The UK now fields only 227 main battle tanks, a far cry from the 900 or so strong inventory only a couple of decades ago.

This article was written by Stuart Crawforda regular officer in the Royal Tank Regiment for twenty years, retiring in the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in 1999. During his military career he attended both the British and US staff colleges and undertook a Defence Fellowship at Glasgow University. He now works as a political, media, and defence and security consultant in Edinburgh and is a regular commentator on military and defence topics in the print and broadcast media.

The present British MBT, the Challenger 2, had its origins in the Chieftain Replacement programme of the 1980s, when I was a staff officer at the Headquarters of the Director of the Royal Armoured Corps (HQDRAC) at Bovington Camp in Dorset.

My personal previous experience of tanks had been primarily on the old Chieftain, a sluggish and unreliable vehicle but one for which we came to have a grudging affection. I led a troop and subsequently a squadron of Chieftains during my time with the 4th Royal Tank Regiment in the 1980s.

We used to say that Chieftain was the best tank in the world as long as it broke down in a good fire position, and there was a strong element of truth in that statement. Its armour protection was good, its 120mm rifled gun powerful and accurate, but its automotive systems let it down. And by the time I commanded my squadron it was obsolescent if not obsolete.

Meanwhile, Germany’s 105mm-armed Leopard 1 showed new levels of mobility and reliability, and the Soviet T-64 and T-72 models with their auto-loaded 125mm guns overmatched Chieftain. Brief respite for the Royal Armoured Corps came with a part-fleet MBT replacement in the shape of Challenger 1, essentially a cancelled export order model for Iran which fell through with the removal of the Shah in 1979, but it was clear then that Britain needed a new tank.

The first draft of the Chieftain Replacement operational requirements paper dropped on to our desks in early 1987.  I was straight out of Staff College and armed with a year’s technical training gained at the Royal Military College of Science at Shrivenham, and was raring to go. Staffing the Chieftain Replacement paper became the major and most important aspect of my work over the next two years.

To go into all the technical requirements for the Chieftain Replacement would be boring in the extreme, and I dare say some of them are still classified. However the usual design parameters, including levels of armour protection, range, crew survivability, gun performance and communications fit amongst others, were set out clearly. And so I and my colleagues spent literally hundreds, if not thousands, of hours discussing and debating what the best option for Britain’s next tank might be. We represented the end user, after all, and we wanted to get it right.

In the end there were three and a half main contenders for the contract in our eyes. The “half” contender was the French Leclerc MBT, the most modern western tank at the time, and attractive because it had an autoloader for its 120mm smoothbore gun and a three man crew. It could also fire the same ammunition as the Rheinmetall 120mm smoothbore of other NATO nations. However, at the time, and rightly or wrongly, it was deemed too much of a risk. There was also some totally fatuous opinion from elsewhere that a three man crew would make dismounted guard duties unduly onerous when in leaguer. Such was the level of debate at that stage.

This left three main contenders – Germany’s Leopard 2, the US M1A1 Abrams, and Vickers Defence Systems’ (now BAE Systems) Challenger 2. We lived and breathed the project, discussing every aspect in minute detail time and again. In the end the recommendation of the HQDRAC staff officers was clear; Britain’s next tank should ideally be the Leopard 2, mainly for reasons of reliability, impressive mobility, and because of its 120mm smoothbore gun, which would give Britain ammunition compatibility and interoperability with our NATO allies (many of whom opted for Leopard 2) and the perceived advantages of economy of scale of production.

Second choice was the M1A1 Abrams, which was attractive for many of the same reasons and mounted the smoothbore gun, but we had reservations over its gas turbine engine’s fuel requirements and the logistics implications of catering to that demand. Last came Challenger 2, because we didn’t rate its potential for reliability – given the poor record of Chieftain and Challenger 1 – and we thought it mounted the wrong rygun. There wasn’t anything fundamentally wrong with the Royal Ordinance Factory’s 120mm rifled gun (the CHARM gun) in terms of its overall performance, it was just that it was non-NATO ammunition compatible.

So Leopard 2 was our recommendation. And obviously we were ignored. We weren’t entirely oblivious to the furious lobbying that was going on in favour of Challenger 2 and recognised that the “strategic necessity” argument for Britain to maintain its own tank design and production expertise might win the day – even when both foreign contenders pledged to set up their production lines in the UK. A final plea that at the very least Challenger 2 should mount the 120mm smoothbore fell on deaf ears.

Obviously the Royal Armoured Corps ended up with Challenger 2, and in fairness if has proved to be not a bad MBT even although it has never been confronted by a peer or near-peer enemy. But with an out of service date of 2025 the same question faces the UK; what, in anything, should replace Challenger 2 as Britain’s next MBT? One of the options is updating Challenger 2 to allow it to soldier on until 2035, and experiments have been undertaken to, believe it or not, mount the 120mm smoothbore gun as part of that upgrade. The smoothbore has advantages including greater armour penetration than the British rifled gun and uses a tungsten penetrator that has none of the political and environmental baggage that comes with the British DU one.

It’s sometimes useful to gauge a weapon system’s general utility and effectiveness by having a look at its export sales. Word gets round if equipment is good and other countries tend to buy it. Leopard 2 has been bought by 18 countries with 4 more prospective purchasers. M1 Abrams has been bought by 7 countries with two more in the offing. Challenger 2 has been bought by two – the UK and Oman.

Maybe this time around the UK will be able to swallow its national pride and opt for the best option on offer no matter its country of provenance?

192 COMMENTS

  1. An interesting article after some recent posts in the comment section. I’d be interested to know if Vickers could have supplied the C2 with a German power back and manufactured the barrel under license for commonality. The reputation of the L2 took a beating after Isis disabled 10 of them in Turkey. It does have great mobility but I don’t think anyone would argue it’s protection levels are on par to the C2

    • (Chris H) BB85 – Export versions of the C2 had an MTU (now owned by RR) MT883 diesel engine while the UK version had the Perkins (now owned by MAN) engine. Ironic the reversal of ownerships?

      • Perkins are owned by CAT not MAN, the power packs were produced by Perkins Shrewsbury now CAT defence products Shrewsbury. CAT bought Perkins from the French Varity group in 1998

      • (Chris H) – error correction. I meant Perkins diesels owned by Caterpillar of the USA. MAN bought Paxman in Colchester. Apologies

    • BR85 – What you are describing is basically what was known as the Vickers MK7 tank,no orders for it though unfortunately.

      • The truth. The Challenger 2 was the better tank in battle conditions, fact. Some US voices would have preferred the British tank in Iraq, which is saying something. The problem is we need to field more hulls and 227 is still too few. I would recommend the UK buys 150 reconditioned M1’s to field a more realistic fleet going forward. The replacement should be a joint venture with the US and not Europe.

          • No, the basic tank would still be a match for most foe today. The upgrade will bring it very close to newer machines. Remember, the MBT went through a rough patch when theorist believed they were old tech; and no longer relevant on the battlefield. Thankfully, that nonsense is history and with the right level of investment should help CH2 to face the future with more assurance.

            The MBT now has a bright future, the only sadness is the fact by choosing CH2 over other designs, the MOD did not buy enough then allowed the plant that built them to close down? I believe the CH2 was the best choice over L2 and if we had put more effort into selling them the export story could have been a different tale?

    • The Royal Ordnance back in the 80s made a smooth bore L60 version of the L11 as a project but is was never taken further because the Army’s perception at the time was they still wanted the use of the High Explosive Squash Head (HESH) round as it was useful against both armour and buildings. The HESH effects can be defeated by spaced armour and I’m not sure how well it does against Reactive Armour. At the time the smooth bore was not as accurate as the rifled gun, so that may also have been a factor for not going down the route at the time.

      Even after the M1A2’s engine upgrade, the fuel economy was dire, with a constant train of tankers following them. The Chally, although under-powered was very much like the tortoise’s victory over the hare, slow and steady wins the day.

      We used both the Dutch and Canadian Leopard 2s for making doors in mud brick walled compounds in Afghan. We were told not to use Javelins or NLAWs due to the cost, the 30mils on the Scimitars drilled beautiful holes so were useless for door knocking and it could take up to 3 breech frames. Some of the walls were so strong that they could withstand a L2 ramming them, however they made a lovely hole after being hit by their HE round.

  2. With the Kings Royal Hussars being slated to lose their armour under Army 2020 as part of the Strike Brigade i sincerely hope that this does not lead to a drop in tank numbers overall. only having 2 regular and 1 reserve regiment is frankly criminal. i would hope that the mod has the sense to increase the squadron levels in the remaining armoured regiments so we dont decrease the already small no of tanks available.

  3. I can accept that Challenger II might not have been the right choice originally, but surely we are where we are and the key question is how to go forward. It strikes me that if we were to buy Leopard II or Abrams now then we’d be buying a tank for the present day rather than the future. The Americans and Germans/ French would in the meantime be developing a new system that in ten to fifteen years time would leave Abrams/Leopard II outclassed and us lumbered with one of these two legacy fighting vehicles for a long time to come. Hence I can see the logic in extending Challenger II’s out of service date by around another decade while the British army looks for a longer term solution; which hypothetically could either be an off the shelf purchase or an international collaborative development.

  4. Buy foreign this time around? More like we buy foreign at every single opportunity bar none, in every single field bar none.

    A foreign company setting up a production line in our country is not the same thing as having our own companies, it is not the same at all. If it were in some fields we could accept it, but not every single field without exception like what they seem absolutely determined to do so that we design and build practically nothing of our own compared with other European countries (France, Germany, Italy) and have to go to cap in hand foreign companies for every single thing like a third world country, in front of the eyes of the whole World.

    • We build Eurofighter Typhoons, Type 45 Destroyers, Type 26 Frigates, Astute class nuclear hunter killer submarines, QE class aircraft carrier’s, a whole host of Army equipment and weapons, need I go on? We habe the 2nd largest defence industry in the world, we build rather alot.

      • Eurofighter Typhoons are not British they are multi national. Type 45, Type 26, Astute, Q.E. class aircraft carriers are all complex warships, the government had no choice but to build them here, the instant they did have a choice, the 4 tankers, you’d better believe they were given to a foreign country. Need I go on?

        • Our steel making industry is much, much smaller than France, Germany, Italy and Spain, it is even smaller than tiny little countries like Belgium and Austria.

          Every single last British car maker is owned by foreigners, practically none of France, Germany or Italy’s are.

          France, Germany and Italy have large commercial shipbuilding industries. We don’t. We even give taxpayer funded Navy ships like the tankers to foreign countries.

          Every single last British train maker was closed down, without a single exception, in the knowledge that we will always need trains, only so foreign companies could set up factories and Britain’s railways be used exclusively to keep foreign train makers going from now until forever.

