The Tank is Dead, Long Live the Tank – Part 4 (SDSR, Army 2020 and the Challenger LEP)

This is a multi-part look at the role of armour in recent conflicts, their relevance in the future and a look at current programmes

Part 1 – Introduction

Part 2 – Selected examples of recent use

Part 3 – Looking into the crystal ball

Part 4 – SDSR, Army 2020 and the Challenger LEP

Part 5 – Future Protected Vehicle

Part 6 – A Few Ideas on the Future


The SDSR and subsequent work on Army 2020 defined what it thought was the future of the main battle tank.

Challenger 2
Challenger 2

With many years of operations soon to be behind us, RAC crews going back to their tanks and leaving their Mastiffs and Warthogs behind, there will be a clear drive to re-sharpen the armoured cutting edge.

People tend to rave about the Rheinmetall Leopard because, let’s be honest, it has sold a shedload and has an all-round balance; the Germans of course, always build a nice Panzer and Rheinmetall are not afraid of investing their own money to keep it current.

The Leclerc, Ariete and various exotic flavours of Far Eastern tanks have supporters; again it would seem, not unreasonably.

But when you resist the tempting treats on offer from abroad and look at what we actually have, the Challenger 2 has seen real combat, delivered the good news to the enemies of Her Majesty on a number of outings and despite taking multiple hits carried on.

This means a lot.

Maybe the British experience of Normandy, one that has influenced all subsequent designs that have focussed on protection, is still valid.

The Challenger Life Extension Programme

In 2007 the Challenger fleet size stood at 385, with 320 fit for purpose. By 2009, the fit for purpose fleet had fallen to 261 with the in service fleet at 345.

(these figures don’t include driver training tanks or Challenger derivatives)

The small fleet of Challenger 2 modified to operate in Iraq have been retained in controlled storage but with the budget pressures of recent years and the focus of the Royal Armoured Corps being delivering capability into Afghanistan the Challenger upgrade programme had been put on hold.

But despite this, the subsequent announcements on Army 2020 have shown the MoD still clearly sees the Main Battle Tank as an integral part of the future.

At the end of last year the Public Accounts Committee delivered a scathing report on armoured vehicles that I briefly highlighted here.

It said;

The consequence of recent cuts to armoured vehicles programme over the last five years is that just £5.5 billion remains in the budget for the next ten years. This is insufficient to fund the Department’s current armoured vehicles programme. The Department has yet to devise a plan for how it will close the gaps in both its budget and vehicle fleets. To deliver better value for money in future it plans to purchase off the shelf vehicles through international competition, with upgrade and support carried out by UK industry for reasons of security of supply.

So the MoD has a £5.5 billion sized pot of cash for armoured vehicles to 2021/2 out of which has to come; FRES (both flavours), the Warrior Capability Sustainment  Programme, Foxhound, potentially, projects like the Multi Role Vehicle (Protected) and whatever we end up bringing into core, post Afghanistan.

£5.5 billion might sound like a lot but that jam is spread pretty thinly.

It also has to address the rapidly approaching obsolescence of the Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank and possibly its derivatives, the repair and recovery vehicle and the two combat engineering variants, Titan and Trojan, although these are much newer than the main battle tank.

There are three broad options when considering what to do with Challenger 2;

One Ring to Rule Them All

A bolder approach but one which of course has greater risk, is to develop a new base platform that can replace all three vehicle families and massively reduce through life costs via the wonderful world of standardisation and commonality.

Therefore, it is what will not be done.

The MoD’s will only consider development as a last resort and its recent risk aversion means that whatever potential benefits this has, it’s a non-starter.

Buy a load of Leopards

Paul had a look at this option

Interesting, but unlikely

Therefore, it is what will not be done.

Upgrade Warrior, buy FRES SV and upgrade CR2

This is obviously the lowest risk and lowest sticker price option because it capitalises, mostly, on what we already have.

Therefore, it will be what is done.

The stated intention of the MoD is to perform a Life Extension Programme. The concept phase of CR2 LEP has recently been launched; the ultimate plan is to upgrade all 227 vehicles to extend their service lives beyond 2035 at an estimated cost of £500m, which is less than £2.5m each. The concept phase is expected to be complete by next March with the assessment and production phases following soon after.

The in service target is, of course, 2020.

Whilst the Challenger 2 is without a doubt one of the best main battle tanks in the world there is still considerable room for improvement and as I mentioned above, many of the electronics are rapidly becoming obsolete, to the point where they no longer become economic to support.

Upgrading Challenger 2 means lot of trade-offs; a limited budget means prioritisation will have to take place so in a crowded equipment programme the ‘let’s do it all’ option is off the table.

The options…


As most of the Think Defence readers will know, Challenger 2 uses the 55 calibre L30A1 rifled 120mm main gun, which more or less, the UK is the only user of. This means we are unable to take advantage of research and development of the much more common smoothbore ammunition by the USA, Israel and Germany, especially for non depleted uranium kinetic energy rounds like the General Dynamics KE-W A3 or Rheinmetall DM63

These new rounds are not cheap at about £3-5k each

It uses a two piece ammunition design, unlike the 120mm smoothbore designs that use a single piece with combustible cartridge. There are benefits to this but one of the downsides is that the penetrator rod cannot extend back into the charge housing. This is how the length (and effectiveness) of the smoothbore penetrator is achieved, the length to diameter ratio being one of the determinants of performance.

Challenger tank 120mm ammunition on display

Challenger II Tank Ammunition

Because of this two part ammunition, stowage is split between a number of locations within the turret and hull with a total capacity of 50 rounds.

