Surplus Heavy Metal

We have been discussing heavy armour and just before I finish the final part of the series later this week, a Freedom of Information request might be of some interest;

‘Since the reduction in numbers of Challenger 2 MBT and AS90 in the SDSR 2010, Can you tell me how many, of those retired are kept in hand and how many have been disposed of’.

The answer from the DE&S Secretariat;

AS90 The Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) 2010 required the AS90 fleet to reduce to 89, resulting in 48 surplus guns. The MOD will be harvesting all 48 surplus guns to remove key components to support the remaining Fleet, before transferring them to the MOD’s Disposal Services Authority (DSA). To date no guns have been disposed of.

Challenger 2 The SDSR 2010 required the Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank fleet to reduce to 227 vehicles, resulting in 118 surplus vehicles. 16 of the surplus vehicles will be converted to Driver Training Tanks. The MOD is harvesting 102 surplus vehicles to remove key components to support the remaining Fleet, after which the platforms will be transferred to the DSA. To date no vehicles have been disposed of.

There you go then.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
November 11, 2012 10:54 pm

The MOD’s inability to see the merit in saving for rainy days will doubtless produce an UOR down the line….

Swimming Trunks
Swimming Trunks
November 11, 2012 10:56 pm


What do they mean by “key components”? In theory everything except the hull could be re-used as sparesvbut there wouldn’t be much to sell on.

November 11, 2012 11:05 pm

Nice to see you back ST.

Interesting to see that despite the proposed draw down in hulls, not a single one was scrapped after 2 years. A bit of heel dragging going on? Or someone trying to keep a reserve on the side? :)

Mike W
November 12, 2012 8:27 am


Ye gods and little fishes! Surely the MOD/DE&S can show a little more imagination than that! I can think of at least a couple of major uses to which such surplus machines could be put. One of them would be an urban engineer tank. Really, how much would it cost to keep a couple of dozen or so of them in storage? Madness! And how much would the cost of conversion be when we have the money?

Maybe Observer is right, though, and someone is trying to keep a reserve on the side.

November 12, 2012 9:42 am

IIRC the original AS90 fleet was around 180 (178 comes to mind), one or two were lost I think which leaves about 40 previously disposed of.

November 12, 2012 9:57 am

This shows an astounding lack of foresight at the MOD; par for the course

paul g
November 12, 2012 10:54 am

should i forward my make do and mend post to the MOD? 48 is a nice number to convert to ammo resupply!

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
November 12, 2012 11:23 am

This is what Resource Account budgetting does for you. Holding any sort of spares or reserve costs money, which is something that we haven’t got. Whether it should be classed as “real money” or “accounting money” is unfortunately irrelevant, because as far as the system is concerned it’s money from the defence budget.

At least they’re harvesting some spares, just as is happening with the Tornado F3 fleet and as happened with decomm RN vessels.

More practically, if we get into a pagga where we need serious numbers of “attrition” CR2 or AS90, then we have picked the wrong altercation to get involved with. Not least because the list of “the fallen” would have expanded beyond that which could be replaced in a meaningful time-frame these days.

In the absence of a foreseeable existential threat that requires countering by 1UK Armoured Divn, that is unfortunately the way defence planning works.

Mike W
November 12, 2012 11:45 am

I think you’re right. I do remember that originally the plan was for 5 regiments worth of AS90s, each with four batteries and each battery with eight guns (5 x 32 = 160). I think just under 180 guns were ordered. It does leave about 40 guns previously disposed of. If they hve done that, it’s all been done very quietly.

“This shows an astounding lack of foresight at the MOD; par for the course.”

Yes, couldn’t agree more. I suppose it all comes down to money but they won’t sell the as tanks or guns if they have been “harvested” (what an awful euphemism). And what money will they get for them as scrap?

@ Paul

“48 is a nice number to convert to ammo resupply!”

Precisely. They would be ideal as gun limbers or even as recovery vehicles. What are they using now for ammo re-supply? Foden DROPS still? They are scheduled to go out of service by the end of 2014!

November 12, 2012 11:46 am

There it is again. The Army dusts off 1 Div as the base of its organisation and then another part of the MoD is trying to get rid of spare heavy vehicles…….

Mike W
November 12, 2012 12:07 pm


Exactly! Do the words “hands”, “left” and “right” somehow spring to mind?

November 12, 2012 12:38 pm

@ WF

I am not saying that as a dig at the new structure either.

I bet it would be cheaper to rent a few acres of desert off the US DoD and said spare kit over there…

November 12, 2012 12:55 pm

Thanks TD, this post tells me a lot.

I find it hard to believe that we can have an effective land army with a mere 227 battle tanks. That’s a pathetic number of four regiments. Even Switzerland has 400 Leopard 2s.

I guess that the Challenger fleet is more difficult and expensive to maintain than we imagined, making it easier to cannibalise surplus vehicles than to retain them. I’m sure we’d love to sell them, but who would buy them?

If we’re winding down Challenger, then the need to replace it with a viable future system is likely to become paramount by 2020.

All of this in my book points to Leopard 2A7.

