The Next Big Thing

With all the discussion recently about cuts and rising costs, gap filling and cheap solutions what are the most appropriate design drivers for new equipment?

It’s a problem that seems to afflict all nations with a defence industry, performance is always involved in a race; higher, faster, further and more destructive but given the huge disparity in equipment quality between modern capabilities and the most common opponents is it time to change the runners and riders in the race?

Instead of putting performance at the forefront of equipment should we, as a fundamental requirement, be demanding cost reductions, maintenance overheads and other cost related characteristics?

Of course, these are always design factors and the reality is that sometimes the scope for doing so is limited but if a manufacturer of say, a combat aircraft, were to design something that had a modest performance but at a fraction of the cost of the latest hi tech toy, would it be a success?

How good is good enough?

Simplicity is very difficult but perhaps we are making things more difficult than we need.



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May 12, 2011 11:45 pm

This is by and large what I have ben arguing since the fall of the wall.

Examples: –

Such an aircraft was and is the AMX.

The A10 was designed from day one with simplicity in mind.

How about basing our wheeled apc’s etc on current truck technology like the MAN trucks, rather than the Stryker type suspenisons and engines. something like the Ratel south african vehicles for example.

May 13, 2011 12:04 am

ah the siren song of simplicity.

don’t be fooled by its allure. simpler times, simpler issues, simpler weapons…sounds good in theory but in practice they get ripped apart on the modern battle field.

you could build a simple destroyer…watch how long it lasts in modern warfare. simple aircraft…they’d be destroyed before the pilot even knew there was a threat. simple armored vehicles and your crews will be destroyed so quickly that you would in essence have an infantry force (because the troops would abandon the vehicles).

oh and lets take some of the examples. the A-10 simple? double and in some places triple redundancy. hardly simple…and we haven’t even discussed the gun. the CVR(T)? it would be shredded by infantry … probably with modern AT-4’s or even RPG-29’s.

sorry guys but simplicity saves money and costs lives.

May 13, 2011 2:50 am

Come on TD, you have done a post on all the brilliant vehicles that we could have had to replace CVR(T) over the last 20 years !

It’s longevity in service has nothing to do with simplicity and everything to do with the truly frakked up attempts to replace it !!

Lord Jim
Lord Jim
May 13, 2011 5:01 am

“Higher, faster, further and more destructive”.

given the state of the equipment our armed services a operating, most shuold in the short to medium term be replaced like for like with obvious conditions such as we can’t reopen the CVR(T) productions line. The opportunity should be taken to rationalise where possible and every effort should be made to keep operating costs down.

Whenever people mention not going for top of the line equipment the “Big Bad Enemy” Mafia raise their collective heads and start quoting things based on the belief that every bad guy from now on is going to have 100s of SA-XX, or Kirov type ships that need state of the art equiment to deal with them.

I am not advocating basing all our future defence needs on fighting wars like Afghanistan but we need a large dose of realism. Do we need to be able to conduct day one operations again a top tire opponent by ourselves? I would say yes in a limited way yes, with systems like TLAM. Do we need to put the majority of our efforts into equipping ourselves to fight intervention operations the scale like Sierra Leone and other lower tier opposition by ourselves? Yes Should we be able to support our allies in larger operations? Yes Should we match all the capabilities of our allies? NO

With the current funding issues quantity now needs to take priority over quality. The RN is the prime case for this arguement though the recent and planned future cuts in the RAF almost put it on par. we now need more Platforms as against Systems. Once you have the platforms you can add the systems later when funds allow.

There is a major caveat though. WE must ensure curretn platforms are utilised to their full potential before we start looking for new ones. In the case of the CVR(T) this has happened and more. Other platforms lie Typhoon have been starved of developement funding in order to fund other projects putting its evolution well behind the proper curve and actually in jepardy of never reaching its potential.

There has been a debate abour “Vanilla” platforms comming into service with the bare minimum specs. This for me is the future. AS long as there is a planned and funded growth programme it allows new kit to be brought into service cheaper and on time. Contractors know where a programme stands for the outset and cam plan accordingly allowing them the keep costs down. It alos encourages designs to be future adaptive where space and capacity are built in to allow future growth. The T23 was a good example of how this was not done. Though an effective platform its growth was limited and more by luck was able to adapt to changing roles. The planned CVR(T) replacement also falls into this catagory. the basic platform is large enough to be adapted to a number of additional roles over time that could allow it not only to replace the CVR(T) family but also the remaining FV430 family and even the Warrior. Typhoon should have been in this catagory also but this programme should be written up as not how to do things and how to waist a golden opportunity to adapt the RAF for the 21st century.

So before we go looking for the next Biggest, Fastest, deadliest lets look at what we actually need, and want we need to do.

Rupert Fiennes
Rupert Fiennes
May 13, 2011 6:07 am

Withdraw from international development projects where there isn’t a) a clear leader to the project in terms of workshare (eg about 50%) and b) no off the shelf solution we cannot license produce. That should clear off most of the crap :-)

May 13, 2011 7:44 am

In the west we have always looked at technology to balance the lack of manpower compared to our potential foes. Having a relative technical lead is still important today, but what we need is a more balanced approach. Still have a core of sophistication, but ensure that the bulk is simplier which match our current requirements. For example, if we had designed the T45 as a GP vessel we could have bought fewer high end escorts in total and then designed the T26 to be much simplier, or dare I say it bought off the shelf.

This leads me on to my next point, which is defence is more about business and politics than it is about the need to defend the country. Military kit is like any commodity with suppliers selling their new improved versions, the MOD is like a consumer who cannot bring themselves to buy the ‘basic’ range. Also, better coordination and less sensitivity around sharing technical secrets with our strategic partners would help things enormously.

May 13, 2011 8:01 am

As I’m sure specific programme examples will be batted back-n-forth in the comments, lets see if we can agree that although simplicity for simplicity’s sake can be take too far as to be counterproductive; it is none the less useful, with a sliding scale of complexity, to see where appropriate simplicity can be applied (if nothing else to help out the poor in-theatre maintainer!).
To use one of the most frequent misquotes of Voltaire:
Perfection is the enemy of good enough.

May 13, 2011 8:05 am

Hi Repulse, a good guiding thought
“Still have a core of sophistication, but ensure that the bulk is simplier which match our current requirements. ”
– I think the countries that squeeze the most of their defence “dollars” like Israel, Singapore, Finland, Denmark… follow this principle
– they stay on the “tech curve” with items that most relate to countering likely threats effectively, but they upgrade other kit several times over their service lives (to maintain the quality/ quantity balance)

May 13, 2011 8:17 am

Hi LJ,

RE ” the basic platform is large enough to be adapted to a number of additional roles over time that could allow it not only to replace the CVR(T) family but also the remaining FV430 family and even the Warrior”… and the tracked field artillery

All we need is that kind of programme put in place, to run over, say, ten years, and have
– a limited number of MBTs
– a limited number of wheeled formations (Stryker has finally got the v-hulled, mine-resistant variant), for which the heavier punch is delivered by resurrecting the Supacat platform for (R) and (G)
– all the rest coming out of the ASCOD programme (but with the low rate of production, to conserve budget, thus the Warrior upgrade deal should still go ahead… it is now on a year’s hold, but will that repeat so many times over that in the end it is not worth it anymore?)

May 13, 2011 8:43 am

Just as Stalin once said that “quantity has a quality all of its own” so I think quality can have a quantity all of its own.

That is to say that there comes a point where a high performance platform will simply trash anything that is too many rungs beneath it in the technology ladder. At that point the numbers game becomes prohibitive for an enemy. Even though their platforms are cheap, the sheer number required makes the cost unbearable.

This is one of the reason America has such a dominant position. Who else can afford to go toe to toe with them on defence spending?

Tony Williams
Tony Williams
May 13, 2011 9:47 am

I have a lot of sympathy with the original post, and also with LJ’s response. We really do need to get the politicians (preferably via an all-party commission, but that’s probably expecting too much rationality) to decide on what they want the military to be able to do in the foreseeable future before we can sort out what capabilities we need. Equipment requirements would be defined by the required capabilities.

Having said that, there are certain areas which can be looked at in order to save money – and certain areas which shouldn’t be.

A family of AFVs with a sound basic design and the flexibility to be adapted to a wide range of purposes is a very obvious given. These should use COTS components wherever possible (eg engines and transmissions) but should include military-specific features where needed (eg mine-protected structure, seating etc).

One area of costly sophistication which may soon prove necessary (for at least a proportion of the AFV fleet) is a hard-kill self-defense system to knock out incoming missiles.

Turning to warships, it has often been remarked that for most purposes, we could use very much simpler and cheaper vessels than we do. A twin-screw diesel vessel of maybe 2,500 tons with a medium-calibre gun, one or two close-in guns and a chopper pad+hangar would be more than enough for the great majority of missions.

However, we have to bear in mind that anti-ship missiles are increasingly common and that anything designated as a warship should have some realistic protection against them. One possible answer is to make the gun a 76mm OTO and buy the Strales anti-missile ammunition/fire control system for it. Stick a Phalanx on the hangar roof and you’ve got two overlapping anti-missile systems which are also useful for other purposes (the Phalanx 1B has an EO aiming system for dealing with small boats etc).

One complication is submarines, which are proliferating in second and third level navies. Modern conventional subs can be very good indeed, especially in the littoral, so some sophistication in terms of detection system and preferably hard-kill defences against torpedoes may also be needed.

Aircraft are possibly the area of greatest uncertainty, both because modern top-level combat aircraft are so incredibly expensive and because their roles are increasingly threatened by other solutions – such as guided missiles and UCAVs – in a way which the roles of warships and AFVs (in general) are not. The obvious economical solution is to buy small numbers of something reasonably state-of-the-art off the shelf.

