For the past four months or so the world has watched agog as events have evolved in Ukraine.

In particular, Russia’s immense losses in main battle tanks (MBTs) and armoured fighting vehicles (AFVs) at the hands of small, determined groups of defenders aided by arms supplied by the west has led to many questioning the value of such vehicles in modern, conventional warfare. At the time of writing, Ukraine’s claimed losses it has inflicted on Russia’s MBTs and AFVs stand at 1,200 and 2,750 respectively.


This article is the opinion of the author and not necessarily that of the UK Defence Journal. If you would like to submit your own article on this topic or any other, please see our submission guidelines.


Whilst such claims have to be approached with some caution, there is little doubt that their Russian enemy has suffered grievously. Ukraine’s own losses are harder to determine but are likely to be significant also.

There are many lessons to be garnered for the UK and other western countries from the progress of the war so far. I have written elsewhere that declarations that the age of the tank are premature and misguided, but there is little doubt that we in the UK need to address the changes in armoured warfare we have witnessed if we are to have any hope of prevailing in a future conflict of this nature and intensity.

First and foremost amongst these lessons is the need for numbers. It’s no accident that victory usually goes to the big battalions, and of course the old adage that quantity has a quality all of its own still applies. If you look at the level of MBT and AFV losses incurred by both sides in the Ukraine to date, you do have to wonder how long the UK’s current tank fleet might last at this level of conflict. My impression is that if the UK’s three tank regiments with their fifty or so tanks apiece were committed at the same time they might last a week at best before becoming combat ineffective.

The problem is that we have no immediately available replacement tanks to refurbish and re-equip so we can go again. This will be exacerbated when, on current plans, Challenger 3 comes into service around 2030, Insh’Allah. On present plans the UK is planning to procure only 148 of these, which basically equates to two regiments’ worth plus the balance for training and maintenance reserves. This will make the Royal Armoured Corps (RAC) a “use once only” force, because in anything approaching a peer-on-peer conflict it will be expended quickly.

The quick-fix solution for the UK? Buy from abroad, and do so quickly. The obvious options are either the US M1A1 series or Germany’s Leopard 2 (which many of us thought that the UK should have bought instead of Challenger 2 in the first place). Apparently the USA may have as many as 3,000 + of the M1/M1A1 Abrams in storage, and who knows how many Leopard 2s might be in hangars and warehouses across Europe. Either would be a speedy and effective solution to the UK’s woeful tank numbers.

Next, we need to look at MBT and AFV protection against attack. Most are now familiar with the American Javelin and the UK/Swedish NLAW (Next generation light anti tank weapon) which have been, together with guided artillery shells, knocking lumps off Russian tanks and AFVs in Ukraine. Javelin and NLAW use a top attack mode which targets an MBT’s thinner top armour. While we have marvelled at the vulnerabilities of Russian vehicles to these weapons systems, there is nothing to suggest that western tanks would fare any better. In fact, the treatment meted out to the Turkish Leopard 2s in Syria in 2016 may have been partly due to such attack modes. I very much doubt if Challenger 2 in its current mode would prove any more survivable.

What is to be done? Again, as I have written previously, there are countermeasures available to defeat the top attack threats from anti-tank missiles, drones, and loitering and “suicide” munitions, both passive and active. At the same time, remote weapons systems (RWS) – as seen in action in some footage from Ukraine against ground targets – can be optimised to counter the threats from above. The problem here is that UK MBTs and AFVs don’t field any of these, not yet anyway, and the proposed purchase for the Challenger 3 fleet currently amounts to only 60 active protective systems (APS) between 148 MBTs. We need to move rapidly to equipping the whole tank fleet at the very least.

Then there is the combined arms aspect. As any fule kno, successful combat operations demand practiced all-arms cooperation between tanks, infantry, artillery, engineers, etc, but above all air defence. While much has been made of the success in Ukraine of the British Starstreak and Martlet surface-to-air missiles, and rightly so, we don’t have sufficient of them, which again needs to be rectified as fast as. Add cannon-based anti-air capability while you’re at it too. Plus, infantry equipped properly to accompany tanks in close country and urban environments can prevent the enemy having the opportunity to engage with short range anti-armour weapons by flushing them out in advance. But the infantry need to have a modern infantry fighting vehicle to accomplish this; Warrior, the current British tracked IFV, is obsolescent and, looking at Ukraine, I’m not sure that its wheeled replacement, Boxer, will necessarily be up to the job. We’ll see. 

I could bang on about other parts of the British army – artillery, engineers etc – and the need to modernise their equipment but I think you get my point. However, I think we should briefly touch upon air power and logistics. I terms of the former, it is clearly a prerequisite for successful ground operations that air superiority is achieved, even it is limited by time and geography to specific actions. Is the UK sure it could guarantee this for its ground troops – in fact, can NATO – in the face of a peer or near-peer foe? And secondly, the Ukraine war has highlighted once again the vast quantities of materiel that modern high-tempo conventional operations consume. Do we have the wherewithal to sustain such combat operations? I suspect we do not.

Let me be the 94th person to say that the current war in eastern Europe has been a bit of a wake up call for militaries around the globe. For the UK, and to a lesser extent the rest of NATO, it has also illustrated how the last twenty years of asymmetric warfare in Afghanistan and Iraq has been no preparation in equipment, training, or tactics for the real thing. The British army is underfunded, under-manned, and poorly equipped to take on such an enterprise now or in the near future. Only timely and appropriate action by politicians and senior leaders can pull this one out of the fire.

Over to you, Ben Wallace and CGS!

© Stuart Crawford 2022

 

 

 

Stuart Crawford was a regular officer in the Royal Tank Regiment for twenty years, retiring in the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in 1999. Crawford attended both the British and US staff colleges and undertook a Defence Fellowship at Glasgow University. He now works as a political, defence and security consultant and is a regular commentator on military and defence topics in print, broadcast and online media.
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Dennis REEVES
Dennis REEVES
1 month ago

Both the Abrams and L2 have gapping faults, as do all MBTs.
Maybe massive Investment in anti armour drones would be money better spend….

James Fennell
James Fennell
1 month ago
Reply to  Dennis REEVES

correct

Mark B
Mark B
1 month ago
Reply to  Dennis REEVES

I think I might go further. These pesky drones and flying weapons might be the way to destroy targets but because they are fast and agile they might avoid becoming a target themselves. Do we really have to put people in harms way driving a lumbering hunk off metal because we are too arrogant to accept it’s time is up.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark B

Mark,
Have you thought it through, logically.
Do we take all troops out of AFVs? Out of tanks, IFVs, APCs, armoured recce vehicles, SP artillery, PM vehicles? Where do we put them then? Do they all become drone operators? Do they operate the drones from a nice safe deep bunker?

What do we do about the people in soft-skinned ‘B’ Vehicles who have zero protection? What do we do about dismounted troops who have zero protection and zero mobility?

Mark B
Mark B
1 month ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

Hi Graham. The logic goes something like this. It doesn’t matter what vehicle you are in you are in danger (currently) if up against an enemy armed with modern anti-tank weapons. Your best form of defence against such weapons is some form of anti ATW which could in theory protect a variety of vehicle and even indeed dismounted troops. It seems likely there will be an arms race between the ATW and the AATWs building on those already available. It seems like a logical next step to enhance drones to not only identify threats but to hunt and kill those… Read more »

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark B

Hi Mark, I think I am bemused by the recent revelation to some that ATWs kill tanks – they have done that since first fielding ATGM in 1955 (or 1917 if you want to go back to the Mauser T-Gewehr). When I served in the army, we did not dwell on our vulnerability to enemy fire, no matter whether we were dismounted, in B Vehs or AFVs – we focussed on the mission. For those on foot or in B vehs, we especially did not focus on our considerable vulnerability. For those of us in AFVs, whether tanks or not,… Read more »

Nigel Collins
Nigel Collins
1 month ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

Something along these lines might be a possible option? “Following the infantry combat and combat support vehicle,Rheinmetall has introduced a mechanised fire support variant of the LYNX IFV. The variant is called LYNX 120, with the 120mm smoothbore gun derived from the LEOPARD 2 MBT as the main armament.” https://euro-sd.com/2022/02/articles/exclusive/25391/lynx-120/ “In today’s world, adequate protection of soldiers and their vehicles is no longer achieved simply by covering them with armor. A principle of multiple, coordinated layers of protective measures enables the highest possible level of safety in each case. “Our innovative, high-performance ADS is clearly one of our greatest technical… Read more »

lynx-inside-1170x610.jpg
Last edited 1 month ago by Nigel Collins
Graham Moore
Graham Moore
1 month ago
Reply to  Nigel Collins

I am impressed by Rheinmetall’s ADS – possibly better than Trophy APS – and may well justify a lighter vehicle structure. This vehicle may well be a possible replacement for classic heavy MBTs. Certainly easier to transport strategically and operationally, cheaper to buy and maintain. What’s not to like!

Nigel Collins
Nigel Collins
1 month ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

Not my area of expertise, but I was thinking along the same lines as you mention.

