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.”


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Mike Saul

The current British army is incapable of fighting high intensity warfare.


I think we could just about still do it right now. However what is very worrying is that there is no plan for a Challenger 3. The Challenger 2 is a outstanding tank but is now becoming old. We need to start planning now, while also increasing the numbers back up again.

Mike Saul

Having spoken to several serving army personnel recently, I have expressed their opinion rather than my own in that statement.

Well trained and experienced personnel are leaving in increasing numbers, one of the main reasons is that they like confidence in our warfighting capability.

Of course any serving soldier can comment here and disagree with me, I will respect their opinion.


I will. I concur. I’m serving just about, not long till I’m out. the army is a mess. from the ground looking up the guys are frustrated that they aren’t allowed access to kit. it’s that classic case of stores are for storing. we are in the film ground hog day. nothing new happens, we do the same excercises. so many have left that we constantly do the most basic training repeatedly to bring new, unsuitable people who would never have got in a few years ago up to speed. combine that with being told to think for yourself then… Read more »

Mike Saul

Reaper, you have said it far better than me.

Thank you for your input.


What is ridiculous is that the we could have bought the M16 for 25% of the price of the L85 and they were even being made in the UK at the time of the decision…

Typical of many MOD procurement decisions…

Steven Breach

We,ve nowhere left to build Chally 3,will have to go abroad for our next generation


Today’s headlines are quite disturbing. We are frankly in a perilous state from all descriptions with a shiny yet insubstantial equipment portfolio. To steal another’s line: quantity has a quality all of its own. The Russian’s know this, they’ve planned carefully and in any battle with them we would sustain heavy asymmetric losses. It would be a deep, if not crippling blow, to our national confidence and commitment to national self determination. Brexit is like waking up from a coma to discover our body has atrophied and those who would do us harm have been taking the latest generation of… Read more »


During the cold war, the Russian and NATO forces were for the large part; separated by fences and minefields. Today, in some areas of NATO deployment they are with yards of each other with nothing but hedgerows between them! If that sits well with you then so be it I, however, find the whole policy to be ad-hoc and in some cases nothing less than bloody dangerous.


Look across all aspects of the UK’s forces as reported on this site and the story is the same – lack of proper resourcing, endless cuts in personnel and equipment, drastic reducing both the availability and effectiveness of every branch of the armed forces since 2010. The reason is clear – tory austerity ‘economics’ which are merely an ideological preference for ‘shrinking the state’, regardless of the effects of shrinkage.

Daniele Mandelli

The Labour government from 1997 on wards to 2010 did the same.

Escort Fleet – 35 to 23.
Front Line RAF & RN Fast Jet Squadrons. 22 to 12.

I don’t think political point scoring party vs party is relevant, they are all the bloody same in my view!

Geoffrey Roach

Backing you up Daniele..I posted some weeks ago that despite what we were all saying, quite rightly, about cuts to the Royal Navy the net loss since 2010 are the four T 22’s. All the other reductions were prior to 1999. Tory or Labour and yes I even voted UKIP once we seem now to have a S of S who is getting things together so here’s hoping.

Daniele Mandelli

Fingers crossed.


Well if Corbyn gets in we can say goodbye to having any military at all, as he’d undoubtedly scrap all our weapons and turn the army into a ‘Peace Corps’ delivering humanitarian aid to the likes of the Taliban, ISIL, etc.


‘Well if Corbyn gets in we can say goodbye to having any military at all’

He won’t have that option, for lots of reasons.


It’s true he did say he would retain our Vanguard submarines and send them on patrol will Trident missiles on board, but with no warheads… ?‍♂️

Wonder who is going to tell him once he’s taken us out of NATO there’s no Warsaw Pact to join ?

David Steeper

We need the MDP to make clear decisions about what the Army, Navy and Airforce are for and then give them the weapons to carry this out. The essential corollary is that the money will be found from weapons that are not essential for these tasks being cut. If it was me I’d let go the heavy army (MBT’s, IFV’s etc) and spend the money saved on helicopters. I would have one simple rule. If it can’t be transported by air it will almost always arrive too late. For the RAF and Fleet air arm at least for the strike… Read more »

Mike Saul

As has repeatedly been shown in recent conflicts, the army needs heavy armour to win and hold ground whilst at the same time minimizing the casualties of our own fighting personnel.