May 13, 2011 9:55 am

If we go this route there needs to be a complete change in the way mod cost programs and people view them. To have more redundancy longer times between maintenance ect means initial unit cost goes up but thru life comes down. Cradle to grave cost will need to be the baseline. Compare the often criticised type 45 to Spanish ship type 45 more expensive but requires half the crew and half as much refueling life cycle costs significantly less but that’s not seen. Also as much common chasis for vehicles (oscelot is the future) same for ships and a/c with engines electronic ect. Stop each service defining specs for similar capabilities and then buying 3 different systems from 3 different suppliers would be a gd start

Michael (ex-DIS)
Michael (ex-DIS)
May 13, 2011 10:16 am

What we need is a sensible foreign policy. One that rules out intervening in third world civil wars. i.e. Afghanistan, Libya etc.

Such a policy would concentrate on defending the UK and contributing to NATO’s defence of its members territories.

This would make equipment provision much simpler.

May 13, 2011 10:25 am

I’m afraid I’m not on side.
Although maintainability matters, and through life costs are massivly important, we need effectiveness and survivability far more.

There isnt political will to maintain a large standing military, even if its cheaper than maintaining a small elite military.
There isnt political will to suffer losses either.

And As Chris B points out, there comes a time when technology makes any advantage in numbers irrelevent.

Seriously, how many T55’s do think you’d need to beat a Chally2?
Enough to run it out of ammunition and fuel?

The primary problem F22 would have against the F4 is running out of missiles and bullets.

I think we do a pretty good job of prioritising maintainability, the Eurofighter is better than the Tornado by any measure, but requires less maintenance, the T45 makes the T42 look like a flack emplacement, but has 100 less crew.

I maintain, our problems are primarily caused by simply doing the wrong thing out of tribal loyalty and inertia.

Most common opponants is a very bad measure.
Because every time we do it, it turns around and bites us on the arse.

If you have to choose wether you lose the indian mutiny or the second world war, only the mad pick India.

I think theres often a wrong headed view that ‘presence’ ships can be low end. Lets say Indonesia gets a bit uppity and threatens to slap around Malaysia and Singapore.
We decide we dont like that, so send the Far East Guard ship to have a poke around.
If that guard ship is a corvette with starstreak, a 40mm autocannon and a commerical sonar, no one will care, even if its 5 of them.
If its an extended T45/23 hybrid with a 128cell cruise missile launcher, it can make a difference.

Psychology Matters.
Statisticaly speaking, North Vietnamese SAMs were ineffective, yet American pilots feared them above all else.
During The Falklands, the Argentine Navy was prepared to put to sea and take on the Royal Navy, despite being outnumbered and outclassed.
But they ran to port when a solitary submarine struck.

May 13, 2011 10:31 am

Simplicity is not the problem, unlike making assumptions about the context of the question, asking the wrong question, or been unclear in your objectives.

Expensive, fragile, white elephants, a product of a cossetted defense industry and bloated MOD civilian staff and top brass self-aggrandizement.

Political not Navy.

“If the Atlantic Alliance, and especially Britain and France which are spearheading the Libya campaign, are short of the resources they need for overcoming a Libyan army consisting essentially of four to five brigade-strength military frameworks fighting without air cover, hard questions must be asked about the alliance and its 26 members’ real military worth.”

Efficacy: capacity for producing a desired result or effect

In terms of capacity, availability, flexibility, effectiveness, quantity, sustainability etc.

Against Somali Pirates, Libya or more capable potential opponents like Russia or China etc.

Potential opponents with just AK47’s and RPG’s or the full spectrum with area denial weapons including missiles and submarines, with respect to Aircraft carriers.

It may be off topic for this blog.

Just curious, and provocative.

Tony Williams
Tony Williams
May 13, 2011 11:27 am


“I think theres often a wrong headed view that ‘presence’ ships can be low end. Lets say Indonesia gets a bit uppity and threatens to slap around Malaysia and Singapore.
We decide we dont like that, so send the Far East Guard ship to have a poke around.
If that guard ship is a corvette with starstreak, a 40mm autocannon and a commerical sonar, no one will care, even if its 5 of them.
If its an extended T45/23 hybrid with a 128cell cruise missile launcher, it can make a difference.”

Low-end ships are for low-end threats (i.e. business as usual). Two (or more) substantial countries squaring up to each other does not remotely count as a “low end threat”; in fact we would be foolish in the extreme to try to intervene even with the best we’ve got, except as a part of an international task force (including the USN).

Incidentally, Singapore is well able to defend itself against anyone else in the SE, anyway – and possesses armed forces appreciably more powerful than anything we could send out there.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
May 13, 2011 1:19 pm

One argument I find interesting is that between platform-centric and capability-centric. It is why I like concepts like auxiliary (containership) cruisers, packplanes, pimped up Hawks, transport-bombers, airships, etc. These are not a complete answer – we still need expensive dedicated hi-tech platforms for specific missions – but increasingly it appears sensors, weapons, and carriage are becoming distinct; do you need a smart vehicle to deploy a smart weapon?

May 13, 2011 2:24 pm

The UK is too small to be simple, you have to compensate with high tech. As mentioned above, Stalin could have worse tech than the Germans because he had so much in quantity. The UK does not have quantity and so needs the highest quality. That is why the UK should be entirely naval-centric, the UK could go against China’s navy and win, forget about going against China’s army. China could have more people in its army that the entire population of the UK.

Tony Williams
Tony Williams
May 13, 2011 2:38 pm

@JS, you make a fair point but, within a given sum of money, would it be better to have (say) 12 high-end warships, or 8 high-end plus 12 low-end so you don’t waste the high-end ones on routine tasks?

May 13, 2011 3:24 pm

12 high end.
Because we’ll never have enough to win the war and fly the flag, and winning thwe war is the more important of the two.

I dont get this fascination with “low end” warship that just dont do anything.

I’m fine with assault ships mounting CB2020 anti piracy patrols, because assault ships have a war purpose as well.
I dont get “low end” frigates, because they have no war purpose and frankly arent that effective at anti piracy either.

May 13, 2011 5:55 pm

OK been out at work all day so here goes the counterblast to the posters who are arguing carry on regardless…..


Why would simple kit be destroyed quickly??

Why would a MAN 8×8 truck based MICV be any more vulnerable than a FRES??

Why would a ‘simple’ destroyer be destroyed quickly. What anti ship missile cares about whether the ship is deisel or gas turbine powered?

A10 yes its triple redundant etc, however lets take a checklist of things it hasent got

computer controled relaxed stability wly by wire- no

Ultra expensive low bypass let engine developed for the plane – no

High end composite airframe – no

Designed from the beginin to be easily repaired in the field – yes

Deliberatly avoided complex flap systems – yes

Designed to use state of the production art equipment- yes.

Chris B

Obviously simpler cannot mean crap the T55 is simply an obsolete design.. and witha transversly mounted v12 alloy deisel engine not that simple to fixe etc.

How many 8×8 wheeled antitank missile vehicles could a Challanger destroy before one got lucky?


As one of the ‘OFT’ who criticise the T45, there are a lot of assertions about how cheap it is to run (whe will see when one is finally steaming arround fully equiped).


Not sure stalin’s army was that much low tech than the germans.

The comparative testing of soviet V German tanks carried out by the soviets and published after the end of the wall, was most interresting.

EG King tiger V JS2 Rusians thought, (and this is the interresting bit; that KT was mechanically not fit for the battlefield being completly unreliable. The armour was of poor quality and test firing found that when hit by the JS gun even when not penatrated the hull had the habit of the plates springing apart. This was the tank that caused every western tanker to sh*t himself… Just one example.

AK47 anyone.

Ok so where are we?

Currently we have the best strike aircraft in the world, the best fighter in the world, the best cruise missile in the world flown by the best pilots in the world, from the best airforce in the world…


One bonkers dictator and a bunch of thugs in 60’s era equipment with no air defence. Result score drawer at best.

Thank god we’re not facing an enemy that can shoot back or had real airforce. Not the best war for the quality V quantity argument.

Simple does not have to mean 2nd rate. it means good engineering and design. MY late father in law was an engineer (He helped to design the original electric milk float). He always used to say

“An engineer is someone who can do for a shilling what any damn fool can do for a pound”

May 13, 2011 5:56 pm

I think in terms of procurement we are doubly doomed. Not only are we now seeing another generation of politicians who have never seen war. (Which I suppose is a good thing really!) Our politicians increasingly have never had real jobs; the graduate, researcher, MP route. At least previous generations of MPs whether they were drawn from ranks of factory owners or from the factory floor knew about how “machines” came to be.

May 13, 2011 8:13 pm

I think the industries should develop export-capable (if not promising) hardware and the MoD -focused more on developing its personnel’s competence than its hardware inventory- should simply buy what it needs at competitive prices.

May 13, 2011 8:38 pm

IXION said “An engineer is someone who can do for a shilling what any damn fool can do for a pound”

Reminded me of how Lines re-jigged the already austere Sten and saved a parcel of parts.

May 13, 2011 8:57 pm

X yes

One other point why, if we had all this high end Kit warriors and challangers etc, did our soldiers die in plastic landrovers because we had so many warriors sitting in sheds or on car parks in the UK we couldn’t afford a decent armoured car.

