The Defence Committee have heavily criticised the Ministry of Defence, warning that they believe the MoD may not have sufficient technically qualified staff and capacity to manage effectively the multiple armoured vehicle procurement and upgrade programmes that are currently underway.
The report published today by the Defence Committee, titled ‘Obsolescent and outgunned: the British Army’s armoured vehicle capability’, is scathing.
“The recent history of the British Army’s armoured fighting vehicle (AFV) capability is deplorable. Since the end of the Cold War in the late 1980s, the Army’s AFV fleets have been characterised by increasing obsolescence and decreasing numbers. In 1990 the UK had around 1,200 main battle tanks in its inventory, today has 227, and those that remain are in urgent need of modernisation.“
Referring to the require for armoured vehicles, the report continues:
“In 2015 the Ministry of Defence outlined the requirement for a warfighting division that by 2025 could be deployed to assist NATO in the event of conflict on its Eastern borders. The Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2014 highlighted that NATO (and the UK) still face a potential threat from a challenging peer adversary state that retained considerable armoured forces which were being modernised at pace. The UK division was to draw on a number of capabilities but its core would have been two armoured infantry brigades and a new strike brigade, alongside 16 Air Assault brigade.
If the Integrated Review concludes that the Ministry of Defence and the British Army are to retain a heavy armoured capability it is clear that they must learn the hard lessons from recent history, and these are spelled out in the rest of this report. Furthermore, to support this capability the UK requires an industrial base. The current procurement and upgrade programmes have led to new investment in skills and production facilities. To sustain this regrowth in what was a decaying sector, the Ministry of Defence (and wider government) must provide greater certainty about future requirements and possible contracts. The proposal to develop a Land Industrial Strategy is a welcome step in this direction. In the course of this inquiry, it emerged that the Army will be unable to field its warfighting division as planned, reducing it by one Armoured Infantry brigade. This was apparently due to a lack of resources. In addition, the Army is deficient in important capabilities such as artillery and air defence.”
The report also states:
“This report reveals a woeful story of bureaucratic procrastination, military indecision, financial mismanagement and general ineptitude, which have continually bedevilled attempts to properly re-equip the British Army over the last two decades. Even on the MoD’s own current plans, (but subject to the Integrated Review) we are still some four years away from even being able to field a “warfighting division”, which, itself, would now be hopelessly under-equipped and denuded of even a third combat brigade.
As a result, were the British Army to have to fight a peer adversary – a euphemism for Russia – in Eastern Europe in the next few years, whist our soldiers would undoubtedly remain amongst the finest in the world, they would, disgracefully, be forced to go into battle in a combination of obsolescent or even obsolete armoured vehicles, most of them at least 30 years old or more, with poor mechanical reliability, very heavily outgunned by more modern missile and artillery systems and chronically lacking in adequate air defence. They would have only a handful of long-delayed, new generation vehicles, gradually trickling into the inventory, to replace them.”
Additionally, the report warns:
“The lack of a credible short-range air defence system for our land forces, especially in light of the rapidly increasing threat from unmanned aerial vehicles, is of particular concern.”