Mainstream Media – Tanks Unfit for Service

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.

The story is here, here, here and here

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.

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Think Defence hopes to start sensible conversations about UK defence issues, no agenda or no campaign but there might be one or two posts on containers, bridges and mexeflotes!

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November 23, 2009 4:17 pm

This is so frack’d up and wrong on some many levels its unbelievable. Obviously mainstream journalism no longer requires any fact checking what-so-ever ! But you would expect this piece to have been written by a “defence correspondent” who might know their arse from their elbow ?

Apart from being an upgrade to a very old piece of kit, and possibly not being as blast resistant as purpose manufactured MRAP’s the Bulldog is exactly what is required in Afghanistan – a tracked vehicle with better protection than the Viking but weighing less than the Warrior. Wheeled MRAP’s are very heavy, due their levels of protection and they are suffering heaving in the awful terrain of Afghanistan, as are the generally lighter U.S. Strykers and Canadian LAV’s. It’s a vicious circle, if you stick to roads and decent tracks because you have wheeled vehicles, then the bad guys know where to place bigger and bigger IED’s – if you go off road into the rougher terrain then you need tracks. Now maybe the Army does not actually need all 900 of them deployed to the current theater but the lack of any military knowledge displayed in yet another piece of sensationalist crap makes my blood boil – as you cant tell !

don 10
March 7, 2010 8:42 pm

As an ex tanky, those have always been my thoughts,why drive on routes where the bogies know you will be moving. If you have tracks you can more or less pick your own route, and avoid the obvious. Tracked vehicles are more maintenance intensive than wheeled of course.

The FV430 seies mostly has a cupola mounted gimpy, I suppose to a civvy it looks like a turret.

In Libya we stuck to tracks as there were still mines from WW2, and if you had a track going your way it was cushtie.

But it highlights more and more the fact that we simply have never had enough choppers in theatre. To take a year to get the Merlins from Iraq has just been hellish.

Surely even a politician can see if you can fly in, it is much safer. Of course there are operations that require vehicles, but mostly there is not enough air transport going on.

paul g
March 8, 2010 1:15 pm

could we not store some of these down in MPA “just in case” better they are stored near where they might be needed than trying to get them down there short notice insted of deepest hampshire!!!

Dominic Johnson
March 8, 2010 1:55 pm

Thats actualy a good idea, arent about a third of the UK’s Typhoons going into storage, maybe we could store half a dozen Typhoons, 20 or so challengers and 80 or so of these….