          When Hawk production ends we will have no product in the aerospace sector.

          They appear to be looking for an excuse to buy foreign tanks.

          Need I go on?

          Are you starting to see what I am saying now? If it was in some fields then fair enough, but not every single field without a single exception. That is a humiliation. No other country is doing that, we are not either.

          • Stephen

            I am 100% with you.

            Not just home industries, many utilities and Critical National Infrastructure as well.

            It is almost perverse.

            To me it seems to be by design, for whatever reason.

          • So, who are you blaming Stephen? The foreign companies? The foreign governments? You can only blame British governments and British companies. In fact, many of our key industries are thriving under foreign ownership. Foreign owners who have greater belief in our capabilities as a manufacturing nation than our own shambolic monied class who preach one thing while investing their money elsewhere!

          • Why should the government be any different to the general UK population? People bought foreign washing machine cars etc at the blink of an eye. Don’t bleat on about there’s no choice now because there was a choice once and people didn’t make it, if they had British Leyland would still be producing cars.

            Ultimately the government is spending our money that we give it from taxation. Why should the government purchase UK products when the great British public abandoned the same decades ago. Don’t give me the returned taxation argument because again money we spent also gets return through tax. So if your asking the UK government to buy British we should be doing you upmost to do the same.

            I 100% believe in UK manufacturing, I work in the sector, but its hypocritical to ask the government to do something that the greater British public clearly don’t support themselves.

            Rant over…

          • Expat. “Don’t give me the returned taxation argument because again money we spent also gets return through tax”. But Expat, money the UK government spends abroad does not get returned back, that’s the point. They are the paymasters and tax money receivers.

          • I think I can speak for nearly everyone by saying Stephen, this the most badly argued set of comments I have read in some time and highlights the lack of critical thinking skills development in the UK’s education system.
            Defence is important and deserves better than this ill informed, illogical rant.

        • The tankers could have been built in this country, with British steel at greater cost. However money flowing out of the country can’t be good for the economy, it might be good for MP’s foreign trip jolly’s to set up the deals though or perhaps foreign after dinner speaking tours when they retire?

      • Which other country destroys its own heavy industries in every single field just to let a foreign company set up a factory? Literally no one.

        • It’s not a little ironic to see how the British rail building industry was closed down partly at least because they built such an amazing product in the 125 (a so called stop gap) that 40 years later it is still a mainstay of the Intercity service and as I discovered lately far better than the much hyped and far newer Pendolino despite the latters style over substance. Trouble is it seems that it meant there was little to design and build at that level for two decades and so the skills seem to have been lost expecially as it coincided with overall poor infrastructure investment over such a long period. So with little to build their facilities were sold off to foreign companies who had kept on designing products and saw the value in doing so, to becone low skilled assembly lines and maintenance depots at best. It certainly wasn’t the lack of ability that cost us that market just vision and long term thinking and I suspect that story is much repeated in other industries. Superficially it looks cheaper but you need lateral thinking to see the real long term damage it does. Which is why most upwardly mobile ountries use foreign investments to establish their own capabilities rather than use foreign companies to enable you to close down your own while boasting about foreign investment showing confidence in your economy. One thing we are good at making is smoke and mirrors in abundance.

          • Yes the cleverness of Class 43 is one of our country’s great hidden engineering secrets….

            With engineering projects what the Continentals seem to do is finish one generation and the start producing the next one straightaway. We wait until the wheels are falling off (sometimes literally) and then start to look at the replacement in a sort of rolling programme. For every generation of a something we build they seem to build two. They maintain skills and churn money through the system. All a bit socialist really, but it works. That’s why the Germans field more types of wheeled fighting vehicle right now with a small army that they say needs re-equipping than we have fielded in the last 50.

          • Spyinthesky/David – yes the HST Power Cars (class 43’s) are my favorite British Rail Locomotives,ironically enough now using MTU Diesels instead of the original Paxman Valenta’s for the majority of users.

        • If you did even a little bit of history reading you would know. Britain has been a services based economy since the 80s. We were rubbish at building things, the Unions ran everything and no one wanted to buy our rubbish. So the manufacturing was dropped and the services were focused on. It saved the economy. You waffle on about the tankers being given to a foreign builder, no British company bid for the work! Do some investigation before just whinging.

          • Agree Daniele, it is done to such an extent that it is obviously being done deliberately.

            Can you imagine France or Japan or Germany selling every single last one of their car makers to foreigners? Let alone doing that and every single other thing I have mentioned. Britain has been absolutely humiliated, in front of the eyes of the entire World. They have deliberately made Britain exist exclusively and solely for the benefit of foreigners. This is absolutely disgusting to us British people.

            No, us British people do want want this, we do not want this at all. This is not how we want our country run, this is the exact opposite of how we want our country run. This is disgusting to us.

            Look, no one is saying we have to make every single last thing for ourselves, but we are making some things for ourselves, like any self respecting country. We British people want at least some of our heavy industries invested in and supported like other countries do.

            We have to increase our tiny steel production, no one is saying we have to make all of our steel for ourselves, but we definitely have to make more of our own in future. We have to invest in Britain’s shipbuilding facilities with modern facilities and state of the art equipment to increase our efficiency and competitiveness, and support it with taxpayer funded ships like the R.F.A., we will always need a Navy so it is in our interests to have good shipbuilding facilities. Like I say, can anyone imagine France or Japan or Germany selling every single last one of their car makers to foreigners? That is a humiliation for a country like Britain. Sooner or later a British car maker will be back up for sale, it is only a matter of time, make sure we get an iconic British car maker like Rolls Royce, Bentley, Jaguar, etc. back in British hands so we have at least one. We will always need trains so instead of Britain’s railways being used exclusively for the benefit of foreign train makers, set up a British train maker and give them some of the orders. This one particularly hurts, that was our thing, they couldn’t even bear to let us have even this, even this had to be deliberately destroyed, along with every single other industry. We should also have a product in the aerospace sector, Taranis should be invested in and fighter, bomber, surveillance, maritime patrol, etc. versions made of it. We should also have our own products in the armoured fighting vehicle sector and making our own tanks is very much a part of that. France, Germany, Italy, Israel, Korea, Japan, etc. all design and build there own tanks, we are too. It is things like this which give a country prestige in front of the eyes of the entire World.

            We British people absolutely want British heavy industry invested in and supported, the same as other countries do with theirs, in at least some fields.

  5. I know even less about army stuff than RN & RAF stuff but a few questions…

    I’m not sure what this article is actually suggesting when it says “Maybe this time around the UK will be able to swallow its national pride and opt for the best option on offer no matter its country of provenance?” because it’s not explicitly stated but is it meaning an L2 purchase?

    What is the life/refresh cycle for generations of tanks? The Wikipedia article says that Leopard 2 has been in service since 1979 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leopard_2). As a layperson’s perspective that seems a fairly long time now when compared with ship/sub/combat-jet refresh cycles. Or do all the refreshes of L2 over the years mean that todays units are pretty much different tanks to the original and so still pretty cutting edge?

    If no to the above then is a development project for a next-gen tank anywhere on the horizon? If yes then, as an alternative to going for Leopard 2 (assuming that is the option that the article is hinting at), would UK participation in some sort of joint next-gen project (a bit like Eurofighter Typhoon) make any sense?

    • We don’t need to collaborate on every single thing either, we are more than capable of doing some things for ourselves. Bringing someone else in on every single thing when we don’t even need to gives the entire World the impression that we are completely incapable of doing a single thing for ourselves, which we most certainly are not. Having our own products also makes us money from exports so that we make money from our own undoubted genius, instead of foreign companies benefiting from our British genius.

      No one is saying we have to design and build every single thing for ourselves, but equally we are not giving British orders in every single field bar none to foreign companies every single time bar none either.

      • Totally uneconomical Stephen. How many tanks would we buy? 200 at most? Divide the design, development and productionisation costs by 200 and you’d have the most expensive tanks in the world. Same applies for everything else. That’s why historically we tend to either hang on to the coat tails of an American programme, or we do something collaboratively with Europe.

    • I am suprised that a true comparison with the L2 can even be made considering how few of this product of German technical brilliance and reliability seem to be operable presently, at least in German service. We Are so quick to put ourselves down yet so unwilling to pick up on foreign incompetence … At least till the foreign products like the F35 are due to enter UK service so that the unquestioning reader still blames the UK for the most part.

      We must also consider how many of our other fighting vehicles are to be supplied by foreign companies in the near future too so yet again we become just low end assemblers while the profits go elsewhere in the main. It’s debatable if we actually retain the ability to design many of these vehicles or will do so for much longer.

    • Julian- the Leopard 2 has the advantage in that it was made in much higher numbers (3000+) so any upgrades,of which there are many depending on the customer are much more viable.

      • There might be lots of them, but German priorities for the Leopard in general were firepower and mobility. Protection was well down the list. Unfortunately the Turkish L2’s took a bit of a mauling in Syria in what could hardly be classed as peer on peer conflict.

        If we ditch Challenger I doubt Leopard is the answer

        • David Stone – agree that the Leopard 2 is not the solution for the British Army,that ship sailed too long ago to be relevant .But its protection is vastly improved compared to what it was when it entered service.The A6,A7 and A8 versions for the Bundeswehr are a massive improvement and would be competitive on the modern battlefield.Indeed both Spain and Sweden built their own models with Armour to their specific requirements which shows how adaptable the original design was.

  6. You cannot install a120mm smooth bore gun and it’s ammunition into a C2 there is not the space available.

    The rifled gun uses seperate bagged ammunition, not complete rounds.

  7. “the ammunition stowage of the Challenger 2 is designed to accept only certain types of ammunition parts (propellant charges, primer magazines and projectiles) at certain places (for example all propellant charges are stored within the hull below the turret ring). It is not possible to fit longer or wider ammunition into a CR2, which prevented the upgunning of the Challenger 2 with the German 120 mm L55 smoothbore gun during the Challenger Lethality Improvement Programme (CLIP). It was only possible to create storage for six rounds of unitary 120 x 570 mm NATO ammunition without deeper modifications of the Challenger 2’s interior layout.
    The length limitation imposed by the ammo rack design and location also affects armour penetration with compatible ammunition. In order to improve penetration characteristic, the length of the penetrator has to be increased besides muzzle velocity. This is not an option in the CR2.

  8. There is no chance on earth that we should simply buy OTS equipment from other nations.

    We need to maintain and develop our knowledge and skills, without which a diverse intellectual and industrial basis, which is key to long term economic sustainability, will be hollowed out.