John Hartley
John Hartley
May 13, 2011 9:04 pm

John Knott said we did not need a large RN fleet & planned to cut it. Then came the 1982 Falklands conflict.
Then it was said the British Army would never fight in the desert again & we sold our desert uniforms to Iraq! Then came Saddams invasion of Kuwait (1990).
The end of the Cold War left many to think no chance of war in Europe. Then Yugoslavia fell apart violently.
The SDSR did not predict the “Arab spring” or UK air operations over Libya.
Predictions saying “we will not need this or that ever again” are usually wrong.
We might be fighting a Mumbai style attack on the streets of Britain, or resource wars with developed nation states in the polar regions. Remember Clausewitz said “the enemy has three courses of action open to him & of these, he always adopts the fourth”.

May 13, 2011 10:25 pm

The money is development phase; simple is the enemy of profits.

May 13, 2011 10:36 pm


“How many 8×8 wheeled antitank missile vehicles could a Challanger destroy before one got lucky?”

Enough to warrant the price. Using back of the fag packet numbers, a Chally 2 would only have to hobble 4 Strykers to make it worth the while. Given the range advantage (to my knowledge) of the Chally’s main gun over the Strykers ATGM, plus the optics and all that business, I’d say the Challenger 2 has a lot going for it.

That’s before we factor in that the Challenger 2’s (admittedly bloody expensive) armour can probably take a few hits from said ATGM’s, then yeah, I’d pay for the Challenger and take my chances.

May 13, 2011 11:36 pm

Chris B

I was thinking generaly, eg about MAN or tatra truck based (or multi rolled track chasis) dedicated anti tank vehcle poss with hellfires or other heavy atgw, rather than any particular current set up.

However your point is valid; clearly I would rather be in a challanger shooting out, rather than something else shooting in.

My (and I think TD’s point) is that it sounds like we are going to be lucky if we end up with 120 or so challangers. Which will be expensive to run individually to the point of being almost undeployable. Its not like we are going to have enough of them to put up a decent armoured division into a major conflict.

In other words is it worth keeping a small penny packet of challangers or rather more not quite so deadly cheaper and easier to deploy vehicles, well able to deal with all the T72’s arround

Given the damage the latest soviet missiles reportedly did to the Merkava in Lebanon it seem any passive armour package is penatratable, without even getting into top attack etc.

May 13, 2011 11:45 pm

Israeli armour losses to ATGW during the last Lebanon border conflict were less than 3%.

We should keep 3 regiments worth of Challenger (plus driver training plus BATUS.)

Um. We are still waiting for TD’s Future of the Army……..

May 13, 2011 11:56 pm


I am not saying that at some time in the future there will not be a high end war, threatening the borders of our realm, or it’s strategic supplies. Which will require us to tool up and get loaded for bear in a total war situation.

BUt that is not going to happen any time soon in europe; why; because no one in europe (despite some impressive sounding inventories) is tooled up for it themselves. if such a threat starts building we will have to start retooling re arming etc with modern weapons. (Re arming too early for such a conflict can be as deadly as not re arming in time. Italy’s poor performance in WW2 was at least in part down to the fact it re-armed in the late 20’s early 30’s and started the war a generation behind anyone else.)

As for threats to our strategic supply it is air and naval power that will deal with those (together with some underwater knive fighters).

IF we are going to ever deploy serious amounts of armed forces over seas again it will not be divisions made up of regaments of challangers, warriors and Ascods.


It could be regaments of of more simply equiped high commonality, commercially based and supported forces.

Take a look at the Merc Zetros truck, designed to use commercial componants, you could actually deploy that to any continent in the world and get the bits at your local merc truck dealers! There are many Unimog based armoured vehicles around we could use. These are just examples.

May 14, 2011 12:04 am


We should, but will we, remember the immutable law of tank warfare, one on the road, one in the workshop, one available to engage the enemy.

Assuming we could get our 120 or so challangers all working and all in theatre we would still only be able to use 40 at one time.

Against an enemy that is so equipped with heavy armour of such quality as to actually need the kind of edge that a challange might have over a missile vehicle, 40 really don’t sound like it’s going to cut it.

I don’t want to get too tank centric over this argument this applies to planes ships etc.

May 14, 2011 1:58 am

Hi x,

“We should keep 3 regiments worth of Challenger (plus driver training plus BATUS.)”
– I think the current smaller regiments have 38, so times three plus the other uses is in the “ball park”
– which takes me to what I said earlier that we also need wheeled formations for very extensive theatres of operation (with the current, limited vertical lift). Incidentally the planned LIMAWS purchase was 36, which is 2-3 bde’s worth
=> 2 intervention bde’s, 2 wheeled formations, 3 bde’s retaining elements of MBTs and tracked 155mm’s

May 14, 2011 2:06 am

If there is any credence to the 120 figure, I would assume that is the number with formations and more would be kept in “moth ball”, as I agree with “Assuming we could get our 120 or so challangers all working and all in theatre we would still only be able to use 40 at one time.”

Tony Williams
Tony Williams
May 14, 2011 3:06 am


“12 high end. Because we’ll never have enough to win the war and fly the flag, and winning thwe war is the more important of the two. I dont get this fascination with “low end” warship that just dont do anything.”

What war? What tiny subset of possible future conflicts would we be able to win with 12 high-end warships and lose with 8 of them?

The vast majority of tasks which fall to a warship can be achieved with a relatively simple corvette at a small fraction of the cost (purchase and running) of a top-level frigate.

The consequence of choosing a small number of high-end ships rather than a high/low mix is that we have far fewer ships in total, unable to carry out the range of tasks that we KNOW the RN needs to do, as opposed to some theoretical and improbable future conflict which requires us to maximise the number of high-end ships.

May 14, 2011 7:02 am

One thing I would say on this issue, is that we’re not the only ones with problems.

We all (myself more than included) have a tendency to take a “Grass is Greener on the other side” approach to some of these issues.

If we’re struggling with the number of tanks we have in service, think what some of our peers must be going through. If we can only field one in three, then that applies to everyone equally, not accounting for the fact that we can afford proper training for the technical crews etc.

We also have a tendency to look at countries like Norway, Sweden, Denmark, etc and admire the way they put together their army/navy/air force and what value for money they get. But then they play their political hand very differently to us.

Limited deployments (in time and scale) with more of a focus on “how do we protect home soil (or salt)?”

Britain? “Now let’s see Prime Minister, what war can we get our boys involved in next…”

One of the things that struck me reading TD’s recent article is how we often (but not always) restricted ourselves to small scale involvements, with a few planes, helicopters, a carrier and maybe one regiment of bods on the ground.

What happened to that philosophy of limited intervention? Of building strong diplomatic ties around the world, even with some of the “bottom feeders” of the political stage in order to gain staging bases and influence?

I think that should be dictating our kit more than a pre-prescribed idea of “we need to emphasise this or that”.

Now I kind of knew where I was going with this, but now I’ve forgotten, so I’ll leave you for now with these two thoughts;

1) Don’t forget that war is about gladiators and not a bricklayers. If that doesn’t make sense yet then fear not, I’ll try and explain.

Basically, if you could hire one brick layer who hypothetically cost £25 per hour and layed 100 bricks per hour, OR two brick layers who cost £10 per hour each and laid just 50 bricks per hour, you’d take the two cheap guys. Together they lay the same amount of bricks and they cost £5 less per hour combined.

Now imagine that for some entirely arbitrary reason you have to hire a gladiator. He’s going to be representing you as your champion in a one on one, knockout tournament to the death.

There is a various motley selection of these guys, all quite cheap, but there is also one chap who is bloody expensive (three times the cost) but very, very good. It pays to hire the expensive gladiator, because in a series of knockout battles his superior skills will win each successive fight.

This is kind of the issue you have to consider when thinking about military kit. Yes, Mig-29’s are cheaper than Typhoons and you could probably buy them at a 5:1 ratio or better. But you’re not going to deploy 10 MiGs everytime you have a radar contact.

A pair of Typhoons should be able to win each successive battle against a pair of Mig-29’s, until eventually the MiG’s give up or are exhausted numerically.

2) Now, TD mentioned earlier about desirable traits in your kit other than just speed etc. Versatility would be one that springs to mind. Reliability is another that I would look for.

Overall, I just don’t think it is any longer plausible to compete in modern warfare with cheap, substandard kit.

Tony Williams
Tony Williams
May 14, 2011 8:33 am


“Overall, I just don’t think it is any longer plausible to compete in modern warfare with cheap, substandard kit.”

Nobody’s saying that we shouldn’t have top-level kit. Only that we should have a mix of top-level and lower-level if we are having difficulty in affording the numbers of top-level needed to cover routine tasks (as we certainly are with warships, and may be soon with other expensive items of kit).

You seem to be defining “modern warfare” as “high-intensity, involving equally high-tech forces”. That certainly needs to be considered, but it’s only one among a whole spectrum of different levels of warfare, and is probably the least likely. We need to consider the whole spectrum when shaping our capabilities.

There’s a parallel with the late 1950s, when the Government decided that the only type of warfare we’d face in the future was all-out nuclear war, so we didn’t need to bother with conventional forces. Reality soon caught up with them.

