The Poland phase of NATO’s Exercise Steadfast Defender has concluded.

The exercise, designed to enhance interoperability among NATO members, saw the participation of approximately 2,500 personnel and over 800 vehicles from the UK’s 12th Armoured Brigade Combat Team, based at Bulford on Salisbury Plain.

Brigadier Henry Searby OBE, Commander of the 12th Armoured Brigade Combat Team, praised the performance of his troops: “From the moment our first Challenger 2 tank rolled onto a train at Folkestone en route to Poland, we have been testing ourselves and learning hard. Projecting a force of thousands of people and hundreds of vehicles across Europe into NATO’s eastern flank is a substantial challenge. The process has run smoothly, we’ve integrated with our allies and are running highly effective training missions day and night. Our soldiers have fully embraced this exercise and I am both proud and impressed with what our soldiers have achieved.”

During the first week, the troops conducted lower-level training, working with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and military working dogs, and performing combined arms attacks with tanks and armoured infantry. They also practised moving armour and infantry across a ‘wide wet gap’ using British and American amphibious vehicles and bridges.

Brigadier Searby expressed gratitude to the Polish hosts: “We are incredibly grateful to our Polish hosts for allowing us to train on this vast and beautiful training area. It provides challenging terrain, firing ranges and river crossing sites set to rehearse and test the Brigade’s capabilities. I have personally very much enjoyed working with the Polish and American Armies who provided formidable combat power, and with whom we are able to integrate very well.”

Major General Joseph DiNonno, Commanding General of the US 29th Infantry Division, highlighted the longstanding cooperation between the US and UK: “Our training with the 12th Armoured Brigade Combat Team for Exercise Steadfast Defender 2024 builds on a long history of cooperation and partnership between the United States and the United Kingdom. Here at Drawsko Combat Training Centre, they’ve demonstrated themselves as an incredibly robust, capable and combat credible force able to swiftly integrate with our NATO partners to overcome any obstacle.”

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George has a degree in Cyber Security from Glasgow Caledonian University and has a keen interest in naval and cyber security matters and has appeared on national radio and television to discuss current events. George is on Twitter at @geoallison
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maurice10
maurice10 (@guest_820990)
1 month ago

Looking at the Challenger 2 in the photograph makes me wonder how many are currently earmarked for conversion to CH3 in the initial production run. Also, is there the remotest chance another 30-40 CH2s might receive CH3 upgrades as the urgency to equip the Army gains ground with both major parties?

Graham Moore
Graham Moore (@guest_820999)
1 month ago
Reply to  maurice10

Don’t know about the size of CR3 production batches. We all know that the total is 148 vehicles. IR Refresh 2023 and associated DCP was commissioned to learn lessons from the Ukraine War; they did not however conclude that more than 148 tanks were required. No major party is agitating for more than 148 tanks.

maurice10
maurice10 (@guest_821012)
1 month ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

The current fleet is certainly being put to work and even some senior officers in the Army are critical about the 148 CH3 as too small for purpose. Okay, the Brits are unlikely to be charging across the deserts as before in their MBTs but the Government has a propensity to deploy the CH2s abroad on a regular basis.

Dern
Dern (@guest_821033)
1 month ago
Reply to  maurice10

Senior Officers can be critical about it all they like, but unless funding is released for the conversion they can’t do anything about it.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore (@guest_821172)
1 month ago
Reply to  maurice10

I would think that every senior officer in the army and every junior officer and every soldier too think that 148 tanks is not enough ie two armoured regiments of 56 tanks each.

We have used tanks a great deal in kinetic operations in the last 30+ years, not just charging across deserts.

We invented the tank solely to deploy abroad in 1916 – and still do that over a hundred years later.

Simon
Simon (@guest_821429)
1 month ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

Partly money ( or lack of money) driven, but it wasnt that long ago there was talk of the British army ditching tanks

Taken from August 2020

“A shift in thinking has been highlighted by the head of the Army, General Sir Mark Carlton Smith. In a recent speech he suggested the threat of the tank was diminishing in modern warfare.
He said: “The main threat is less missiles and tanks. It’s the weaponisation of those elements of globalisation that hitherto have made us prosperous and secure, such as mobility of goods, people, data and ideas.”

Graham Moore
Graham Moore (@guest_821623)
1 month ago
Reply to  Simon

Of course Carleton-Smith was not saying the British Army should ditch tanks but that he thought the threat that enemy tanks posed to our forces was diminishing, this well before the war in Ukraine.

Ben Wallace said much the same at that time and suggested that the tank was a ‘sunset equipment’.

That was all a brief passing comment from two people, albeit senior people.

The only country in recent times that has given up the tank has been Belgium, purely for budgetary reasons – although Canada came close to it a few years back.