The war in Ukraine tends to suggest a lighter more agile approach rather than the traditional heavy tank variants and would sit nicely within the army’s transformation of how we will operate as a quick reaction force within NATO going forward.

With a 120mm smoothbore gun that can fire the latest DM11 programmable multi-purpose ammunition, it will pack quite a punch on the battlefield.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
1 month ago
Reply to  Dennis REEVES

Such drones instead of tanks? How do they seize and hold ground?

Aaron L
Aaron L
1 month ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

I was about to make this point. Would love to know how a drone is a strategic replacement for the MBT

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
1 month ago
Reply to  Aaron L

Thanks Aaron. I think some are concerned at the safety of soldiers in combat and would have all soldiers in AFVs replaced by drones. What about the soldiers in soft-skinned ‘B’ vehicles though – replace them too?

Aaron L
Aaron L
1 month ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

Got bigger issues like Jackal and Coyote need replacing because if tanks are an issue then open topped recce vehicles have to be.

Why replace it with drones? Soldiers would then be in danger of damaging their eye site from looking at screens all day. Who’d have thought war would be dangerous?

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
1 month ago
Reply to  Aaron L

There is this huge focus (for some a revelation) on Russian tanks being destroyed by anti-tank weapons. All soldiers on the battle field are vulnerable, especially those with little protection, more so than those with a lot of armour around them. Jackal and Coyote need to be employed carefully and skillfully to avoid enemy attention, as do troops in Land Rovers and trucks and dismounted troops. War is dangerous, as you say. Massive drone fleets will not do everything our soldiers can do – they are a useful tool though.

Jonno
Jonno
1 month ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

The Russians are using all kinds of nasties like fragment ammunition and other banned items. Needs to be a rethink on how we can destroy at long range and defend against Russian rocketry.
We should allow no limits on weapons for the Ukraine. If Putin wants a war give it him till he is utterly destroyed. He will do the same till he has destroyed Ukraine. Cant we see this? I’m really sorry to say this but we are dealing with a ruthless madman on the scale of Hitler and we should act accordingly.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
1 month ago
Reply to  Jonno

I fully agree that we need to see Russia’s conventional land and air forces severely written down such that they no longer pose a threat to any nation in eastern (and western) Europe. Currently it is a proxy war with Ukraine doing the heavy lifting. It is hard to see how NATO could get involved in direct confrontation with Russian forces.

Mark B
Mark B
1 month ago
Reply to  Aaron L

Aaron I don’t think it is a strategic replacement. The question is can MBTs take and hold ground against an enemy armed with modern ATW. If not we either need to find an alternative which can at least clear the ground such that it is safe for other forces advance. Kit like NLAW seem like a disaster for advancing forces. Are drones the only solution or is there something else?

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark B

MBTSs can take and hold ground against an enemy armed with modern ATW; examples abound from the latter stages of the Yom Kippur war thorough to the Gulf Wars.
The accompanying infantry aided by well-cued artillery and attack helos clear the ATW.

Tim
Tim
1 month ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

Or in other words… MBT can’t take and hold ground against an enemy armed with modern ATW, but they can take and hold ground against an enemy that used to have modern ATW’s?

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
1 month ago
Reply to  Tim

Forget my historic example as it has clearly confused.
Don’t think I said that MBT can’t take and hold ground against an enemy armed with modern ATW.
My point is that they can, when used in an all-arms grouping and the infantry take out the ATWs early – and that route selection and tactics are sound.
Clearly the Russians though have not mastered the above so their tanks are being taken out before they can seize and hold ground.

Jonathan
Jonathan
1 month ago
Reply to  Dennis REEVES

But the simple truth is you hold ground with an armed man or woman in a uniform. Therefore you need to get that man or woman to said ground, so you need a transport of some kind to safely get them there, unless they are going to be able to march to said ground. Then you need to protect that transport from anti transport weapons and clear out those…. combined arms has developed vastly from the cannon, musket, pike and Calvary to the modern infantry solder, fires, air power, infantry fighting vehicles, heavy armour, active defence systems, integrated air defence… Read more »

rmj
rmj
1 month ago

Superb summary. GBAD and control of the skies are any prerequisite for ground operations.

Barry Larking
Barry Larking
1 month ago

The confusion of connected thinking is self evident when the author suggests in one paragraph that the Leopard 2 would have been a better purchase for the U.K.’s tank forces, to the next that points out the apparently superior Leopard fared very badly in one of the very few conflicts it has appeared in. Not just in the Ukraine War but elsewhere, the utility of main battle tanks in conventional warfare has been questioned; indeed last century, one poor fellow ended his career by suggesting the then Red Army based on massed armoured forces that swept the Germans aside in… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Barry Larking
Callum
Callum
1 month ago
Reply to  Barry Larking

Buying Leopard or Abrams as a stop-gap fails to address the issue, I agree. Increasing tank numbers with odds would cause more issues than it would solve; we’d be spending money we don’t have, on tanks we can’t crew, supported by a logistics system we don’t operate, that are vulnerable to all the same problems our existing vehicles have. I do believe MBTs will remain a leading conventional asset. Poor utilisation and logistics have been the cause of the majority of tank losses in the previous two decades, judging the utility of a platform by how badly someone else deploys… Read more »

Spyinthesky
Spyinthesky
1 month ago
Reply to  Callum

‘judging the utility of a platform by how badly someone else deploys it isn’t helpful to anyone.’ Take your point but if you don’t take lessons (I accept though not exclusively) from how tactics and weaponry operate in others wars and circumstances then surely that leaves you operating on your own historic use (maybe 25 to 50 years or more old), or strategists looking at fundamentally unused weaponry and arguing how they might work out on physical/digital blackboards or in pre conceived training exercises which has so often proved completely out of touch with reality when the real thing arrives… Read more »

Callum
Callum
1 month ago
Reply to  Spyinthesky

I see what you mean, my original point does read as saying “ignore them, they just did it wrong”. It’s reminiscent of the battlecruiser argument; in theory, and in the situations where they were used as intended (e.g. the Battle of the Falkland Islands), the concept was excellent, and only failed when they were used to fight other heavy ships. In reality though, they were too big, well-armed, and expensive to just leave at home for the big battles. That same rationale should be applied now. The concept of the tank is still sound today, but they also require the… Read more »

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
1 month ago
Reply to  Callum

What do tanks do? Act as a deterrent force, can be used a sa show of force, deliver shock action, kill enemy tanks, support the infantry with direct fire, seize and hold ground as part of a combined arms team.
Attack drones can’t do all of the above. They are not miracle weapons either – they have less endurance, carry lighter wepons payloads, are prone to jamming and being shot down, need to be operated by highly skilled personnel who need protected C2 centres – and they are not as cheap as they should be.

Dern
Dern
1 month ago
Reply to  Spyinthesky

I mean in fairness, the Turkish use of Leopards in static emplacements in Syria wasn’t something that anybody in the British Army needed to take a lesson from, you could go up to any Tanker, describe their tactics, and (without even asking you about their equipment) they’d be able to tell you how that would have gone.

Barry Larking
Barry Larking
1 month ago
Reply to  Callum

The writing is on the wall. Agility in manoeuvre, excellent all round intelligence and a foe who makes elementary mistakes based on masses of critically ill prepared forces – how often military history shows the outcome. Ukraine was not initially flooded with western aid. I despair! Iraq in the last decade and Afghanistan last year well equipped by the U.S. forces collapsed when attacked by militias! I don’t mean to be offensive, but the Ukrainians are being portrayed as ‘saved by the Yanks’ when quite obviously they fought magnificently from the start, come what may. The U.K. cannot fight big… Read more »

Callum
Callum
1 month ago
Reply to  Barry Larking

I certainly didn’t mean to suggest that the Ukrainians are being “saved by the Yanks”, or even the West at large. Their willingness to fight for every inch of their home stands in stark contrast to Afghanistan, where the armed forces effectively dissolved and fell back on regional and tribal loyalties.

However, Ukraine isn’t a simple example of courageous underdog against villainous power. Ukraine is fighting with strategic and technical advantages usually held by the more powerful nation, and let’s not forget they’ve spent the past 8 years preparing for this exact situation.

AlexS
AlexS
1 month ago
Reply to  Barry Larking

I did not see any contradiction by the author. The proposed choice for Leo 2 instead of Challenger 2 is mostly due commonality of ammunition due to it having a 120mm smoothbore gun that every NATO uses, instead of rifled gun of Challenger II.

Last edited 1 month ago by AlexS
johan
johan
1 month ago
Reply to  AlexS

Yet he wants to buy a new platform, which is the same age as our existing Chally 2s.

with no infrastructure or repairs tools or spares.

he makes it sound like the Army can purchase a pair of boots.

AlexS
AlexS
1 month ago
Reply to  johan

Because if you want more tanks there is no production line for Challenger but it exists for Leo.
It would also probably mean cancelling the CH2 upgrade called CH3 like if it was new.