Challenger 2 Cutaway
Challenger 2 Cutaway

Swapping the gun itself would not present a significant challenge and was trialled in 2006 by Royal Ordnance Defence as part of the £3.5m Smoothbore Option Technical Demonstrator Programme (SO TDP)

Challenger 2 with 120mm Smoothbore Cannon
Challenger 2 with 120mm Smoothbore Cannon

But adapting the vehicle for carriage of single piece ammunition would require a major rework and this of course means cost.

Click herefor a few images of the ammunition stowage issue.

Challenger 2 uses two basic forms of ammunition, kinetic and chemical.

The L27A1 Armour Piercing Fin Stabilised Discarding Sabot (APFSDS), commonly called (CHallenger main ARMament gun) CHARM3


CHARM3 uses depleted uranium and there have been ongoing concerns about its legality.

A recent legal review confirmed the Government legal advice is that it remains legal to use.

Nick Harvey (Minister of State (Armed Forces), Defence; North Devon, Liberal Democrat)

I informed the House on 31 October 2011 that I had commissioned officials to undertake a legal weapons review of our depleted uranium (DU) anti-armour tank rounds, known as Charm-3. Although Charm-3 was introduced before the Government were obliged to undertake such reviews, I ordered this review, as a special case, to address concerns that have been raised in Parliament and by civil society.

The review is now complete and has concluded that Charm-3 is capable of being used lawfully by UK armed forces in an international armed conflict. Charm-3 is the only munition within the UK arsenal manufactured using DU. We judge this capability necessary in any land battle to defeat the armoured vehicles of an adversary state and no alternative tank round (using another metal or substance) has been shown to provide a comparable effect on target. It is self evident that use of Charm-3 will be limited to a war fighting role, specifically in tank battles, and likely therefore to be employed only in exceptional and limited circumstances.

Legal weapon reviews are carried out in accordance with article 36 of the first protocol of 1977 additional to the Geneva conventions of 1949 (Additional Protocol I). Article 36 states:

“In the study, development, acquisition or adoption of a new weapon, means or method of warfare, a high contracting party is under an obligation to determine whether its employment would, in some or all circumstances, be prohibited by this protocol or by any other rule of international law applicable to the high contracting party”.

Such legal reviews are undertaken routinely in respect of weapon systems brought on to the UK inventory following UK ratification of additional protocol I, on 28 January 1998. The acquisition of Charm-3 pre-dates ratification and for that reason only, no review had been undertaken before now.

The legal review process under article 36 of additional protocol I required the use of Charm-3 to be considered in the light of certain key legal principles, namely:

Whether it is prohibited by any specific treaty provision;

Whether it is of a nature to cause unnecessary suffering or superfluous injury;

Whether it is capable of being used discriminately;

Whether it will cause long-term, widespread and severe damage to the natural environment;

Current and possible future trends in international humanitarian law.

The legal weapon review considered each of these points. The review itself comprises legal advice provided in confidence, but I wish to set out the rationale for reaching the judgment that the rounds are legal:

The use of DU in weapon systems is not prohibited by any treaty provision.

There have been extensive scientifically based studies, undertaken by the World Health Organisation in relation to the long-term environmental and other health effects allegedly attributable to the use of DU munitions. In the light of the reassuring conclusions drawn by such scientific studies, and noting the continuing military imperative underpinning retention of Charm-3 as a weapon system, it was concluded that use of Charm-3 does not offend the principle prohibiting superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering in armed conflict.

Crew training, weapon design and automated targeting systems mean Charm-3 is capable of being used discriminately.

Where DU ordnance residues have existed, in the aftermath of an armed conflict, annual potential radiation doses have been shown by scientific study to be well below the annual doses received by the general population from sources of natural radiation in the environment and far below the reference level recommended by the International Atomic Energy Agency as a criterion to determine whether remedial action is necessary. An environmental footprint inevitably will be left by use of DU munitions but one where a credible and authoritative body of scientific evidence (drawn from both international and national sources) has demonstrated there is no proven link between exposure to DU and, neither, a significant risk to public health, nor, a significant risk of any long-term damage to the environment.

Finally, it was concluded that DU continues to be a material of choice used by states in the manufacture of anti-armour munitions. To date no inter-state consensus has emerged that DU munitions should be banned and the available scientific evidence (developed in the aftermath of the Gulf war in 1991) continues to support the view held by the UK that such munitions can be retained for the limited role envisaged for their employment.

The UK policy remains that DU can be used within weapons; it is not prohibited under current or likely future international agreements. Given the challenging situations in which we expect our service personnel to operate, it would be wrong to deny them legitimate and effective capabilities that can help them achieve their objectives as quickly and as safely as possible.

From a legal perspective, CHARM3 therefore, remains viable

Despite this legal review, I think the government will come under increasing pressure in the near future to look again, especially as more studies on the rise of birth defects in Iraq and especially Basrah, conclude, as they will do in the next few years.

Some of these recent studies are highlighting the significant spike in birth abnormalities and drawing a link between them and high levels of heavy metals in areas where there was significant fighting.

Click the link below for one example;

From what I have read none of these are specifically looking at depleted uranium but no doubt more studies will be carried.

There are many more questions than answers with these studies; are accurate before and after comparisons possible, is there a causal link and can they be linked to depleted uranium for example so one cannot automatically assume that the DU CHARM3 round is going to be withdrawn any time soon.

It certainly looks like increasing pressure will be bought to bear though and this might influence decisions on the main gun on Challenger 2.

These studies will also look at tungsten alloys so a change might not offer much in the ‘environmental impact’ stakes.

Even if CHARM3 remains in service we need to assess whether it will continue to provide its performance advantage in the period up to the out of service date of Challenger 2, sometime beyond 2030.

It may be judged that no likely vehicle will emerge in this frame that will offer sufficient protection to defeat CHARM3 and therefore, a risk based decision can be made to marshal our existing stocks (unknown) until this time.