May 14, 2011 9:02 am

Hi Chris B,

RE “A pair of Typhoons should be able to win each successive battle against a pair of Mig-29′s, until eventually the MiG’s give up or are exhausted numerically.” I fear that your pair would not fare as well in a melee, which would be the more typical type of encounter when we are talking about high intensity conflicts

May 14, 2011 9:13 am

Definitely not the next biggie, but while we wait, one can try to nibble at the edges of the problem, one of them being the number of hulls, as in “choosing a small number of high-end ships rather than a high/low mix is that we have far fewer ships in total, unable to carry out the range of tasks that we KNOW the RN needs to do”
– consider just two stations: Falklands and narco-patrol on the way down to the S. Atlantic (ok, a slight detour)
– on average two frigates and the hired Antarctic ship (any weapon fit on it yet?); forget the sub (stays constant in this equation)
– buy the 2 Holland-class not going to be used
– rotate them through these stations and talk the Dutch who have presence and interests in the Caribbean to share that patrol
– still need a frigate/ a Daring at times to fill the gaps in rota
=> one and a half frigates more available for other tasks (as the SDSR-stipulated decommissionings are now happening)

May 14, 2011 9:18 am

I can appreciate the need for some low intensity specific equipment and I’m not adverse to say; a counter piracy/counter narcotics ship that basically consists of a floating hangar and flight deck for a helicopter, with a gun on the front end.

But I don’t necessarily define modern warfare as being pure high intensity, I just remember that for a long time the buzz in the defence world was that in the future we would be entering “4th generation warfare” with Nations vs terrorists etc. Then along comes a situation like Libya.

I’ve always believed that what is happening in Afghan is nothing new. We’re told it’s new. We’re told it’s the dawning of 4th generation warfare and network centric whatever the acronym is.

But I see it simply as just another guerilla war. Nothings fundamentally changed. Maybe some of the weapons have. Maybe some of the tactics have. But it’s still just the same old thing in a new look package.

Therefore I feel a large paradigm shift in the military towards coping with low intensity conflicts is not healthy for long term defence.

If you spend too much of an already limited budget on “low cost” solutions, that can survive in low intensity theatres only, then you risk degrading your high intensity assets too far.

A much simpler way to handle pressures like the various committments to fighting piracy might be to respectfully bow out and play the “charity begins at home card”.

Or else convince someone in the treasury that investment in defence can literally reap savings and other financial rewards for the country.

May 14, 2011 9:22 am

@ ArmChairCivvy

“I fear that your pair would not fare as well in a melee, which would be the more typical type of encounter when we are talking about high intensity conflicts”


Really. Major air campaigns in the last 30 or so years have produced, to my knowledge, zero melee situations.

The more typical engagement from what I’ve studied is that of pairs of aircraft on patrols/sweeps/interceptions etc coming together, usually decided at range.

John Hartley
John Hartley
May 14, 2011 9:24 am

Your comment on armoured cars led me to dig out the bumf on the Ferret 80. Another, if only. All those hot spots UK forces have been in over the last 20 years. If only we had had at least 100 Ferret 80, those ops might have been a bit easier.
On a general point. It is much cheaper to deter a war, than to fight one.

May 14, 2011 9:50 am

Hi Chris B,

RE “Melee, “mixed”, referring to groups of fighters interlocked in close combat”
– if, in a high intensity conflict, you have a defined centre of gravity developing, air superiority over it will be decisive, and you are automatically into a melee (assuming that SAMs of one side do not dominate)
– “close” combat got slightly redefined with A2A missiles and with BVR we can draw a radius around that “epicentre” of at least 70-100 mls.
– 10 opponents, each carrying say 8 A2A, fired in salvos of two with mixed aiming heads
– 40 salvos coming at the two planes, even if they have the best ECM, getting one out of each salvo does not affect the other too much
– even if the launching opponents, or some, have been taken out by now, put the probability of kill (varies by type, not an expert in those)into it (40 missiles, 2 targets) – any thoughts?

May 14, 2011 10:15 am

I meant tank regiments in training/ready to go to the old 50+ MBT orbat. Lets wait until we play fantasy army……… :)

May 14, 2011 10:18 am

As late as the 1700s there was still who believe the UK should field longbows.

May 14, 2011 10:31 am

Yes I thought it was excellent TD would have the engine type to the new ge one but I’d take 100 please.

Can you get around the high low argument in the land/naval side but using plug and play sensors and weapons. Have a gd basic hull chasis and bolt different things on depending on threat you can then buy less of the really expensive stuff but still keep vehicle ship numbers up. A la oscelot and type 26 hopefully. It will be much more difficult in a/c but still doable to a extend

May 14, 2011 10:33 am

Hi TD,

RE the Panhard, the FFL drive around Africa in those. There’s good footage on u-tube how they have tied building slabs of stone around the turrets… that’s against opposition with AK47s and old models of RPG

May 14, 2011 10:42 am

RE “Did no one like my Buccaneer idea remake then?”
can’t find it, but the parameters you set out in its last sentences would apply to the transport bomber.

C-17 (being the one we have in the fleet) an extremely costly airframe, but it can switch between roles (when we are not doing a “Libya”), and thereby the much increased weapons delivery, at a distance from base & defences, could be judged affordable
– having said that, one-offs are never affordable, and there has been no take up where the idea originated

May 14, 2011 10:42 am


“- if, in a high intensity conflict, you have a defined centre of gravity developing, air superiority over it will be decisive, and you are automatically into a melee (assuming that SAMs of one side do not dominate)”

As we’ve seen in recent wars, air superiority will be an issue across the whole theatre. Airfields are spread out and aircraft have the range to dominate large areas around their launch point. Thus you don’t really get “centres of gravity” in the air anymore.

“- close combat got slightly redefined with A2A missiles and with BVR we can draw a radius around that “epicentre” of at least 70-100 mls.”

At the risk of invoking pre-vietnam american aerial strategy, BVR is largely king. The difference I feel is that BVR is no longer theoretical, it’s a proven, used doctrine. Radars are better, the weapons are better, the AWACS is better. Melees promise to be a thing of the past.

“- 10 opponents, each carrying say 8 A2A, fired in salvos of two with mixed aiming heads
– 40 salvos coming at the two planes, even if they have the best ECM, getting one out of each salvo does not affect the other too much”

Again, you wont get 10 planes against two. Ten planes, in modern warfare, would not bunch together. They could too easily be surrounded and left with no avenue of escape, have multiple pairs vectored onto them, and just generally the difficulty of getting a ten ship blob into the air and on patrol without interference.

The 10 on 2 scenario is redundant because the likely hood of it occuring on a regular basis in a live shooting war is practically zero.

I accept that this may sound like I’m being complacent, but the facts speak for themselves. The 10 on 2 scenario is fanatsy flights.

May 14, 2011 10:51 am

Hi Chris B,

It does not matter that we have different scenarios (that’s what planning for the unexpected is all about). But we seem to agree that the money spent on Meteor is money well spent?
– Only waiting to hear about the AR-version, to give that capability the range that is today required

May 14, 2011 10:53 am

@ ACC re C17

No!! What you want is a 747 with missile tubes in its nose. :-) ;-)

May 14, 2011 11:02 am

hehe… that wasn’t quite the drawing Boeing came up with

May 14, 2011 11:09 am

Meteor equals all good.

May 14, 2011 11:16 am


The Duke of Wellington specifically requested if there were any longbowmen available or could soldiers be trained, as long bow had vastly longer range, rate of fire etc over the brown bess.


Why does everyone think simple means only suitable for low tec warfare. I would argue its about bang per buck and having kit we can actualy afford to deploy and maintain in the field.

If we used the mechanical componants from the MAN trucks we use we could deply a whole series of wheeled vehicles, using the same componants as the 7000 or so trucks we are suposed to have, which are mass produced for trucks all over the world.

We can have the absolutely dogs bo**ocks anti tank missile CTA 40 mm etc on it with the best snsor kit and C4 etc.


The price of the basic hull,
The maintainability of the basic hull,
The spares availability,
And poss it’s durabilty

Of the basic hull should all be much better.

It’s an easy hit costs engineering win.

EG If the hull of the t45 is truly so low maintanence as to be kept in tip top condition by one Chief pety officer and his dog. then comonality says it should be used for the T26.

Why could we not have put all the t45 gubbins on a point class hull for example all the whizz bang radar; (good for remote sensing the sex of seagulls apparantly), on a commercial hull. (OK I kown the machinery would have to be raft mounted etc). I would love to know the Hull and machinery only costs of the t45 if anyone has any figures…

We have several armoured reconnasence vehicles and load carriers, Panther supacat, navistar etc (boy did we screw up commonality with that lot)!

What was wrong with the various Uniomog types or Rg32 which do the same sort of job using commercial componants?

Some usability is scarificed (eg some loss of speed over rough ground because of supperior ride by independant suspension) But so uch as to be tactically significent. particularly as the simple and cheaper hull means we get more of them so mor soldiers will be under armour.

TD I like your buccaneer remake lots!


Of course light armour, any light armour even the highest end of the highest tech heaviest MICV, can be stopped by RPG7.

The yanks lost Abrams to RPG’s when the let insurgents get close enough. No one can afford to have the entire army running arround in 70 ton armoured everything.

May 14, 2011 12:02 pm

The argument against simple depends on what you mean by simple. Simple usually means “low tech” to me.

The trouble with switching radars and VLS onto commercial ships is that you’re not really saving a lot of money. The Radar is the thing that makes it expensive.

I imagine the raw material cost in Steel between a T45 and some civvy vessel of a broadly similar displacement would not be all that great.

But the difference between a civvy radar and a Sampson unit is probably quite a significant chunk.

I can roughly see your point of view on the Challenger as the material cost is probably the main driver, but again, there is a reason why the Challenger has all that armour. For protection.

I’m just not sure where the super cheap savings can be made (which granted could be a lack of imagination on my part).

As for using type 45 as a base for type 26, this is something I’ve basically advocated for a while. I personally would like to see two grades/batches/tranches/whatever of T45.

1) The full bells and whistles version as is. So just a Type 45 but with all the ASuW and Phalanx kit.

2) A full bells and whistles version, but with the hangar replaced by another VLS silo for Tomahawk/Scalp/Insert-your-chosen-LAM-here. So it could recover choppers and maybe fuel them etc, but not keep them for extended periods.

