Combat vehicles / Armored personnel carriers / Saracen


General Facts

  • TYPE
    Armored personnel carrier

    United Kingdom

    FV603 (UK designation)

    1947 - 1952

    Fighting Vehicles Design Department

    1952 - 1972

    United Kingdom - Alvis



    Good mobility
    Shares components with Saladin
    Limited level of protection
    No NBC system and night vision


The Saracen is an armored personnel carrier of UK origin and is also known as the FV603. It was developed just after World War 2 to provide British forces with with an armored personnel carrier, a concept which had proven valuable during the war. The Saracen was developed in the same program as the Saladin armored car and several other vehicles called the FV600 series and shares many automotive components with them.


The Saracen is based on a similar chassis as the Saladin. The major difference is the position of the engine. In the Saracen the engine is mounted at the front in order to allow for a troop compartment at the rear. The driver is seated behind the engine and a one man turret is positioned in the middle. The troop compartment is at the rear and the troops enter and exit through two large doors.


The Saracen is armed with a .30 M1919 machine gun in a one man turret. Additionally there is a ring mount at the rear which may feature another M1919 or a Bren light machine gun.


The steel armor protects the crew from small arms fire and shell splinters. The Saracen features much thinner armor than the Saladin in order to improve payload capacity. Later on some Saracen were fitted with additional armor for use in Northern Ireland. Two banks of three smoke grenade dischargers are fitted but there is no NBC system.


The wheeled chassis with large wheels gives the Saracen good mobility on roads and dirt roads. The off road performance is average due to the high ground pressure and lack of tire inflation system. The Saracen is not amphibious but may use a fording kit to traverse shallow water. A Rolls Royce 160 hp petrol engine provides propulsion.


The main user of the Saracen was the United Kingom. It was also exported to many nations, mostly in the Commonwealth. In UK service the Saracen was replaced with the tracked FV 432 and wheeled Saxon. The majority of Saracen armored personnel carriers are no longer in service although a few hundred are in second line service or held in reserve by various nations.



The Saracen was produced or modified into several different versions that mainly differ in details and have a similar performance.
FV603 Mk 1: Early version with three door turret.
FV603 Mk 2: Most common version of the Saracen, with two door turret.
FV603 Mk 3: A Mk 2 with reverse flow cooling for use in hot climates.
FV603 Mk 5: A Mk 1 or Mk 2 fitted with additional armor.
FV603 Mk 6: A Mk 3 fitted with additional armor.
FV604: Command post version with map tables, radios, generators and in the troop compartment and a crew of 6.

TypeArmored personnel carrier
Crew2 + 10 (driver, gunner, 10 infantry)
Length5.23 m
Width2.54 m
Height2 m (hull), 2.46 m (turret top)
Ground clearance0.43 m
Weight8.6 t unloaded, 10.2 t combat load
Ground pressure0.98 kg/cm2
WheelbaseWheeled chassis, 6x6, 1.52 + 1.52 m wheelbase, 2.08 m track, 12.00 x 20 tires
Turn radius7.3 m
EngineRolls-Royce B80 Mk 6A V8 petrol, 160 hp at 3.750 rpm
Power ratio15.7 hp/t
TransmissionPreselector, 5 speed
Speed72 km/h
Fuel200 L
Range400 km
Wall0.46 m
Trench1.52 m
Gradient42% gradient
Fording1.1 m unprepared, 2.0 m with kit
ArmorSteel, 8 to 16 mm
NBC equipmentNo
Night visionNo
Smoke2x3 66mm smoke grenade dischargers
Armament.30 M1919 machine gun (2x)
Weapon1.30-06 M1919 (L3A3) machine gun in one man turret
3.000 rounds in total
-12 to + 45° elevation, manual
360° traverse, manual
Weapon2.30-06 M1919 (L3A4) machine gun on ring mount
3.000 rounds in total
manual traverse and elevation

Saracen with higher roofline

A small number of Saracen were produced with a higher roofline to allow for more internal space.
FV 610: Command post version similar to the FV604 but with more internal space.
FV 611: Ambulance version with a crew of two and the capacity to transport six patients.

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