It is unlikely that a depleted uranium development will be funded to replace CHARM3 so any conventional replacement would not only be made in small quantities but unable to utilise existing designs and have to overcome the length limitations inherent in the two piece design.

So with CHARM3 still on the books, a more realistic assessment of future enemy armour capabilities against the capabilities of CHARM3 and the significant upgrade costs of moving to a single piece ammunition design it seems unlikely that a cost constrained upgrade programme will change the main gun.

There has been some talk of improving the L23 round for export to Oman and use by the UK and the tungsten training version of the L27 called the L28 although little has been released on this and information seems sparse.

The secondary ammunition nature of the Challenger 2 is the High Explosive Squash Head, essentially a big lump of HE that deforms on impact and is initiated by the base fuse, it sending shockwaves that create spalling on the inside of the target vehicle.

It is also used against fixed fortifications, soft skin vehicles and other targets that do not warrant the use of APFSDS.

It was a HESH round that is widely reported to be used for record breaking shot that we hear so much about but this from ARRSE seems to cast doubt on that;

There seems to be some confusion about what happened and what shot etc. the range was just over 5100m. We had finished moving forward and had gone firm. i was scanning the horizon when picked up what i thought to be T62′s across the valley. We had been shooting at whatever targets presented. I lased the target and was surprised by the range that came back, we started talking about having a go at the target amongst ourselves and The Colonel ok’ed the shot. it was a normal fin round, and after lasing again i fine laid the ellipse onto the target and fired. It was central hit just below the turret, as to whether the target was manned, i don’t know however the shot I was really proud of is mentioned by Mad Pierre by mistake, which was a T62 mover reversing up and out of a hull down position at about 1500m, and was hit with a HESH first round through the top of the turret, again fine laid without autolay, never did like it much. Hope this helps. I was always a lucky gunner.

Whilst HESH is both useful and effective (about £500 each), in comparison with others now available for the smoothbore 120mm not particularly versatile, has little fragmentation and is point detonating.

General Dynamics offer the M1028 Canister Round that is used against infantry.

The Rheinmetall PELE round uses a tungsten penetrator to reduce collateral damage and the Israel Military Industries even offer a 120mm STUN cartridge that is designed to disperse crowds by providing the same firing signature as normal ammunition. Air bursting and delayed point detonation ammunition are available, tube launched missile (e.g. LAHAT) continue to be perfected and a wide range of other ammunition is also available on the open market from a number of suppliers, all denied to the Challenger 2 because of the choice of rifled main gun.

Another issue is that of insensitive propellant/ammunition, arguably it should be in the protection/survivability section but here because of the relationship to the gun choice.

The only loss of a Challenger 2 in Iraq was due to fratricide, a HESH round striking the raised commanders hatch. The Board of Inquiry into the death of Cpl Allbutt and Tpr Clarke is pretty harrowing reading and there are images on the net of the vehicle, its turret displaced and blown off its mounting, resting on the rear deck, but you will have to search for that yourself.

The report clearly indicated that the initial attack was not survivable but it also makes a number of references to the secondary explosion and fire caused by deflagration of stored HESH rounds inside.

Reading the report it should be clear that insensitive munitions would not have altered the final outcome in this case but newer munitions available from General Dynamics, IMI and Rheinmetall are available in ‘IM’ form.

The Iraq TES Challenger 2’s were fitted with a remote weapon station, the Selex Enforcer. This can use the GPMG, M2 HMG or GMG and would be a simple upgrade to the rest of the fleet in the LEP programme.

Beyond adding the Selex Enforcer to all vehicles in the LEP improving Challenger 2 firepower by a wholesale main gun replacement remains low, in the regard, Challenger 2 will continue to slip behind the state of the art.

How far behind this start of the art is acceptable and how far behind is not acceptable is the main discussion point.

Actually, the state of the art is less important than the state of the enemy art, which is the calculation the MoD must make.

The inability to take advantage of newer ammunition natures will also make the Challenger 2 less flexible than its peers.

Electronics and Optronics

Although the systems are not state of the art it would be silly to argue they are ineffective but equally, some of the electronic components in CR2 are very definitely approaching end of life so even addressing these obsolescence issues will be a major project and no doubt, any new systems will be Generic Vehicle Architecture compliant.

In 2005 General Dynamics were contracted by the MoD to implement the platform battlefield information system application (PBISA) project that integrates the commanders display with navigation and other inputs using a MILCAN bus.

Click here for details.

The commanders (no Sagem) VS580 gyrostabilised sight is no longer manufactured by Sagem (although I did read that Thales Samsung Korea purchased the design rights) although the newer MVS580 is still available and integrated into the CR2E export model.

Sagem MVS580-2
Sagem MVS580-2

The Gunner Primary Sight (GPS) sight was formerly from Pilkington Optronics who are now owned by Thales.

Perhaps the weakest aspect of the Challengers sighting system is the thermal imager that is mounted above the gun barrel and unstabilised. The Thermal Observation and Gunnery Sight II (TOGS II) was again from Pilkington Optronics, before that Barr and Stroud and now Thales.

The CR2E model used a Sagem MVS 580 for the commander and SAVAN 15 for the gunner, both with laser rangefinders, fully stabilised and available with day and thermal imaging optics. This configuration supported true ‘hunter killer’ operation.

Sagem SAVAN 15
Sagem SAVAN 15

From the CR2E there exists an off the shelf upgrade solution.

Another interesting option would be to take advantage of the work currently being carried out by General Dynamics on the FRES SV Scout programme, especially the Thales Orion system which is receiving rave reviews.

The Orion implementation will be the first major system to be fully Generic Vehicle Architecture and Vetronics Infrastructure for Video Over Ethernet (VIVOE Def Stan 00-82) standard compliant, an important step to ensure maintainability and cost reductions across the Army as a whole.