    We do not need to be sole authors or design leads on every project but we need to stay in the game. As such, I am completely against any procurement project where the British taxpayer doesn’t receive some form of industrial offset. The F35 is a great example of collaboration, the fruits of that particular investment will ripple out in to the wider economy for years to come in ways we simply will never perceive and we have built strong ties between those partner nations.

    Same applies to any Challenger 2 replacement. I’m happy for us to partner with other nations but only on the premise that we get reasonable work-share in BOTH design and construction from the joint venture. It is not acceptable to sacrifice intellectual curiosity, economic diversity and industrial competence on a permanent basis merely to achieve a short term finance benefit.

  9. A simple question.

    Do we still need a Main Battle Tank?

    In the evolving 21st Century battlefield I fail to see their relevance with the development of autonomous vehicles and other modern developments.

    I really think that it is an important question which should be part of the debate. The several £Bn which would be involved could be spent on other tech.

    I am NOT necessarily of this opinion, but it should be part of the debate.

    • With less than 300 MBTs and that number more likely to fall than increase, it does indeed seem difficult to justify going it alone. As UK becomes more global and less European orientated then I would imagine the need for MBTs falls down the list of defence priorities and budgets. I would have thought that perhaps we would collaborate with other nations as we do with combat aircraft to reduce cost and leverage the best design/technology. Surely the focus now should be on highly mobile and amphibious/air mobile hardware? By that I mean lighter, faster tanks and more Apache or drones. In the days of BAOR a large MBT force made sense – without the BAOR what are they to do?

      • Chaps on the ground in Helmand wanted heavy armour deployed but were refused.

        I agree the UK should be concentrating on RN, RAF and lighter forces and have argued this before but I would not completely remove a capability.

        We do not have a large MBT force anyway.. We will shortly have a mere 2 Regiments once KRH lose their Tanks for Ajax. That should be and already is the absolute minimum IMO.

    • Agreed. When and where is there going to be a battle comprising U.K. large tank formations? Planning for the last war again? Challenger II did well in Iraq but the U.K. doctrine did not depend on tanks being there, just habit. Turkish Leopards were easily dispatched by I.S.I.S. and the Abrams burns well if jihadist videos are to be believed.

      This debate reminds me of the Battleship era in world navies. Thousands of sailors had to die to demonstrate that that weapon system had come and gone in under half a century.

      • I even wonder if we should replace 300 challenger 2s with 150 lighter/amphib tanks and 150 more Apache/large drones. you can argue we don’t need MBT at all.

      • Turkish leopard were destroyed by ISIS because they are not Challenger 2s. No other tank has the challenger 2s resilience, strength of armour and standing power.
        Why do we need challenger 2? Standing power on a battlefield. If a superior enemy force is attacking the British army can still hold its ground just so long as we have not lost air superiority and we have challenger 2s present. I would think a challenger 2 to be worth at least 6 T90s or Aramata tanks in combat.
        We should look to develop a challenger 3. Imagine how powerful it could be with modern material science active defence suite, reactive armour and a rail gun.
        Stuff of science fiction? Not really we are close to being able to field such a vehicle.

  10. Could this author be the same Stuart Crawford who allegedly quit the Army in order to stand for election for the Scottish Nationalists and believes in unilateral disarmament??

  11. Seems odd to me that a fresh from school staffie would have a significant role is choosing the next main weapon system.

    • (Chris H) – Ron5 I did my engineering apprenticeship at Shrivenham from ’63 onwards and all the civvies working in workshops and labs there thought every single Officer was a complete and utter prat. Their attitude when in the training shops and workshops was appalling. Because in those days they were all Eton/ public school tossers

  12. There was that mock up of a Scout/Ajax with a 120mm gun. That would be a semi British contender & lighter, so more deployable than a Challenger 2, Leopard 2 or M1.

  13. (Chris H) – I get the impression I am not the only contributor here quietly fuming at this article. That someone of this man’s alleged seniority and those round him actively promoted foreign sourced equipment making it impossible for UK based companies to compete says all we need to know about the MoD and the UK Civil Service. When you have to break down psychological bias before you even make a presentation its a mugs game.

    And this was truly gobsmacking:
    “Obviously the Royal Armoured Corps ended up with Challenger 2, and in fairness if has proved to be not a bad MBT even although it has never been confronted by a peer or near-peer enemy.”

    Well neither has the Leopard but has been killed quite effectively. And neither has the Abrams and that too has been stopped very easily. The Abrams also demonstrated in Iraq it was a logistical nightmare as squadrons of them had to stop in open desert to wait for fuel trucks.

    But on the other hand the C2 has never been stopped (facing exactly the same opposition as the Leopard and Abrams) and no UK soldiers have been killed in a C2 by enemy fire. There has been one accidental blue on blue.

    And his obsession with the smoothbore (sourced from Germany of course) is illuminating as well. Which MBT has the longest enemy kill in action? A Challenger over some 4.7 Kms!

    And finally to judge an MBTs success by its export sales ignores the simple fact when you have a Government like the USA or Germany supporting sales and your product is inferior or you offer a common but inferior gun you can sell more because of PRICE. I would rather be in a Challenger taking on a Leopard or an Abrams than the other way round.

    And this British Army Officer and his Sandhurst chums were really suggesting the British Army should go to war in a German Panzer? God save us ….

    • The Challenger 2’s gun can not use modern penatrators and the gun breech can not handle higher pressures. That long range kill was against a the broadside of a T62 that wasn’t moving. Circumstances dictate when shots take place any NATO tank with a skilled gunner could have made that shot.
      The same goes for your “no C2 has been stopped” rant. They have only rarely been deployed and on exported to Oman so their exposure has been limited.
      The only Abrams that have been disabled were those that were hit by ATGMs in the rear arc. Guess what? Every tank gets disabled when shot there as that is where armor is at it’s thinnest. Hence the need for Armored units to have supporting infantry.
      Also no offensive action was ever delayed by sitting in the desert waiting on fuel. Their were delays to allow infantry to catch up, their were also delays because the Iraqis were surrendering in such numbers that it caused concerns in managing the prisoners. Everyone who complains about the fuel consumption on the Abrams never cites on specific instance of a delay caused by it’s fuel consumption. Yet they also don’t mention that the Abrams were much quieter and faster than other tanks hence the “Whispering Death” name it earned.
      On your belief that exported tanks from the US are an inferior product delivered by subsidies. Their has only been one subsidized customer and that was Iraq. Who received deliberately downgraded (armor layers removed and targeting system neutered) models. Once again stop blaming others for the failure to design a exportable product.
      As for your contest as to which of the three tanks would win in a 1 on 1. Do you know who wins in a tank duel 90% of the time? The one who fires first. Because even if he does miss or gets a ricochet, when he aims his follow up he is going to be calm and collected. The other guy however is going to be having a significant emotional event.

      • Egypt recieved $19 billion in military aid between 1979 and 2003 so their purchase of Abrams was 100% to subsidiesed. Also do you think they are going to fit them with the latest night vision and laser range finders and upset Israel. The Saudis buy primarily from the US for political reasons also. The L2 achieved so much export success through selling off surplus stock to European allies and also producing a cheaper tank with an excellent reputation because nothing on the market had been battle proven.

      • Elliott: “The gun breech can not handle higher pressures”

        The Maximum obturation pressure of CHARM is not known outside a very small circle of people, same goes for the real penetration of the L-27 round. I have heard this been stated many times over the last few months and it keeps getting regurgitated, like the hydrogas suspension not being as good as a Leos torsion bar, absolute BS.

        Believe me, the P max for the gun is not the reason its getting replaced, I think someone somewhere misread an article and now its getting bounced around the Internet as fact.

        BV

    • Not entirely sure why you are fuming over the article Chris H, Elliott covers most points effectively so no point covering the same ground. I will add a couple of points…

      I actually worked with in my prior job an ex senior officer who had been on the trials unit for Challenger 2. Prior to being assigned to that task his general view was the Army should buy the Abrams and even after serving with the trials unit held that view. As is affirmed in print from many sources buying CR2 was a politically driven decision. I can perfectly believe that the Leopard 2 was a preferred option albeit my former colleague did have a rather dim view of the turret frontal armour and the feedback given to the Germans by the UK trials team directly influenced the development of the A5 variant with the wedge shaped add on turret armour pack.

      As for the losses of Turkish Leopard 2, firstly they are stock second hand 2a4 variants with none of the armour upgrades later variants are fitted with. Secondly and significantly more importantly the Turkish Army deployed them in a terrible manner. They used them over open ground with no infantry support, they even would park them broadside on the top of hills making them lovely targets for guided and unguided anti tank missiles. Video after video on Youtube shows them being deployed in a tactically unsound manner!

      • (Chris H) Fedaykin – I am fuming because the writer articulated of the latent but significant mindset of ‘those who know best’ that anything, literally ANYTHING, foreign is better than British made. And then we get the ‘cheaper’ response when no account of internal UK economy benefit is taken when spending UK taxpayer funds. I have this possibly old fashioned idea that my taxes should be spent to benefit my country, my economy, British people in general and those in humanitarian need (UK or foreign)

        As for Elliott I lost interest when he referred to my comments as a ‘rant’ and then sought to make it the usual dick waving contest. He gets quite annoyed when even the slightest criticism is levelled at anything American. While we are supposed to take endless amounts of abuse from him. Note his line about ‘any NATO tank with a skilled gunner could have made that shot’. Except it wasn’t’ anyone’. It was a Challenger tank crew.

        On occasion he can make very well crafted input. But mostly its ultra defensive and he interprets ‘defence’ as meaning ‘attack’.

        • “(Chris H) Fedaykin – I am fuming because the writer articulated of the latent but significant mindset of ‘those who know best’ that anything, literally ANYTHING, foreign is better than British made.” – no the author didn’t say anything foreign made is better. He pointed out that when looking at the then available options a foreign design was preferred over Challenger 2. The author also noted the “strategic necessity” argument for Britain to maintain its own tank design and production expertise with each manufacturer offering up the opportunity to setup a line here in the UK.

          “Note his line about ‘any NATO tank with a skilled gunner could have made that shot’.” – Why is that statement so upsetting to you? It is factually true, both the Abrams and Leopard 2 as well as a few other tanks of that generation could have made that shot. That NATO has gunners in the alliance that can perform to that level is impressive. It is nice that it was a British tank that did it with a British crew but lets not be silly about it.

          To be honest you get quite annoyed when even the slightest criticism is levelled at anything you say.

          • (Chris H) Fedaykin – OK firstly I never said Elliot’s line ‘upset me’. We were discussing my ‘fuming’ at the article (which you see differently to me). I was illustrating what I see as his usual derogatory response to any British success. Not upset more ‘Sighing and looking skyward’.

