The Tank, Cruiser, Comet I (A34) was a British cruiser tank that first saw use near the end of the Second World War. It was designed to provide greater anti-tank capability to Cromwell tank squadrons. It was armed with the 77mm HV which was effective against late war German tanks and a superior weapon to the 75mm KwK 42 gun of the Panther when firing APDS rounds. As a development of the Cromwell, it was an interim design before the Centurion tank.

The Comet saw post-war combat during the Korean war, and remained in British service until 1958. Comets sold to other countries continued in some cases to operate into the 1980s.

Class Vehicle
Type Armoured Fighting Vehicle
Manufacturer Leyland Motors Limited
Origin United Kingdom - UK (Great Britain)
Country Name Origin Year
United Kingdom - UK (Great Britain) 1944
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
United Kingdom - UK (Great Britain) 1944 1958 View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Leyland Motors Limited 1944 1186 View

Combat experience against the Germans in the Western Desert Campaign demonstrated to the British many shortcomings with their cruiser tanks. Hence a request was made in 1941 to the Nuffield Organisation and Leyland Motors Ltd for a new heavy cruiser tank that could achieve battle superiority over German models. For reasons of economy and efficiency, it had to use as many components as possible from the current A15 Cruiser tank Mk VI Crusader tank.

The initial designs submitted were the A24 Cruiser Tank Mk VII Cavalier tank from Nuffield powered by a Nuffield-Liberty L-12 engine and the A27L Cruiser tank Mk VII Centaur tank from Leyland, which was also powered by the Liberty L-12 but would be able to use the more powerful Rolls-Royce Meteor when it became available.

The Cruiser tank Mk VII (A27M) Cromwell was the third parallel development to the Cavalier and Centaur. The Cromwell's Meteor engine proved to be very reliable and gave the Cromwell good mobility, but some problems did appear. The tank was prone to throwing its tracks if track tension was not maintained properly or if it turned at too high a speed or too sharply. There were also some problems with suspension breakage, partly due to the Cromwell's high speed.

A 17 pounder version of the Cromwell, the A30 Cruiser Mk VIII Challenger tank, was under development. To handle the large gun, the Cromwell hull had to be lengthened and a large turret set on top. Due to the slow production of Challengers, the Sherman Firefly (a Sherman tank fitted with the 17 pounder gun) conversion received official support. Until the Challenger was available, one Firefly would be issued to each troop of Cromwells (giving three Cromwells and one Sherman Firefly); but this was unsatisfactory due to the different maintenance requirements and associated supply complication of two tank models, as well as the performance difference between Cromwell and Sherman.

Second World war

The 11th Armoured Division was the first formation to receive the new tanks—deliveries commenced in December 1944—and the only division to be completely refitted by the end of the war. Due to its late arrival in the war in north west Europe, the Comet did not participate in big battles, although it was used in combat. The Comet was involved in the crossing of the Rhine and the later Berlin Victory Parade in July 1945. The Comet's maximum speed of 32 miles per hour (51 km/h) was greatly exploited on the German Autobahns.

Cold War

During the following Korean War, the Comet served alongside the heavier Centurion tank, a successor introduced in the closing days of the Second World War on an experimental basis but too late to see combat. The Centurion was formally adopted in 1949 and was partly based on the Comet design. The Comet remained in British service until 1958, when the remaining tanks were sold to foreign governments; up until the 1980s, it was used by the armies of various nations such as South Africa, which maintained several as modified recovery vehicles.

41 Comet Mk I Model Bs were also used by Finnish Defence Forces armoured brigade until 1970. The tanks were stored until 2007, when four of them were auctioned. Four Comets were delivered to the Irish Army in 1959 and a further four in 1960. Severe budget cutbacks affected the service lives of the Comets, as not enough spares were purchased. The Comet appealed to the Irish Army as it was cheap to buy and run, had low ground pressure and good anti-tank capability. However, faulty fuzes meant the withdrawal of the HE ammunition which limited the tank's role to an anti-tank vehicle. With stocks of 77 mm ammunition dwindling in 1969, the army began an experiment to prolong the life of the vehicle. It involved replacing the turret with an open mounting with the Bofors 90 mm Pv-1110 recoilless rifle. The project was cancelled due to lack of funds. The last 77 mm Comet shoot was in 1973 and the tanks were withdrawn soon afterwards. One is preserved in the Curragh Camp and two more survive in other barracks.

Formal DesignationCruiser Tank, Comet (A34)
Production Quantityabout 1200Production PeriodSept. 1944 - Postwar
Length /hull (m)7.66/6.55Barrel Overhang (m)n.a.
Width (m)3.07Height (m)2.67
Combat Weight (kg)33225Radio Equipmentn.a.
Primary Armament77mm ROQF Mk. IIAmmunition Carried61
Traverse (degrees)Electric (360°)Elevation (degrees)-12° to +20°
Traverse speed (360°)24 sec.Sightn.a.
Secondary Armament2 x 7.92mm Besa MG (coaxial, bow)Ammunition Carried5175
2 x 6 barrel smoke discharger12

Engine Make & ModelRolls-Royce Meteor Mk. IIITrack Linksn.a.
Type & DisplacementV12, n.a.Track Width45.7cm
Horsepower (max.)600hp@2500rpmTrack Ground Contact393.6cm
Power/Weight Ratio18.1 hp/tonneGround Pressure13.8 psi
Gearbox5 forward, 1 reverseGround Clearance (m)0.4
FuelGasoline (Petrol)Turning Radius (m)n.a.
Range on/off road (km)240/130Gradient (degrees)31°
Mileage (liters/100km)220 on/405 off roadVertical Obstacle (m)0.9
Fuel Capacity (liters)527Fording (m)1.0
Speed on/off road51/26 km/hTrench Crossing (m)2.44
Armor (mm@degrees)FrontSideRearTop/Bottom

End notes