I looked at GVA (Def Stan 23-09) last year, click here to have a read.

The Thales product page describes the Orion as having 360° continuous rotation, full stabilisation, a long range and wide area TV sensor, long wavelength thermal imager, High Definition outputs, gigabit Ethernet connectivity, automatic target detection and tracking, modular hardware and a number of interface options.

Thales Orion
Thales Orion

This would be used for the commander and linked to a new sensor processor unit and the gunners sight to enable the gun to slew onto a target designated by the commander in a ‘hunter-killer’ sequence.

The FRES SV Scout will be fitted with the Thales DNGS T3 (direct or indirect)

Thales DNGS-T3
Thales DNGS-T3

The DNGS T3 is fitted with the VELT/Catherine MP vision system that has been shown on Warrior

Thales VELT-D
Thales VELT-D
Thales VELT-D Warrior
Thales VELT-D Warrior

The Catherine MP Thermal Imager is an impressive sensor and used in a number of systems, the image below shows it output.

Thales Catherine MP Thermal Imager
Thales Catherine MP Thermal Imager

Operating under armour inevitably reduces situational awareness and in urban environments, a likely more common situation. This has resulted in a number of systems being developed and deployed in Afghanistan.

Selex have provided over 1,200 Road Marshall systems for use on vehicles in Afghanistan including the new Foxhound.

Road Marshall consists of a number of fixed and rotating optical and acoustic sensors linked into a common processor and up to sixteen display units. It is designed to enhance crew awareness of the immediate surrounding area and can be expanded to include threat detection and weapon cueing using the Selex Enforcer remote weapon station for example. It can also link into the longer range optical sensors like the one shown on the mast in the image below.

Selex Road Marshall
Selex Road Marshall
Selex Road Marshall
Selex Road Marshall
Selex Road Marshall
Selex Road Marshall

This kind of system would be a valuable addition for operations in close terrain.

If the CR2 LEP looked at the Thales sighting and the Selex situational awareness systems the MoD would be in very real danger of creating a common armoured vehicle sensor set with attendant training, spares and other support cost savings

Best go and have a lie down!

Independent of the main gun issue, sensors and fire control systems are likely to take the lion’s share of the upgrade budget.


With the full up-armouring package applied, a Challenger 2 is approaching 74 tonnes which is way beyond the initial in service weight of 62 tonnes. The extra weight will inevitably place a strain on the automotive components, increase fuel consumption, reduce the power to weight ratio and ultimately, reduce mobility.

In the late nineties the Army put the Perkins Caterpillar CV12 engine fleet into the AES Machine Care Plus service regime which moved away from time/mileage interval servicing to a centralised one based on engine condition and fluid analysis. It is a sophisticated and innovative service that has driven down costs, massively improved availability and allowed engines to be used far beyond their expected service life. Pattern analysis also provides valuable intelligence across the engine fleet and allows the service provider to predict failure.

On operations in Iraq the Challenger 2 approached 100% availability, despite the well publicised problems with sand filters during the Saif Sarea exercise.

Changing the powerpack to the same MTU unit as used in the latest Leopard designs would provide a number of NATO commonality benefits as well as reducing fuel consumption and improving mobility.

The latest Euro Powerpack  from MTU, the 883 Ka 501 is rated at 1200kw or over 1,650shp.

The CR2E export model was fitted with an MTU 883 engine and Renk HSWL 295TM automatic transmission (replacing the David Brown TN54 system). Because this combination was smaller than the Perkins/David Brown combination extra fuel could be carried and range extended.

The Renk 295 is from the same family as the Renk 256B that will be fitted to FRES SV.

This raises an interesting prospect of some engine and transmission component commonality across two of the main Army vehicle fleets with an obvious reduction in cost and logistic effort.

I know you won’t get very far in the MoD with that kind of dangerous common sense :)

As attractive as improving the power to weight ratio of Challenger 2 is, reliability and availability is hard won,  any change would need to carefully consider the impact of this on availability and reliability.


That Challenger 2 is well protected is not in doubt but it is not impregnable either as demonstrated by it being reportedly penetrated by an RPG29 in Iraq. This resulted in an increase in armour through a couple of iterations.

If one looks at pictures of the Challenger in Iraq it should be clear that the front and side applique armour goes through a number of changes over time, first being ROMOR-A ERA and then a bolt on module of Dorchester armour at the front for example. Additional belly armour, ECM, cameras and bar armour over certain parts has also appeared.

Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank Near Basra, Iraq
Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank Near Basra, Iraq
Challenger 2 TES
Challenger 2 TES

Armour is of course highly secret but unless some breakthrough occurs one would assume that Challenger 2 is as well protected as any comparable vehicle so any scope for improvement might be limited.

Perhaps there might be more protection kits purchased or maybe an improvement to mounting fixtures as part of the programme.

An interesting aspect of protection is staying unseen and being able to utilise the hull down position as shown in the image below

Challenger 2 hull down
Challenger 2 hull down

Natural terrain is preferable but a mine plough can be used to make your own terrain

Challenger can use the Pearson Heavy Dozer Blade (UDK1) but this task would ordinarily be done by attendant Royal Engineer vehicles like Trojan.

challenger 2 with Bulldozer Earth Moving Attachment (BEMA)
Challenger 2 with Bulldozer Earth Moving Attachment (BEMA)

Challenger 2 has a smoke generation system that injects fuel into the exhaust, producing a large smoke screen in a short time as seen in this fun video from Top Gear

It also has a pair of 66mm grenade launchers on the front of the turret. There may be additional improvements to the laser sensor and multi spectral smoke discharger systems from manufacturers like Rheinmetall or Diehl for example.

Sven wrote a good piece on smoke dischargers a few years ago;

The conclusion, that some western forces seem to have somehow forgotten about the value of smoke seems to be true.