Leo 2 has already been improved to the level of Challanger 3. So that part of development cost that haven’t been spent yet would not not be necessary.

In Western world there are basically 3 tank working production lines: M1. Leo, Merkava(at low rates). Then our 2 Asian allies: Japan and S.Korea. I am excluding India because they assemble Soviet designs.

Last edited 1 month ago by AlexS
Jacko
Jacko
1 month ago
Reply to  AlexS

Both the M1 and leopard are legacy tanks that both the Americans and Germans are looking to replace! This has been discussed at length on other threads on here so to bring it up again🙄

AlexS
AlexS
1 month ago
Reply to  Jacko

Do you think there will be a new Western tank in operation in next 15 years?

Why you did not included Challenger in legacy tanks?
I mean M1 is in its concept more modern of the 3 with all ammunition in blow out panels.

Dern
Dern
1 month ago
Reply to  AlexS

Because buying more Challengers isn’t being debated obviously.

grizzler
grizzler
1 month ago
Reply to  Dern

No but the discussion is around the future of UK armoured divisions – and the article discusses M1 & Leopard as alternatives to CH …so in reality by association it is.. Unless we just stick to the arguement as to whether the UK (or anyone else for that matter) shoud be looking to devlop and/or buy new tanks or just get rid of them. My tu’pence worth is the goevrnment would love to get the doctrine changed so we no longer required tanks purely to save the money….and I disagree with that. The tank has its place it just needs… Read more »

Dern
Dern
1 month ago
Reply to  grizzler

No, it isn’t. Challenger is in inventory, there is no scope to buy more. Why would you buy a tank that will be replaced in the near future?

AlexS
AlexS
1 month ago
Reply to  Dern

Near future? 15-20 years or more?
Do you know the mess the supposed French-German tank is in and that is the only program in town – do not know much about the Israelis are doing with their new one.
How much the world would change by then?

Dern
Dern
1 month ago
Reply to  AlexS

No, and neither do you, so don’t lie and act like you know what the status of that program is please. It’s a bit pathetic when you do.

However, 15 years isn’t that long, considering that whatever we buy will take half that time to reach FOC, whether it’s a upgraded challenger or an upgraded foreign legacy tank.

AlexS
AlexS
1 month ago
Reply to  Dern

No, and neither do you, so don’t lie and act like you know what the status of that program is please. It’s a bit pathetic when you do.

Pathetic is you dismissing information other people have.

I do there is heavy infighting between the French and the Germans concerning the gun and industrial issues, the program is barely moving forward.

Dern
Dern
1 month ago
Reply to  AlexS

Oh hey look, another claim at insider information you don’t have. Get lost.

johan
johan
1 month ago
Reply to  Dern

150 are to be upgraded, with the rest to be stored. so if a Budget became available more could be upgraded.

OkamsRazor
OkamsRazor
30 days ago
Reply to  grizzler

The article, with much of this ilk is risible in detail and analysis. The CH2 is as good as any out there and the CH3 will be better. The UK has “observer” status on the future euro tank and will probably buy “if” tanks are still relevant at the time. It seems obvious to me that you will have “slaved” UAT’s (unmanned automated tanks/howitzers) which are the next logical step. Naturally these will have APS built in and possibly drones for battlefield surveillance/targeting. The author added nothing to the debate.

johan
johan
1 month ago
Reply to  AlexS

Your missing one important part of your and this writers advice. COST PER UNIT. Which has been covered over and over LEP 2 unit cost new $10m. A1 cost New $9m. so if we say to purchase 150 with spares and support. you could be looking at a 2 Billion cost. conversion and upgrade of 150 Challly 3s is a 1 Billion package. so if you take the £1b and you could buy maybe 50-65 Lep 2s or A1s. we would have less tanks than some of our Nato Partners. and you still could update and upgrade the remaining chally… Read more »

Dern
Dern
1 month ago
Reply to  johan

A lot of the old and bold wanted to buy Leo back in the day, Challenger was largely chosen to support British Industry, and some, like Stuart, can’t really let go of the idea.

johan
johan
1 month ago
Reply to  Dern

agree, for whatever reason, Stuart is still living in cold wat world, and screws a living out of it. would like to blow the entire MOD budget on a new MBT, when everything MBT in the British Army is based on or around a Challenger chasis. makes you wonder what he drives as a car. BMW – AUDI- MERCEDES as he has a socket in his forehead for his penis.

johan
johan
1 month ago
Reply to  Barry Larking

MBT is a bad fit now in a modern European war,

where a $100k drone can destroy a modern MBT.

Like this fella who served in the cold war, yet never faced tank to tank.

those who cannot do Talk about it,

AlexS
AlexS
1 month ago
Reply to  johan

A panzerfaust or a bazooka also could destroy a tank in 1945.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
1 month ago
Reply to  johan

An 82p rifle bullet can kill a man. Is the Infantry a bad fit now?

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
1 month ago
Reply to  Barry Larking

Good point. Leopard 2 has been destroyed in combat by Third World soldiers. No Chally 2 has been lost in combat to an enemy – perhaps it was the best choice after all.
I am not complacent – CR2 needs an upgrade – and it is finally getting one.

You have seen poorly designed, poorly built, poorly logistically supported and poorly handled tanks, without infantry support, being lost to an enemy with grit, determination and excellent wester weapons – and assume that all tanks might be obsolete? Might you draw another conclusion? That western/NATO/British tanks would fare much better.

johan
johan
1 month ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

Ground Forces without air cover are all a soft targets, and we should be looking at MBT numbers held by other Nato partners and the low numbers. if we need to use MBTs in the UK. its already to late.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
1 month ago
Reply to  johan

I am optimistic that NATO air cover is substantial and effective and that NATO ground troops would therefore be well served. It is puzzlng that the Russian Air Force has been so poor.
Continental European nations should provide the bulk of the armoured warfare forces – UK should contribute a modest, but not tiny, armoured formation.
I cannot envisage a scenario where we are required to defend the UK with tanks.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
1 month ago
Reply to  Barry Larking

Good points. Where Leo2 has performed badly in combat due to its vulnerabilty, Challenger (both Marks) has performed superbly on operations, including kinetic ones. We need the quantity of manpower and materiel (including tanks), provided by the US, and by aggregated European nations – and the quality of western morale, morals, doctrine and training. Which is what we have in NATO. The Russian failure to use tanks well (and the dubious quality of their tanks) should not lead to a belief that tanks in general are obsolete. Large scale all arms warfighting is poorly done by Russia – hopefully NATO… Read more »

OkamsRazor
OkamsRazor
1 month ago
Reply to  Barry Larking

BL, well said

Steven B
Steven B
1 month ago

I don’t belive the UK needs vast quantities of tanks. How many would it need to defend the UK mainland? In all, honesty if the enemy has landed sufficient quantities of armoured vehicles on our shores to be a threat, we have probably already lost. If working in NATO, there are 30 countries. If each of the 30 countries provides as much to a land based fight as the UK can, then there should not be a problem. UK priority should be ensuring it can secure the skies and seas around it. Land based warfare should not be our priority,… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Steven B
Stc
Stc
1 month ago
Reply to  Steven B

Sorry, but your emphasis on Europeans all making a contribution to their and our defence is naive. Look at the way that Germany and France have had to be almost embarrassed into providing arms to Ukraine. The US only joined the party when the realised that Russia could have made a big mistake and it was a opportunity to undermine a serious rival to them. No,our big fundamental mistake has been relying on NATO as a first line of defence instead of viewing NATO as a back stop.

Steven B
Steven B
1 month ago
Reply to  Stc

Why should it be our responsibility to make the contribution then? If we step up, just gives a greater justification for other nations shirking their responsibilities. We as a nation are not responsible for the whole of Europe. We are responsible for the defence of the UK. We can be a leading player in air and maritime defence, and offer support and expertise to NATO in these fields, but why do we need to be a major player in a land war? Let some of the other 29 nations step up. We should have a supporting role in any European… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Steven B
David Steeper
David Steeper
1 month ago
Reply to  Steven B

👍

Spyinthesky
Spyinthesky
1 month ago
Reply to  Steven B

Spot on, that will make the difference over alternatively supplying large numbers of tanks when providing one will inevitably compromise the other in whatever budget is provided.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
1 month ago
Reply to  Steven B

You bang on about defence of the UK. That is a given. NATO expect us to do a bit more than to stay at home and guard our shores and skies. We contribute SF, sea, land and air forces to support the wider NATO community. We don’t say that we have weak land forces because we are an island – that won’t cut it with NATO.

johan
johan
1 month ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

explain France and Germany’s stance. Germany expects USA to do all its fighting they just sell the weapons

Spyinthesky
Spyinthesky
1 month ago
Reply to  Stc

Hang on Russian tanks can only reach us through those Countries so I would hope they don’t just wave them through blowing kisses.

Thankfully with Sweden and Finland in NATO that will cover its weakest flank which was a great worry to me. If we were really worried about being attacked by Russia without Continental Countries getting involved as you suggest, then surely it would be in the air and at sea that we would be vulnerable and tanks would be a negligible consideration in defending these islands in that circumstance.

