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Copyright © An Cosantoir
|The Comet Tank (programme A34 by Leyland) entered service, with the British Army, almost at the end of WWII, and remained in service until the early 1960s (the last unit was based in Hong Kong). A cruiser tank, armed with a 77mm gun and a good turn of speed, it was able to meet German Tanks on equal terms.
The DF purchased eight Comets in two lots of four, registration numbers TYI 431, TYI 432, TYI 433, TYI 434, and TYI 496, TYI 497, TYI 498, TYI 499. Included in the purchase were APCBC (Armoured Piercing Capped, Ballistic Capped) anti-tank rounds and HE rounds. However by 1959, it was discovered by the British Army, that the No. 410 fuze in the HE round was defective and therefore no more HE ammunition was available fot the 77mm gun.
In 1969 an interesting attempt was made to re-arm the Comets with the gun from a towed PV1110 90mm Recoilless Gun then in service with the DF (subsequently replaced by a combination of the Milan and an upgrade to the Carl Gustav 84mm Recoiless Rifle). The re-arming proved relatively successful, though it did leave the gunner relatively exposed, however no descision was made to re-arm the other seven vehicles. Interestingly, the Japanesse army has operated since the 50's a number of light tanks, armed with two 106mm Recoilless Guns, with a fixed superstructure to protect the Gunner and Loader.
The Comets were retired in the early 1970s.
On a tour of the Curragh Camp in April 1974, I observed two Comets being used as "wrecking balls" for building demolishion, a sad end for a capable vehicle. I was told that all vehicles were no longer on active service and that it was hoped to replace them with Alvis Scorpion CVR(T)s, to be used in the light tank role.
Happily, at least one Comet has been preserved, in running order, in the Curragh museum and two are reportedly used as gate guardians in other military establishments.