|Alvis Saracen Mk 1|
FV 603 Saracen in Yad la-Shiryon museum, Latrun.
|Type||Armoured personnel carrier|
|Place of origin||United Kingdom|
|Crew||2 + up to 9 troops|
|Armour||16 mm Rolled homogeneous armour (RHA)|
|2 x machine gun|
|Engine||Rolls-Royce B80 Mk.6A, 8 cyl Inlet over Exhaust petrol
|Suspension||6 × 6 wheel|
|Speed||72 km/h(off-road 32 km/h)|
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 H-drive drivetrain 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:
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. They are popular also with collectors due to their prices being as low as $20.000 in Australia and $11.000 in the Czech Republic.
Saracens were initially equipped with an L3A4 (0.30-inch Browning) machine gun in the turret, and a Bren light machine gun for the gun-ring at the rear of the vehicle. Later Marks carried the LMG, and L7 GPMG.
In the 1983 debut album Script for a Jester's Tear, by British progressive rock group Marillion, the Saracen was referred to in the final song: "...crawling behind a Saracen's hull from the safety of his living room chair..." The lyrics of Forgotten Sons describe the conflict in Northern Ireland and the discrepancy between what was really happening and the perception of the conflict by the British public.
Saracens were used almost unchanged in the 1995 film of Judge Dredd as carriers for prisoners and personnel carriers for Judges. 101 FCs were used as the basis for taxis, fitted with a prop bodyshell.
During the 2009 G-20 demonstrations in London, members of the Space Hijackers protest group drove their Saracen into the City of London and parked it outside the Royal Bank of Scotland in Bishopsgate. The Saracen, which had been painted bright blue with black and white chequered stripes, was equipped with CCTV and marked "RIOT" (but not "police"). The group were reportedly there to protect the RBS building from "bad" demonstrators, although the police declined their assistance. Instead the vehicle was searched and police questioned the protestors, who were dressed in plain blue overalls and helmets. The vehicle's eleven occupants were arrested for impersonating police officers and for traffic offences, and were later charged with impersonating police officers, although the case was dropped before coming to court.
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