There are serious deficiencies in the quantities of armour, armoured vehicles and artillery available to the British Army says a report by the Defence Committee.
The 2010 SDSR reduced the numbers of Challenger 2 main battle tanks (MBTs) by 40% and heavy artillery by 35%. The Army now possesses 227 Challenger 2 MBTs, a reduction of 89 from 2010, and the number of front line armoured regiments equipped with them is being reduced from three to two.
According to the report:
“Challenger is facing a number of obsolescence issues which are being addressed by a £700 million life-extension programme. The Warrior armoured fighting vehicle is also going through a life-extension programme at a cost of an estimated £1.3 billion. Reports emerging from the NSCR suggested that the number of Warriors due to be upgraded would be substantially reduced.
The Army is procuring the next generation of Mechanised Infantry Vehicle, a procurement taking place outside of the MDP. We took evidence on this process in April and, at that time, the MoD was not in a position to provide detailed figures on how much each vehicle would cost. A failure to manage costs could put further strain on an equipment programme already under enormous pressure.”
Justin Bronk, Research Fellow for Airpower and Technology at RUSI, told the commitee in oral evidence:
“NATO’s firepower is approximately 80% air-delivered, which makes it very vulnerable to infrastructure and airspace denial, and also quite dependent on communications links not being disrupted. We don’t tend to try to drop bombs if we can’t talk to the person who is going to be nearby on the ground. The Russians put an enormous amount of emphasis on artillery.
They have put a lot of effort into modernising and making sure that all their artillery—whether 152mm or 203mm—is self-propelled, and in increasing the range and rapid deployability and survivability of those systems in order to out-shoot NATO.”
The report also says that written evidence has highlighted some of the deficiencies which limit the Army’s firepower, citing a lack of vehicle-mounted anti-tank weapons, the potential ineffectiveness of anti-tank weapons to defeat modern active protection systems on enemy armoured vehicles, a lack of precision in tube artillery, the need for modernisation of rocket artillery to improve range and precision, and a lack of self-propelled artillery, all of which leave the Army, as currently configured, at serious risk of being outgunned by its Russian counterpart.
A decision on the Army’s Future Indirect Fire System, which would address some of these requirements, is due as part of the MDP.
The Ministry of Defence’s Modernising Defence Programme (MDP) must address the challenges presented by the resurgence of state-based threats and be supported by a fully-funded and sustainable financial settlement, says a report published by the Defence Committee. The report, entitled Beyond 2 per cent, has been produced ahead of the anticipated release of ‘high-level findings’ by the MDP, towards the end of June. It examines how the process has proceeded and highlights areas, including capability, commercial practices, recruitment and international partnerships, which the Committee expects the review to consider.
Dr Julian Lewis, Defence Committee chairman, said:
“We hope that our report will assist in sparking debate and focusing minds on priorities that should be considered by the Modernising Defence Programme. The Secretary of State was right to remove Defence from the National Security Capability Review which would otherwise have resulted in further disastrous cuts to the Armed Forces, and we endorse his efforts to obtain a better settlement for Defence.
The Government now needs to look beyond the two per cent minimum on Defence spending, and begin moving towards a figure of three per cent, to place our defence policy on a sustainable basis to meet new threats and fill existing financial ‘black holes’. Defence is constantly described as the first duty of government. The MDP is the government’s opportunity to show that it means what it says.”