I honestly believe the need for a separate Type 26 is highly questionable as it brings most of the same capabilities to the table as Type 45.

(This is probably not the time to indulge in my fantasy Submarine fleet)

I’m open to answers about simple solutions, I really am. For what it’s worth, I bought my mobile phone in 2003 and it’s still going strong now with a new battery bought about 3 or 4 years ago. It calls. It texts. That’s all it needs to do. I hate Smartphones because they bring nothing new to the party except tricks and window dressing (and because their owners are usually certifiable knob heads).

But that’s a very simplistic argument that I don’t think transfers well to military matters.

May 14, 2011 12:22 pm

@ Ixion

I had forgot about Wellington saying that. No there was a “pressure group” who wanted to bring back the longbow. A sort of 17th century “Think LongBow.”

@ ACC re 747

I was waiting for somebody to bang on about missile efflux……

@ Chris B re Type 26

The variations are nearly endless on what HMG should have done.

My current favourite is HMG could have just handed the T26 Design Study money to Odense Staalskibsværft to come up with Absalon / Iver Huitfeldt class frigate hybrid. The former has the right weapons, sensors, flightdeck, and quaterdeck space to handle TAS/VDS. The latter has a better engine fit out. In a mix of 1 Daring to 2 A/IH hybrids; but in my world we would have 8 Darings. I won’t be cheeky and ask for the original 12. Saying that 12 Darings and 24 T26 is still only 36 escorts…….ho hum…….

May 14, 2011 12:43 pm


If I propose a weapon that had good light body armour penetration, Zero Infra read signiture, Silent, with no muzzle report or flash accurate in skilled hands to 300 metres. etc etc

I could see some takers for special forces.

Step forward Sgt R Hood from the Sherwood Forristers

May 14, 2011 12:48 pm

On a more serious note

I would use one example as simple.

We have had a long debate about small arms and the 5.56 v 7.62 debat has got to the stage of the angels on the pin head.

But if the 5.56 supporters have there way,about short range area fire etc, whats wrong with AK 47 style guns? for uk troops.

Battle proven does not even begin to cover it!

May 14, 2011 1:28 pm

“How good is good enough”

The problem here are the mechanisms of decision making. And – to be honest – this and every other defence blog I read is infected as well.

Let’s say we have a basic requirement, and take a GP-surface vessel as an example. Displacements of roughly 2-3k ts are OK for this task, any other task can be fulfilled by two vessels.

Then the pro-range-guys set in, with their fellow friends from the big-is-beautiful-and-steel-is-cheap-mafia. Displacement raises to 6k ts.

After this someone will find out, that this ship cannot sail through the Straits of Hormuz uncontested. Displacement raises to 8k ts, electronics getting heavier and costly.

Last but not least the case for NGS drives the design up to 9k ts, incorporating a non-existent gun-design which drives up cost.

All we needed were ships doing everyday work, including showing the flag and stopping piracy. We end up with a global cruiser. I take every bet, that T26 will develop along this lines.

This is all made worse from constant spin generated by non-informed media, who like to point out bells and whistles, while dirty everyday work is being dispised.

In my book, the case remains for a hi-lo mix. The hi-choice being what I would call ‘3D-equipment’ (aircraft and subs), and Lo everything else. If we need to provide hi-spots of capability, we need a consistent approach to provide the lo-force with it. Modularization maybe the key, maybe it’s using family-designs like the Gowind-family to be adapted easily to tasks.

There is no strategic need to retain industrial capabilities in the Lo-part, and therefore no need to subsidy companies in this sector beyond economic sustainability. We only need to retain design-capabilities, much like Rolls-Royce Marine or Ulstein are doing in the specialist commercial vessel sector. Any future GP-vessel can be built in Poland, Spain, the Ukraine or even India.

And last: good enough is a solution that puts existing elements of equipment together to provide new capability. If it is possible to throw Tomahawks or Storm Shadows out of a transport aircraft to provide a first-day saturation-strike capability, we should do it. If a AR-version or even a SAM-version of Meteor is viable, we should do it.

May 14, 2011 2:12 pm

The main argument I have in favour of scrapping Type 26 and just buying more Type 45 is that Type 26 will not do much different than the 45, and it would save us having to design and build a new vessel. The manufacturing time/cost savings could be leveraged with an order of another 20 or so to kick things off.

And don’t get me started on small arms. I’ve seen a number of good articles from ex-army bods suggesting a shift to weapons like the p90…

Lord Jim
Lord Jim
May 14, 2011 3:15 pm

AS has been pointed out, “Simple” does not mean “Low Tech”. Let us look at the basic ASCOD platform. It is basicaly a proven, reliable design that is big enough for a number of roles;

Fitted with a RWS with either a 12.7mm or 7.62mm and you have a battle taxi.

Fitted with a remote sensor turret and enhances comms and you have a Artillery/Air Support Observation and contol platform.

Fitted with a remote turret with 2-4 ATGW and you have a overwatch platform or AFV Hunter.

Easily adapted to the Armoured Ambulance role.

And so on for direct and indirect Fire support, C3i. All of the above a relatively simple adaptations of the basic platform, but none could be classed as cutting edge.

Briefly moving to the 2 v 10 senario being discussed. With 10 platforms you are more likely to be able to maintain 2 in the air at anyone time which is unlikely with only 2.

Finally many are again say we have to plan to fight the Russians or Chinese. When? Russia is not going to expand outside its area of influence and has no need to . If tension rises to a critical level over arctic mineral rights it is the US. Canada and Norway who have a vested interest, all members of NATO and would probaly act together. Other nations including us could get invovled but even then we wouldn’t see Russian Tanks moving west, as both sides would gain little. As for China, again it’s military should be limited to its sphere of influence. It’s militay is mainly for internal suppression and keeping its neighbours in line. It knows its real power is now economic and miltary action will seriously affect this. Yes like Russia there are issues of raw materials but South East Asia and the Pacific are America’s concern mainly. Therefore we would be operating in a support role along with other allies like Australia.

Current operations in Libya are a very bad example to base our needs on. Yes it has shown that we are short of a number of assets especialy air platforms but that was already known.

What has become obvious are the shortfall in last year Defence Spending Review where a lack of clear direction as to the role of our Armed Forces has again allowed equipment, personel and programmes to be salami sliced. Our Armed Forced have either reached our gone below crtitcal mass in a number of areas. We need to take a step back and do the sums as to what number we actually need. Filling these gaps with OTS of “Vanilla” platforms and systems is probably the only affordable route.

Finally regarding “Simple”, remember the vast bult of the UK’s infantry are still “Light Role”. Would those advocating equipping are Armed forces convert these all to high end Armoured or Mechanised formations!

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
May 14, 2011 3:45 pm

@ TD – I’m a big fan of the original Bucc so any attempt to build a new one gets my thumbs up!

RE: Long Bows. I remember we discussed this before; I believe in an Alt-reality we came up with mounted Dragoon archers acting like modern day SP artillery to support the musket armed Infantry.

@ Ixion – Was Sgt R Hood from the Sherwood Forrsters the last British solidier to usea Lond-bow in combat? I remember reading of a WW2 US medic who used one to get around the ban on “fire arms”.

May 14, 2011 3:47 pm

@ Chris B re T45, T26, T for 2….

Imagine if MoD(N) had ordered more than 6 Darings and the Scots voted for independence…… :)

Saying that what about CVF? Eek!

T45 is quiet. Apparently one of the design criterion was T45 had to have much better acoustic signature than T42 (which was fitted with 2050.) It is space back aft for toys like VDS and TAS that would require some thought. What lurks below T45’s copious flight deck towards the transom I am not too sure….

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
May 14, 2011 4:14 pm

@ Lord Jim – Agree totally with the family of vehicles concept (although I would prefer it based upon the CV90 ;p).

With the High-Low mix I keep thinking of the Ancient Roman army of the Late Republic/Early Empire. The stars were the Legions – well equipped, highly trained killing machines – but the day to day job of patrolling boarders, policing uppity regions, etc fell to the Auxiliary units. They also provided capable combat support to the Legions, increasing their numbers and providing specialised weapons/skills like archers, cavalry, etc.

I leave the exact composition of what a modern Legion/Auxiliary force would be to more wiser, experienced heads but I see something like a core capability equipped to win peer v peer wars, supported by a security and stability force for day-to day security tasks (and Peace-keeping, Disaster relief, etc)which is still capable enough to support the Core in full war?

On a side note, the Legions were both Gladiators AND Bricklayers; engineering was built into the DNA of the Roman army. Building and maintaining an empire was more than just killing a lot of people.

May 14, 2011 8:06 pm

Dear Jesus,

Please give me the strength not to get upset when people take my analogy’s out of context. Please remind me that I have said many dumb things myself in the past, when someone presumes that I meant purchasing 2 aircraft for the RAF.

Please also give me the strength and the humility to remember that sometimes my comments on ThinkDefence are not always as clear as I think they are. Remind me that not everybody will understand that I wasn’t advocating we should mount the entire British army inside Challenger style personnel carriers.

Please give me the wisdom to better articulate that what I was talking about was a Challenger vs ATGM carrier scenario. Please give me the patience to not get frustrated at what at times should be slightly obvious points being missed.


Wait, what do you mean I’m not a “believer”?

Lord Jim
Lord Jim
May 14, 2011 11:43 pm

Ok how about 1 Squadron of Typhoons on deployment facing 5 Squadrons of Mig-29 or SU-27.