There are also the new generation of active protection systems such as Trophy, IBD ADS or Saab’s LEDS that might be considered.

Challenger uses a number of signature reduction measures and has been seen equipped both with the Saab Barracuda signature reduction system and with Camotek 2D multispectral cam net.

[The link, by the way, is a fascinating look at how effective multispectral cam nets can be]

Trade Offs

Although the stated desire is to upgrade all vehicles to ensure a completely homogenous fleet I am not sure if anyone thinks this will happen and we won’t end up with a two or even three tier fleet of training and operational vehicles.

Whole Fleet Management will also most likely continue in its current form; a small quantity of vehicles held at sub unit level for local training, another set that is used for large training exercises called the training fleet and a set that is used to rotate between the two called the maintenance fleet. Finally, there is operational fleet, the ones held in Controlled Humidity Environments.

If there is a set number of vehicles and a finite budget then trade-offs are inevitable, do you accept a lower specification or scope of upgrade but create an entirely common fleet or do you create multiple upgrade packages and get maximum capability but in a smaller sub set of the fleet.

How much do you rely on UOR’s for future upgrades, given the Treasury are likely to be less UOR friendly in the future.

Do you look at the total fleet of 227 vehicles and then look at the likely future deployment strength, given current defence planning assumptions, Army 2020 reaction force size and past operations (TELIC had only 116 CR2 deployed)

All these will be factored into these difficult decisions.

Decisions, decisions, dilemmas, dilemmas


An upgraded Challenger 2 will sit within the Army 2020 structure.

This changed post SDSR, which envisaged 5 Multi Role Brigades, into the 3 Armoured Brigade plus Divisional HQ plus logistics and force troops.

The Royal Armoured Corps will reduce from 11 regiments to 9 by amalgamation.

From the Army website

The Queens Royal Lancers will amalgamate with 9th/12th Royal Lancers (Prince of Wales’s) upon completion of scheduled operational commitments and not before October 2014.

The 1st Royal Tank Regiment and the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment will merge upon completion of scheduled operational commitments and not before April 2014.

Each Armoured Brigade will comprise one armoured cavalry regiment, one armoured regiment, two armoured infantry battalions and one protected mobility battalion.

Army 2020 Armoured Infantry
Army 2020 Armoured Infantry

There was a slight change; the Type 56 regiment is different from the previous organisational setup.

The Army has used several structures for armoured regiments, the Type 38, Type 43, Type 44, Type 50, Type 57 and Type 58, plus those created on the fly for operations. These varied the number of Troops and tanks in the Squadron HQ and number of Squadrons to get to the number required.

An Army 2020 Sabre Squadron will have eighteen Challengers which is an interesting number because it is 4 more than the current Type 58 (4 troops of 3 plus 2 in SHQ in a Squadron, 4 Squadrons and 2 in RHQ)

We might guess at the makeup of a Type 56 Regiment but it would be just that, a guess.

Because the Army 2020 wiring diagram says 3 Squadrons of 18 we could assume there will still be two tanks in RHQ but the combinations within the Squadron are interesting.

You could make up the numbers by sticking with 3 tanks per Troop but then increase the number of Troops per Squadron and an extra in SHQ or stay at 4 troops of 3 but add an extra Squadron whilst losing the 2 in SHQ.


You could achieve the 18 tanks by keeping with the 2 in SHQ but increasing the troop strength to 4 tanks each. This means no tanks for RHQ though, hence the reduction of 2 from the Type 58.

In addition, an armoured Squadron will have the usual collection of attachments and detachments from the REME, RLC, RAMC and even the AGC Combat HR Specialists.

Lots of interesting combinations and as ever, subject to variations in peace and wartime establishment, training location fleet, trials & development and whole fleet management.

A lot of people get really exercised by working out exact ORBAT’s but the simple reality is they change on a regular basis and are often improvised on operations anyway so its probably not worth worrying too much about.

We should also note that this has yet to be implemented and is subject to change, there is at least one and probably two defence reviews before the notional Army 2020 vision is open for business.

There are also a couple of issues for the Army to worry about, training and accommodation space as we move back from Germany and the vehicle storage capacity, perhaps British Forces Germany might still have a small role to play after all.

SH/03/003/04/P 3 Cdo Brigade Op Telic. A Challenger tank from the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards drives through the town of Basra just shortly before securing the city in southern Iraq.

In the next and final post in this series I will be having an out of the box blue sky thought shower!

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Fluffy Thoughts
Fluffy Thoughts
November 4, 2012 9:53 am

Not worried about the gun: Leave as is. Armour appears excellant. That leaves electronics and drive-train.

Would love to see a UK-based system (although GD and Thales are as near as good enough to be UK-based) but the issues regarding electronic accuracy and vunerability need to be addressed. If we have to go European for the drive-train so be it: As long as it can pull the 74-tonne beast around what more can be asked (but RR should pull-out of all future EU joint-ventures)…?

If we need to upgrade the gun then post it into the next decade’s budget. We are highly unlikely to be involved in a tank-war for the near-future (and the Euros are more likely to deny us support than offer it) so smoothbore should not be considered.

Don’t need Germany as we can always place the second-tier tanks in Canada. As long as these tanks can share the drive-train all futher upgrade within the fleet should be modular. Must admit am a bit worried that the new REME kit is already considered near-obsolete!

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
November 4, 2012 10:45 am

On the face of it the 2020 Armoured Brigade looks like a potent force, in numbers not unlike the American Armoured Cavalry Regiments – but with the armoured infantry those formations lacked. However Armoured Cavalry had integrated artillery and helicopters – transport and tank-busters; and more tanks. Any hope for a type 74 Armoured Regiment with a 4th Sabre Squadron? By my reckoning we still have just enough tanks…and probably enough SP guns to integrate those into the formation as well; we would need to buy helicopters…but then as is generally agreed we need rather more of those in any event. Unfortunately the idea that if we have 25% less soldiers they need more, newer and better kit to remain effective hasn’t really gained much purchase amongst the political class!