Simon
Simon (@guest_821720)
1 month ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

Hi Graham I think the Dutch also ditched there tanks as well and then backtracked on it after tensions with Russia started to rise (again this could have been driven by budget cuts as well as Dutch defence spending was near 1% of GDP) Some of the comments by Carleton – Smith and Ben Wallace were also I suspect partly budget ( or lack of one) driven

Graham Moore
Graham Moore (@guest_821786)
1 month ago
Reply to  Simon

True. The Dutch ditched tanks in 2011 following the global recession. Then realised they had made a huge mistake when they saw Russian tanks invade Crimea in 2014, so brought them back.

Simon
Simon (@guest_822806)
1 month ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

Mostly cost driven rather than a real change of strategy in the case of the Dutch.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore (@guest_822995)
1 month ago
Reply to  Simon

Totally cost driven. No other reason. My point is that it is a very rare thing for a nation to give up its tanks. We won’t be phasing out tanks anytime soon.

DB
DB (@guest_821071)
1 month ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

Difficult one because one because cheap drones have taken tanks out so easily.

I don’t expect much from the next Labour Government, except, a focus on Europe in preparation for taking us back into the EU in 2028/9 General Election.

As hard power, UK forces do deliver soft power when on exercise abroad, well, except for the three subbies who were Courts Martialled for conduct unbecoming in Latvia a few years back…

Graham Moore
Graham Moore (@guest_821185)
1 month ago
Reply to  DB

The first anti-tank weapon was fielded by Germany in 1916. Drones are just the latest anti-tank weapon. Counters are always devised to anti-tank weapons and tank crews improve their TTP so as to use their tanks smarter and minimise exposure. The proliferation of drones does not mean that we don’t need tanks or we need fewer tanks. It means that we need to deal with this emerging technology, as mentioned above. You are joking about Labour agitating to lead us back in to the EU? Are you? Very divisive for the nation. Not a vote-winner. Would require a lot of… Read more »

john
john (@guest_820994)
1 month ago

End EX best radio call ever.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore (@guest_821000)
1 month ago

Interesting to finally have it confirmed that the armour went on rail through the Chunnel.

Simon
Simon (@guest_821002)
1 month ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

I thought that as well. Wonder how it got to the tunnel and were it was loaded onto the train

Dern
Dern (@guest_821034)
1 month ago
Reply to  Simon

Would have been tank transporters by road.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore (@guest_821103)
1 month ago
Reply to  Simon

Daniele may know where they loaded the tanks onto the rail flats. Maybe they used the old Ludgershall railhead, if it has been maintained?
As Dern said, tank trasnporters from barracks to railhead.

Dern
Dern (@guest_821120)
1 month ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

Daniele and I have discussed this in the past: They would have been loaded onto flats at Dover because UK loading rail loading gauge is narrower than a Challenger 2.

Paul T
Paul T (@guest_821125)
1 month ago
Reply to  Dern

You are correct – Roaded to Dollands Moor then transfered to Rail,but there is another option in using HS1 which was built to the Continental Loading Gauge, in theory CR2 could be loaded at Dagenham then Railed straight through.

Last edited 1 month ago by Paul T
Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli (@guest_821160)
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul T

Dollands Moor, interesting. Assumed, wrongly, the shuttle terminal at Folkstone. D Moor makes sense.

Paul T
Paul T (@guest_821192)
1 month ago

Yes D Moor is the freight hub for the Tunnel, to be honest with local news I haven’t noticed any stories about movements etc but obviously any moves would likely be at night.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore (@guest_821209)
1 month ago
Reply to  Dern

Thanks Dern.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli (@guest_821159)
1 month ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

I assumed at the Chunnel shuttle. No, HETS to the coast due to gauge issues.

Simon
Simon (@guest_821168)
1 month ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

Ludgershall is still in use , but as Dern and Daniele say, the loading gauge issue stops any transport of tanks in the UK (Unless it is HS1, it seems) There a video on Youtube of an train with containers going from Ludgershall to Dollands Moor in 2019. Part of a exercise in Estonia at the time. at least it is something positive

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli (@guest_821396)
1 month ago
Reply to  Simon

All these rail links are strategic assets that need to be maintained.
I count Ludgershall, Kineton, Glen Douglas, Shoeburyness, Marchwood.
I believe Ashchurch has been lifted and David told me Longtowns branch has also gone.
It is interesting how many MoD locations have a train, trains, sat at them. Some unusual ones.

Simon
Simon (@guest_821418)
1 month ago

Interesting about Ashchurch as Goggle satellite view still shows it in place ( however is it up to date?) I was not to far away from there about two weeks ago, trouble is apart from standing on the station platform and checking if the branch off is still there I don’t know if you could see much as the rail depot is at the back of the site away from the road

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli (@guest_821427)
1 month ago
Reply to  Simon

Morning Simon.
Yes, agree. I looked at GE myself and the track was there. I based my comment on a tweet or another internet comment, forget where now, that including photos of the depot, that said the tracks had been lifted.
I certainly hope that that’s not the case.
I’ll have another look at GE or G maps, as there is a historical feature where you can set the date of the view, if it’s available for a particular area.
Are you a train buff as well as military?