I was making an exagerated point regarding british infantry but the majority of them are “Simple” light role battalions. Their kit is far from low tech but they would last long in a theorised High intensity conflict as mentioned but they do have a role in the majority of operations that can be realistically foreseen. And that was my point, we have to be realistic and do not need Rolls Royce solutions (Challenger IFVs) for future operations. We need some I accept, but we need to increase quantity or at least maintain current levels whilst going through a major re-equipment programme over the next 10 to 15 years. If we keep trying to buy RR levels of equipment the curretn decline in numbers to pay for it will continue. The MoD has already recognised this regarding the T-26 and has reduced both its size and specifications.

Regarding the Challenger vs ATGW carrier, I for one would rather be in the Challenger 2. It has proven to be far maor resiliant than the M1 especially from rear and above shots. Mind you modern Heavy ATGWS far aout range current ammo for 120mm guns which is why IMI of Isreal has developed its APAMs round and a rocket assited variant. You do need vary large open spaces for the ATGW to benefit from is range advantage and the reaction time of a MBT is quicker. Fit an APS to the Challenger and it is no contest.

Goin Back to Challenger 2 IFVs, couldn’d we take a leaf from the Israelis and convert a battalion or twos worth to heavy IFV like they did with the Centurion or T-55 or like the Jordanians who turned some of their Centurions back to front to allow them to become front engined IFVs with proper rear access. This would leavy platforms based on the ASCOD to equip the medium units.

May 15, 2011 12:06 am

@ LJ re IDF heavy IFV

The Israelis don’t have to go anywhere. “Luckily” for them the war is on their door step which means they can get away huge tank based APCs. Further the Israeli doctrine is to go to extra-ordinary lengths to protect their soldiers as there are so few of them. You can’t reply apply the Israeli model to British needs.

May 15, 2011 12:10 am

Chris B

Meanwhile in the Pew next to you

Dear god

Give me the intelligence to understand:-

Where would we get the money for a super heavy square brigade of 120 Challangers and 2 battalions of challanger MICV sized armoured infantry?

How in your name we would ever manage to maintain, keep soldiers fully trained in it’s use, transport deploy and support such a formation with spares fuel etc?

Who of our potential enemies is so fearsome as to need such kit to destroy, but so few in numbers as not to be able to overwhelm it?

Please God give me the patience not to hit over the head with the nearest heavy object. Those in a post extolling simplicity, come to the conclusion the kit we have is not nearly heavy or complex enough and we need more of it.

Finaly give me the humility to admit when I am wrong but with appologies to St Augustin not yet!


May 15, 2011 12:12 am

OH and god…

Please explain why we can’t give our troops ak47 style rifles

May 15, 2011 12:43 am

Perhaps if you called God by his true name your prayers would be answered. Try,

Dear Chief

May 15, 2011 1:01 am

Don’t suppose my prayers will be answered.

According to TD, God’s in charge of the RAF….

And that makes me a heritic.

Lord Jim
Lord Jim
May 15, 2011 4:01 am

I know a MBT based IFV is far from being easily deployable, it was just an idea given the chassis will be available and if we are ever going to deploy MBTs overseas again it would be nice to have the supporting infantry in a platform with the same survivability and mobility, but I know it will never happen.

Tony Williams
Tony Williams
May 15, 2011 4:40 am

On the subject of longbows….try crossbows instead. Slower-firing but can be a lot more powerful and, above all, can be used by anyone – without requiring the many years of constant practice to develop and maintain the skill.

May 15, 2011 7:59 am

Dear Chief,

I’ve heard that you respond better to this title, though if not then forgive me, for I have no intention of taking the Lord’s name in vain.

Please lord – I mean Chief – shine your light of eternal wisdom in order to guide my path. Please show me where I personally advocated the creation of a “Super Heavy Square Brigade”, or indeed even just the use of Challengers as APC’s.

Please also shine your light on IXION for he knows not what he says. Please rain down your undying mercy and knowledge on him, so that he might understand the fact that we currently operate over twice the number of Challengers that he claims we can’t afford to support, transport and maintain.

In answer to his question; “Who of our potential enemies is so fearsome as to need such kit to destroy, but so few in numbers as not to be able to overwhelm it?”, please guide him in the path of enlightenment, showing him that we have almost no way of telling 100% who our enemies will be in the near to medium future. Please show him that there are any number of nations that could put up a tough fight – a fight in which a few Challengers would come in bloody handy.

Give him your courage and fortitude also, for under his plan he would have to explain to the British public why we flogged all our Challengers so we could “go simple”, resulting in a needless increase in casualties.

Please Chief, explain to the non-believers through your divine articulation that there is a difference between simple and “not good enough”. Explain that while there is no need for squaddies to lump around Apple iPads plus batteries for navigation, when they could just use maps, there comes a point when you simply can’t scrimp and save anymore.

For example, show him that the MiG-29’s in his example would probably lack the sensor range in a “live war” to detect Typhoons until the the Typhoons had already let off a volley of shots. Show him that once that fighter blob had turned tail and run, or been forced to head back for fuel, they would likely find that other fighters had been directed in unmolested around their flanks and were now waiting for them.

Please also explain with your holy will and guidance that a nation that has to buy second hand MiG-29’s probably can’t afford many of them in the first place, that’s why they’re cutting corners, thus the chances of them fielding 10 in a blob is unlikely.

Please then give me the strength to not let my frustrations get the better of me, when people take a simple analogy and run with it beyond the bounds of logic and without having first sat down and said to themselves “let’s think about this carefully before I answer”.

Please also give to them, mine “enemies”, your glorious dictionary, so that they might be able to fidn the words to explain to me where they’re going make these massive savings in defence spending, without putting lives at risk for the sake of penny pinching.

Give them the wisdom to understand that against certain types of threats there is a level of minimum protection that is needed, else there is no f***ing point trying in the first place. Please show them Your way, that they may understand that transplanting expensive radars and other sensor equipment plus engines into a civilian design only ends up taking all of the most expensive bits of kit, and plugging them onto a sub standard mount.

Show them Lord – I mean Chief – that there is no way to seperate “simple” from “low tech”. And explain unto them that high end kit can work both ways, whereas low end kit cannot. Point out to them that if the high end kit were not used on low end tasks, then it would sit around doing bugger all. At some point then, some arse clown in the treasury would notice this and ask the question “why do we need all this stuff when we have a Nuclear deterrent?”.

At which point all would be lost, in order that the treasury might buy more million pound houses for scrounging foreign criminals who’ve never paid a penny into the system – Uh – I mean legitimate asylum seekers in need of our care.

Finally O’ great Chief, can you please remind the Anti-RAF brigade that “without us, the RAF wouldn’t have got there!” is not a legitimate argument. British Airways doesn’t tell its customers as they leave their flight “remember, without us, you’re nothing!”. Nor does the RAF try to claim the accolades of the Army just because it flew them into Afghanistan.



May 15, 2011 9:58 am

Does TD have a written Doctrine? Now there’s an idea Boss. Lay out your full, ideal strategy.

Meanwhile I’m trying to figure out which of these topics I wouldn’t mind having a dig at:

– Carriers,
– Air Power,
– The “Disarmament” side of the nuclear debate,
– Why I don’t like calls for “Major” changes,
– Cost vs. Capability
– An alternative to ruthless commonality
– Civilians playing Generals,
– UAVs

May 15, 2011 11:09 am

Chris b

Very funny enjoyed that one!

Dear Chief

In your wisdom explain to Chris B the difference betwee ‘opperating more than double’ 120 challangers, that is actually having 120 fully opperational with spares and ammmuniton ready to go, and having nearly 300 sat rusting in sheds and carparks, unable to train crews because we can’t afford the gas.

Explain to me dear chief what does Chris B mean when he said that if we had 120 challangers they should also have 2 battalions worth of challanger based MICv’s to go with them, and how 120 challangers and 2 battalions worth of MICV is not a Heavy armoured brigade. Sounds like a bloody brigade to me.

Give Chris B the wisdom oh lord find one potential enemy this force could be used against or scenario where we would employ it overseas. Given oh chief that the last time we went overseas with tanks we had to strip everything in the UK down to it’s nuts just to get enough spares and then nick (sorry borrow) everything we could from the US.

Give me the skill oh Chief to explain that simmple common commercially based platforms can have as sophisticated weapons put on them as you like.

And finally Lord -Sorry chief, please tell me in the name of thy servant Noel Edmunds; at what point does chris B think it is worth chucking in the towel on a ‘Capability’ as waste of time training cash and manpower, when we only have 100 truly opperational challangers or 40 or 10?


John Hartley
John Hartley
May 15, 2011 11:18 am

We do not need to hunt for enemies. The post WW1 lesson, is that they find us. Usually, when our politicians say we can skimp on defence as there is no threat for at least ten years. “Events, dear boy, events” then unfold within five.

May 15, 2011 12:07 pm


Income tax was brought in to pay for war with the French I am still paying it, so there’s hope of refighting crecy agencourt etc yet.

Seriously there will be total wars again I am sure. I am sure that once again we will face threats to our island race requiring superhuman efforts from our people and great scarifice and loss.


We are still a nuclear power.
We are an island
we have allies.

Our armed forces really have been for the last 20 years for the purpose of poking our nose in other peoples business when we think it is also our business. (when they are not too hard, to rich, too important, to opoliticaly welconnected or to difficult to get at; EG China, Saudi Arabia,bahrain, or Syria or Isreal (all of the above).

If it ever gets to the stage when the hords of the east are going to come rolling over the plains it will be decades away (By which time challangers will be as obsolecent as churchills; and frankly the Germans who are a lot richer than us; The poles who have a serious land army and others can deal with them.