            And your final comment is unfair. Yes I get annoyed at personal shit being peddled and i will give both barrels in return. Maybe I shouldn’t and two wrongs do not make a right. Accept that. However anyone will see from all of my posts that when its ‘on topic’ I try to give a polite and as informed reply as possible and happily accept when I am shown to be incorrect. And when I am starting a topic how can I be ‘replying’? God forbid I even inject humour sometimes

    • Here here Chris! Like I say this whole article is a deliberate piece of propaganda to get us to buy foreign.

      Agree on the smooth-bore too. I do a bit of shooting and know that rifling is much more accurate, why on Earth would would we not want our tanks to have rifled guns?

  14. aren’t France & Germany investigating a joint next generation MBT to replace Leclerc & Leopard 2? Although Germany has recently committed to increasing MBT nos & upgrading it’s present L2s to A7V standard.
    Allegedly under 1/2 of the Bundeswehr’s L2s were operational in 2017, however, …

  15. The Israelis said of Leopard that is was the greatest tank in the world until you need to go to war.

    The Abrams’ power plant strikes me as a very American solution to the problem. I am big fan of GT engines but I think we would be better served by diesels. Only one other Western nation has bought the vehicle and in small numbers. I don’t really care about the Arabs who have bought it; the West sells lots of equipment to Arabs that either rots or gets looked after by Westerners. Yes the Americans built over 3,500 but they can afford to look after complicated systems; they field them in such numbers that a few percentage being lost to ‘equipment failures’ won’t be noticed.

    If I was in charge of buying an off the shelf model and could buy anything I would be Merkava. As it is we have BAE, we have companies like JCB and other automotive world leaders here, and we invented the armour here, I am sure something could be built here EVEN IF IT MEANS PAYING OVER THE ODDS PER HULL.

    • I would not mind paying over the odds for a challenger 3 if it has the standing power, battlefield resilience and armour protection superior to challenger 2. Our materials science in the UK is second to none, we have BAE developing the next generation tank guns- rail guns and put those all together and we could have a world winning combination.

      • You wouldn’t mind paying over the odds but how about British Public sector workers who haven’t seen an above inflation pay rise in years?

        If CR2 gets a replacement the numbers involved just don’t justify the cost of setting up a line and the associated facilities to build this new Super CR3. Even built in the UK CKD is probably not worth the extra cost, far better to include UK system integrator and claw some money back that way with a UK based final check out and maintenance facility.

        I am also inclined to say lets wait until we see what the French and Germans do with their new MBT program, CLEP can keep them going a few more years.

        • Well.. where to start.
          The UK is a high personal wealth low tax economy. We cut corporation tax, allow massive multi billion profit making internationals to pay only token taxes.
          Put taxes up but targetted at these huge businesses making billion pound profits. That is step 1.
          Step 2 higher income tax and target tax avoidance and the estimated £25 billion a year lost in income tax receipts by the black economy. Meaning cash in hand white van man, plumbers, electricians and others that claim to earn next to nothing whilst holidaying 4 times a year, living in a big executive detached house, sending their kids to private schools and driving around in a prestige car.
          No pay rise for public sector…..tell me about it. No pay rise for nearly a decade. Only below inflation and therefore all public sector workers are getting poorer.
          Step 3. We cannot go on giving £15 billion a year abroad in foreign aid. The UK needs that investment. I would prefer a national infrastructure and investment fund and use that money to grow the economy. We are giving billions to Pakistan and India. Both nuclear armed states, India is building carrier battle groups and has a space programme for god’s sake.
          The UK is still a rich country. It is just our politicians are misguided and do not want to make difficult decisions or pursue the tax incomes and tax avoidance to invest in public services.

        • Take any needed money from the foreign aid budget, us British people would a billion times rather spend our hard earned money on investing in and supporting our country’s industries.

    • Have you noticed that BAE does more business in the USA than in the UK? Sometimes I think BAE is more “American” than British.

  16. I really think the concept of the MBT has become irrelevant in the 21st Century.

    More UAVs + V-22s + more Apache.

      • Whilst having air support in the form of attack helicopters is all well and good, at the end of the day an armies main objective is to take and hold ground. Helicopters cannot fulfill this objective. It is an objective for infantry, tanks and other armour. Whilst the golden era of tanks is now over they still have a role to play on the ground.

    • That is daft. You have to guarantee air superiority for Apache and UAVs to fly. That is not going to happen on a peer Vs peer conflict. Challenger 2 and MBTs are here to stay. We just have to bite the bullet and develop the next generation.
      We should not be buying off the shelf when a world beating superior tank design could be built here in the UK. I thought leaving the EU was going to be all about awakening our national spirit of innovation, standing more on our own 2 feet and yes having trust that we can do these important things. It is only a cowardly lack of political will and selling off all our industries that have led to where we are now.

      • The same applies to tanks, without air superiority they cannot take or hold ground. Ground scanning radar and precision weopans have done for armoured warfare. This is an opportunity to invest in more versatile and deployable ground forces. While focusing on high tech airforce and naval operations projection.

        • I was at an interesting conference a while back about active protection systems, they are a game changer for tanks. A modern PAS can deal with any ATGM in service right now, what it struggles with is a good old fashioned PAPPAS. The tank is far from dead, in fact its now more important as ever.

          BV

  17. The Jordanians managed to get a 120mm smoothbore with Auto loader onto Challenger I, with all the crew in the hull- does anyone know how efficient that has proved to be in service?

    • Ian Skinner- hard to say,the Turret upgrade was with a Falcon Turret but think a fleet-wide replacement never happened in the end due to costs.They are supposed to be taken out of service shortly to be replaced by Centauro Tank Destroyers.

    • Never really got beyond the prototype stages. A few vehicles were converted but there was never enough money or interest in furthering the project.
      It was a very expensive design change requiring a whole new turret. They sourced most of the turret parts from Denel in South Africa while they sourced the gun from RUAG in Switzerland.
      The idea that the Jordanians came up and actually made themselves with was the modification of the turret ring.

    • Can also add that I spent a bit of time having a good look at a Challenger 1 at a recent military show near me,looked good in GW1 colours,just amazed at the sheer size of them.

  18. I really think, with the low numbers we would be ordering we should buy off the shelf or be in a large partnership on this. However, it does pain me to say it, but our focus in the next decade or two has to be the navy.
    If we did do something ourselves, I think it would have to be a really exportable family of vehicles, lightweight, fast and a large amount of or total automation and a total rethink on what a tank should be. This would have to be fully back with purchases by us and commitment by the government to sell hard.

    • I agree providing electronics and communications etc remain up to date we don’t need to replace the C2 anytime soon. Certainly not with an L2 with it’s reduced armour protection. It looks like the Warrior is under threat because of LM screwing about with refurbished turrets and now replacing with new. We need AJAX and Boxer delivered asap.

    • Nope that is a wrong call. No other tank in the world has the challenger 2s standing power. No other tank has had so much combat history with zero losses. The only challenger tank out in combat was an accidental blue on blue with another challenger 2.
      Imagine how impressive a mBT we could make with our advanced engineering and developed material scientists. We could probably challenger 3 out and it would take the rest of the world 15-20 years to catch up.

      • F35 model is the way to go with future complex procurements. 15 per cent of a 3000 fleet build, superior equipment and allied interoperability. Just need reliable partners.

      • You forgot to finish that comment Mr Bell with a “By Jingo…”, CR2 is good but lets not be silly here. The staying power you refer to is pretty much down to a few of occasions where CR2 was hit by multiple RPG7 and possibly one MILAN. An elderly RPG7 is not going to get through the Armour of a CR2 but it can as was evidence mobility kill it as well as knock out all its viewing ports. Something more modern like an RPG-29V or a 9M133 is more than capable of hard killing a CR2 especially if they hit in weaker spots like the rear deck or the flank. There is a reason why major tank operators are quickly installing various automated Passive and Active ATGM systems with a soft and hard kill capability.

        CR2 has not been deployed in anywhere the same numbers as the tanks of other nations and has a limited combat history, if Turkey had been operating stock CR2 instead of stock L2a4 in Al Bab the outcome would have been pretty much exactly the same due to the operationally poor employment.

        • Two Milan, according to the crew, from the side; and the tank, once recovered from the ditch it was stuck in, was operable again within hours.

  19. Leopard 2 took a hammering from Isis and the Abrams took a hammering from RPGs in Iraq, I lost count of the Abrams being recovered after been knocked out by RPG. CR2 was definitely the right choice for the U.K. No disrespect intended Stuart, but your work at DRAC is nearly 40 years out of date.

  20. “The “half” contender was the French Leclerc MBT”

    I remember the French army refusing to enter the tank in a NATO competition because they believed it far inferior to the other entrants. As for the quality of of Soviet tanks the preferred tactic was to allow them to motor into West Germany because it was expected they would break down within 100 miles – not something favoured by the WG government.

    • There was a surprising amount of covert prep for WW3 in the FDR. But if their government were that scared they should have gone the Albanian route. FDR wasn’t defensible. We had the Channel. And the French did what they always do manoeuvre politically to give themselves options. Why we wasted money sitting in Germany when the French left NATO I am not sure. For example the RAFG budget would have given us, in another timeline, carrier aircraft or bolstered our air defences at home (fighters, MPA, shore based naval strike, even improved SAM systems). In the nuclear age the concentrated industrial army was an anachronism.

    • I had dinner with a visiting French tank crew back in 2016, had a good chat about its fighting systems, its an interesting bit of kit. They were well aware of its limited protection but liked the turret.

      BV

  21. I spoke to a couple of chaps recently about their Challenger 2 tank, sitting there at this show looking impressive an all that. They told me they are transitioning over to AJAX soon and can’t wait to see the back of Challenger 2. As a civilian were fed that Challenger 2 is one of the best tanks in the world, the best armour and the best gun etc etc…but they just rolled there eyes at me when I said that. They’re really looking for to the switch. Says quite a bit, coming from two blokes who know the tank really well.

    • The General Dynamics Ajax system thingy is available in a light tank option. Might be an option if we could equip more regiments to T58 numbers and field as many as we could if push comes to shove. Plus liberally sprinkling more vehicle mounted ATGM though the APC/IFV fleet.

      • The “Medium Armour” variant of Ajax was dropped.

        Ajax is headed for a role it was not designed or acquired for.

        • Yes. But as the discussion is what should we buy to replace CR2 then we could float the option. As I said might be an option because we have Ajax in the fleet it is only logic that the option be consider. And then rapidly dismissed………. 🙂

          I am not a fan of Ajax, I thought CV90 would have been a better option.

    • Ajax and CH2 are totally different.

      The issue is when HMG and even the CGS Nick Carter start describing it as a Light Tank and Medium Armour someone’s going to be in a shit place as politicians who don’t know a tank from an IFV will believe it. Leaving soldiers dead .

