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.

Image Crown Copyright

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?

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BB85
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BB85

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
Guest
Chris

(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?

Mark
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Mark

both the uk & oman vehicles were powered by thr RR challenger engine

PAB
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PAB

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
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Chris

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

Paul T
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Paul T

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

maurice10
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maurice10

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.

PKCasimir
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PKCasimir

You seem to forget that Iraq War was almost 3 decades ago. People were using VCRs. The world has changed.

maurice10
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maurice10

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… Read more »

DaveyB
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DaveyB

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… Read more »

peter
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peter

Challenger 2E the export prototype model had the MTU engine, this engine is smaller and lighter leaves more room for pies!

Chris
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Chris

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.

Joe
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Joe

180 tanks by 2020…… the year that Tanks will be outnumbered by Generals.

Such is the priorities of the MoD

J.T
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J.T

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… Read more »

Stephen
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Stephen

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… Read more »

Robert Blay
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Robert Blay

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.

Stephen
Guest
Stephen

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?

Stephen
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Stephen

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… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli
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Daniele Mandelli

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.

HF
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HF

100% support from me

Sceptical Richard
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Sceptical Richard

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!

expat
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expat

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… Read more »

4thwatch
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4thwatch

Something very unpatriotic with some level of society.

Darren
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Darren

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.

James
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James

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.

HERAL
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HERAL

Dont be ashame on your country
You have the marvellous City and in the future financial industry of the entire world…
You can come with us because french will produce next MBT and next Aircraft 5G with germans, your welcome…

peter waite
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peter waite

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?

Stephen
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Stephen

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.

Spyinthesky
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Spyinthesky

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… Read more »

David Taylor
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David Taylor

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… Read more »

Paul T
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Paul T

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.

Mr Anderson
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Mr Anderson

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.

HF
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HF

It’s called political ideology

Stephen
Guest
Stephen

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… Read more »

HERAL
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HERAL

So difficul selling tanks or aircraft or ships now…so the future is made together for selling more face to USA or Russia.

Jay
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Jay

We also have the biggest defence budget in Europe, paying massives prices for a small armed force.

Julian
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Julian

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… Read more »

Stephen
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Stephen

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… Read more »

Sceptical Richard
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Sceptical Richard

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.

Spyinthesky
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Spyinthesky

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… Read more »

Paul T
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Paul T

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.

David Stone
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David Stone

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

Paul T
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Paul T

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.

Seb W
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Seb W

Most disabled L2s in Syria were knocked out by hits that no other tank would have stopped either: ATGMs to side of the hull, the roof of the turret and the rearmost third of the turret’s side, LGBs and a explosive device planted inside a captured tank used to detonate the tank’s ammo from inside. If I remember correctly, there was only 1 hit a mbt could be expected to stop relying on passive armour only. A TOW-2 – one of the most powerful ATGMs even today – penetrated the front of the turret on the gunner’s side. The crew… Read more »

Jim
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Jim

KMW and Nexta are in the process of designing Leo3 (Euro tank), but that is many years away from production. By buying a Leo2A7 you are getting the most updated tank available, with the option of fitting the L51 130mm smoothbore made by Rheinmetall and remember there are more Leo2’s in NATO than any other tank. CR2 is so far behind the curve now, I wouldn’t put it the top 5 best tanks, I speak with 41 years of experience on MBT’s, still supporting CR2 firing on a daily basis.

mike saul
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mike saul

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.

mike saul
Guest
mike saul

“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… Read more »

Dan
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Dan

Mike, excuse my ignorance here, but could these issues not be solved by a new turret design?

Dan
Guest
Dan

Mike, excuse my ignorance, but would these issues not be solvable by designing a new turret for the C2 hull?

Nathan
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Nathan

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… Read more »

Rob Collinson
Guest
Rob Collinson

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.

julian1
Guest
julian1

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… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli
Guest
Daniele Mandelli

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.

Barry Larking
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Barry Larking

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.

julian1
Guest
julian1

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.

Mr Bell
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Mr Bell

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… Read more »

Sceptical Richard
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Sceptical Richard

Good question

Bill Kenny
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Bill Kenny

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??

mike saul
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mike saul

It seems it is

Barry Larking
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Barry Larking

Many thanks for that. It isn’t insignificant or irrelevant to the debate.

Ron5
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Ron5

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

Chris
Guest
Chris

(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

Stephen
Guest
Stephen

This whole article is a deliberate piece of propaganda to try and get us to buy foreign.