Callum
Callum
1 month ago
Reply to  Steven B

There are several major flaws with that logic. First and foremost, defence of the UK has effectively nothing to do with the mainland. There hasn’t been a realistic threat of invasion of Britain since Nelson won Trafalgar. Russia and China are thousands of miles away with almost no expeditionary capability. However, economically we’re so globally tied in with our trading partners that any disruption to them causing major issues here, of which Ukraine is a clear example. I agree our focus should primarily be on naval and air power, but realistically we need a strong land force as well, and… Read more »

Steven B
Steven B
1 month ago
Reply to  Callum

Don’t disagree with your sentiments, in fact you end up saying what I have said. We need a land force, but one that can integrate into a bigger unit … we are not and should not be aiming to win a land war on our own.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
1 month ago
Reply to  Steven B

It is hard to think of many times, outside of colonial confrontations, that the British Army has fought without allies.

Spyinthesky
Spyinthesky
1 month ago
Reply to  Steven B

I agree the calculus has to be made what balance of weapons and skills we can best supply to defend Western Europe as a whole witting whatever budget we de ide we can afford. It’s not how many tanks we can have to defend Britain as in the case of Australia in that disastrous scenario it would be how much defeat can be delayed, so it’s how many we should exploit on the Eastern borders or as reserves if others cannot hold the line balanced against the alternative of utilising and thus buying other weapons to best support that scenario.… Read more »

Nathan
Nathan
1 month ago
Reply to  Spyinthesky

Doesn’t Ukraine and the future fall out it will bring prove that our horizons certainly don’t end at Western Europe’s frontiers? There are already food riots and collapsing governments across the globe on account of the disruption to food supplies from Ukraine and we are still living off last year’s harvest. Consider this is what triggered the Arab spring and the Syrian debacle. The Ukraine crisis is a key dimension of the cost of living crisis sweeping the globe now and may well end up pushing all of us into a global economic recession and a decade of economic turmoil.… Read more »

GlynH
GlynH
1 month ago
Reply to  Steven B

Absolutely, each NATO member brings to the party the disposition of arms most relevant to their own defence. The UK priorities are Sea > Air > Land. Whereas say Poland’s are Land > Air > Sea. USA can do everything of course 🙂 But otherwise, it’s really that simple.

If Russia kicked off, our primary task would be to help secure the North Atlantic, North Sea, Norwegian Sea etc. It would be Poland’s to help secure the front line on land.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
1 month ago
Reply to  Steven B

You don’t want UK to have. avast number of tanks. Rest easy – we will only have 148.

Defence of the UK mainland is not reliant on a home-based tank force.

We invented the tank in 1915 for expeditionary (overseas) operations, not home defence.

UK priority in NATO is not merely to defend our own country – it is to deploy expeditionary forces to defend our threatened or attacked neighbour.

DFJ123
DFJ123
1 month ago

1) Accept low quantity of UK armour but equip everything with the best hard-kill and soft-kill tech. Explore options for attaining economies of scale on these technologies. 2) Develop networked hard-kill SHORAD/C-RAM systems that can integrated down to the smallest unit sizes. Drones, loitering munitions and low-level enemy aircraft are well discussed issues. Artillery though has been the biggest killer of armoured vehicles in Ukraine. Given that it’s almost impossible to hide in modern warfare and the proliferation of long range fires it’s therefore important to be able to survive under bombardment. 3) Begin integrating UGV’s into armoured units for… Read more »

Spyinthesky
Spyinthesky
1 month ago
Reply to  DFJ123

Must admit seeing how that Carl Gustav, a type of weapon all but the Swedes pretty much dismissed 20 years back, took out a T90 from a side engagement really does show you how vulnerable even modern tanks truly are to hand held weapons operating in cover.

Daveyb
Daveyb
1 month ago
Reply to  Spyinthesky

Apparently not just any T90A, but the latest and greatest T90M. Which supposedly has better passive side armour and the newest ERA over the older model.

AlexS
AlexS
1 month ago
Reply to  Daveyb

Don’t see why the surprise.

Daveyb
Daveyb
1 month ago
Reply to  AlexS

Even with the tandem charge warhead. The Carl Gustav in theory should struggle to penetrate the front or sides of a T90M. if the blurb and propaganda over the tank is to believed. According to one of the Twitter feeds, the warhead hit between the upper track guard and a road wheel. From the video, it doesn’t seem to have initiated the ERA, but as the video was taken from a UAV it is hard to tell.

AlexS
AlexS
1 month ago
Reply to  Daveyb

The point is that there are a lot of places in the tank ( and other tanks as well) that it can penetrated from the side. M1 and Challenger, Leo etc can be also side penetrated by the Carl Gustav.
Catastrophic results is another matter and Russian tanks are much more vulnerable there.

DaveyB
DaveyB
1 month ago
Reply to  AlexS

But that’s the whole point. By anti-tank standards the Carl Gustav’s HEAT shell is pretty weak when compared to other types of warhead such as RPG-29 for example. The T90M was supposed to have the latest Relikt ERA, that covers the tank’s front, sides and turret. It is supposedly able to defeat tandem charge warheads. It clearly didn’t work! As the video was taken from quite a distance away from the attack. It’s hard to tell if the warhead was a tandem charge and if the tank’s ERA activated. If they did you’d see two closely spaced flashes, as the… Read more »

AlexS
AlexS
1 month ago
Reply to  DaveyB

There is no tank that is protected all around for 400 mm penetration oi CG
And i remember in 90’s CG had a 900mm HEAT penetration round, this was heavier than normal round.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
1 month ago
Reply to  Spyinthesky

US Army like the Charlie G too.

chris
chris
1 month ago
Reply to  Spyinthesky

It wasn’t a Carl Gustav it was a Russian tank. The black blast was in the wrong positon.

Finney
Finney
1 month ago

I think the current force would have lasted more than a week in Ukraine, degraded yes, but still capable for a few weeks. And by the looks of the Russian armour’s performance, 100 Chally’s could probably take one 3/4 times that number of Russian tanks. If anything this conflict has shown us that training, maintenence (and having the readily available spares for) and logistics are key. You talk about mass but the Russians started with about 2000 tanks and that hasn’t got them anywhere. An increase to 200/250 CH3 would be nice but the army has other priorities like SHORAD… Read more »

Spyinthesky
Spyinthesky
1 month ago
Reply to  Finney

Indeed we simply can’t supply enough extra that would turn round a European campaign and that needs to be a consideration in any balanced acquisition of weaponry. If we had originally used the Challenger 3 buy to develop an ongoing tank/armoured vehicle capability and used it to develop new competitive designs ( like a military JCB) and thus managed to sell them abroad like the Germans (and we are now doing with frigates) then it might be different but that horse has bolted sadly so there is only really a cost to acquiring them now. I will say though that… Read more »

AlexS
AlexS
1 month ago
Reply to  Finney

I think the current force would have lasted more than a week in Ukraine, degraded yes, but still capable for a few weeks.

Not even close. But that also depends on its use and function.
If the exercise is that 100 Challengers replace T-80 and 72 in Russian offensive they would last 1 week and that is even a question mark.

Mr Bell
Mr Bell
1 month ago
Reply to  AlexS

We wouldnt be just sending 100 C2s on their own into combat though. They would have stormer and starstreak support. Flanking infantry (the best soldiers in the world) as well as top cover by reaper/ predator drones Eurofighter typhoon and some deep marrauding F35Bs.
Combined arms tactics still matter.
A MBT with a 120mm gun still matters.
Just need to consider the MBTs as the lynch pin and byild an adequate defence for them to operate. So APS. Enough IFVs with APS. Enough artillery. Enough SHORAD. Air superiority by RAF and above all else enough infantry. Apache and UAVs.

AlexS
AlexS
1 month ago
Reply to  Mr Bell

In war like in engineering there are many contradictory factors: you want no losses you go slow – at leg infantry speed- but then the enemy can react to your every move in time, so when combat happen you need quantity overmatch(or a century technical superiority) which you don’t have.

A bunch of Iskanders and other Russian long range artillery in your tip of the spear and you loose a couple of infantry battalions, then what?

Last edited 1 month ago by AlexS
Dern
Dern
1 month ago
Reply to  AlexS

Doesn’t matter what you give the Russians, as long as they’re tactics and operational lack of doctrine don’t change, they won’t last long.

Nathan
Nathan
1 month ago

The first question has to be: will the Russian army that eventually extricates itself from Ukraine still be a peer competitor?