      Ajax was designed and aquired as a recc vehicle for our armoured Brigades not as a Light Tank in our ridiculous Strike Brigades, and is no match against a peer enemies heavy armour, which is where it may end up with politicians hearing this Light Tank nonsense.

      I’d encourage all to go over to Gabrieles blog and read the excellent articles available on this subject.

      • I think the Army is digging a hole for itself with all this terminology; strike and medium brigades nonsense, Or it is mounting a diversion so we the public don’t realise there isn’t enough equipment? I prefer armoured, mechanised, and light (protected). We are committed to Boxer but I sometimes think the French option of Jaguar and Griffon would have been to outfit mechanised brigades. And then refurbish CR2 with new fire control software etc. and concentrate them and Ajax in a couple of heavy brigades. 3DIV’s mechanised brigades had one CR2 regiment, one Warrior mounted armoured infantry battalion, and then two infantry battalions in Saxon. An update of that orbat could see Warrior replaced with Ajax, and the Saxon replaced with Boxer. 4 brigades would be more than enough for the UK’s ‘needs’.

        • Yeah pretty much spot on with that David.

          The old 3 Division Mechanized Brigades, 1st, 12, 19th, indeed had that Orbat.
          The 1st Division were Armoured, and in Germany. 4th, 7th, 20th.

          Ajax, and its variants are replacing Scimitar and the CVRT family, not Warrior.
          The modern day Saxon is Mastiff, indeed most likely replaced with Boxer.

          The Strike Brigades nonsense is a fancy name to get headlines, widely broadcast by Cameron, who was probably clueless like all the rest of them, to describe something which until recently were Mechanised Brigades, with Regiments of Tanks to boot.

          The spin created by the news of these Strike Brigades was that the Army would go from 3 Armoured Infantry Brigades to 2 Armoured Infantry and 2 Strike. An improvement in eyes of the public. 4 Instead of 3.

          But not so.

          In fact A2020 originally set up with 3 Armoured Infantry in 3 Division and a further 2 deployable brigades in 1 Division, 5 Brigades not 4, ALL with a supporting Artillery, Engineer, REME, RLC, and RMC regiment. The “rule of 5” that the army had followed for years.

          It also masks the further reduction in Armoured Regiments and Armoured Infantry formations in these formations.

          3 AI Brigades had 6 Warrior, 3 Tank, 3 HPM ( Heavy Protected Mobility on Mastiff ) and 3 Armoured Rec Regiments on CVRT. 15 formations.

          4 Brigades in the new plan will now field 4 Warrior, 2 Tank, 4 HPM ( To be Boxer most likely ) and 4 Armoured Rec Regiments on Ajax. 14 Formations.

          A cut. A bigger cut when you include the previous CS and CSS formations the army is also losing.

          The Ajax which we have been discussing are now to be concentrated in the Strike Brigades, leaving the Armoured Brigades bereft of their own recc assets!
          It is unknown if the remaining Warrior and Tank Regiments will still field their own Ajax Recc Squadrons.

          The 4 Ajax Regiments will be assigned 2 per Strike Brigade, with 1 of each in Medium Armour role. As I briefly mentioned above this is worrying.

          So yes, it is very much a diversion! Typical sleight of hand by not just politicians but the army itself, desperate to retain cap badges ( infantry battalions ) while losing the glue that holds them together and enables them to deploy as self supporting brigades.

          • We need to look beyond Ajax replacing CVR(T) and look to replacing Warrior now in front live service. We should have moved Warrior into a (tracked) mechanised roll with a higher roof perhaps and RWS; we need APC’s..

            Saxon to Boxer is a big leap in capability and class. The former is being a very basic example of protected mobility and the latter being a best in class true fighting vehicle (APC, IFV, dependent on version.) Boxer is designed to have the same mobility as an MBT, so mixing wheels and tracks is not a problem.

            I stopped taking much notice of what the Army said it was going to do a decade back. It is all words to disguise a fudge. As I said 4 armoured brigades should be enough to show our support for Western defence. And as you say they should be full fat (plus supporting functions like FRR, engineering). Never understood the mystery of drawing up orbats. Tanks need infantry that can keep pace with them. The number of battalions to tanks has been shown to be about 2 to 3. Tanks need route reconnaissance, heck the the whole formation needs reconnaissance. And there needs to be sporting fires both for the ground and to protect from threats from above. And so on. A brigade can last 24 to 48 hours in contact, therefore we need two, but to show we are serious 3 to 4. I just don’t see the mystery. We know where and tear on equipment. We know how much exercises costs. I just don’t see the mystery in any of this. If we have line infantry left over find a vehicle to move them about in; infantry is the one thing we can never have enough of…….

    • That’s bull. I have never met a Challenger 2 tanker who thought their tanks were anything other than the most badass war winning vehicle in the world. Most challenger 2 crew state the army should reactivate all those held in reserve and scrap warriors as too lightly armoured for front line combat have a sledge hammer challenger 2 fleet supported by air defence missile launchers and fast wheeled APCs carrying supporting infantry. In summary overwhelm the enemy with a superior tank present in adequate numbers. Air superiority is not guaranteed in a peer Vs peer conflict thus Apache and drones are not guaranteed to survive combat debut on a battlefield.

      • We haven’t many in reserve. The MoD have been quietly chopping them up for years. The one thing the MoD is very good at is destroying kit so there is no danger of it being used again. The danger being that generates costs not that it will hurt anybody!

      • Agree Mr Bell, I’m calling b.s. on that too, I know a few people in the Army and they certainly don’t have that view of Challenger.

  22. Sounds like a retired army officer who still holds a grudge after nobody listened to him maybe he should spend time lobbying the government to buy more tanks, the only problem with them is we don’t have enough. Why would a British army officer want to buy a tank from Germany. Sums it up really government and officers are both not worth a carrott. They both lack clarity of thought. If the gun isn’t good enough change it. We have no hope in this country.

  23. Talk of export success is highly skewed, L2 was in service at the end of the Cold War and Germany held vast numbers in inventory which it off loaded second hand to various nations at low prices even export customers such as the Netherlands slimmed their fleets selling to Canada etc L2 was already of. Much higher production run reducing unit cost, which is the main downfall of most Uk defence projects; low order number high unit price. Abrams was exported again due to its low unit price after vast US orders and sensibility over NATO standard ammunition and obviously it being favourable to have US interoperability however Australia is the only real customer outside of the Middle East and many other potential customers are for ex US stock. If over 8000 CR2 has been produced unit price and export potential would have been much more favourable. Asides from that joint European defence projects are largely disasters as European nations can never agree. Horizon / T45, EH101, NH90, A400M, eurofighter and tornado to a lesser degree, and I’m sure many more.

    That said buying British has also not provided value for money in an already stretched budget facing an equipment black hole, T26 vast sums of money spent on R+D to determine a design over a decade for only 8 to be produced where is the sense and value for money in that, T45 being the same only producing half of the projected and arguably required hulls, the embarrassment of the batch 2 rivers, and astute with a painfully slow delivery schedule to produce too few hulls, selection of AJAX over CV 90 which is arguably a better design and would have kept industrial capacity available to at least give the option of producing a next gen MBT

  24. For what it’s worth, there was an old adage that said: if you want to fight on land buy German; on or under the sea, buy British and in the air, buy American. Don’t know whether that still applies if it ever did…

  25. Upgrade what we have left and invest in UAV’s and attack helicopters, technology has moved on since the gulf war. What we need are standoff weapons that can be launched from even greater distances and with pinpoint accuracy. A few more Typhoon squadrons wouldn’t go a miss either!

    https://www.armyrecognition.com/france_french_army_light_and_heavy_weapons_uk/mmp_mbda_medium_range_anti-tank_surface-to-surface_missile_data.html

    https://www.mbda-systems.com/product/spear/

  26. At the risk of being shot down in flames… Perhaps time for Euro NATO to segregate its capabilities and achieve higher excellence through specialisation of technology and economies of scale rather than being jacks of all.

    Not advocating the following but simply listing some examples to provoke a reaction.

    Doesn’t mean manufacturing is limited to these places ( but it might) rather if govts are going to research and developments let certain govts focus on certain areas.

    Germany and Poland land fighting vehicles
    UK Italy (Sweden) and France fixed wing aviation
    Italy France helo
    UK France and Spain maritime surface
    Germany (sweden) diesel electric sub
    UK France nuclear Sub
    Etc artillery
    Etc missiles
    Etc radar and surveillance

    Stop pretending we can all specialise and afford research in everything… And fail… Focus on a smaller scope well.

    • That would work but the EU are becoming a seperated federal super state that we are leaving. So defence integration that is that close and tailored is unlikely to be tenable long term.
      A challenger 3 should be developed, there is no other guarantee of the British army being able to stand on a battlefield and not be swept away. We would be swept away if we had no MBT to hold the ground and make any attacking armoured force pay dearly for trying to attack. The Challenger 2 was designed to be a defensive tank. The Challenger 3 replacement should be the same. First priority armour protection, second killing power of gun (rail gun), 3rd active and passive defensive suite, 4th tactical mobility, 5th crew habitability and ease of maintenance.

      • I’d love to see a railgun armed MBT, it’s just not going to happen anytime soon, at least in a small enough vehicle to make it realistic. The technology needs an advance in power generation and miniaturisation currently just out of reach, just look at the ZUMWALT which could generate enough power for a small city (78 MW according to wikipedia), but could only fire the railgun if stationary.

        They are making strides with the second issue, barrel life, which has I believe increased from 10’s of shots to a potential of 1000 or so. First step for me would be to pour R&D into power generation techniques as it would benefit all branches of military and civilian life. The materials science for armour etc is second to none in the UK so that’s one bit where we can just carry on with and not have to invest hugely. Imagine a carbon nanotube based armour for vehicles :-O

    • I would have said the time for Europeans to have shared NATO ‘capabilities’ in a logical manner was April 5th, 1949…………… 🙂

      • The problem if the equipment is not being manufactured locally governments will simply not order it and prioritise equipment that is produced locally.
        Their focus is on what orders win the most votes not what orders provide the best capability/value for money.
        Unfortunately the majority of European joint ventures end up running late and over budget due to each nation trying to screw eachother over on workshare by promising to buy 100 then cutting to 20 when the country that actually needs the capability still needs 100 and has given up 30% of the workshare for very little offset.

        • Yes. And thrice yes.

          Though by shared capabilities I meant us looking after the Atlantic, the Germans (not a NATO member then I know but eventually) looking after their border, and the French contributing to both the Atlantic and Germany in equal measure (as something akin to reserve). Leaving the other countries to fit in where they can. You could take that and couple in Canada to help just in the Atlantic too so keeping the Commonwealth / Empire connection. NATO should have really been a Western alliance. And the White Commonwealth should have been an entity within it like the US and Continental Europe. We might have had some balance then.