JohnHartley
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JohnHartley

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.

Chris
Guest
Chris

(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… Read more »

Elliott
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Elliott

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… Read more »

BB85
Guest
BB85

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.

Fedaykin
Guest
Fedaykin

Good quote from the Chieftain there

Elliott
Guest
Elliott

He got it from the US Armor school. The first thing they teach you as a gunner.

Elliott
Guest
Elliott

I do enjoy his videos though

BV Buster
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BV Buster

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.… Read more »

Fedaykin
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Fedaykin

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… Read more »

Chris
Guest
Chris

(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’… Read more »

Fedaykin
Guest
Fedaykin

“(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… Read more »

Chris
Guest
Chris

(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… Read more »

Barry Larking
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Barry Larking

Chris H. Excellent stuff. Well said.

Stephen
Guest
Stephen

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?

Heidfirst
Guest
Heidfirst

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, …

David Taylor
Guest
David Taylor

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… Read more »

Mr Bell
Guest
Mr Bell

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.

Fedaykin
Guest
Fedaykin

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… Read more »

Mr Bell
Guest
Mr Bell

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… Read more »

Stephen
Guest
Stephen

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.

Stephen
Guest
Stephen

A Challenger 3 would be something truly amazing, if we are only given the chance.

Rokuth
Guest
Rokuth

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

Rob Collinson
Guest
Rob Collinson

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

More UAVs + V-22s + more Apache.

Ron5
Guest
Ron5

The US tried that in Iraq, an Apache attack with no tank support. They got massacred.

Chris
Guest
Chris

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.

Mr Bell
Guest
Mr Bell

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… Read more »

Anthony D
Guest
Anthony D

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.

BV Buster
Guest
BV Buster

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

BV Buster
Guest
BV Buster

APFSDS and APS, not what got corrected.

Stephen
Guest
Stephen

Completely agree Mr Bell.

Tp2atp2
Guest
Tp2atp2

Hit the nail on the head ,meanwhile Germany dominates Europe and France tags along

Ian Skinner
Guest
Ian Skinner

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 Kendal
Guest
Ian Kendal

I don’t think the falcon turret ever entered service

Paul T
Guest
Paul T

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.

Elliott
Guest
Elliott

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.

Paul T
Guest
Paul T

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.

T.S
Guest

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… Read more »

Spyintheky
Guest
Spyintheky

I agree nobody in the west is designing new tanks because no one knows what one should be if at all.

BB85
Guest
BB85

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.

Mr Bell
Guest
Mr Bell

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.

Anthony D
Guest
Anthony D

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.

Fedaykin
Guest
Fedaykin

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… Read more »

Brit Kit Fan
Guest
Brit Kit Fan

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.

Arthur Cole
Guest
Arthur Cole

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.

HF
Guest
HF

“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.

David Taylor
Guest
David Taylor

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… Read more »

BV Buster
Guest
BV Buster

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

HERAL
Guest
HERAL

Actually Leclerc used by Emirates in Yemen war…
Look impressiveafter used and according to the emirates crews. Saudi Arabia was interrested by this MBT (good resistance against IED, mine and russians missiles).
In the future France and Germany will produce the “Leoclerc” the future MBT (and a future 5G aircraft)
Produce and sell together is the future in Europe, and UK still wellcome…if she please. Breixit or not : no change.

Max Steele
Guest
Max Steele

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… Read more »

David Taylor
Guest
David Taylor

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.

Daniele Mandelli
Guest
Daniele Mandelli

The “Medium Armour” variant of Ajax was dropped.

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

David Taylor
Guest
David Taylor

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.

Daniele Mandelli
Guest
Daniele Mandelli

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… Read more »

David Taylor
Guest
David Taylor

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… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli
Guest
Daniele Mandelli

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… Read more »

David Taylor
Guest
David Taylor

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… Read more »

Mr Bell
Guest
Mr Bell

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… Read more »

David Taylor
Guest
David Taylor

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!

Paul T
Guest
Paul T

David Taylor – that is correct,about one third of the fleet was gas-axed.

Stephen
Guest
Stephen

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.

Mikey B
Guest
Mikey B

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.

