Why walk, when you can ride in a...
FV 701 Ferret
Following the success of the Daimler Dingo, the British army required an updated, fast wheeled scout car. The prototype was ready in 1949 and the first model was introduced into service in 1952. Production continued until 1971, after which some 4,409 vehicles of different marks had been made, of which 1500 were in use by the British army at any one time.
The Ferret design follows the Dingo layout with the engine to the rear. The major change is the crew positions, the commander sitting behind the driver rather than beside as in the Dingo. Two crew is standard although three can be carried inside at a push, by folding down a bucket seat. This is only possible when the vehicle is being used for courier purposes as the space is usually taken up with more .30 cal ammo boxes. The second major improvement was a modern (for the 1950’s) VHF radios. Two mounts are provided for them. This was far better than the original Dingo and is essential for its reconnaissance role. The radios on the Ferret in British service were upgraded in the 1970’s.
The original Mark 1 had no turret but could take a pintle mount machinegun (typically the 7.62mm Bren or Browning .30 cal). The crew were provided with a canvas cover to protect themselves from the elements. With the Mark 2, a small turret was added, mounting the .30 cal Browning machinegun. A variant of the Mark 2 (the Mark 2/6) carried two Vigilante ATGWs, this was replaced by the Mark 5 Ferret. The Mark 3 had improved brakes and suspension while the Mark 4 (FV 711) was originally fitted with a wading screen and buoyancy chambers, although these were largely removed in service. The Mark 5 carried four Swingfire antitank missiles in an odd shaped turret, but this was a product improvisation until the FV 102 Striker was available in numbers.
The armour on the Ferret varies from 16mm on the hull front and sides to 6mm on the top and rear, so is enough to stop small arms and shrapnel, but not much else. It is not NBC sealed. For defence, the Ferret mounts six smoke dischargers. The machinegun armament is only designed for local defence, to aid the extraction of the vehicle from trouble, while the driver drives away at all possible speed! For personal defence the crew were initially provided with Sten guns, being replaced by the Sterling in the mid ‘50s and finally by the SA 80 in the late 1980’s.
The Ferret is powered by a Rolls Royce B60 six cylinder petrol engine which can push the vehicle at 58mph (96kph). The gearbox is five speed with a selector for direction, so the vehicle may travel just as fast in reverse! Two flaps are provided in the rear of the vehicle so the driver and commander can see where they are going when retreating. Range is approximately 191 miles (306km).
The Ferret gives good cross country performance but the trip is more comfortable for the driver than the commander, who has to cling on to what he can find, not at all comfortable for any length of time.
Sand channels are a common feature of frontline vehicles to aid trench crossing or if the vehicle becomes stuck.
In the 1980’s the Ferret was still used widely by all services and a reconnaissance and liaison vehicle. While phased out in the ‘90’s, it was used as late as the 1st Gulf war as a liaison vehicle between units. Most units only reluctantly parted with their Ferrets.
Export sales have been very good on this vehicle and it is still used in a variety of internal security roles. Amongst its uses, the South African Defence Force used it as an air-droppable vehicle for their Paratroops. Used by Australia, Canada, Indonesia, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, the Netherlands, New Zealand and numerous African, Arabian gulf and far eastern states. A number were used by the United Nations for peacekeeping duties.