Monkey spanker
Monkey spanker
1 month ago
Reply to  Nathan

Not really a peer. If somehow you had a U.K. versus russia war it would be a messy affair but I don’t think there would be a winner. If Russia had not had the massive quantity of kit from the Soviet Union days or the soviet era designs it would be a small force. Large enough to defend Russia. Russian defence budget was always a mystery. How can it have a massive land force, nuclear weapons, submarines, loads of aircraft and maintain and upgrade it all at the same time. The answer as we see is it can’t. Even before… Read more »

Stc
Stc
1 month ago

It’s clear that the balance in these matters ebbs and flows between one and the other. In this case the tank and the drone. It’s commonsense that unless a good system to detect drones can be put in place, the tank is too vunerable. Once the drone is detected it’s relatively easy to deal with. The mod needs to protect all its 148 tanks. The lesson I think at this stage is the UK needs a lot of “cheap” lethal drones if it’s to go in against a pier. We usually use tanks to protect ground and the Russians use… Read more »

Spyinthesky
Spyinthesky
1 month ago
Reply to  Stc

Really? We are only beginning to understand how best to take out drones only larger ones are ‘easy’ to take out while I keep seeing and hearing how drones are detected and yet the forces have little to engage them with, small arms fire is practically useless. Saw a documentary a few years ago where an ex military sniper tried to down a standard commercial drone and though it was stationary he only succeeded when it was within a mile away. you can’t always have Martlets available to do the job and it’s an expensive way of taking out smaller… Read more »

David Steeper
David Steeper
1 month ago

I’m in the minority but i’m deeply sceptical about the future of MBT’s in the British Army. The direct cost of tanks with APS tech for example is rapidly closing the gap on other systems like attack helos. The indirect cost including Anti Air/Drone plus what is rarely mentioned R.E. support for things like bridging. Which is also affected by the enormous growth of the sheer weight of modern MBT’s like Challenger when equipped with enhanced armour. It all reminds me of the battleship in the 30’s and 40’s. Battleships didn’t go extinct because they were no longer usefull they… Read more »

AlexS
AlexS
1 month ago
Reply to  David Steeper

Helicopters are much more expensive – you have to include replacements and training – and are much more vulnerable.

David Steeper
David Steeper
1 month ago
Reply to  AlexS

We’ll agree to disagree on helos.

Barry Larking
Barry Larking
1 month ago
Reply to  David Steeper

Exactly. Weapon systems come and go, the battleship race – ‘We want eight and we won’t wait!’ – produced no war winning punch and the phase lasted barely thirty years. Where next will take a lot of crystal ball gazing but the time of the tank is up. It doesn’t even intimidate civilians nowadays.

David Steeper
David Steeper
1 month ago
Reply to  Barry Larking

LOL what was it the treasury wanted 4 the Navy wanted 6 so they compromised on 8 ! My fave Churchill quote.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
1 month ago
Reply to  Barry Larking

The time of the tank will be up when tank-owning nations order no more, do not upgrade what they have and scrap their fleets – who is doing that? The threat nations in the world have thousands of tanks and are not giving them up anytime soon. Only Belgium has phased out tanks, a financial savings measure and not because they were convinced that the tank was obsolete. Tanks remain the best protected, most highly mobile, largest calibre direct-fire weapon system on the battle field. A drone or attack helo does not have all these attributes – and have disadvantages… Read more »

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
1 month ago
Reply to  David Steeper

David, I beg to disagree. It is no recent revelation that MBTs can be taken out – that has been the case since 1917 – tank designers have always reacted to counter-systems and produced ever better integral armour, add-on armour and now APS. The tank remains the best protected vehicle on the battlefield, by far. Why is no-one bothered at the survivability of troops in open structure vehicles (eg Jackal), lightly armoured vehicles, soft-skinned vehicles? The Russians have lost a lot of tanks because they are badly designed, badly made, have low quality & demotivated crews and are handled tactically… Read more »

OOA
OOA
1 month ago

Seems to me that being in a tank is a pretty unhealthy place with kamikazi drones and laser guided artillery around – and it seems difficult to believe this will change much despite improvements to protection. Not suggesting they are obsolete but am far from convinced that a few more wore would make any real difference in a fight with a peer. I’d be putting my money on very long range guided artillery, recon / target marking drones, killer drones, ISTAR in general and better air defence to deny the other side the same abilities.

Spyinthesky
Spyinthesky
1 month ago
Reply to  OOA

I tend to agree, once you get into having to include serious anti missile and shell defences with all the complexities that involves I get very worried about it’s ability to survive. Based on what we are seeing and likely advances in prose tiles and accuracy even at manheld level how many times even the most sophisticated defence system defend against such attacks. I fear what works on the test ground will be far, far less effective in the heart of battle esp as current often quite old and relatively dumb weapons are having rather greater success at penetrating armour… Read more »

AlexS
AlexS
1 month ago
Reply to  OOA

I’d be putting my money on very long range guided artillery, recon / target marking drones, killer drones, ISTAR in general and better air defence to deny the other side the same abilities.

I favour that if resources are not enough. But depends much on terrain/weather. Not all weapons types have same success in all operational theatres.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
1 month ago
Reply to  OOA
  1. Unhealthy place? Try riding into the battlefield in a B Vehicle!
  2. None of your alternatives can seize and hold ground.
Last edited 1 month ago by Graham Moore
nonsense
nonsense
1 month ago

I’m not going to say any more because I’ve said it many times,
but the era of tanks are over.

Tanks are no longer the main character in ground battles.

Royal army’s already have Challenger 2, that’s enough.

DMJ
DMJ
1 month ago
Reply to  nonsense

“Royal army” !!!!!!??????

nonsense
nonsense
1 month ago
Reply to  DMJ

I meaming “British Army” .😂

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
1 month ago
Reply to  DMJ

Royal Armoured Corps?

Derp
Derp
1 month ago

Am I the only one who noticed the word insh’alla in the 5th paragraph lol. “ This will be exacerbated when, on current plans, Challenger 3 comes into service around 2030, Insh’Allah.”

Lisa West (Comment Moderator)
Lisa West (Comment Moderator)
1 month ago
Reply to  Derp

It’s a common phrase, meaning God-willing.

OOA
OOA
1 month ago

Albeit in this case I believe used to signal that the C3 is unlikely to be delivered on schedule – in other words, implying that the use of inshallah at the end of a sentence is used by those peoples who can’t or won’t carry out a promise. Am a little surprised this made it past the moderators actually. It was in keeping with the rest of the ‘chat in the pub’ writing style – but since it was mentioned, I at least felt it was a little over the line.

Lisa West (Comment Moderator)
Lisa West (Comment Moderator)
1 month ago
Reply to  OOA

Hi there, if you wish to discuss this further, please e-mail our editor at [email protected]

OOA
OOA
1 month ago

Not a big deal – more a suggestion for consideration of the author for future posts. Thanks.

johan
johan
1 month ago
Reply to  OOA

Currently and i say this with a smile, all the proposed elements are currently on track with some supply issues reported. as the proposed elements were well tried and tested form some schemes.
But as soon as a Knob Jockey from the Army much like the writer of this story, is when it turns to shite.

grizzler
grizzler
1 month ago

not that common no one on here knew it.

Lisa West (Comment Moderator)
Lisa West (Comment Moderator)
1 month ago
Reply to  grizzler

I respectfully disagree. There are other comments on this article which suggest otherwise.

Monkey spanker
Monkey spanker
1 month ago

Never heard of it. Thanks for the info. Everydays a school day.

Farouk
Farouk
1 month ago
Reply to  Derp

Derp wrote:

Am I the only one who noticed the word insh’alla in the 5th paragraph lol.

The Miltary have form for borrowing words and sayings from other countries such as:
Dhobi and Dhobi dust
Buckshee
Ulu
Chogie waller.
Doolally
Blighty
Jodhpur
Cummerbund
khaki
Gucci
Pretty sure, others can add to the list

Oh and heres something I found out the other week SCRAN comes from the Royal Navy who in order to combat scuvy used to issue Sailors with Sultanas Currants Raisins And Nuts

Last edited 1 month ago by Farouk
Airborne
Airborne
1 month ago
Reply to  Farouk

And never forget Sanger!

Barry Larking
Barry Larking
1 month ago
Reply to  Farouk

Char wallah – bloke with tea urn.

John Hartley
John Hartley
1 month ago

So many holes in UK forces, where to start. If Challenger 3 is on time/budget & working, then order an extra 52, to make 200. All need an active protection system.
More Boxer variants. Oerlikon Skyranger for anti drone work. Restart the Skystreak upgrade. The Cockerill 105mm variant would also be good, as would a Brimstone launching variant.
Order 1000 6.8×51 rifles/LMG for experience, before NATO adoption.
More helicopters/drones for AAC.
A SAM system that can cope with Iskander type ballistic missiles, SAMP-T, THAAD, or similar.

AlexS
AlexS
1 month ago
Reply to  John Hartley

No chance for more Challengers, production line closed long ago.

The option is M1 since Congress is keeping them in production against US Army wishes…for jobs and votes…

johan
johan
1 month ago
Reply to  AlexS

M1 has to survive to the New MBT platform, breaks cover which the UK is signed upto.

issue is where do you use MBTs if you dont control the skies. as proven in the Ukraine. no air cover, turns you MBTs into cookers.