      • Agree David. That horse bolted years ago. The EU is now treading its own distinctly non NATO path and as such should be viewed as being unreliable until proven otherwise.

  27. A simple question. Why on earth does the MOD, the BRITISH Government, not work hand in hand with BRITISH industry to produce the equipment the BRITISH military needs. Everyone likes to blame everyone else, but in this unsure and uncertain world we have to start looking after ourselves and each other. We are all BRITISH and we should be supporting each other.

    • Gosh that would require a very long answer. It does amuse me though that pacifist Germany can sell you everything from a rifle to a tank and build you frigates and submarines using a ‘more resilient domestic industrial base’ than the UK’s. We know the French runaway if they don’t get to be in charge hence Rafale; remember children the UK is a ‘bad European’ who doesn’t ‘co-operate’ (thank you Mr Sandys too). We were the only European nation in NATO that did everything so we had to spread meagre resources rather thinly; bad Europeans again! We don’t tend to use the military as make work schemes and the relationship between state and industry is different here than in France and Germany. We tend to spend on training as bigger percentage of our budget than most nations which impacts budget. And so on. And so on.

        • Thank you. Over the years I have got a little tired of our defence establishment telling us, the members of the public who take an interest in their sphere, that we are a bit thick that we don’t understand the subtle nuances of their ‘business’; them pushing the idea that are defences are honed with pragmatism beyond our ken and that we are kit obsessed and don’t understand it is about effects not platforms. And to be honest it is all bull sh*t. We aren’t stupid……..

  28. No mention of armour in the recommendation!!!? I bet there are plenty of tank crews who are glad they were not in a Leopard since that decision was made.

    • The armour was a source of criticism for the UK trials unit of the Leopard 2 according to my source who worked in the trials unit, in particular the turret frontal armour.

      The information that the UK trials unit gave back to the Germans directly influenced the development of the 2a5 variant with the bolt on wedge shaped turret armour packs.

      If you are referring to the Leopard 2’s performance in Syria that is squarely the fault of the Turkish army who employed them in a terrible manner. They would mainly sit them individually in the open with little to no infantry support using them as stationary gun support platforms. Pretty much any MBT even the Challenger 2 would not come out well when hit by a late generation ATGM in the flank which is what happened to scores of Turkish 2a4 in Syria. They even failed to bring the correct ammunition with them mainly deploying with penetrator rounds rather than high explosive.

  29. Why waste money on tanks?
    We are a tiny Island with a tiny army we can’t rule the world we should not want to even try being a world’s policeman, TBH I can’t even see the point of these two big supercarriers we have apart from a form of national pride.
    Tanks as I see it are all well and good if your a landlocked country trying to defend from invasion but in modern warfare I don’t see any tanks having any role to play unless helping third world countries or aiding Nato.
    If it’s all about National pride then do one thing better than anyone else and that should be defence of our own country….. dump all these useless tanks and all that other junk…….
    Make 20 dreadnaught nuclear submarines develop our own nukes and keep a stockpile of a few thousand warheads another 20 Astute class submarines and we can sit back in the knowledge that if Russia or the US even if they became enemies would not try anything because we could wipe them out with us.MAD.
    No need for 20 thousand tanks 5000 fighting vehicles. …… In the bigger picture self defense is all we really need and look at Egypt or Turkey. ..thousands of soldiersl and thousands of Tanks yet a few subs and nukes could wipe it all out in minutes.
    We could easy afford to do this if we dumped all tanks….didn’t have these supercarriers that in my mind are sitting targets for a submarine and these type 31 frigates we are supposed to build (Frigates are really just a smaller cheaper and less able to defend destroyer ……. and same goes for filling these carriers with F35s …… Russia in a one on one with UK would laugh at our two supercarriers filled with F35s.
    And the money we would save could go to making this country a much better place for its people to live in.

  30. No MBT? No effective offensive capability. 150+ Apaches? We binned one third of these in the last round of self sacrificing cuts along with the same proportion of tanks. If your enemy is fielding more MBT’s than you then you better have some effective anti-tank systems or be overwhelmed. The strike brigades are woefully undergunned with only dismounted AT capability.
    Good luck to the poor saps having to jump out of IFV’s and letting off their javelins.
    Manpower, investment and political will a never ending problem leading to tragically, 1the increasing irrelevance of the British Army.

    • Bill – 150 Apache Helicopters would have been great but unsurprisingly a possible order for a fleet of 100-120 turned into 67 being produced,so the cut to 50 doesn’t seem as bad I think.

  31. Interesting to read the background of the author. Also interesting is that there was no mention of arguably the top MBT (in respect of the most battle tested) in their discussions. I’m sure you can all work out the front-mounted engine beastie I refer to……..and even that one hasn’t proven to be invincible, just designed so that the most important piece of kit (the crew that takes years to train) has a high chance of survival.

  32. As i see it the MBT will go the way of the Battleship , now totally vulnerable to killer helicopters and infantry anti tank weapons. The days of vast Tank battles are gone
    Tanks are primarily now are use full for occupation of conquered land , however I dont see that future wars will be about occupying countrys, only about destroying enemy assets and controlling air and sea space

  33. I’ve looked at these comments with interest and the argument of UK build, rifled, smooth-bore, C3,L2, M1 etc.
    Yet no one has asked a much more important question, does the British Army actually need a MBT of 70 tons and a 120-125mm gun.
    I suppose in limited numbers yes, so a single heavy armour division is usable. It is still the question do we need it, No. With the small numbers of British troops possibly we need something completely different, something that is hard hitting, small, fast and can be transported easily by air or sea and in numbers that would make UK production cost effective. I suppose what I am thinking about is a 21st century Scorpion tank series. Rather than the 76mm it should have a 105mm auto turret meaning a three man crew, the body should be not only for the tank version but a mobile anti air version, anti tank missile version and a armoured personnel carrier as well as command and control and engineering vehicles.
    Yes they would have an issue with a head on clash with heavy tanks,but the likely hood that the UK would be involved with an enemy that has more that a single modern heavy tank div is nill.
    If Russia ever went rouge then it would be a NATO conflict, but the British Army is best at mobile warfare, pin pricks, get in hurt you and get out. We have the man numbers for that but not much more. What this type of platform would give you is the ability of hard hitting battle-groups all with the same chassis. This means we can build numbers meaning that they should be cost effective as well as being flexible. If we went down that route then yes buy the heavy tanks from the Americans or Germans for the heavy div, but as for the main focus of the army possibly a new family of armoured fighting vehicles is needed to shift to flexibility speed and hard hitting.
    What do you think?

    • We already have only one armoured division……..

      The national psyche is wedded to the idea that the UK is a land power thanks to WW1 and WW2, and a political elite wedded to the idea that we are ‘Europeans’. Nuclear weapons made industrial armies obsolete; BAOR’s role really wasn’t to defend us or Germany but to give time for WW3 to be deescalated and for our politicians to reach safety before nuclear war broke out. The French and the Germans could have been the trip wire for that on their own. Germany did put some effort into preparing bridges etc. for demolition in case the Soviets decided to visit to slow the latter’s advance; but they could have done more (a la Switzerland). And as we know the French pulled out of the military arm of NATO; the interesting thing here is that if WW3 was to break out it would have been after about 59/60 the point at which Europe would have recovered enough to fight a war, so to me the French running off in the mid-sixties after stamping their feet for a few years is a bit suspicious. We should have 1960 quietly returned to the sea, investing more in our ships and aeroplanes and slowly re-rolling the Army into a smaller version of the USMC. In terms of outfitting it wouldn’t have impacted our industrial base for land warfare much because we would have probably purchased much the same amount of equipment but for a smaller force (so better equipped, probably for an increase in features if not quality) and we would have needed more big metal bashing products (more amphibs large and small). (Also we wouldn’t have been pumping millions into the German economy each year too.) So the reason why we need a MBT is historic more than practical. An island nation doesn’t need a large standing army; it should be able to do with a small well equipped force. Perhaps as evidence for this look at the outbreak of WW2 and who had the totally mechanised, but small army?

      • Haven’t seen anyone make that comment on here before! I’ve read it elsewhere before though, from some interesting military commentators.
        Have to say I agree with you; I would make our entire armed forces a lot more USMC-esque in fact (funnily enough, the two are matched fairly evenly for manpower). Our entire philosophy, based upon the SDSRs etc. is to have a mobile, global presence that can support the UK’s intent to be an upholder of a rules-based world order. Regardless of opinion, that holds even more strongly after Brexit. To me, that sounds just like a role for an outfit modelled on the USMC (if we include the role of the USN in moving them around, projecting their air power etc.).

        • Even during the time of Empire the Army followed on after the explorers, diplomats, and navy. Wellington after the defeat of Napoleon knew that if the Army was to survive it would have to be put out of the way or face being cut in the time of Pax Britannica. The Army’s current perceived place by society as the primary defender of these islands came about because industrial armies were large personnel intensive organisations; in both wars the Army employed far greater numbers than the RN (and this happened for two generations). Further naval warfare or more accurately sea power is very subtle, and something can be ‘flexed’ even in times of peace. Land warfare is far more brutal, immediate, and easily understood, but beyond perhaps flood defences and occasional firefighting armies have little utility in peace. I am not ‘anti-army’ (I was very upset when we lost the county regiment for example) I am just trying to be objective.

  34. Here we go yet another article on the crap British tank which i am told is useless, yet which has proved itself time and time again to be much better than the far superior LEO 2 which in Syria has being found to light up faster than a bunch of school kids behind the bikesheds during lunch break.

    Instead of the M1 or the German version of the zippo lighter, how about we purchase the Israeli Merkava 4 complete with Trophy APS.

    • Leopard 2’s performance in Syria is squarely the fault of the Turkish army who employed them in a terrible manner. They would mainly sit them individually in the open with little to no infantry support using them as stationary gun support platforms. Pretty much any MBT even the Challenger 2 would not come out well when hit by a late generation ATGM in the flank which is what happened to scores of Turkish 2a4 in Syria. They even failed to bring the correct ammunition with them mainly deploying with penetrator rounds rather than high explosive.

      • Fedaykin, oh I agree 110% with you regards how the Turks have operated in Syria. Funny thing is the Israeli upgraded M60-Ts (Sabra) appear to have faired a lot better when it comes to missile strikes.

        • The M60-T that have more modern systems and better situational awareness including a Laser warning receiver and passive ATGM defence system. Also they were deployed this year so one would hope that Turkey learnt from the mistakes they made a year earlier in Al Bab when it comes to deploying their tanks.