Simon
Simon (@guest_821484)
1 month ago

Hi Daniele
Yes, there some good street view over time of for example Ludgershall. I do enjoy the railway related stuff and I wouldn’t quite say I was a buff, but I do enjoy visiting old railway lines and stations ( there quite a lot in South Wales were I live) Sadly in UK military terms, railway use seems to have dropped quite a lot

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli (@guest_821620)
1 month ago
Reply to  Simon

It has.
I’m looking on G Maps now at the Ashchurch site. The tracks still evident in the sorting sidings north of the site, but the branch line connecting is less certain. I can see it disappearing into the trees but at the Junction where the points should be I cannot see trackwork.

Jacko
Jacko (@guest_821306)
1 month ago
Reply to  Simon

Videos on war machine tv and cobra emergency on you tube,they must have hired every heavy haulage truck in the country😂

Simon
Simon (@guest_821335)
1 month ago
Reply to  Jacko

None of that sort of stuff, this video was taken by trainspotters who are interested in the loco and use of the line, not conspiracy theory

Jacko
Jacko (@guest_821407)
1 month ago
Reply to  Simon

What are you waffling about? The videos clearly show that the armour was moved by road to the tunnel! What conspiracy theory?

Simon
Simon (@guest_821414)
1 month ago
Reply to  Jacko

A lot of the videos of tanks/AFV being moved by HET are quite often shared by conspiracy groups as an example that some thing is going on (even when they are years out of date to the point they are referring to )

Jacko
Jacko (@guest_821415)
1 month ago
Reply to  Simon

Blimey!ok then so they were flown to the tunnel!hows that for a conspiracy theory?🙄 cherio👍

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli (@guest_821158)
1 month ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

Was just going to mention that to you, considering the conversations we have had on this.
Assume by “Folkstone” they mean they used the Chunnel hub there.

Frank62
Frank62 (@guest_821037)
1 month ago

If we found ourselves in dire need of more tanks, where would we look? 10 or more years to regenerate our home manufacturing capacity or the likes of Leopard 2 or the Korean tank?
One thing that’s clear after over 60 years studying warfare, history & defence is that you never see everything coming at you well in advance, enemies often surpriuse you & whatever the threats visible, HMG usually gamble on the least threat option & cut recklessly.

Quentin D63
Quentin D63 (@guest_821381)
1 month ago
Reply to  Frank62

Yes, be well prepared and always have a healthy reserve. Finding an extra 30-50 tanks in these times could be a good insurance policy and being able to deploy in three sizeable quantities or even as a back up to the current two. If the West has an idea as to how strong Russia will be when it regenerate its forces why even wait?

Dern
Dern (@guest_821385)
1 month ago
Reply to  Frank62

Planning on restocking with Leopard 2 or K2 will not be a great plan, in that Scenario everyone and their dog will be begging Rheinmetall for Leopards, and Germany obviously will get first dibs since they have the production lines. We’d have to get in line behind Greece, Spain, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Turkey, Poland, Italy… I could go on listing NATO Leo 2 users but you get the point. It would be great to have the Ariete AMV and Challenger 3 production lines on a very low production rate so that if a war breaks out we could actually add… Read more »

Jonathan
Jonathan (@guest_821483)
1 month ago
Reply to  Dern

Agree I think one of the issues with the very small challenger 3 buy is the fact there will be no option to replaces losses…and if a squadrons worth was lost for whatever reason it would put the the army in a bit of a pickle around keeping 2 brigades deployed. Leo and abrams users could order more to refill their attrition reserves…the British army would not have that option…so it really needs a very large attrition reserve compared to other armies.

Dern
Dern (@guest_821499)
1 month ago
Reply to  Jonathan

Well, we would have that option, we could totally buy Leopard 2’s and have a split fleet (I think Italy is planning on spiltting it’s fleet between one regiment of AAMV’s and two of Leo 2’s), it would be awkward, but we could do it.
The bigger issue is if we end up in a large general war with all of NATO, because if everyone is loosing the odd squadron of tanks here and there, and trying to expand their forces, you’ll struggle to get an order in ahead of already existing Leo users.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore (@guest_821790)
1 month ago
Reply to  Dern

We have run split fleets before. Chieftain and Chally 1 mix from about 1983 to about 2000.

Dern
Dern (@guest_821804)
1 month ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

Much larger fleets though. I do not think we ever opperated a single unit that was 2 Squadrons one tank and 1 Squadron the other, which is what a emergency Leopard buy would probably result in.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore (@guest_822049)
1 month ago
Reply to  Dern

I am sure you are right that we did not mix CH/CR1 at the unit level.
BTW, I am still reeling at today’s headline that Sunak wants to bring back National Service if he wins the election!

Dern
Dern (@guest_822374)
1 month ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

Yes, plus certain commentators (Think Defence springs to mind) using it to have a go at people they disagree with politically rather than pointing out how it would not work for our armed forces.