Our lack of modern heavy armour is a major loss of our warfighting capability

David Steeper

What would happen if our armour came up against modern attack helicopters ? The army has known the answer to that question for 30 years and yet they continue to invest huge sums in weapons they know are nothing but meat wagons. Well I suppose we only need worry about that if we come up against peer or near peer opponents like Russia ! I take zero pleasure in saying it but sooner or later reality is going to come crashing down on our heads but it won’t be us in the safety of our homes who will have to… Read more »

Mike Saul

David, fighting in a high intensity conflict where the enemy is well equipped with modern weapons is different from fighting poorly equipped insurgents.

Attack helicopters require a permissive air environment to operate in, an opponent with modern air defence systems would make life very difficult for our helicopters and we would do the same for their helicopter assets.

A modern fighting force needs multiple weapon systems to ensure we have flexibility on the battlefield to counter unexpected threats.

Putting your eggs all in one basket seldom leads to victory

David Steeper

I just think MBT’s are the same as battleships in the late thirties early forties. To stretch the analogy yes carriers would be vulnerable to but as WW2 showed they other exponentially more capability.

Mike Saul

OK I understand your point of view.

My opinion is that the main battle tank as part of an all arms battle group is dominant weapon system.on the battlefield.

Of course their are threats, but as yet I haven’t seen one that will change my opinion.


Sorry David, but I disagree. The days of the tank being canon fodder for attack helicopters is over. There are a number of reasons for this. I will not talk about SHORAD or air defence but about the tank itself. The current generation of tanks are now being fitted with active protection systems, that will destroy a anti tank missile. Some systems such as Iron Fist has even shown it can deflect MBT sabot rounds. Secondly, some tanks fitted with smooth bore guns can now fire guided missiles such as LAHAT, which are predominately for taking out tanks but can… Read more »

Mike Saul

Many of the deep seated problems with our military were caused by our intervention in Iraq 2003 and Helmand 2006.

The military were starved of resources to pay for these operations. Numerous capabilities and equipment were lost during this period.

The 2010 budget deficit made further defence cuts inevitable.

Given the current fiscal constraints fundamental reform is required to ensure we have an efficient military. I don’t believe the will exists in both political and senior military circles to carry out this reform.


The UK committed about 3500 troops to Helmand in 2006; about a third were combat troops. That is hardly a major commitment for a nation that sits as a permanent member of the Security Council and believes itself to be a major power. Any significant power should be able to sustain less than a regimental size unit for a number of months. The fact that the UK couldn’t is a reflection of the unreality that has permeated British defense doctrine for the past several decades. The problem is that there is a disconnect between the UK’s objectives and the commitment… Read more »

Steve M

I believe this number peaked at 9,500 and 3,500 was the initial commitment. Incidentally this is the second highest behind the USA, hardly a trivial number, although likely near what the UK could conceivably deploy abroad and sustain at the time. I’d argue that max. sustainable number is lower now.

David Steeper

PK Out of that one third how many were occupied guarding the two thirds and unavailable for any actual combat roles. There are many problems in the armed forces and money is only one of them.


At one point the RN/RM had around 7000+ people on the ground. RM battle groups, Sea King helo lift, Joint Force Harrier, medics and Jack and Jill doing top cover on logistics convoys. All this whilst still keeping the fleet at sea, doing deterrence patrols , providing out longstanding commitments to the Gulf and NATO and doing the War on Terror Patrols in the Indian Ocean in support of war in AFGAN. Funny, the Army very rarely mention that the RN with 30k people in it managed to do all that whilst the Army sometimes struggled to do it with… Read more »


It’s true tat was about the max the Army could field. This was due to maintaining NATO commitments but also having troops on roulemont. Which means you had over 9000 in training working up to deployment, those in the field and those who have returned to the UK post deployment on leave. So you’re talking roughly 27,000 committed to Afghan, which is nearly a third of the Army.


The issue is how much of our national treasure should we spend defending Latvia. Especially when Lativia and the EU are hammering us in brexit discussions and the Germans and most of the rest of the EU dont want to spend their fair share. NATO was designed to defend against 700 million people in the Warsaw Pact. Germany on its own could easily defeat the Russians in a straight up conventional fight if it really wanted to much less the 400 million other members of the EU. The UK should probably leave heavy armour warfare to those countries like Poland… Read more »


Every branch is the same regarding numbers – too little, everywhere.