SN
Guest
SN

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… Read more »

Sceptical Richard
Guest
Sceptical Richard

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…

Nigel Collins
Guest
Nigel Collins

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/

Nigel Collins
Guest
Nigel Collins

With companies like MBDA producing more advanced weapons and delivery systems, the days of the MBT are sadly drawing to a close. Upgrading what we have left and investing in future technologies seems to be the smart way forward.

http://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/16980/bae-systems-wants-its-magma-drone-to-maneuver-using-only-supersonic-blasts-of-air

Nigel Collins
Guest
Nigel Collins

Here is a prime example! (Spear 3)
Notice the amount carried by just one Typhoon.
https://www.mbda-systems.com/product/spear/

BV Buster
Guest
BV Buster

Trophy can deal with spear 3, Brimstone and Jav, then what? the tank will still be rolling towards its objective.

BV

Pete
Guest
Pete

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… Read more »

Mike
Guest
Mike

Germany (sweden) diesel electric sub – no German subs are operational!

Sceptical Richard
Guest
Sceptical Richard

Cause of poor maintenance not the quality of the product

Mr Bell
Guest
Mr Bell

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… Read more »

Steve M
Guest
Steve M

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… Read more »

David Taylor
Guest
David Taylor

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

BB85
Guest
BB85

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.

David Taylor
Guest
David Taylor

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… Read more »

Mr Bell
Guest
Mr Bell

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.

Mike
Guest
Mike

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.

David Taylor
Guest
David Taylor

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… Read more »

farouk
Guest
farouk

David,
Best post of the day.

David Taylor
Guest
David Taylor

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……..

Stephen
Guest
Stephen

Well said Mike.

Mike
Guest
Mike

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.

Fedaykin
Guest
Fedaykin

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… Read more »

Invisibull
Guest
Invisibull

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… Read more »

Bill
Guest
Bill

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.

Paul T
Guest
Paul T

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.

TJ
Guest
TJ

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.

Peter french
Guest
Peter french

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

Ron
Guest
Ron

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… Read more »

David Taylor
Guest
David Taylor

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.… Read more »

Joe16
Guest
Joe16

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… Read more »

David Taylor
Guest
David Taylor

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… Read more »

Joe16
Guest
Joe16

I know what you’re saying, it is certainly disappointing to see the army being cut so deeply. AT the same time, adapt to survive…
One of the articles I mentioned is this one, informed my thinking a little, and matches what you said above: http://engagingstrategy.blogspot.com/2017/12/from-marlborough-to-carter-in-search-of.html#more

farouk
Guest
farouk

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.

Fedaykin
Guest
Fedaykin

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.

farouk
Guest
farouk

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.

Fedaykin
Guest
Fedaykin

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… Read more »

farouk
Guest
farouk

Fedaykin, as I stated I agree with you 110% especially with the purges that the Turkish military has had to endure. However I must correct you on the deployment of the M60-T into Syria. As one was widely reported of having survived a missile attack in 2016
http://www.israeldefense.co.il/en/content/turkish-tank-crew-saved-israeli-armor

Fedaykin
Guest
Fedaykin

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… Read more »

Elliott
Guest
Elliott

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.

Ron
Guest
Ron

@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… Read more »

David Taylor
Guest
David Taylor

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… Read more »

BV Buster
Guest
BV Buster

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

antidote
Guest
antidote

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.

Anthony D
Guest
Anthony D

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.

Riga
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Riga

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.

Anthony D
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Anthony D

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.

Daniele Mandelli
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Daniele Mandelli

Spot on.

Sceptical Richard
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Sceptical Richard

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.

Anthony D
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Anthony D

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.

Anthony D
Guest
Anthony D

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… Read more »

Anthony D
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Anthony D

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.

mike saul
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mike saul

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

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

Anthony D
Guest
Anthony D

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… Read more »

mike saul
Guest
mike saul

Buy Merkava 4 Barak for the tank regiments.

And Nammer for the armoured infantry battalions.

Problem solved

Paul T
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Paul T

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.

BV Buster
Guest
BV Buster

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

Joe16
Guest
Joe16

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… Read more »

DaveyB
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DaveyB

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… Read more »

R Cummings
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R Cummings

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… Read more »

Chris
Guest
Chris

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… Read more »

Fedaykin
Guest
Fedaykin

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… Read more »

Joe16
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Joe16

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… Read more »

Darren
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Darren

“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!

Stephen
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Stephen

We could still design and build amazing things in Britain, if we were only given the chance.

David Taylor
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David Taylor

@ 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!

Derek matthew
Guest
Derek matthew

The leopard 2 is that good apparently three out of five are unserviceable