It’s reported that a third of Challenger 2 tanks could be headed for the scrapheap, as part of the government’s Strategic Defence Review.
The long-serving Challenger is getting a much-needed upgrade. But this finance-squeezing move may happen at the expense of 77 vehicles from the fleet. That leaves 150 to be turned into what’s billed as the Challenger 3.
Due to be published imminently, the Review is described as “the most fundamental transformation of the British defense sector in decades” by Defense News.
How would the tank change? New features mentioned by the Daily Mail include a thermal imaging system dubbed “Planet Earth II”, a power-generating turret and a new sighting system plus automatic targeting capability. The Mail’s sources include a report in The Times.
So with the high profile powerhouse entering the 21st century, why are some receiving their marching orders? Changing times and evolving enemies call for a different approach, according to Ministers and experts.
Quoted by the Daily Mail, Gen Sir Richard Barrons says the army are in the “foothills of a profound transformation.”
In a BBC News report from late last year, Chief of the General Staff Gen Sir Mark Carleton-Smith referred to “mobility of goods, people, data and ideas” being weaponized. Pressure is on the military to think outside the box, or rather outside the tank.
With war taking place in the digital world as well as the real one, the Challenger 2 faces what some view as harsh cuts. Add to this the fact it was produced just after the Cold War (1993) and it seems outmoded. The last big upgrade was in 1998.
Covering comments made on the vehicle by former Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt, BBC News writes: “only about half of those are out of storage and ready to be deployed.”
£1.2 billion ($1,674 bn approx) has reportedly been set aside to upgrade the Challengers. That’s part of a £16 billion (around $22 bn) plus funding boost promised by Prime Minister Boris Johnson over the next few years.
To the politicians, it sounds like a lot of money. On the ground however that colossal sum collides with reality, according to military commentators.
People need to be considered alongside what they drive. The Mail reports, “Already, it is feared that army will lose 10,000 personnel over the next decade as part of the economy drive.”
Defense News covers additional developments with Lockheed Martin’s WCSP (Warrior Capability Sustainment Program). The company hope to be upgrading the British Army Warrior, an armored infantry fighting vehicle.
Executives are concerned the Review puts these plans in jeopardy, as outlined in a recent virtual briefing by WCSP director Keren Wilkins. As reported by the Mail, a shake up could see the Warrior replaced by Boxer APCs (Armored Personnel Carriers)
Meanwhile, Gen Sir Richard Barrons wants to see more detail, which he hopes will justify the government’s plans.
A dramatic change to the Challenger 2 signals the end of an era. It was so effective that the only tank capable of taking it out was itself… demonstrated in Iraq when one accidentally opened fire on another!
Also mentioned is a face off in 2003 where the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards met a squadron of T55s. Both were equally matched in terms of numbers but not firepower. The enemy was reportedly obliterated while all 14 Challengers survived to fight another day.
According to BBC News, the British Army use 15 types of armored vehicle. Another worry for military types is a decreasing dependence on so-called heavy metal, combined with a consistent manufacture of tanks and similar forms of protection.
Highlighted are the Dutch, whose fighting forces feature little in the way of tanks. The USA is cutting back in a similar way, though soldiers will always need armor plating.
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Following the Review is a White Paper seeking to give the full picture on what Johnson’s pandemic-hit administration have in store. Those of every rank are waiting with bated breath…