Vickers Vigilant

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Vickers Vigilant.JPG
Vickers Vigilant
Type Wire-guided Anti-tank missile
Place of origin UK
Service history
In service 1960s
Used by United Kingdom, Finland, Kuwait, Dubai, Switzerland, United States of America
Wars none
Production history
Designed 1956
Manufacturer Vickers-Armstrong (Aircraft) Ltd
Weight 31 lb (14 kg)
Length 3.5 ft (1.07 m)
Diameter 0.12 m
Warhead HEAT, 6 kg

Engine I.C.I. dual-thrust solid fuel rocket
Wingspan 0.27 m
200 m to 1375 m
Flight ceiling n/a
Speed 348 mph (155.6 m/s)
MCLOS wire-guided
control surfaces
infantry or vehicle

The Vickers Vigilant was a British 1960s era MCLOS wire guided anti-tank missile used by the British Army that was also licence-built in the USA for the US Marine Corps as Clevite.[citation needed]


Vigilant was a private development begun in 1956 by the Vickers-Armstrongs [1] Guided Weapons Department at Brooklands, Surrey for the anti-tank role in the British Army, the name being formed from VIsually Guided Infantry Light ANti-Tank missile. Vigilant was wire-guided and optically tracked, like its successor Swingfire. As well as infantry use, it could be mounted on vehicles such as the Ferret armoured car and Land Rovers. Vigilant had a short service life: Swingfire started to replace Vigilant from 1966 onwards.


The missile system could be deployed in a number of configurations. The man-portable configuration consists of a launcher which doubles up as a transport container, a combined sight and controller, a battery and a 63 meter long cable. An optional Missile Selector Box allowed up to 6 missiles to be controlled by, and widely separated from, a single sight controller. The launcher box is placed on the ground facing the direction of expected targets, and then connected by the cable to the sight controller, which can be deployed some distance away. The sight controller is a pistol grip design, with two grips. The front grip has the launch trigger, and the rear grip has a thumb joystick for steering the missile. A low-magnification (3.2x) monocular forms the sight itself. Engraved stadia lines allow simple ranging, based on a typical tank target bridging the lines once in range.

The operator tracks the target using the sight mechanism, then launches the missile using the front trigger. Once the missile is in flight, he steers the missile into his line of sight using the thumb joystick. The missile's auto pilot uses a gyroscope to maintain a straight flightpath directly away from the launch point, compensating for any wind buffeting. When the operator moves the joystick, the missile applies a steering correction in the appropriate direction, once the joystick is released the opposite correction is applied automatically, keeping the missile travelling directly away from the launch point. Vigilant has a reputation for ease of control and high success with minimal operator training. This was largely due to the 'velocity control' method of Vigilant, relying on gyroscopes, rather than the simpler 'acceleration control' of competing missiles such as Entac or SS.11.[2]

The missile[3] reaches its maximum range of 1,375 meters in 12.5 seconds. In testing, the missile's shaped charge warhead penetrated 576 millimeters of armour of 30 to 35 HRC. Two type of warheads were provided for the Vigilant: A British developed warhead with a collapsible probe that extends on launch which can achieve maximum penetration, and one developed by Swiss firm CML with a blunter nose which has a hardened steel ring which, on oblique strikes, will dig into the armor and swing the shape charge warhead around for better penetration.[4][5]


Map with former Vigilant operators in red

Former operators[edit]

 Dubai /  United Arab Emirates
Finnish Army
Kuwait Army
 Saudi Arabia
Royal Saudi Land Forces
 United Kingdom
British Army
 United States


  • Brassey's Infantry Weapons of the World, J.I.H. Owen
  • The 'Secret' World of Vickers Guided Weapons, J. Forbat, Tempus, 2006, ISBN 0-7524-3769-0
  1. ^ "The Antitank Missile" Flight International, 17 July 1960, p. 823.
  2. ^ "VIGILANT" FLIGHT International, 27 July 1961, pp. 115-117.
  3. ^ "Vickers Vigilant" FLIGHT International, 22 May 1959, p. 717, cutaway drawing of Vigilant missiles main components.
  4. ^ "Around the Stands" FLIGHT International, 13 September 1962, bottom p. 454.
  5. ^ "BAC Weapons for the Army." FLIGHT International, 29 August 1963, bottom p. 312.

External links[edit]