I can’t see 120 challangers having a big role to play. Such existential threats build up over time and if we see them comming we will adjust our strategic assesments accordingly. And re equip with current weapons to do so haging on to old ones ‘just in case will just get in the way.

If as some suggest there are ‘water wars’ comming with tides of immigration form africa etc heading our way, then challangers are going to be a fat lot of good. Not saying that is going to happen, not saying there will not be other threats.

What I am saying is we cannot afford to equip ourselves for hollywood style high concept wars on the off chance one blows up out of nowhere; being one our allies (the US) would not be involved in, but one where we could deploy the one functioning division with supporting forces we could actually deploy, and that would be enough forces to win the war.

The enemy would have to have such armour etc that would require challangers to win, but not be so numerous as to be able to deply on his home turf forces big enought to win a war of attrition,/ non liniar war.

Sorry but I cannot construct a credible scenario outside war with the dutch.

May 15, 2011 2:24 pm

Dear Knobhead

You didn’t respond to “Lord” and you didn’t respond to “Chief”, so assholes to you. From now on I shall refer to you only as Knob head.

In your wisdom please explain to IXION that while we may have just put some Challengers in storage, we’ve been operating lots of them for a long time now and we will still have more than 120 Challengers operational, with trained crews etc.

Explain to me dear Knobhead, where did IXION get this idea about 120 challengers? Please ask him to point out the precise sentence, date and time stamp where I personally – that is me Chris.B. and nobody else – said anything about 120 challengers or anything about them having two battlions of heavy vehicle support. Please remind him that unless I said those things, then I can’t be accused of advocating the use of a heavy square brigade.

Please then Knobhead, give me the patience to not tell IXION to shut up and stop putting words into my mouth, or just plain making things up out of the blue.

Give IXION the wisdom oh Knobhead to take the time to go out and find a book on either the first or second gulf wars, or to reasearch the use of heavy armour by nations of the coalition in counter insurgency operations such as those Iraq and Afghanistan.

Give him the humility to not talk utter bullshit while just making up random things on the fly, talking but not actually doing any of the research, thus bringing down the level of the entire argument with his mundane and uniformed comments.

Give me the skill oh Knobhead to explain to IXION that yes, simmple, common, commercially based platforms can have as sophisticated weapons put on them as you like, but that defeats the point because the sophisticated systems are what cost all the money. Thus you’re saving very little cash while mounting those expnsive bits of kit on platforms not designed for the necessary weight and rigours of war.

And finally Lord – Sorry Knobhead – please tell me in the name of thy servant Mr. Blobby why IXION cannot grasp the fundamental concept that if we were down to having just 10 Challengers then the likelyhood is the worlds economy has collapsed and so it doesn’t matter anyway.

Also, on a point not covered yet, please ask IXION if he could show me a country that currently possesses this mass concentration of cheap vehicles sporting all high end kit? Preferably one that doesn’t have 10x our own population and size of GDP? Please ask him why no other country has discarded its tanks on mass in favour of range rovers with MILAN’s?


May 15, 2011 2:45 pm

Wow, everyone on angry pills today?

May 15, 2011 2:53 pm

@ Topman

Don’t worry Chief knows who has been naughty and who has been nice and who will be cleaning the heads before the next captain’s rounds. :)

May 15, 2011 3:16 pm

@ x

“Don’t worry Chief knows who has been naughty and who has been nice.”

Isn’t that Father Christmas?

I should just point out that when using the terms “Chief” and subsequently “Knobhead”, I was not referring to TD, but the almighty.

May 15, 2011 3:29 pm

OK Chris time to take the medication I think it’s tripple chill pill time …

Like all of these things the 120 figure has to be extracted and extrapolated form the smoke and mirrors of the SDR.

According to wikipedia- we have 6 formations with about 240 in total. I live near the warcop range talking to a Major i know recently I commented on how quiet it was recently. I was told that the army can’t afford to transport it’s tanks to such ranges for practice…

Apparantly we don’t make ammo for the 120mm rifle gun anymore..

And if your not advocating the 120 odd then I take your advocating the full fat 240 odd with the challanger MICV etc so it is a full armoured division is it?

Sorry in advance for what I have to say next and it is not intended as any slight to our honoured dead but: –

In both gulf 1 and 2 uk Land armed forces were invited along for show.

Uk Gen in 1st gulf had to push to get 7th armoured division included in the main fight. Tornado F3 was nearly ordered out of the fight for being useless.

US offered to Tony Blair to go ahead without us in Gulf 2.

As for use of heavy armour in anti insurgancy opperations- When we did get there we had to beg steal or borrow everything upto and including kitchen sinks to do it.

‘If all you have is a hammer every problem is a nail’

Get a calculator Chris B If the Hull cost £1 million and kit costs £1million that 2 million. If Hull costs £500,000 and kit cost £1million then thats £1.5 million bingo we sived some money. More because if we order more the £1million kit becomes cheaper. Perhaps less so if we addopt the modular approach so we can fit kit we need for that mission to it.

‘Weight and rigours of war’ the commercially based south african army kit is some of the most durable in the world- famous for it. Oh and two the armed forces that do this; – South africa and Isreal.

As for ‘Range rovers with Milans’: – now what was that about putting words in peoples mouths? I’m for putting a lot more of our army under armour and decreasing the use of soft skin vehicles.

Not many countries who had 2nd geration tanks have abandoned them, but few if any have current programmes to develop replacements.. And several are talking about dropping them.

Of course if no one else is doing it then we should not either.

Stands to reason that any attempt to reconsider the tactical use of armour in modern conflict scenarios factoring in heavy ATGW thermal imaging UAV guidence etc, is foolish. We would be completly stupid to try and change anything it’s all perfect and always will be. The tank will rule the battlefield forever the way the Battleship will rule the waves forever

…oh that doesnt really work does it.

Really chris mate calm down, seriously calm down.

May 15, 2011 3:30 pm

With the reduction in escort numbers and the demise in the C2 option I think that developing the T26 in it’s current form is not worth the effort / cost.

Although pre SDSR I argued against it, I think that a second batch of 6 – 9 T45s is now probably the best way to go, coupled with improved hull sonar (and TAS) and SSM for all vessels. This coupled with the CVF and SSNs would be the core RN force.

Alongside this would be a larger number of ‘simple’ light frigates (3k tonnes, 127mm gun(s), CIWS and Lynx Wildcat capable). These would also meet the C3 requirement.

May 15, 2011 3:49 pm

@ Chris B.

No Father Christmas (equivalent rank/rate, Santa Claus, St Nicholas) reports to Chief. I can see where the confusion creeps in over Christmas. Chief is the one more likely to Christmas away…

As for Chief and God. Well there are similarities. But it is the former who aspires to be like the latter whose powers are indeed boundless. (Well as far as the gates of HMNB…)

May 15, 2011 3:50 pm

So thats the dutch F*cked then!

No tanks!

Not a propper army the barbarians will be at the gates next Tuesday and that the end of the Dutch. No world infulence or power. Totaly finished as country …. (Not)

I believe the Germans have sold of lots of Leopards.

If that’s true stand back I think chris B is gonna blow!

May 15, 2011 3:53 pm

@ repulse

I have been thinking about an Absalon / Iver Huitfeldt hybrid. Basically the engines of the IH (CODAD set up for 29kts) with the weapons and sensors of the Absalon (that is without the IH AAW fit out.) I think it would come in at somewhere like 400million.

May 15, 2011 3:59 pm

X Good idea.

But I cannot but think that commonality pushes towards the t45 based version.

May 15, 2011 4:05 pm


You’re doing it again. Challenger MICV? Who – other than you – said anything about that? Where did that come from? At what point did I say we should start building them and I never said anything about 120 challengers.

You’re essentially just plucking stuff out of the air and making it up as you go along, then saying to me “you said that. You advocated that”

That’s why I get angry. Because you’re not engaging in a debate. You’re not being rational. You’re not explaining your points. Your just horse shitting stuff as and when it comes into your head and I can’t be bothered with that.

Defence is not an issue for people to go around playing games.

And then you sit there and you give it the whole “calm down etc”. I can’t be calm in the face of such purile rubbish. You know (or should know) damn well that Challengers are a useful bit of kit and I can’t see our army bods being too happy if you took them away.

But then you start coming out with a pile of junk about how tanks don’t do anything, etc etc, despite the fact that there’s enough evidence of the utility of these vehicles in action as to make your view point look ludicrous.

I just don’t have the time or patience to back and forth with someone who really needs to go away and re-think what the words “logic”, “evidence” and “common sense” mean.

May 15, 2011 4:21 pm


I can see the merits of an ASW variant of T45 (don’t forget a good chunk of £1billion price tag is SeaViper) it will still be expensive. Pushing figures around I couldn’t see them (BAE) coming up with anything for less than £800m. After looking at the topic for a number of year success in ASW warfare to me means numbers of both hulls and helicopters.

The Absalon can handle two Merlin. It has that large Flexdeck for VDS and TAS handling. But it doesn’t have the speed of the IH (which has 4 as opposed 2 engines.) Fitting Abaslon with those additional 2 engines would eat into the Flexdeck but not by much. There would still be an area significantly bigger than in most contemporary ASW frigates for sonar handling. Don’t forget also unlike GT diesels allow a little more freedom with placement of uptakes and intakes. Looking at Absalon’s and IH’s cost I would tentatively say such a hybrid could be built for £400m; certainly no more than £500m. So for the price of one T45 ASW variant we would be getting at least 1.5 if not 2 of these Danish hybrids.

May 15, 2011 4:28 pm


Type 45 only costs a billion with development costs added in. If we bought type 45 7 it’s would cost about 650m. I thought the latest type 26 design was in the 250-300m range.