          Performance of the Turkish Army in 2016 through to now was also heavily affected by Erdoğan’s purge of officers and NCOs after the failed coup attempt. Close to 10,000 officers, NCOs and civilian staff have been purged with those remaining being promoted based upon loyalty to Erdoğan rather than talent.

          By all accounts those purged were there most talented and flexible in thinking, according to NATO staff the Turkish officers who were sent to replace those at NATO HQ who were purged (all of whom applied for asylum rather than return to Turkey) are pretty useless.

        • Happy to stand corrected about them being deployed in 2016, from what I read they hadn’t gone out till February 2018.

          That being said I will throw you some counter points:

          1) The tank is properly emplaced in a hull down position making it far more difficult for the missile to hit a vulnerable spot
          2) This incident occurred in April 2016 three months before the Coup attempt, which rather affirms that the officer in charge here actually knows what he is doing and isn’t just a talentless Erdoğan appointed yes man

          It is markedly different from what happened later with L2a4 sitting in open ground.

          • I doubt it the man is still arresting people. A shame the Turkish officers I met a few decades ago were very professional.
            These clowns Erdogan found seem to have come from a party rally in Ankara.

  35. @David, I know that we have a division of heavy tanks, and I think that is all we need, but due to this fact then I do not see the point in developing a new MBT with the limited numbers needed. It would not be cost effective. I also agree with Farouk that the Merkava IV could be a good idea. As for bashing the Challenger II, that is not a good idea, the tank has proven itself time and again in situations that others would fail.
    What I’m looking at is the future of the British Army and again agree with David that the Army should shift its focus on being a continental style army to that of the USMC, mobile and hard hitting.
    The future family of Armoured fighting vehicle that I like the concept of to achieve this is the BAE Polish PL-01 project and increase the Amphibious force of the RN so that three armoured battlegroups equipped with the PL-01 family could land in a first wave situation.

    • True. We only need about three to four brigades worth of modern armour; though I would also mount as much of the remaining line infantry in Boxer and refurbished Warrior too as you can’t have enough infantry.

      I like Merkava too. I am not sure if I bashed CR2, because I don’t think it is bad mechanically though it does need new fire control software.

      In terms of land forces then yes I would start to push the RM. I think there would be so logical in us replacing the Albion’s (and Ocean) with three large, fast dock ships (something like the USN San Antonio class) one of which would accompany a carrier about the world. We can’t afford a separate ARG or to operate one at USN/USMC so we could double up the capability. Base a close combat plus small Tac HQ in the carrier with 6 to 8 Merlin and some Wildcat, the majority of the commando in the LPD, and the balance (plus support like engineers) in a Bay following on behind ready to brought forward. Having 3 LPDs would mean that in a crisis we would have extra capacity.

      • David Taylor: “I am not sure if I bashed CR2, because I don’t think it is bad mechanically though it does need new fire control software”

        There is defiantly nothing wrong with the software, its better in every way to Leo2s. Without boring your socks off its essentially a generation ahead, you can do more “stuff” with a CR2s fire control system.

        BV

  36. Off topic a little, but on Russian tv they often show what they call tank biathlon competitions between Russia, China, Inida, Iran and and other, much smaller countries. Russia always seems to win… but you would expect that on home territory and with fixed rules and lots of cheating.

    Also, almost daily on the news they show new military equipment and how it’s supposed to be way superior to Western equipment.

    It’s quite funny watching all the propaganda.

  37. The UK will never again field a large enough armoured force to be decisive on the field of battle. It’s too expensive, too difficult to deploy to the right spot and too easily countered. It comes at the expense of investment in other more versatile forces, including sufficient infantry to fight a counter insurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan. Let those in the direct path of a belo russian division focus on manoeuvre warfare, we will contribute high end naval and air assets. We do not need tanks to defend the UK or project power or support allies.

  38. We let other nations fight and re-role into Yeomanary. Use the savings in manpower expenses to fund others to do the fighting on their own turfs and invest in the Royal Navy and Royal Airforce.

  39. I’m so tired of the more of everything brigade. Let’s get real, look at our adversaries and our alliances and our geostrategic location. With the budget we have how can we defend the UK and our allies. It seems to me SSNs, carriers, high end escorts, tankers, high end jets and strategic lift, AWACS and jstars, rotary lift…all integrated with trusted allies such as northern european framework is the best answer. Allies can focus on fighting the land war and help flesh out the escorts for carrier strike.

    • I’ll go for that. One exception though: SF. They are very important and you need minimum size ground military, including marines, as a recruitment base for SF.

      • Thanks SR. If advocate for more mechanised infantry for the equivalent cost of tank regiments, so increasing the pool. But if I’m honest is go further like the us navy seals and recruit people who train to be SF (spec ops in their case) from day one, like 21 and 23 sas but full time. Why waste people in their physical prime doing regular army training, drill and marching etc when they want to be raiding, infiltrating, observing and targeting on SF type missions.

  40. If people want to advocate regenerating the capability for armoured warfare then they must demonstrate the utility and the opportunity cost. Tanks are there to kill tanks, so if an enemy tank gets onto a beach in blighty then naval and air superiority has been lost, meaning our ability to manoeuvre tanks in counter attack is gone. As well as the possibility being so remote it beggars belief. How many armoured brigades would we need to defend allies, at least a division bro make a meaningful contribution but ideally a corps. However what’s better at killing tanks, aircraft, especially with ground scanning radar and dispersed infantry to target precision munitions and drones are better at wide area surveillance than vehicles. Yet many commentators are yearning for the past.

  41. We have interests all over the globe, ranging inscale of intensity from training to high end deterrence. What forces are most versatile when cost is constrained. Clue, it ain’t tanks.

    • The job of the army is to take and hold ground.

      The heavy armoured tank is most effective vehicle to achieve this objective.

      • No the job of the army is garrison, patrolling, training, security and counter insurgency, defensive warfare, manoeuvre warfare, etc Holding ground unless strategically vital is a sure way to get malleted. Slim gave up the whole of Burma to eventually outmatch the Japanese and Russian history is testiment to using space for strategic effect. Chinese forces overran in forces that had plenty of tanks in Korea. If a belorsussian tank division tries to invade a NATO state it’s every movement would be detected and targeted from distance. Tanks can hold ground against poorly armed combatants but these will likely be counter insurgencies where tanks shouldn’t be part of the mix. What your missing is the opportunity cost of fielding a relatively small number of tanks, including the logistic chain and limited range of effect. Larger light forces may well have stabilised wither Iraq or Afghanistan in isolation.

    • mike saul-interesting choice ,have also read that the Japanese Type 10 has been mentioned as a contender but i’ll believe it when I see it.

      • Merkava 4 would be great, not sure I like the ammo storage, spent too long on Chally to just put rounds in boxes in the back of the hull.

        Some of the Japanese tanks are outstanding, the fire control in way more advanced then what we have.

        BV

  42. A lot of commentors here seem to be angry that a British officer would dare recommend a non-British product. Yes, he was recently from staff college, but he had also commanded tank units at a level that would have required him to “fight” one too. I am not an expert, but have read fairly widely in my spare time. What I have read leads me to believe that, although we invented them, we never really built a decent tank until the Challenger 2. Most/all British tank designs of WW2 were built upon out of date philosophies and had serious shortcomings in at least one of the 3 fundamentals of mobility, firepower and armour. I believe British tankers’ ride of choice at that time was the Sherman Firefly, effectively an Anglo-American collaboration. Post-war I’m not so familiar with, but I don’t believe the Chieftan or Ch1 were particularly good.
    Based on that then, why would they recommend an untested British option that couldn’t inter-operate effectively with their NATO counterparts? I am very glad that, by good fortune, we actually got a brilliant tank, but previous experience would not have suggested this outcome.
    I am a huge fan of buying British at every opportunity, but I don’t think it was the treason that some on here have considered it to have technical reservations about the Ch2.

  43. A light mobile force that uses the principle tactic of manoeuvre is great for fire fighting enemy incursions or getting to a trouble spot quickly. However, on their own they lack the depth of force but more importantly persistence and resilience. The Apache although is said to be the King of battlefield, also suffers from a lack of persistence, having to constantly return to a FOB to rearm and refuel. With the number of highly reactive battlefield SAM systems increasing such as the highly lethal SA22 Pantsir life for the Apache would be quite short unless they can be suppressed sufficiently.

    There is always the constantly evolving battle between defence and offence. This can be seen with the MBT. For the last twenty years at least, it was stated that these behemoths were dinosaurs and would soon be extinct because of the plethora of guided anti-tank weapon systems. Then Israel, thinking outside the box invented the Trophy active protective system. This is now a battle proven system that has saved a good number of Merkavas from being hit from RPGs and the most modern ATGMs. It has also been proven to defend against multiple consecutive and simultaneous attacks. This has in effect balanced or even nullified the advantage of anti-tank guided weapons over armoured vehicles. Yes, you can argue that the APS could be defeated by using swarm attacks, but how much will that actually cost to deliver if you have send 5 Hellfires to knock out one tank? Whereas a kinetic round can still destroy a tank and can’t be defeated by APS (at the moment). Therefor a light highly mobile armoured vehicle with say a 105mm autogun facing off against a Merkava may get a disabling shot on it, but the Merkava will destroy the lightly armoured vehicle and although disabled will probably still be functional.

    The Merkava 4s have yet to face a peer vs peer MBT I believe, but with Trophy fitted it has an added advantage over other MBTs. The Trophy’s radar besides detecting and tracking threats will also pin point where the weapon was fired from, allowing the main gun to be cued on to the target or coordinates given for an artillery strike etc. The radar works equally well for both RPG and ATGM detection and tracking, but can also track kinetic rounds i.e. tank gun rounds. This helps massively with the “where the F*** did that come from” moment when you’re being shot at and trying to identify and get eyes on your target.

    The Army should be made up of a balanced force. Yes containing Light Infantry and light highly mobile reaction forces with perhaps Boxer etc. But they should also still have APs equipped heavy armour which is used for both attacking and defending as it can soak up a lot of hits and still remain functional. Whatever tank replaces the Chally it should have the same or better resilience and be able to remain functional after taking hits. I am not going to argue how crap the Turkish L2s were as they were not up-armoured or to the latest standard. However the L2 design is just as old as the Challys as is the M1s. The Merkava 4 is a newer evolution of the previous Merkavas. So to be fair we probably would be invited by the Franco german effort of replacing Lecler or L2, but the replacement M1 perhaps. But a replacement for the Chally is required and it must have an APS.

    • Well done, best post here on this subject.

      Light mobile armoured vehicles have a role on the battlefield but against MBTs, they would be swatted like flies – they are not a viable alternative to tanks. That is probably why Russia, China, the USA give pride of place to tanks formations and manufacture them in the tens of thousands.

