We are introducing a new category today called Mainstream Media.
One of the objectives of this blog is to elevate and broaden the debate on UK Defence issues. At the risk of repeating myself, we don’t have any special insight but one this we strive for accuracy, something that seems lacking in the mainstream media, especially when there is an opportunity to push the ‘pen pushers’ theme that seems so common.
Posts in this category will take stories from the mainstream media and try to correct them.
Kicking off this category is a story in the Telegraph, Daily Mail, New Statesman and Times this morning about the MoD spending £149million on useless ‘tanks’
The original story was in the Times with the others simply copy and pasting.
Let’s have a look at some of the statements…
It is not a tank but a FV430 Mk3 Bulldog armoured personnel carrier, the Challenger 2 is a tank, the FV430 series are not.
Yes, they were upgraded for use in Iraq where the combination of improved armour, engines, electronic countermeasures, communications equipment, drivetrain, night vision, air conditioning and protected weapon station (gunshield) proved extremely useful and versatile. Particularly useful is its ability to turn within its own length, something that no wheeled vehicle can do and vital in the tight confines of Basra back alleys. In fact, it took a programme excellence award from Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine.
It is simply wrong to assume that just because it is not new it is not any good but different terrain and different threats need a diffierent vehicle, with a greater IED threat and less of an urban environment in Afghanistan vehicles like Mastiff and ridgeback are more suited. The FV430 series is one of the Army’s workhorse vehicles so of course they are going to be used in training. Many of them will be placed into controlled storage like most of the Army’s other armoured vehicles, this is to preserve them in good condition for when they are needed in combat, sensible fleet management, nothing more, nothing less.
£149m to upgrade the entire fleet is actually stunningly good value for money and they will be useful in possible future conflicts, the upgrade means that money on replacements can be deferred and used elsewhere. The Army took delivery of it’s 500th vehicle in May 2008. The original programme was an Urgent Operational requirement for Iraq but plans to upgrade the vehicle were already in place.
However, the total cost of the programme has changed with quoted figures up to £235 million, still excellent value for money.
The Times mentions that it weighs 15 tonnes, has a top speed of 32mph and a turret mounted machine gun. 1 out of 4 aint bad I suppose, the modified vehicle weighs 13 tonnes, has a top speed of 44mph and does have a machine gun (GPMG) but doesnt have a turret.
The Times quotes an unamed defence source.
“We certainly don’t need 900 of these things for training. It seems crazy to do this upgrade work on vehicles that are more than 40 years old and then put them into storage, which is what will happen to most of them”
They are not for training, the Army doesnt buy Land Rovers for training, its buys a fleet of vehicles, some of which self evidently must be used for training.
Yet again, Liam Fox weighs in with an illinformed soundbite.
“We are increasingly concerned that the procurement programme is out of tandem with our military needs. This needs to be done on a detailed and thoughtful basis which can only come as part of major acquisition reform.”
Incidentaly, most of the work has been carried out by MoD Civil Servants of the Defence Support Group.
so, business as usual, lazy and ignorant journalism followed up with the usual drivel from an assortment of ‘defence sources’ and a cherry of nonsense on the top from Dr Fox.