As the 6 pdr and 75 mm guns of the Cruiser Tank, Mk VIII, Cromwell were inadequate against increasing German armor thickness, it was decided to mount the significantly more powerful 17 pdr on the Cromwell.
The initial design, the Cruiser Tank, Challenger, was largely a stop-gap solution, and had numerous problems. Work on a better solution, the Cruiser Tank, Comet I, was designed in 1943.
To overcome the limitations imposed by the Cromwell's width, the 17 pdr was re-designed under the name 77 mm HV (high-velocity). This resulted in a smaller, and much lighter, turret. The design of the Cromwell's hull, which had been taken over by Leyland, was also improved. The first prototype was delivered in February 1944, and series production began in September 1944.
The first Comets did not arrive at the front until December 1944, and only saw limited action. With its good combination of maneuverability, armor and firepower, it was the first British contender to the German Pz Kpfw Panther, and a serious threat to the Pz Kpfw Tiger.
A total of 1186 Comets were produced by the end of the war. After the war, the Comet continued to serve with the British army until it was fully replaced with the Cruiser Tank, Centurion in 1958. At this time, they were sold to minor nations. The last Comets to remain in service were with the South African army, who used them until the 1976.
|Cruiser Tank, Comet I (A34)|
|Armour (range)||14-101 mm|
|Speed (max)||47 km/h|
|Speed (cross-country)||26 km/h|
|Engine||Rolls-Royce Meteor Mk III|
|Primary weapon||77 mm HV (1)|
|Secondary weapon||Besa 7.92 mm machine gun (2)|