Peter Elliott
November 4, 2012 11:00 am


I think we are supposed to measure effects not count heads or engage in top trumps.

If the proposed armoured brigades will acheive the effects we want then it doesn’t matter if they have fewer tanks than an American Armoured Cavalry Regiment. Indeed to change the mindset completely: if we can ahcieve the required effect with fewer assets than our allies use then that really is a good thing becasue we havn’t wasted our resources on overkill.

Also in reality the deploying brigade will get augmented by whatever rotaty and artillary support it needs, based on the threat situation and objectives, whether these elements sit within the peacetime brigade establishment or not.

Now that system is reliant on getting the threat assesment right: which we didn’t do in Helmand first up. But Army 2020 is also supposed to include improvments to ISTAR, forward engagment and cultural learning so that situation ought not to arise again… gulp [fingers and toes all crossed].

November 4, 2012 11:10 am

The US ACRs had a very specific covering force role on the Central Front.

As is mentioned in the article, on Ops the Type regiment is whatever is deemed to be needed. If we want one regiment of 73 tanks we can have that.

November 4, 2012 11:26 am

So the new structure will provide 3 identical ‘heavy’ brigades with a mix of heavy and light armour plus armoured infantry.

If we wanted to do a Telic style operation with a fully loaded brigade of 100+ tanks would it be a case of taking 1 of these new brigades and swapping out some of it’s component parts for the armoured bits of it’s 2 sister formations?

I guess what I am asking is how modular these 3 brigades are, are they designed to be tailored to individual operations and environments at short notice?

Peter Elliott
November 4, 2012 11:27 am


Good article rooted in gritty reality and thrifty common sense.

As such pretty poor for stirring up a lively debate!

Roll on the fantasy shower including: hybrid drive, electric rail guns, common hull designs and swarms of active defence drones.

Peter Elliott
November 4, 2012 11:34 am


I think notice is the key.

We have been told that the UK will still be able to provide a stong division ‘with notice’ which will presumably involve doing a task org of various elements of the RF and AF into what we actually need. This will bugger everything up for months before and months after but we can still do it if we have to.

Without notice (or at short notice) we presumably have to take what is available ‘on the shelf’ in terms of the RF readiness cycle: ie whichever Heavy Brigade is at high readiness plus elements of 3 Cdo and 16AAB as required.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
November 4, 2012 11:42 am

@TD Thanks.
and Phil; I take both your points, however I am not confident that the improved ISTAR/forward engagement/cultural learning will really be prioritised; and my concern on allocating resource to brigade sized formations as required is that the Mod will hold just enough resource to mass up one Brigade for operations; which won’t work well if we do actually need to mobilise a Division or even two…we will, as always be relying on the Cousins and I am less and less confident they will be there.

Also, the flow of these proposals seems to be towards the 16th Air Assault Brigade Model – self-contained, and resourced to deploy wholesale; with much reduced Army numbers I can see no reason not to aspire to the same for the armoured strike-force; after all artillery and air assets tasked and trained to serve alongside the Lancers Armoured Brigade could be detached for other work at need.

Mind you, and in an ideal world I think we should aspire to a second Air Assault Brigade based on the Rifles and a fourth Armoured Brigade based on the Guards – even within proposed Army Numbers; I clearly need to take more water with it!

November 4, 2012 11:47 am

These camera systems seem like a universal panacea to situational awareness from an AFV, but here’s something to consider:
The Road Marshall cameras have a 90 degree arc, so at 100m that’s 157m arc size, so on standard video that’s 3 pixels per metre, or 12 pixels per metre for full high definition. AFV displays tend to be somewhere between those two limits. If you are not careful you’ll run out of pixels to discern what is going on. Direct vision optics and eyesight tends to be somewhat more acute.
That said, cameras can operate where eyesight cannot.

Peter Elliott
November 4, 2012 11:49 am

@ Gloomy

I’m now just waiting for @X to pop up and ask how all these armoured dvisions you aspire to (no harm in that) are going to depoly to where the action is without more amphibious warfare SHIPS to carry them.

We could always fight the Welsh I suppose. No ships required then. Not the Scots though: they have nuclear weapons and might be crazy enough to use them…

Seriously speaking we need to remember the logistics of deployment and not commit all our resouces to the teeth arms. One brigade that can depoly is worth 100 Divisions that can’t.

Peter Elliott
November 4, 2012 12:00 pm

Regarding camera systems our old friend James or Red Trousers certainly believed they were no substite for the human eyeball – and he appears to have had the the experience to entitle him to an opinion or two.

Having said that cameras will keep getting better so a tipping point may eventually be reached.

Maybe the answer is a Recce version with light manned turret and hatches and an big gun heavy version without. All chassis componants in commnon. Modular armour fit to suit threat. hat way the Recce waggon gets the benefit of both: eyeballs out in low threat, advanced sensors and cameras in high threat. The tank doesn’t. Not sure if that is acceptable or not.

Where is old @RT by the way: are you still lurking out there James?

November 4, 2012 12:04 pm

@ Peter Elliot

You won’t be able to afford to pay the Tolls on the Severn Bridge and you cant come down the M50 either because their is a width restriction at the moment!

November 4, 2012 12:15 pm

“I guess what I am asking is how modular these 3 brigades are, are they designed to be tailored to individual operations and environments at short notice?”

Any expeditionary force generated w/notice is bespoke for the operation. I cannot think of a single occasion since the war where we have deployed a force larger than Battalion in its peacetime organisation. The peacetime orbats provide a sensible training and planning template but they are unlikely to deploy as is.