John Hartley
John Hartley
1 month ago
Reply to  AlexS

Remember that Challenger 3 is a deep upgrade/overhaul of existing Challenger 2 & that the British Army got 386 C2. So there should be enough old hulls about to get to 200 C3, if we wanted to.

Deep32
Deep32
1 month ago
Reply to  John Hartley

We are only currently upgrading 148 out of 227 C2 hulls, so there are clearly enough hulls to get to your 200 figure.

Lusty
Lusty
1 month ago
Reply to  John Hartley

It’s okay. I got your point, even if it went over Alex’s head like one of those fancy drones.

johan
johan
1 month ago
Reply to  John Hartley

NAO office does say that of the 447 built there are 300 in MBT format, rest either retired or modified to other formats. so the potential for further numbers is there.

peter Wait
peter Wait
1 month ago
Reply to  AlexS

There are supposedly 227 CR2 on the books , timescale would extend by a couple of years before extra were completed !

johan
johan
1 month ago
Reply to  peter Wait

NAO states there are 300 in MBT format, there was a number in Canada on that training range, but how many are in service could be the 227 with the rest in maintenance.

Monkey spanker
Monkey spanker
1 month ago
Reply to  AlexS

I don’t think the m1 Abrams has been built new for a while. There are however a lot originally built sitting around.

johan
johan
1 month ago
Reply to  AlexS

How many Challenger 2 chassis in the current motor pool of the 447 built some have been converted to other platforms. NAO reports states that there are 300 in Chally 2 format. so while no new chassis, potential to upgrade more is there. the 150 is the budget limit.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
1 month ago
Reply to  AlexS

CR3 is converted from CR2 – we bought 386 CR2s, so there will be a few more (more than 148) available for conversion to CR3 if we wanted to do that.

AlexS
AlexS
1 month ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

I doubt those chassis are available in any usable form.
You probably can count of a total number of 227 upgradable.

johan
johan
1 month ago
Reply to  John Hartley

Will say there are holes in every Armed Forces,
Budgets spent on kit they may never be required or fired again.
Falklands led to a design change.
Afghanistan led to a design change.

and yet now we are left with tech and kit that is no use in Europe.

cannot buy a 1000s bullets just to store them in case.

7

Spyinthesky
Spyinthesky
1 month ago

What was with the ‘Insh’Allah’ in that article by the way.

AlexS
AlexS
1 month ago

Every combat vehicle should have anti drone capability. Boxer if they get guns or machine guns should be able to fire 80-90º with fire control ready for anti drone..

johan
johan
1 month ago
Reply to  AlexS

Tracking tech for drones is limited, but anti drone signal defence is at a advance stage.

but its one of those kept on the low, ie Russia while has the biggest and the fastest of every developed weapon in its box.

Yet cannot defend its tanks from a $100000 drone. or its capital ships from missiles.

so chances of them developing a attack drone that carries more than a lolly stick

johan
johan
1 month ago

Here we go again,

an expert who served NO WHERE. and never went Tank to Tank.

But likes to spunk the UK TAXPAYERS money. stick to advising the SNP on its Army and its Ferries.

arseclown

Steven Alfred Rake
Steven Alfred Rake
1 month ago

I tend to agree with most of the artical in the we need more of every thing, But there was a big piece that is missing in that most of Nato dose not fight like the Russians who have (or did have) more heavy armour than you an point a stick at so do not mind if a few get zapped on the way through to the objective. We (the UK and most of Nato) have to protect our heavy assets with infantry flanking the advancing armour so that pushes out any anti armour that the enemy have out to… Read more »

Ryan Brewis
Ryan Brewis
1 month ago

So a just buy more of everything solution that isn’t. Even if we upgraded all 227 Chally 2, that’s still 3 regiments. 4 if we cut to 44 per. Should we buy 1k M1A2SEPV3 so we can have a armoured corps on the Vistula? Yes, the British Army has issues. So does most other militaries in Europe. Most European nations couldn’t absorb these types of losses. There does need to be a good look at the equipment and renewing it but we shouldn’t have a BAOR just because. Leave that to other nations, we should focus on support and lighter,… Read more »

Barry Larking
Barry Larking
1 month ago
Reply to  Ryan Brewis

Agreed. We have a highly trained and focussed military culture. Agility and total understanding of the battle space tied to clear objectives. Invest in other important areas – upgrading wearable kit, logistics and swift power projection, co-operation with key allies, training operations (as in Ukraine and the Baltics) and not least polish up our strong military traditions; others admire then even if the M.S.M. (I’m looking at you B.B.C. etc.) don’t!

Badrobot
Badrobot
1 month ago

I’m so bored of endless ‘we don’t have enough army’ articles to defend ourselves. We won’t be defending ourselves. We will be defending each other. Start with how NATO would defend against a Russian invasion and then what role we can best play as part of that…across all the domains. Cos Russia isn’t going to act in one domain if it invades s neighbour. See black sea. And within the land component, consider where we can add most value alongside land powers like Poland, Germany (and in time Finland).

john melling
john melling
1 month ago

Seems we are making progress with British Army’s Robotic Platoon Vehicle (RPV) program. Today-

Silent Sentinel to equip British Army UGVs with electro-optical systems (janes.com)

Farouk
Farouk
1 month ago

“” In fact, the treatment meted out to the Turkish Leopard 2s in Syria in 2016 may have been partly due to such attack modes. I very much doubt if Challenger 2 in its current mode would prove any more survivable.”” The Turkish leopards 2s in question were all A4s which Turkey purchased from Germany in 2005. The thing is Germany built the A4s between 1985 and 1992 and thus remains a tank designed during the 70s, built predominately during the 80s they didn’t start designing the Challenger 2 until 1986 with it coming into service until 1998. The Leopard 2 was… Read more »

Turkey_unveils_new_Leopard_2A4_main_battle_tank_upgrade_fitted_with_Altay_tank_turret_925_001.jpg
John Clark
John Clark
1 month ago
Reply to  Farouk

A spot on assessment Farouk…. Again, conscription means you loose….

AlexS
AlexS
1 month ago
Reply to  Farouk

No tank survives a Kornet from the side if it hit the right parts. Without APS it is irrelevant except in borderline cases which tank it is.

 then add the better training of British Soldiers , who wouldn’t harbour up on the top of a Hill leaving vehicles exposed for miles around

Why not? if the order was to control a top of a hill and there would not be enough troops to build a defence position and control all slopes the only alternative is to put a tank there.

Farouk
Farouk
1 month ago
Reply to  AlexS

Alex wrote: No tank survives a Kornet from the side if it hit the right parts. Without APS it is irrelevant except in borderline cases which tank it is. Actually whilst the odds favour the Kornet (or any third gen ATM) there are many examples of armour surviving hits not only from the Kornet but other ATMs. a)     Israel Armour (Have a butchers at their Heavy APCs such as the Achzarit,Nakadon and Nagmachon which are the only APCs allowed to openily patrol the Gaza border and are designed to take missile hits on mass. b)     Turkish M60T which were upgraded by Israel… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Farouk
Dern
Dern
1 month ago
Reply to  Farouk

Also, like Infantry: Tanks are not supposed to remain stationary.

John Hartley
John Hartley
1 month ago
Reply to  Dern

Exactly. The Israelis got a shock in 1973 when their tanks were hit by Russian anti tank missiles. The tank crews themselves came up with kicking up lots of dust/sand whenever they came near potential Egyptian missile positions. Immediately cut Israeli tank losses, yet we still see Russian tanks driving around Ukraine in open sight & are surprised when they get hit.

peter Wait
peter Wait
1 month ago
Reply to  AlexS

Engineers would dig a hole just leaving turret exposed not whole tank like Turkey !

peter Wait
peter Wait
1 month ago
Reply to  peter Wait

Engineers would dig a hole and tank could just drive forward to pop up and fire when op sees target unlike Turkey parking them in full view !

AlexS
AlexS
1 month ago
Reply to  peter Wait

British Army must be the only army that troops don’t complain about officers stupidity…
What if there are no engineers? what if there are no infantry or it is in 24h to arrive and you have 3 tanks to control a hill with almost no physical obstacles?

Farouk
Farouk
1 month ago
Reply to  AlexS

Alex wrote: British Army must be the only army that troops don’t complain about officers stupidity… Oh , how little you know, when a one pip wonder graces your unit, he may feel he is top dog, but he lower than low, he will have been taught (reinforced when he taps the boards in front of the CO, OC, RSM,SSM, to allow those who know what they are doing, to do as they are already doing and just sit back and watch the show and learn. It is not unknown for young officers to be taught a very sharp lesson… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Farouk
Dern
Dern
1 month ago
Reply to  Farouk

You hide behind the hill.

*edit* This is a lot like saying “You have a section of Infantry and have to hold a hill with no resupply and the enemy has Artillery registered on the Hill what do you do?”