May 15, 2011 4:37 pm

@ Mark

I don’t have confidence in BAE keeping main gate costs down. I will believe the figures for Daring 5 & 6 (and from there whole class costs) when they are in the water. And similarly for T26 if it ever gets of the CAD screen. I can’t see anything BAE producing better the Absalon/IH design or costs.

May 15, 2011 4:45 pm

@ TD

Well every defence system will I suppose eventually become a collection of distributed sensors and weapons banks.

We are very much at the point in weapons development the 1957 White Paper thought we were at all those years ago.

That is why I am not really too interested in F35x because the system we should be concerned about getting (or in our case letting BAE or Europe charge us a limb or 3 to replicate) is NG X47b.

That will be a two tier system. We will have ships to carry weapons to counter ships which carry weapons. And then we will need ships to carry people to deal with ships that carry people!!!

May 15, 2011 4:46 pm


Well I believe the 650m cost was a nao number. I remember reading somewhere that ships 7&8 were offered for around 585m but were cancelled. I agree about type 26 but well have to see


You maybe right as asw moves to shallow waters and ssk threat. I think the US LCS will have asw system like the one you describe

May 15, 2011 4:51 pm

Don’t forget that comparing Absalon to Daring on a fiscal basis is difficult, because Absalon comes without some of the toys which are then added in using StanFlex. If you made a Daring “fitted for, but not with” missiles etc, then you could probably bring the price down dramatically.

As has already been pointed out as well, much of the expense of the current ships is tied to the development. Future production versions should cost less. If we were to put in a decent, firm order instead of messing about with Type 26, BAE might actually be able to leverage some savings in its various contractor orders.

Then you have to factor in the “home field” factor, in that we get a return of somewhere between 30-40% on the cost through tax revenue. Although I can understand the counter argument is that it’s not a lot of comfort to the MoD – who will never see that money again.

If only the treasury was a little more flexible….

May 15, 2011 5:07 pm

Chris B

I’ll please read this slowly and clearly as it is being typed slowy and clearly. (As clearly as my Dyslexia allows)

My position is with respect, entirely clear and entirely logical, it is entirely in accordance with the theme of TD’s post in the first place.

1) Weapon inflation runs hugely above general inflation, Heavy armour is becoming more and more expensive.

2)It is about the most labour intesive support intesive capability the army has.

3) it’s size and weight makes it extreamly difficult to deply over seas.

4) When we have deployed it over seas as amatter of fact we have only been able to do so at a fraction of our ‘official strength’ and by heavily relying on the US, whose nicknames for us such as the borrowers (as we need logisitc support for everything), or the flintstones (due the age and decrepitude of some of our vehicles), are well attested.

5)In a world where every penny counts before we spend money and troop numbers on it, then we better bloody need it.

Other capabilities which we use more often suffer because this gold standard kit is sitting there waiting for the big one. IF we still need it fine, but if it is not we should ditch it.

6) Modern commercial eqipment in all fields has reached a level of cost engineered reliabilty and capability, one example of the difference for example in the ancient Landrover, used by our forces, it got left behind in the realiabilty stakes by toyota etc years ago.

7) commercial based equipment can’t do everything but what it can do it should, it will be cheaper to buy easier to fix etc. THAT is common sense and with further respect if you want to argue that point may I suggest you explain why not.

8) Mines oil exploration outfits and heavy engineering companies use commercial based kit. It is no accident that Acmat sell as much kit to them as they do to armies (and that by repute the people who actually know the color of the boat house doors at Hereford also use them).

9)AS everything in life (and in the business of death) is a compromise we should be regularly checking that keeping ‘a capability’ does not come at the expense of other more usable capabilities. For the sake of example just where was challanger 2 when our troops were being killed in plastic landrovers?

10) Just how necessary is the MBT on the modern batlefield any way? Modern fire and forget missiles etc IED’s are a threat.

11)The classical history of armour is that it has (to be effective), be deployed on mass. Quite simply do we have the mass to be effective on the modern battlefield.

12) Crucialy and this is the main point of my argument (as well as I think TD’s). Who amongst our enemies has the capability to truly field quality armour, WITH QUALITY CREWS, and quality support, whom we could deply and support or challengers against? Whom we using superior trained troops, using lighter simpler (Mechanincally speaking,and not necessarily wheeled) kit, could not take?

Airy assertions that ‘we cannot be sure’ we cannot know the future’ or ‘enemies will be capable and devious’ are just bullshit; if keeping this kit ‘just in case’ means we are short of money, men, everything in wars we are fighting now.

It is a mistake to equip and train to fight the last war. It is equally a mistake not to equip and train for the war you are fighting or the most likely forseeable threats, on the off chance ‘The big one’ will kick off.

The RN has I think finally accepted the Red Banner aren’t comming through GIUK gap. The Airforce is still struggling with the idea that northern aviation isnt.

It seems some are still obsessed with the 3rd Shock Army having a pop. Or re running Gulf 1 in some scenario where the US won’t come and we can still do it. I pointed out perhaps too flipently that we could do it in Libya, but there is not a snowball’s chance in hell we will (on our own that is).

So Chris B Likewise you are clealry a believer in heavy armour, I am agnostic at best.


what’s next

‘my father was a hamster and my mother smelt of elderberries’.

John Hartley
John Hartley
May 15, 2011 5:09 pm

Gordon Brown sold the UK firm making our nuclear warheads to the Americans. Our “independent” nuclear deterrent does not look very independent.
Our island fortress has been compromised by unlimited immigration. Many are good,hardworking, law abiding, but there is hidden amongst them a sponging, violent “enemy within”.
Our “allies” have blown the peace dividend on welfare & greedy bankers. They can barely defend themselves, let alone us.

May 15, 2011 5:13 pm

I am and remain a big Absalon IH fan, i am unsure of the financial ballance on purchase but the opperation commonality with the T45 has got to weigh strongly believe it or not i tend to agree with Chris B.

May 15, 2011 5:27 pm

Absalon are interesting ships, but I would not put them in the sophisticated core category. With the way MARS is going I’d rather have JSS ships which could easily be tasked with a mixture of low end light frigates or T45s as required. I also agree that follow on ships should be much closer to half bn than the average cost for the first batch. I do not believe the quoted cost for the T26 of around 2-300 mil.

paul g
May 15, 2011 5:44 pm

i was 7th armd in gulf 1 and 16 AAB in gulf 2 i find your comment about our involvement infactual and offensive. Challengers of RSDG played a huge part along with the staffords BG. and their actions were duly recognised by the americans as a deciding factor on the swift entry into Iraq.
Yes the americans could’ve cracked on in GW2 without but as we are seeing “commander-in-chief” blair wanted his 15 mins.
Try getting your boots on the ground before coming out with bone comments like that

May 15, 2011 6:07 pm


“3) it’s size and weight makes it extreamly difficult to deply over seas.”

We’ve had no real problems deploying using Naval vessels and some civvy aid. Any kind of “light” vehicle, in whatever form that might come, would need an identical form of transport. The point is mute because the two would both have to be transported in the same manner.

“5)In a world where every penny counts before we spend money and troop numbers on it, then we better bloody need it.

Other capabilities which we use more often suffer because this gold standard kit is sitting there waiting for the big one. IF we still need it fine, but if it is not we should ditch it.”

The SDSR has taught you nothing then? A ship being brought back for decommissioning had to be rapidly re-deployed for active duty. The government made the mistake of saying “we wont need that, according to our analysis”. And then hey presto, they needed it.

“6) Modern commercial eqipment in all fields has reached a level of cost engineered reliabilty and capability, one example of the difference for example in the ancient Landrover, used by our forces, it got left behind in the realiabilty stakes by toyota etc years ago.”

This is where I feel like I’m banging my head against a brick wall. The platform costs almost nothing. The difference in material cost between a 6,000 ton displacement military vessel and commercial vessel is not all that great. Steel is steel, is sort of steel.

It’s the sophisticated kit that makes the design what it is. It doesn’t matter whether you put a Sampson radar on a T45, a commercial tanker, or some (rather large) trawler. It will still cost a flipping fortune. Stryker for example costs a bomb largely because of the fancy electronic kit inside it, as opposed to the actual vehicle itself.

“7) commercial based equipment can’t do everything but what it can do it should, it will be cheaper to buy easier to fix etc. THAT is common sense and with further respect if you want to argue that point may I suggest you explain why not.”

See above. The extra cost of making a purpose built chassis etc, is not that great. It all depends really on what you’re putting on it. There are exceptions like Challenger, because ceramic plates cost a small fortune. But the payoff is a very high degree of resistance to anti-armour weapons such as RPG’s. I happen to like Stryker for example, but I wouldn’t want to be sitting in one when it got ambushed by RPG totting fanatics.

“9)AS everything in life (and in the business of death) is a compromise we should be regularly checking that keeping ‘a capability’ does not come at the expense of other more usable capabilities. For the sake of example just where was challanger 2 when our troops were being killed in plastic landrovers?”

That’s not the Challengers fault, that’s the fault of those in charge. You can’t blame the misjudgement of the threat envelope and thus the deployment of inadequate kit on the kit itself. We proved later with a UOR that we can afford to have mine protected vehicles AND Challengers in the same army.

“10) Just how necessary is the MBT on the modern batlefield any way? Modern fire and forget missiles etc IED’s are a threat.”

It’s precisely for this reason that Challenger is so handy, because of its resistance to such threats. Is it immune? No. But it has much greater survivability on the modern battlefield than say a T-55, and the quality of it’s survival is going up as we research things like active protection systems. The MBT has been “killed” off before, only for people to realise t