November 4, 2012 12:20 pm

The first Selex Road Marshall graphic shows a poor design.
Four spinning (vertical axis) sensors on all four edges would cover the same, reduce the blind sectors and on top of that would have some redundancy in case one or even two sensors fail.

The only disadvantage would be that the sensors cannot reliably serve as laser warners, which is probably no mission of the depicted system anyway.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
November 4, 2012 12:37 pm

Elliot – I hope not, as I find x a bit scary; also as my comments under “listen to Phil” show I think a modestly increased number of ships would also be a good thing; my underlying point is that if we are working with a smaller Army than at any time since before the Napoleonic War; a smaller RN than at any time since the Armada; and a smaller RAF than at any time since it was formed they all need more, better and newer kit if they are to do the jobs I (and others hereabouts) think we will expect them to do within the current planning framework – and many more reservists to backfill on home defence. Furthermore big ticket items must come first because of lead times – and I genuinely believe that we might need Carriers afloat and Troops ashore in the European interest, and without the Cousins in the Med, the Gulf and West Africa by 2025, 2030 at the latest.

However I know it has to be paid for – but then I was an urban regeneration specialist in a big manufacturing City for nearly thirty years; what others see as unjustifiable extravagance I tend to see as rebuilding high tech manufacturing capacity, creating well paid work north of the Thames valley, and re-balancing the economy away from the City. All necessary if the place is to remain worth defending…

November 4, 2012 12:41 pm

Ah, one of my many pet subjects: Why unmanned turrets? What advantages are these perceived to bring?
It’s one of those ideas that has some advantages in certain situations but then they are applied to many situations where the advantages disappear while no-one is paying them any attention. Key amongst these situations are:
Protection. If you wish to retain mission capability, the unmanned turret needs to be armoured to similar levels as a manned one. If you look at the Anders or Falcon turrets, from any angle the area it displays is as large as a manned turret.
Serving the armament. If you want to clear stoppages, reload or change barrels, you need access under armour.
Elevation arcs. If you want the gun balanced (and you do) you need some space to depress the breech into.
Profile. if you put your crew into the hull, you need a taller hull. Hulls are bigger than turrets so you make the whole vehicle more massive.

Looking back at the camera calculations, we can see that an HD camera coupled with an HD screen is getting there, but still not up to direct view, but we can use such cameras to augment direct view. Low-light, invisible illumination or thermal imagers can all be used to see things that the human eye cannot, or provide vision in locations that it is impossible to put a direct optical path to, like a reversing camera or for close-in areas.

November 4, 2012 1:20 pm

They are not going to get much done with £5.5billion on all those programmes. I suppose the new armoured brigades will have parcels of equipment for training with the duty brigade having a few more toys and longer to play with them? Better one brigade has all the toys for five years seeing as armoured warfare breaks out about once a decade. Let’s face this isn’t WW2 even with 3 armoured brigades against a peer enemy we would have about what 5 to 7 days at tops. Everybody mounted in Warrior. Scrap FRES and use Warrior or as James suggests other vehicles. And then buy an off the shelf protected vehicle like Bushmaster.

EDIT: Oh yes Chally! That would hopefully leave us with enough in the pot to give us for enough 3 x T58 regiments. One for the standing armoured brigade. One for the rest cavalry to provide a reinforcement to the standing brigade. One for spares and attrition.

November 4, 2012 1:32 pm

Phil said “Any expeditionary force generated w/notice is bespoke for the operation. I cannot think of a single occasion since the war where we have deployed a force larger than Battalion in its peacetime organisation. The peacetime orbats provide a sensible training and planning template but they are unlikely to deploy as is.”

Exactly! So lets shove a brigade down to Salisbury for 5 years and peal off formations as we need them. I believe the expression is “centre of excellence”. Let the rest of the Army train for armoured warfare as break from peace keeping etc. If the RAC can provide one extra regiment of tanks and the infantry supply one extra battalion of armoured infantry then we are good to go even if that is a stretch.

November 4, 2012 1:33 pm

@Mr fred

I won’t say it’s totally no advantages, for one, you get a smaller package than a manned turret, even with protection. This also translates into a smaller target. You’ll find it much easier to hit a turret than a RWS with an RPG considering how small the package is.

You also get less vision loss under suppression fire. Small arms fire over the tank tends to cause the commander to button up due to fear of being hit or of ricohets, but no one really cares if a RWS takes a round or two, so there is a lot more aggressive scanning.

As for hull profile, you already have a gunner/loader and driver in there already, so you’re going to have to build for human sized anyway.

But I do agree there are downsides, the famous situational awareness loss for one, weapons servicing for another, and the limit to the size of the weapon mountable on a RWS.

It’s just another iteration of tradeoffs, nothing comes for free, and it would all depend on how you want to play the game.

November 4, 2012 2:06 pm

@x and the advantages of that is?

November 4, 2012 2:27 pm

@ Phil

Well as I said expertise is concentrated and pro-longed training brings high standards.

You seem to me to be under the impression that our armoured forces will be engaged in some sort of classic armoured war a la WW2. How long does an armoured formation last in the line before it has to be rotated out? No more than day or two at the best. The best we can hope for is that our armour is used to break the back of less than peer enemies, like in GW3, more as use once option, a shock and awe reserve, and not as the primary building block of land forces.

You may now trot out the party line on force regeneration, BAOR, variety of mission, they don’t like it up ’em, etc. etc. ;) :)

November 4, 2012 2:36 pm

The expertise will now be concentrated in a division and the LWC.

So you disagree that mass, fire-power and manoeuvre are the bread and butter of warfare of almost all types, even in COIN in Afghanistan it is central to our model of operation.