      Too much of the case for replacing MBTs with light armour or Boxer comes from those who would like to revert to having a powerful Royal Navy, backed by a small army expeditionary force, as in the days when we had an empire. Try that when Russian armour comes rolling through the Suwalki Gap or Putin foments and equips Donetsk-style ! The idea of NATO is that all 28 contribute to the main battle, which is prognosticated and prepared for as principally an air-land one, now tasked with space, cyber and ISTAR. The naval element, excluding the SSBN, is 3rd, 4th or 5th on the chart of strategic priorities.

  44. Something that has been missed in this interesting discussion is if the Challenger is so crap and the Abrams so great why did the Abrams need the first versions of the British Chobham armour? Of course C2 went on to use the greatly improved ‘Dorcester’ version of that armour. And why it is the best protected MBT in existence.

    So the Americans used British armour, a German gun and then went and fitted a gas guzzling Gas Turbine engine…. While the C2 has British armour, a British gun and a British engine – a Perkins engine designed and built in Peterborough UK. Perkins were apparently so crap with its global manufacturing base that Caterpillar bought them in 1998 for $1.3 Bn!

    And here i must correct my very first post – I confused Perkins with Paxman while I was writing a piece about railway history elsewhere. No excuse – an UpFuck ..

    • Until the UK under great secrecy showed Chobham to representatives from representatives from Chrysler, General Motors, the US Ballistics Research laboratory and the XM1 program manager it wasn’t even considered as a necessary element.

      If they hadn’t been shown Chobham they would have gone forward with their own planed armour design. Upon seeing it they felt the benefits of incorporating the concepts were worth the cost and program delay with Chrysler and General Motors redesigning their submissions to incorporate new armour designed by the US Ballistics Research laboratory that incorporated the lessons learnt from the British.

      It should be noted the armour on a standard Abrams isn’t really Chobham, it is US designed incorporating British concepts and US developed changes including the addition of DU layers.

      As for the Gun whilst it is based upon the L/44 the M256 had so many design changes made by the US that it is all but a new gun. Except for the Ammunition the M256 is not actually interchangeable with the L/44 between tanks.

      You could strongly argue that the Abrams uses American armour, an American gun and American engine influenced or derived from British and German technology.

    • I think, maybe, that you’ve answered your own question?

      The Americans had a look at what was available and cherry picked to create a very balanced all round MBT. We went all British, which has worked out very well, but not without its limitations. We need separate ammunition supply chains when on combined ops (practically speaking everywhere we take a tank to war); it’s under-powered (both then and now) and so therefore slower than either a Leopard (diesel) or M1 (GT).

      American tank doctrine favours mobility and firepower, British tank doctrine favours armour and firepower. Hence the choice of a Gas turbine. But they will run on virtually any kind of fuel, have a longer mean time between service and failure when compared to diesels, have fewer parts to break/replace, are modular enough to be repaired/replaced in the field, and have a very high thrust to weight ratio (incredibly important when talking about a powerpack for a very heavy armoured box). In addition, they are actually more or less as efficient as a diesel when running, it’s when they’re on idle that they drink the fuel. So they’re not the terrible choice that they’re often painted to be.

      I’m certainly not saying that the Challenger 2 is crap, but it’s not without its weaknesses. If we did what the Americans did with the Abrams (designed a tank domestically, using the best balance of domestic and international components available, built it domestically, and exported it around the world) for a replacement MBT then I’d be happy. To expect/demand that everything be British would be unwise, in my opinion…

  45. “Maybe this time around the UK will be able to swallow its national pride and opt for the best option on offer no matter its country of provenance?”

    Or maybe, the UK will design and build the very best herself and others will want it. Believe in this Country!

  46. @ Joe16

    Thank you. I will read it. It is nice when you come across articles and essays that chime with your own thoughts. Never believed anything I said was unique or special, in a way that would be bad because there is much chance of being wrong in that instance than right!

  47. I’d be surprised if the UK went for a new tank at this stage. The reason being that although Abrams and Leopard 2 are practically at the top of their game, they have little further development mileage left in them and will themselves soon be outclassed (e.g. Armata). It probably makes sense to update the existing Chally 2 hulls to see out the next ten to fifteen years or so, and in the breathing space that gives the British army can work out what it wants to do in the longer term; e.g. an off the shelf buy of a future product or participate in developing a new MBT. In the latter case I expect that European partners would welcome UK money.

  48. “I have this possibly old fashioned idea that my taxes should be spent to benefit my country, my economy, British people in general and those in humanitarian need (UK or foreign)”

    That’s two of us for a start.

    • Hi Mike. It’s a good starting point but it’s more complicated than that. Sometimes we benefit more from coproducing like with f35. We probably can’t afford to develop a next generation replacement for typhoon as we’d need a large number of orders which historically have not been forthcoming. Sometimes it just is better for the the UK to field the best that has been developed elsewhere, such as Apache (albeit assembled in the UK) or because there insufficient capacity in the UK (e.g. tide class tankers). What is needed, for the most strategic programmis long term planning (e.g. steady drumbeat of submarine and warship construction), support for areas of strength (satellites, engines) and reliable international collaboration (e.g. f35). Defence funding is primarily for best defence we can afford but where possible supporting UK innovation, exports and skills.

  49. I think one of the questions that needs to be asked is do we have the need to replace the Challenger 2?

    My main point being that during the first and second Gulf Wars, we were able to assemble an Armoured Division with 100 plus MBT’s at its core.

    If, with just 225 in the active inventory, we can no longer assemble and deploy an Armoured Division with 100 tanks, you have to ask is there any point having them at all?

    After all, these are the only occasions we have used them in their full, massed armour war fighting capacity since WW2.

    Perhaps we should be looking at lighter options and more AH64E’s …

    Just a thought…

  50. Others and also Mike: “…my taxes should be spent to benefit my country, my economy, British people in general…”
    I agree with that much. But I have to say, that there are some foolish (nay stupid and short-sighted) opinions in some previous posts.
    When did British people give themselves to self-denigrate their own country and destroy their own futures?

    Invest in your own engineers, for in time, some of them, will become your Entrepreneurs of tomorrow, who will, in turn, create SMEs and employ British PAYE workers, who will not have to be supported by the state through their working years into their pension years.
    Now, you can’t even begin to achieve the above, if some idiot is going to push all the big ticket financial purchases overseas.

    How much money has been saved by getting RFAs built overseas at the same time that we closed shipyards in Portsmouth??? One more time, at the same time that we closed local shipyards in Portsmouth, what happened to the dependant industries that used to supply services and materials? Are these decision makers, working for Putin???

    Those shipyard workers spent wages in their local economy using their own PAYE wages, but more importantly, we lost our future EARNINGS POTENTIAL, because when a company goes down the swanny, the designers also get sucked onto the dependant-on-the-state side of the story. Local workers out of work, on the dole, no longer getting their PAYE wage packets???

    Just before some idiot says, tough, they were not good enough to compete, they deserved to go out of business; you are not comparing apples with apples because the overseas shipyards were SUBSIDISED. Why, why say this, because there is a truth, that some seem to be blind to, the reason why foreign companies get subsidised, by their foreign governments is because, their objective was to destroy their competition; they played the long game.

    Foreign corporate businesses and foreign governments, play the long game

    The crime here is that the profit and loss, has not been fairly compared (local PAYE, VAT, building Rates, materials purchases, workforce, etc. etc. it’s not a complete list for local benefits but you don’t just look at the financial number on the purchase order). I might accept that some companies could have competed and sold to foreign customers. They could have found it easier to do that, if HMG the UK government had also subsidised OUR own companies, in the same way, that OUR overseas competition was doing. But the UK thinks that they should set an example of how to play fair, even if the opposition cares not one jot about fair competition. Overseas, bribes also happen, overseas competitors play every trick in the book when the financial incentives are in the 10s of millions (or more)

    Perhaps some here, are too young to understand, it takes a few decades to see it and to appreciate what I’m saying, to see story after story, business after business, FOLD. And you have to work in several countries to appreciate the contrast and see how other countries do things. How foreign countries, do support their critical industries, through thick and thin, so that their companies, who employ their people, do not go bust. Playing the long game.

    Level playing field – there is no such thing as a level playing field when the financial incentives are so large. The people, who lose, are average, British people who just want to work 9-5 and earn a decent wage. British people should be able to trust that their own tax money is not going overseas, to be used to subsidise overseas research and development and manufacturing. to make goods that will be sold back to the UK for a profit that in turn subsidises the tax coffers of those same foreign governments.

    The UK needs to learn how to play the long game; young folks working in supermarkets, shops, call centres, or walking around an Amazon warehouse will not earn enough money to pay for the NHS or your pension years and they certainly will not earn enough to pay for a defence budget either.

    It’s a race to the bottom in multiple ways
    A UK wholesale state
    earns less than a foreign state who manufactures the goods supplied to the UK.

    Students can and do go overseas and work where they like, anywhere they like and PAY TAX IN FOREIGN countries. This is because some fool in the UK changed the business environment by throwing big ticket purchase orders overseas, such that the best jobs, are not in British owned businesses anymore. Please understand also, what kind of disincentive it is for students, to only be able to work for foreign companies because some HMG idiot did not support British industry (the long game).

    It’s a race to the bottom in multiple ways
    Competitive tendering when the competition is subsidised, and when the foreign salespeople are better educated than those who sign off on a big-ticket project, who are only thinking of themselves and their own bonuses.

    When did British people give themselves to self-denigrate their own countries futures by talking down their own companies to the benefit of foreign competitor companies?

    • Easy, short term profiteering over long term investment. Don’t forget business is war, this is the ethos that many foreign companies and countries follow especially the Japanese. Our country and politicians have failed to grasp this vital concept. I believe the main fault lies with our politicians. They on the whole are not people who have crossed over from business and have generally been life long politicos. So are more inclined to discuss and arbitrate rather than go for the jugular like somebody who’s been in a successful business. I am not saying we need someone like Allan Sugar for PM, but the Government definitely needs to grow some balls and start investing in this country’s ability to produce goods that are not foreign run.

  51. Keith and Davey, I don disagree with the general thrust of your argument.
    However, our defence budget already can’t cope with procurement as it stands.

    So, if we decided to develop indigenous solutions for most items, the budget would be quite simply be rapidly stretched broken with development funds spiraling out of control.

    The only way this could possibly work is if the extra costs were paid by the D.T.I and the defence industrial complex, thus didn’t not come from the core defence budget.

    The above will never happen…

    As a great example of shoddy practice and indigenous procurement.

    R.O.F Enfield developed the dreadful L85A1 … Now had they been a private company developing a product at their own expense to sell on the world market, would the L85A1 have been that product??

    Not a chance in hell….

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