Last edited 1 month ago by Dern
Gavin Gordon
Gavin Gordon
1 month ago
Reply to  Dern

Ah, Wellington

peter Wait
peter Wait
1 month ago
Reply to  AlexS

Front end equipment allows digger blade to fit any CR2 so it would be silly not to use this option !

johan
johan
1 month ago
Reply to  AlexS

Its not about the Tank surviving, its about the crew Surviving. can replace a MBT, crews take years.

Andrew D
Andrew D
1 month ago
Reply to  Farouk

👍

JohninMK
JohninMK
1 month ago

Not particu8larily tank related but the following is a string of posts I put up in the “Russia lost 1/3” thread earlier. I have yet to see it in our press or TV but it is very important so I thought it would get a wider audience here. Surrender would have a potentially huge effect.   JohninMK 6 hours ago This is not confirmed but I thought it worth putting here, even though it will probably generate the normal string of abuse from the usual suspects. If correct and depending on what, if anything, is agreed, today could be perhaps… Read more »

Airborne
Airborne
1 month ago
Reply to  JohninMK

Wrong thread pal, a wider audience? what for, your weak Putins propoganda. Behave yourself and get a grip, the Russkies are an embaressing mess and no amount of bullshit by you will change that to the world wide audience.

Monkey spanker
Monkey spanker
1 month ago
Reply to  JohninMK

If and it’s a very big if this is true these soldiers are hero’s of Ukraine. Held up and defended against the invaders for months. These men have held that steel plant under extreme pressure and for a long time without resupply. I don’t think it’s much of a victory for Russia getting wounded out. Well done for eventually going by the international standards/law of warfare. What happened to putins instructions to seal the plant and stop attacking it. That lasted all of 10 minutes. Some chain of command that showed. There are a lot of wounded in the plant… Read more »

PeterS
PeterS
1 month ago

The immediate lesson from the Ukraine war is not limited to tanks. For the first time we have seen the widescale use of ground launched PGMs. Whilst Russian tanks are less well protected than Western or Israeli MBTs, they are better protected than other NATO afvs..IFVs and APCs with protection against shell fragments and 12.5mm ammunition will stand no chance against current and future missiles. Whilst APS like Trophy might provide some protection, it is hard to see how conventional armoured formations can survive against an enemy liberally equipped with PGMs. The counter to modern AAMs has been stealth. Similar… Read more »

Frank62
Frank62
1 month ago

“This will make the Royal Armoured Corps (RAC) a “use once only” force, because in anything approaching a peer-on-peer conflict it will be expended quickly.”

So in such a crisis when likely the US & Germany will be utilising all the tank production they can acheive, where would we get replacement tanks???? -Let alone quickly.

Paul T
Paul T
1 month ago
Reply to  Frank62

‘where would we get replacement tanks’ ? id say Oman and Jordan ,plus one or two in the hands of Museums and Private Collectors.

Rob N
Rob N
1 month ago

I do not think we are looking like for like. The Russians are not deploying active protection on their tanks, they have not got effective air cover and they are not well supported by infantry. Nor are the Russian tanks very situational aware. The Challenger 3 is not Ukrainian war tank….

we must learn lessons but not the wrong ones. It would be better to keep all our Challenger 2s and upgrade all of them to Challenger 3 with active protection.

John Clark
John Clark
1 month ago
Reply to  Rob N

The Challenger 2 fleet should clearly be upgraded to 3 standard and three Regiments retained.

Obviously that means keeping 83,000 troops and refreshing artillery and all the related equipment and vehicles needed to deploy, fight and sustain Armoured battle groups.

The UK mood music is very quiet, I think we will keep to our current SDSR plan, but expect to see a big increase in smart weapons and further investment in and increased UAV, loyal Wingmen etc.

grizzler
grizzler
1 month ago
Reply to  John Clark

yep I tend to agree with that – the silence as they say is deafening.
Whether that decision is correct of course will remain to be seen.

bill masen
bill masen
1 month ago

So its either spend BILLIONS more on even more tanks that MAY extend their battlefield life by another week or so in a conflicted like Ukraines ( definitive european war) . Or accept that Armour has no so many limitations they are not worth having?? MBTs cannot manouvre in Forests or Mountains or Cities. That leaves them the Steppes / Plains and open rural areas. That is where the drones, smart munitions and tank hunting parties are waiting, if the armour does not have TOTAL airsuperiority then MBTs are so vulnerable that they are not worth bothing with. One grunt… Read more »

John Hartley
John Hartley
1 month ago
Reply to  bill masen

Yes & no. You still have not won your war until you put your tanks on the lawn of the enemies presidential palace. Armed helicopters like Apache are great for hitting enemy armour/positions, but cannot be airborne 24/7. The reality, is you need a mix of everything (tanks, drones, artillery, PGMs, helos, air defence, mobile infantry, logistics, intel) or your operation can unravel.

bill masen
bill masen
1 month ago
Reply to  John Hartley

Still disagree to a point, APCs and AFVs from Mech Inf using mainly wheeled are more than enough to hold the turf. MBTs only go into cities to die.

Dern
Dern
1 month ago
Reply to  bill masen

That’s not actually true, MBT’s can work in cities, but it requires exceptional co-ordination between their supporting infantry and the Tanks.

johan
johan
1 month ago
Reply to  Dern

Chally 2s in London. ????? 75% of the Bridges are to weak 85% of the streets are to narrow, and they will fail the ULEZ zone 100%. but would get blow to bugger queuing on the M25

Dern
Dern
1 month ago
Reply to  johan

Then explain this one in Chelsea. 😂

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Daveyb
Daveyb
1 month ago
Reply to  bill masen

Totally disagree. You need to read up on how the Israeli Army fight and use MBTs in urban conflicts. If you had say a US Stryker Brigade, equipped with the fire support versions armed with the autoloaded 105mm, The 25/30mm turreted IFV, the new multirole SPAAG version that also can be fitted with a pair of Javelins or Spike ATGMs, along with a platoon of mortar carriers facing a company of Merkava 4s. The Merkavas should wipe the floor, even if the Stryker Brigade has a 3 to 1 advantage. If both sides have comparable optics so saw each other… Read more »

Glass Half Full
Glass Half Full
1 month ago
Reply to  Daveyb

Some observations. Israel is not fighting a peer. Assuming their tactics would apply in a peer conflict is unwise. You are assuming that the only way to fight is with one armoured group directly fighting another. Why would US/UK forces fight this way in your hypothetical against Merkavas? Especially if they know they are likely to be over-matched? You come closest to how a confrontation might play out with the use of laser guided mortar munitions, but then just seem to ignore it? You make no mention of laser guided artillery. You assume moving vehicles will avoid artillery, when we… Read more »

Daveyb
Daveyb
1 month ago

I decided to us a US based Stryker Brigade, as that is what the Army has alluded that our brigade should look and operate like. Except the US has put the funding into making the concept work, rather than bastardizing what we will have. I decided to use Merkava 4s, as they have the operational and combat experience of using their tanks fitted with the Trophy APS. Will a match between these two forces ever happen, no, it was just to get a point across. The assumption was for a worse case scenario, where two opposing forces stumble across each… Read more »

Glass Half Full
Glass Half Full
1 month ago
Reply to  Daveyb

“The assumption was for a worse case scenario, where two opposing forces stumble across each other.” I can see small groups or individual vehicles doing so, I don’t see large formations stumbling into each other, that’s just a huge failure of ISTAR that stretches credibility IMV; so I don’t buy the resultant fight scenario. Surveillance capability will be increasing significantly, which I commented on further down here. Note that I specified anti-material sniper fire. Using that with explosive/incendiary rounds is likely to do more than just take out a few TRMs on the radar. Not least because it won’t penetrate… Read more »

Daveyb
Daveyb
1 month ago

Nice one Stuart, summed it up pretty well. There is now a decent list of lessons learned from the Ukraine War: Air superiority cannot be guaranteed, even when you have significant numbers, when your opponent has mobile air defences. Air defences need to be capable of detecting and targeting small cheap drones. Allowing drones to roam free over a battlefield allows the opposition a major advantage in not only how they deploy their troops but also how to employ their artillery. Without even local air superiority, helicopter and low level para air assaults are too dangerous, especially if the drop/insertion… Read more »

Monkey spanker
Monkey spanker
1 month ago
Reply to  Daveyb

I’m glad he writes the article. If every time something dies on the battlefield we said that’s it over nothing would be left to fight with. I wondered if the upgrade to challenger should be scaled back. Is it worth it? Does it need a new gun or can the rifled one do enough. What has to be changed to keep it working etc etc. I don’t know much about the systems and what needs replaced. Would the money be better being put into a new tank design or is that an even bigger waste? Apart integrating APS into the… Read more »

Daveyb
Daveyb
1 month ago
Reply to  Monkey spanker

There are a number of items on Challenger 2 that need replacing, some are: The Gunners and Commander sights. The suspension The gearbox final drives. The engine The main armament. Starting with the main gun. The main reason we are going with the Rheinmetall 120mm smoothbore is predominantly down to cost, but to a similar extent capability. We in the UK no longer manufacture the 120mm HESH ammunition, which has to be bought from Belgium. BAe still manufacture the APFSDS depleted Uranium CHARM 3 rounds. But the problem is the scale of the manufacturing cost. I think Jorden are one… Read more »

Deep32
Deep32
1 month ago
Reply to  Daveyb

Interesting post, perhaps then, should we be looking at changing the way the army organises itself and move away from separate battalions in Inf/Tank/Recce/AD etc and go down the Combined Arms Battalion route, especially for our Armoured formations?
Not really my area as you know, but seems to me like a step in the right direction. Expect the traditionalists in the army would probably disagree with it, but would surely make the force more survivable and relevant given what we are seeing in the UKR!

