The GKN Defence AT 105 Saxon (4x4) Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) was developed as a private venture by GKN Sankey, using wherever possible standard commercial components. Its origins lay in the company’s earlier AT 102 IS vehicle developed in 1971 which did not go into production and the subsequent AT 104. The first Saxon prototype was completed in 1975 with initial production commencing in 1976. In 1983 the British Army decided to purchase the Saxon as a replacement to its existing wheeled Saracen and Humber 1-ton ‘Pig’ APCs as well as some of its FV 432 tracked APCs
Essentially a mine-proof lorry (the mudguards for instance are designed to blow off in the event that the vehicle hits a mine, thus allowing the blast to escape sideways rather than up into the vehicle) rather than a Battlefield APC the Saxon is powered by a 164 bhp Bedford 500 6-cylinder diesel engine and is armoured sufficiently to protect the occupants from shell splinters and machine-gun fire. It can carry a standard infantry squad of eight men in addition to the two man crew (Driver and Commander)-The passengers seating on either side of the vehicle. Saxon APCs are on issue to the four Mechanised infantry battalions assigned to the 3rd (UK) Division (51 Saxons and 8 Sabres CVR(T) per battalion).
Standard equipment includes power steering, Run-flat tyres, and a 7.62mm mm machine-gun in a fixed cupola operated by the vehicle commander. Various optional extras can be fitted including firing ports/ vision devices, air conditioning, auxiliary power unit, heater, grenade launchers and a front mounted winch. A one or two 7.62mm machine-gun is also turret available.
In addition to the APC, the Saxon also appears in a number of specialist versions. These include an Ambulance version (AT105A) with accommodation for two stretcher cases; A Command vehicle (AT 105C); 81mm Mortar Carrier (AT 1054MR); and a light recovery vehicle.
One version that has seen use in Northern Ireland is the Saxon IS (Patrol) Internal Security vehicle which is powered by the 160 bhp Cummins BT05.1 engine instead of the Bedford 6 cylinder installed in the APC. This is equipped for internal security operations with such equipment as a roof mounted searchlight, improved armour, fittings for loud speakers, a barricade removal device and an anti-wire device.
At a unit price of £145,000 the Saxon although a useful addition to the Army’s inventory has not really the ability to survive on a serious battlefield it has neither the speed or agility to operated alongside armoured forces, and is likely to be replaced in the future by the Multi-Role Armoured Vehicle (MRAV) or FRES programme vehicles. Nevertheless as a ‘Battlefield Taxi’ it has proved its worth in UN operations in Burma and elsewhere.
In addition to the 590 Saxons employed by the British Army others have been purchased by Bahrain (10), Brunei (24) Hong Kong (6) Malaysia (40) and Oman (15) bringing total production to almost 700 vehicles.
The Saxon has a maximum road speed of 96 kmh (59.6 mph), a range of 480 km (298 miles) and can ford to a depth of 1.12m 3.67 ft
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