November 12, 2012 1:55 pm
November 12, 2012 2:21 pm

Quote: If the British Army landed in Europe, I’d get the Belgian police to arrest them.
Otto von Bismarck

Still, on the bright side, a reasonable number to convert for heavy reconnaissance.
Looking forward to Part 5 – A Few Ideas on the Future

paul g
November 12, 2012 2:22 pm

@x no need to rent any land off the US. BATUS is massive! if anything as we have a good infrastructure there ie single accom,workshops, quarters etc, maybe now is the time to secure a few more years on the lease and expand.

canadians love it, land they can’t farm due to mad weather ( i went to work at 8am in shirt sleeve order, by Naafi break there was 2 inches of snow!) so they rent it for a tidy sum to us! i know as i was going outside the wire they were gearing up for the apache, whether this was put on hold due to the sandpit i’m not sure, it was been pencilled in for live firing of the hellfire,at the time it couldn’t be done in the UK. Also i don’t if they use the runway, the 2 times i’ve been there (1990&2000) we flew into calgary and then were bussed in (nice 3 hour trip sweating like mad). Did a BFT on the runway 1.5 mile up, turn round straight line 1.5 mile back!! (ok there was a turn at the far end but you could still see the bloody finish at the turn around point).

maybe it’s time to think about a resident force over there, 2 years of “hands on” then back to UK as the high readiness force, not as if we’ve got stacks of room for the BFG troops returning.

November 12, 2012 2:51 pm

@ Paul G

BATUS can be a bit wet though can’t it? If you want to preserve metal you want dry and air flow.

As for “maybe it’s time to think about a resident force over there, 2 years of “hands on” then back to UK as the high readiness force, not as if we’ve got stacks of room for the BFG troops returning.”

Yes. The reason why the barstewards did for our county regiment was lack of barracks here in the UK. I favour one armoured brigade based in Salisbury with units assigned for 5 years and making use of BATUS (Poland or where ever). Concentrate training and material. Armour is expensive. Once the armoured brigade has reached a level competence it will take less training to keep them at their peak. Less training means less cost. Leaves the other brigades to rotate through whatever war the Americans have dreamt up. The armoured brigade troops could be used to train the TA for a bit of variety. Could also be the UK’s home island defence formation. Perhaps they could be prepped for assisting civil powers during terrorist attacks. As I say once a basic level competence has been achieved they will only need to top up their training. A bit rushed sorry.

November 12, 2012 4:50 pm

That’s a confusing ratio between MBTs and driver training tanks, especially taking into account that the larger force had its drivers trained without those additional training vehicles.

November 12, 2012 5:56 pm

Didn’t we buy 386 CR2’s? I count 345 here…I don’t think we lost more than 3 in Iraq. What happened to the rest?

Mike W
November 12, 2012 7:07 pm

Yes, you are right. Initial order was for 127 vehicles in June, 1991. That was followed in December 1993 by an order for a second batch of 259. Total therefore 386.

Mysterious figures then for both the Chally and the AS90. Approx. 40 missing in each case! Where have they gone? Not gifted to Jordan like the Chally 1, were they?

It wouldn’t surprise me (in the light of what has gone on lately) if they were expended by mistake as hard targets on the ranges!

Anybody got any theories?

November 12, 2012 7:09 pm

I am sure some have already been cut up. Somebody on ARRSE would know……

November 12, 2012 7:13 pm

“Anybody got any theories?” – They may have been secreted on some islands somewhere. ;-)

paul g
November 12, 2012 7:41 pm

@ Paul G

BATUS can be a bit wet though can’t it?

“if it isn’t raining, it isn’t training!


if it ain’t snowing, we ain’t going

November 12, 2012 7:56 pm

@ Paul G

There is storage…….

and then there is training………

(Actually he is USAF and he is a spot of bother from which he escaped. But I needed a picture of a “soldier” in water and mud. :) )

Mike W
November 12, 2012 8:35 pm

TD et al

“Mysterious figures then for both the Chally and the AS90. Approx. 40 missing in each case!”

My own theory, for what it is worth, is that the missing tanks and guns were fitted with the new camouflage that makes tanks invisible and that they are somewhere on Salisbury Plain but nobody knows where. Seriously, though, are these inaccurate figures from the MOD or did something happen to those vehicles?

November 14, 2012 7:42 am

@Mike W

It depends on which ‘original plan’. The original requirement when SP70 was cancelled was 6 regts, with the possibility of a further 2 (51 M109s had only been acquired in 1981 in a rush with unspent money for the FY, so still had a bit of life when the RFQ and cardinal point spec (1 pg!) were issued in 1987). The 6 regts (Abbot and old M109) were 24 gun (3 x 8).

Mike W
November 14, 2012 6:52 pm

Sorry, have only just seen this. Thanks for the extra information.

I’ve got an idea that the first AS90 regeiments were planned to each consist of four batteries, with eigth guns apiece (4 x 8 = 32). However, the they would only have six guns each in peacetime (4 x 6 = 24) but I may be wrong.

No one has yet answered the question about the forty missing tanks and forty missing guns. TD says, “Deduce away” but what is he getting at? I suppose they have disappeared either because they detiorated in quality and were withdrawn or they were sold. Surely it can’t be the first as forty seems an incredibly high number to have become degraded.

Chris Werb
Chris Werb
November 28, 2012 5:32 pm

Bob Griffin over on has been following this closely having written a book on Chieftain and co-maintaining the Chieftain disposal list – I’d be surprised if he wasn’t already a regular here. I remember his mentioning seeing C2s at one of the depots (Ludgershall?) fully stripped and sitting on four roadwheels waiting to be torched a couple of years ago. When queried he responded that they’d been quietly disposing of C2s this way for some time.

December 3, 2012 11:09 pm

Exactly my thoughts, too (paul g and Mike W):
““48 is a nice number to convert to ammo resupply!”

Precisely. They would be ideal as gun limbers or even as recovery vehicles. What are they using now for ammo re-supply? Foden DROPS still? They are scheduled to go out of service by the end of 2014!”
– when the range of the pieces is less than for most of those fielded by other armies and resupply can “safely” be based on soft-skinned… says a lot of the scenarios planned for (and those excluded from serious planning)