What’s different about the army is that RN & RAF at least have top drawer kit.


says who? top drawer? when you go to sniper competitions and the Latvians are cutting about with the latest and best whilst your using stuff you’ve had to make in your back garden when the kids want their dad to knock off for once, you question where this top drawer kit resides.
does the top drawer kit remain in the elusive top drawer? because I’ve never seen it. we’re consistently embarrassed when on multinational exercise. nobody comes to us and says wow, they come and say why?!


Ian, my apologies… I completely mis read your comment. at least my reaction backs up what you said.


Grim, Reaper, it’s Grim ?


Why does the British Army believe so few MBT’s will work? The full fleet of Challengers wasn’t anything like that of Chieftain, and even that has been steadily reduced? Only a few years ago MBT’s were not seen as a priority, yet, like all ongoing scenarios, the Russians develop possibly the best tank in the World and suddenly the worm begins to turn? Today, the focus has changed and the worthiness of MBT’s is once again recognized as a critical battlefield component? Sadly, the Challenger fleet has had to withstand many cut pointless cuts as the types of conflicts no… Read more »


Abrams gets suckered by even old systems such as Milan. it’s performance in Iraq recently has exposed it. it’s not all that. but then again, neither is the chally. and we don’t have the numbers to compensate for losses should they arise


The only Abrams that have been lost have been deployed without support by poorly trained personnel. In those circumstances then operators allowed anti-tank teams to get both behind or directly above the Tank. No Tank not an Abrams, Challenger 1 or 2, T90, or Leclerc are significantly armored in the rear. The only tank that has proven to be a complete paper tiger is the Leopard 2 which being used by Turkey. Has had far more losses than a notionally NATO Army should have sustained. This is because the Leopard is so much cheaper than American, French, or British tanks… Read more »


fair enough. I’ve not seen the BDAs, just A/A footage. it highlights the point that it is a 360 battle. survivability or flexibility? a tough choice.


If we import a design then fine but we should manufacture it here – let’s build up the manufacturing capacity back up again so we are not in this situation again.


The days of the Centurion are long gone, Chieftain saw to that. A half-hearted attempt to sell the Challenger failed not because of the vehicle, but allegedly, a cumbsy customer launch? The Kuwait invasion and Gulf War proved that Challenger was a World beater in a real war environment, and the perception others could do it better, placed them in the rethink file. Had we wanted to sell brand new Challengers (apart from Oman) we should have encouraged BAE to boost the manufacturing plant rather than being forced to close it. Unless the UK promises to build an all-new MBT,… Read more »


Abrams After the General Creighton Abrams not the biblical Abraham. The issue with Challenger was when the wall fell the bottom fell out of the ant-communist market. The former com block countries and Germany were flooding the market. A country looking to buy tanks was either going to pick up a fleet of former Soviet vehicles for next to nothing or pick up a respectable number of Leopards of all variants from the rapidly demobilizing Germany along with other Euro countries slashing defense spending. During this period France had to bailout their armor manufacturer, Brazil’s went under, Vickers got bought… Read more »


You are right, my auto spell went biblical. The Challenger could have been sold to more countries than Oman. According to the buzz at the time a number of Arab states were interested due to Jordon buying most of the original MK1’s. Not all German tanks were sold as cast offs. A number of customers bought brand new but modified to their needs. I still believe Challenger 2 could have sold, especially after its performance in actual combat. What is important, is the state of play today and the resurgence of the MBT and the UK needs more upgraded Challengers… Read more »


It could have but it would have required the Foreign Office and the MOD to do their parts. The first to talk it up in meetings with other countries defense officials and ensure export permits go through. While the MOD arranged a few exercises in countries that were persepective buyers. In order to give firsthand demonstrations of capabilities.


The EU has made it quite clear that they don’t want our help, what do we need tanks for?

Mike Saul

Because our national strategic interest does not end at Dover.

NATO is the cornerstone of security and sustained peace in most of Europe for nearly 70 years. We are obliged to meet our commitment to NATO and long may that continue


The tank is not dead, it has never been, just attitudes and daft irrational defence planners who believe they were no longer effective. That was rubbish and it leads to disastrous decisions, which lead to a tank fleet that would last possible less than a month against a modern army. All the MOD can hope for is a quick decisive campaign, that is both short-lived and loaded with lucky?


