World-Leading Defence Firm Supports Tank Museum


A BATH-BASED giant of defence innovation has donated time and expertise to assist the Tank Museum in keeping its fleet running. Few may have heard of Horstman Defence Systems – today a small company of just over 100 employees – but this innovative firm has been on the vanguard of armoured development since the 1920s.

Horstman’s engineers generously returned a Challenger 1 tank to running condition in time for Tankfest 2019, held at the Dorset-based museum. The tank relies on a form of hydropneumatic suspension known as Hydrogas®, developed by Horstman and the Military Vehicles and Engineering Establishment in the 1980s – but the Tank Museum lacked the specialist equipment to overhaul the tank by itself.

Horstman CEO, Ian Pain, said: “We were delighted to undertake the servicing of 19 Hydrogas® units, to ensure the vehicle can run at Tankfest and into the future. We regard the Tank Museum as providing a fitting tribute to those who served, worked on and built these vehicles… we were pleased to be able to offer our expertise to assist them.”

Horstman Defence Systems has pedigree in developing components for armoured vehicles. Founded in 1913 by Sidney Horstmann, the company became an automotive pioneer. Horstman (the company name was shortened in the 1930s) entered cars into Brookwood and LeMans, but it is for its role in armoured vehicle development for which it is most known.

Horstman suspension – which relies on two swing arms and a bell crank, typically fitted onto a twowheel bogie – offered many of the advantages of the famed Christie system, but on a simpler, easier to maintain platform that helped spread weight and was compact. It was widely adopted; fitted to Vickers Light Tanks and the Loyd Carrier and was even employed by the Americans – forming the basis for HVSS suspension used on later Shermans. However, its most widespread use was on the Universal Carrier, the most produced armoured vehicle of all time, with 113,000 built.

During the development of the legendary Centurion, Horstman was favoured over Christie and a variation of the suspension featured on the Chieftain. Both these Cold War stalwarts are still in limited use with export nations. Horstman-designed (or built) suspension units are reportedly used on the AS-90 and Terrier engineering vehicle, as well as the Warrior and the Puma infantry fighting vehicles.

Tank Museum assistant director, Helen Smith, said: “The work undertaken by Horstman represents a significant donation to the Tank Museum… [We’re] very grateful for their generosity.”