Gavin Gordon
Gavin Gordon
1 month ago

At least we have some practical rather than purely theoretical peer on peer conflict to utilise in an assessment of future requirements., Full respect to the national identity of Ukraine and the political insanity of Russia.
Even so, the data is clearly not complete. Part 2, i.e. regaining the occupied Donbas region and Kherson oblast, will it is hoped firmly establish what equipment, or refinements of such, are required to effectively invade, rather than substantially defend, territory.

Rob N
Rob N
1 month ago

It is obvious that Active Protection Systems for tanks are a must. We should upgrade all our Challenger 3s with them and consider fitting them to our APCs/IFVs. We have seen how vulnerable armour is to modern ATGWs.

One good thing has emerged from the war it has shown how vulnerable Russian kit is to Western weapons. A lesson that will not be lost on the Russians… good luck with Finland, I think they would make short work of a Russian attack.

Geoff Roach
Geoff Roach
1 month ago

Let’s try something novel. We have decide to have two armoured Brigades and that has only taken us, to use a technical term, “twenty years of faffing about”. Now we need to look at how our two Brigades can be best utilized and what equipment they should have within them.

Glass Half Full
Glass Half Full
1 month ago

Its refreshing to see in the comments section following this article, more nuanced and deliberative observations around armoured operations and particularly with respect to MBTs. Certainly a change from the usual “we need mooaaarrrr tanks” clarion call that seems to be the go to staple for many. I would add one further point. Rather than look at the past, or even the present situation in Ukraine, with its strong showing by UAS, we should be looking at MBT’s and heavy armour in the context of what the battlespace will look like in the future, i.e. sometime in the 2030’s, if… Read more »

Sean
Sean
1 month ago

Pointless article, light on referenced facts and heavy on “I think” opinions without any justification. Add in the general ‘we need to buy more of everything now’ and general wishing for a defence budget the size of America’s it reads more like a comment than an actual researched article. Considering the author’s background, a very disappointing and unfulfilling read.

George Parker
George Parker
1 month ago

Well said Col Crawford, Sir.
If only the problem was one of a shortage of MBT’s. GB could pull the stops out and build another armoured vehicle production facility to churn them out. Unfortunately the problems are far worse and run much deeper in Whitehall.
The primary duty of any government is defence of the state. Sadly, HM Gov have been permitted to shirk that duty for more than 50 years.

Cameron
Cameron
1 month ago

Why does the UK need lots of tanks? For the past few decades, large numbers of tanks were deemed necessary to counter a possible Russian conventional attack into Europe. Once the current Ukraine war is over, will Russia be able to rebuild it’s forces and launch a similar large scale conventional strike against Europe any time in the foreseeable future? It’s much more likely that this is the beginning of the end of the Russian Federation. Once Putin is gone, the now strained Russian Federation will very likely split up into several smaller parts, with much squabbling and in-fighting over… Read more »

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
1 month ago
Reply to  Cameron

Cameron, I don’t think we need a lot of tanks, such as the 900 (Chieftains) we once had, but neither should we have so few as to be unable to field a proper armoured division. Our tanks have not just faced off against the Soviets in central Europein a deterrence posture, they have been involved in warfighting against Iraq (twice), and executed a show of force/deterrent role in Bosnia, Kosovo (both in counterpoint to militant regimes in the Balkans) and now in Estonia (in counterpoint to Russia). They have had great utility. Where next for our tanks? I would not… Read more »

Adrian Wakeford
Adrian Wakeford
1 month ago

Bit of an odd knee jerk article. Why would the author propose a “quick fix” buy of German or US MBTs and then a few paragraphs later admit that western tanks may all be vulnerable to the new AT weapons proliferating on the battlefield? Surely the first thing to do is to work out if armour has reached its “battleship moment”. Then the British Army can attempt to sort itself out. Sadly, I do not have great confidence in this given that a lot of the current armour obsolescence and quantity issues are due to the procurement and development mistakes… Read more »

steve
steve
1 month ago

That last sentence says it all really, spot on Adrian..

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
1 month ago

Adrian, I like your phrase “battleship moment” and I thought I would jot down the reasons why battleships became obsolete:
-sheer cost of building, manning and maintaining a significant number, for countries not willing to make that investment
-resources required to protect the singular asset with escorts
-dominance taken by another type albeit held in lesser quantity (aircraft carrier)
-capability could be provided by cheaper means
-could be defeated by low-cost counter-systems.

I don’t see that the tank is yet at its battleship moment, as not all the above are in play.

Gareth
Gareth
1 month ago

How about tank/afv designs which incorporate thicker top armour as well as counter measures. May lose speed, but I’m not sure speed over land has been at all decisive in Ukraine. Survivability, particularly in urban environments, seems more important. Also instead of M1A1s or Leopard 2’s wouldn’t be better off buying Israeli Merkava Vs? They seem much more optimised for the modern battlefield, come with Trophy APS as standard, as well as on board 60mm mortars for smoke rounds and for suppressing infantry, and they can carry an infantry team of their own. And they can fire ATGMs from on… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Gareth
AlbertStarburst
AlbertStarburst
1 month ago

There are good arguments for and against MBTs. However, on-balance, if we decide that there is a need in the 21st Century for heavy armour, then why can’t the UK think strategically and re-kindle its heavy armour industry and not rely on the Germans or Americans. We were capable after all in the recent past of producing world-beating heavy armour (e.g. CH2). For MBTs – yes, as others have pointed out, use them as part of a fully integrated mixed force. For example I would suggest a revolutionary new MBT design that incorporates its own “tethered” multi-rotor Brimstone-armed drone for… Read more »

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
1 month ago

The JV company RBSL (Rheinmetall/BAE) is producing CR3 in the UK, admittedly an upgraded CR2, but it amounts to re-manufacturing, rather than just bolting a lot of new stuff on an existing vehicle.

Your last para – It wasn’t long ago that our country could produce just about any item of military inventory – we are not that far off that baseline now – what military kit can we no longer actually make? Why would we therefore need to buy in anything and everything that’s foreign?

AlbertStarburst
AlbertStarburst
1 month ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

…errr Rheinmetall = German. Lockheed Martin = American. Thales = French. MBDA = basically French. Leonardo = Italian. etc. etc. Its both design and manufacture in key strategic areas that the UK lacks. Also so many of our smaller defence companies have also been taken over by overseas owners such that UK capability has been hollowed out. We can no longer come up with our own indigenous heavy armour including MBTs. As per another article, we are having to buy French aircraft even for RAF VIP transport. Just in terms of profits/money flowing out of the country, and lack then… Read more »

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
1 month ago

Albert, you missed out BAE = British.

I used to work for Thales in Crawley – I considered myself to be a British PM working in the UK; my designer colleagues were generating designs, ideas and IP that was British, even though they worked for a French-headquarted company.

Is a Lotus a British car? I like to think it is even though the parent company was Malaysian but is now Chinese.

GDUK is a British company – it is making Ajax.

If BAE design the tank after CR3, it will be a British tank, without question.

AlbertStarburst
AlbertStarburst
1 month ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

Hi Graham. yes BAe = British but a bit of a monopoly and lone survivor. Yes I have also worked for various defence companies but back in the day when they were “British.” My point that I am trying to make is that we/the Public may think that a company is British, especially if parts are assembled here, but in reality often those companies are foreign owned and I question the sense of that for critical strategic items. An obvious example also of this mis-understanding in civilian industry is Jaguar Land Rover who are actually Indian.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
1 month ago

True. Very few ‘British’ companies are British-owned. But does that matter? We seem to be sanguine that the last fighter jet designed and built by a British company was the Harrier – and delighted that we are assembling bits of the F-35 for Boeing, because at least we have some British jobs in fast jet manufacture.

Tom Keane
Tom Keane
1 month ago

Lessons learned from Ukraine regarding tank warfare, will indeed be learnt by the MOD/Defence procurement bean counters.

No need to ‘shell’ out money for expensive tank upgrades for a while. Sit on (not in) Ajax and Boxer for a while, and save money for a few years. Great Success!

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
30 days ago
Reply to  Tom Keane

Isn’t the message that the Russian tanks came to grief because they were not upgraded so as to shrug off and deal with modern ant-tank weapons (and there were other factors too, of course).

Tom Keane
Tom Keane
30 days ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

I was commenting from the real world perspective, where the UK Gov saves money, by stalling defence ‘projects’.