Mike, the UK by fiddling the books just about meets the 2% GDP commitment to NATO but numerous European members do not. Why should we do this without a reciprocal response from these countries. That is what NATO is about – mutual defence. I totally agree that our interests do not stop at Dover but it seems some of our European friends have become complacent and more than a little dismissive of our ours and the USA’s protection for 70+ years. That they seem happy to loose UK security expertise in the light of the Galileo GPS procurement saga reinforces… Read more »


How many countries have bought the SA80 and its upgrade from the UK?


none. and do you blame them? we can’t even give the damn thing away. it’s utter trash. give a grunt a AR platform or an SA80 and ask him which he wants…

Glass Half Full

It seems to me if we are suggesting “serious deficiencies in the quantities of armour, armoured vehicles and artillery” then it really behooves us to define under what scenarios and strategies we expect to need more? It really seems from reading many comments that folks believe we are still lining up against a resurgent Warsaw Pact instead of potentially “just” Russia … and if its not Russia then who? Just about every country from the former Warsaw Pact is now in Nato with the exception of Belarus, Ukraine, and of course Russia. Belarus might align with Russia but I’m pretty… Read more »


I served in the 1980/90s. So glad my time is over in a blue suit. Once again we have politicians who can’t see beyond running a country on minimal taxation. All 3 services are now military lacking credibility and sustain war fighting capability. It’s the 1930s all over again. We still need tanks/infantry to dominate and take ground. Aircraft to provide logistical capability. Strike power and air defence to cover the guys on the ground and defend our own airspace. Which Muppets scraped Nimrods before a replacement was ready should be court marshalled for incompetence. Don’t get me started on… Read more »

Barry Larking

The politics do not add up. Russia is in no position financially to push back in Europe; what would she gain in any case? You don’t pick a fight with your only customer who can pay cash. Financially, a few days of fighting would bankrupt them. Russian inactivity in recent Coalition and Israeli air operations over its ally Syria says much also. Our present position is the consequence of believing in our own propaganda – the infamous ‘peace dividend’. Yet, I still do not believe Russia or even Putin is the problem. The Cold War was a victory that changed… Read more »

Glass Half Full

@BL While in general I agree that Russia is far less of a threat than many seem to imagine I suggest we also need to be careful not to be complacent or assume an overlay of Western logic will apply in all situations. For example if Putin feels threatened domestically, then like others before him he may seek foreign distractions in order to marginalize domestic opposition. Using Russian speaking populations in satellite countries as an excuse has been used in Georgia, Crimea and Eastern Ukraine so we should not be complacent over the Baltic states. Using cyber warfare to create… Read more »


We should keep to 200-300 tanks and concentrate on expeditionary,maritime and air warfare keeping a small but well equipped army we are after all an island and Europe as we are constantly told is to form its own military forces without our help air and sea are our major threat to guard against if as expected after Brexit we choice the open sea Europe especially Germany and France are quite capable of defending themselves also the USA is becoming tried of spending enormous sums of money defending Europe when wealthy countries like Germany do so little to defend themselves.


It’s not impossible for our country to build a new MBT! We are in the same predicament now as we were with the Astute submarines. Due to lack of forward thinking due to lack of a perceived threat to build a replacement at a set time, we have fallen into the same trap. Should we look at jumping in bed with the Franco-German effort – no. The mechanized doctrine is different to ours favoring fire power and mobility over our fire power and protection. The vehicle that they’re going to produce will be an evolution of both the Leclerc and… Read more »

Mark Keeler

I’m with you Davey. The Challenger was really an upgraded Cheiftain. Up armoured and gunned. Taking this further will give us an 80 ton tank.! We need a clean slate. I think we should start with a new weapon type. I think we should look at the cased telescopic cannon that is being fitted to the upgraded Warriers and new AFV’s. I’ve read that it is actually equivalent to 50mm in old money. Using this logic if it can be up scaled to 100mm then this would give a 120mm equivalent. It’s fully automatic so the crew can be reduced… Read more »


The British Army is suffering from a major problem numbers. OK we can all say that but let me explain. When I was in the army yes we had kit problems but the army had a clear role it was the defence of Germany as a NATO partner. Its equipment was designed with this in mind. Heavy and good MBTs, mobile artillery, light recon tanks etc etc. When the first Gulf war came along the British army could deal with that as it was to be a desert version of the German plains, all that was needed was cooling and… Read more »