tanks, which both rose to prominence during the First World War. But unlike the modern ARVs, WWI ARVs weren’t equipped to repair on the spot; instead, pull unrepairable tanks back to base to where a mechanic workshop awaited. After the Second World War ended, an improvised ARV emerged, deriving its structure from the framework of the Cavalier (A24) tank, followed by the heavily-armored Chieftain (FV4201), and finally, the Challenger 1 (FV4030/4) to which the CRARRV was derived from.


Challenger 1 MBT
Challenger 1 MBT was participating at Tankfest 2009. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

MBTs’ ‘Pocket Mechanics’

CRARRV, short for Challenger Armored Repair and Recovery Vehicle, was developed after the Challenger 1 MBT in the 1980s. It weighs similar to the MBT, around 62 tons, and has dimension measurements of 9.59 m in length, 3.62 m in width, and 3 m in height. In addition, the CRARRV also retained the MBT’s Rolls-Royce Condor CV12 TCA diesel engine, ramping up to 1,200 hp. As a result, its maximum road speed can reach up to 59 km/h within 500 km.