You’re right, the division wouldn’t last 72 hours in an offensive against a peer enemy but there aren’t any right now we’re looking to invade. Any such undertaking would need a period of rearmament.

Armoured brigades provide the fundamentals and can be dismounted as needed.

paul g
November 4, 2012 2:42 pm

just to go totally non tech (not bad for an ex tech) if you look at the cut out of a leopard 2 next to the cut out of the chally you can see the chally driver sits in the middle and has two equal small spaces (well not exactly spaces but bear with). whereas the driver in the leopard is offset, ironically it’s a right hand drive! This frees up space for a charge bin, ie a good use of space.

November 4, 2012 3:10 pm

Problem with replacing the gun on the Challenger 2 is the turret would need replacing as well. When they added a German smooth bore to the Challenger as an experiment a few years back they could only carry six single piece rounds in the tank.

The major issue is the HESH rounds are running out of shelf life unlike the CHARM-3 which are inert. The army have been trialling some new HESH rounds from Belgium, apparently Mecar who have an R&D program for HESH rounds:

Mecar are owned by the British company Chemring so it is logical they have been asked to develop new rounds considering BAE Systems have pretty much lost the capability.

In the end with a 2030 OSD replacing the turret to get a new gun has to be weighed against the cost of buying a new tank outright. Sadly any future Challenger 2 replacement will likely be an off the shelf foreign design as the UK has pretty much given up the capability to develop AFV from the ground up!

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
November 4, 2012 3:34 pm

@x and Phil – I’m with Phil on this; I think we are looking at a lot of short term expeditionary and bush wars into an “Arc of Disorder” running from West Africa to the Gulf and containing a lot of kit (however poorly maintained) and an almost limitless supply of AK47s and underemployed young men who hate us. In that context we will need to take and hold air and sea ports from time to time to do whatever we judge to be needful; that means the Commandos or 16th Airmobile make the assault, the multi-purpose brigade boys and girls look after the town, and the armoured brigade secures the perimeter against a relief column of technicals and patched up T62s; three sorts of brigade required, and we do need enough of each sort. Surely the lesson of Basra is that we should never again leave brigade to do a job that requires a division; public opinion here won’t tolerate the casualties. Furthermore a time will come quite soon when the Cousins are not alongside us when we need them; they will be on warships in the Pacific glowering at Chine…

November 4, 2012 4:21 pm


That’s not my position. Other than that bloody war I can’t think of a conflict since 1945 that has involved us swooping in by sea or air and holding a point of entry and feeding in troops.

November 4, 2012 4:26 pm

Phil said “So you disagree that mass, fire-power and manoeuvre are the bread and butter of warfare of almost all types, even in COIN in Afghanistan it is central to our model of operation.”

Rhubarb! How is me advocating a brigade concentrating on one task and have budget concentrated on it as well for the best possible equipment not advocating mass (plus one further regiment of tanks and armoured infantry supplied by rest of Army)? At the end of the Cold War in GW1 the Army just about fielded 3 x Chally regiments and 3 x armoured infantry battalions. All I am proposing is we loose one MBT regiment. Being able to field one very well equipped and one very well trained brigade is better than 3 or so phantom regeneration formations available who knows when. Salisbury to Marchwood and off to who knows where. Ready to go when we need them. This is the 21st century not 1914 the war will be over before we get there. So I am very concerned about mass and speed and firepower. Me thinks it is you who are more guilty spreading valuable resources and diluting expertise. Further this site is called Think Defence not Agree with the Army who struggle to field a light infantry brigade without help from the RN and the other bunch and are never wrong! Try to think outside of the box or you might as well as post over at ARRSE where they have all the answers all the time because all they do is regurgitate their basic training. Then afterwards they will occasionally go on to examine their collective navels and wonder if the British Army is still one of the world’s best. Concentrate armour, let the rest of the infantry and cavalry rotate through what ever peacekeeping/COIN/light infantry task the government of the day has got the UK embroiled in, and we have every contingency covered saving costs and building on expertise..

Why you bring COIN into a discussion about armour I don’t know but I am sure the Army learned lots of valuable lessons on how to do things properly from 3Cdo deployments to Afghanistan……… :) ;)

November 4, 2012 4:48 pm


Suez – Sierra Leone – Kuwait (1960s)

The 18 CH2 squadron harks back to the Berlin Brigade days, four troops of four and two in SHQ,

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
November 4, 2012 4:53 pm

– sorry, no offence intended. It seems we disagree, because I think if we haven’t yet we may well need to in the next ten or fifteen years; possibly Freetown if West Africa implodes and we feel it would be in our interest to keep Sierra Leone stable; possibly Libya if their current endemic disorder worsens enough to threaten oil and gas deliveries at a critical time; possibly somewhere in Syria/Lebanon if that situation falls apart resulting in Jihadi attacks on the tourist beaches of the Dodecanese in an effort to outflank Turkish efforts to contain the crisis.

Taking the long view, much of our history has involved us getting drawn in to trouble in an effort to maintain business interests in places that don’t function very well…and there are more of those all the time, some of them uncomfortably close to home.

November 4, 2012 4:58 pm

Your entire argument is pretty much based on the assumption that the Army won’t resource its division properly. Otherwise it provides mass fire power and manoeuvre and your model simply degrades all those capabilities for no advantage other than wanting to be different and push your post-modern for the sake of it agenda.

November 4, 2012 5:02 pm

No offence taken!

Jim: Suez involved an overland thrust, SL was Bn strength and Kuwait was into a friendly country.

November 4, 2012 5:06 pm


I agree the Army will spend 90% of its time doing everything short of general combat. But I have always argued for heavy forces because they are the hardest to regenerate and can be adapted to lighter roles. I think the new Army organisation is sensible. Some here think that makes me conservative and a sycophant but for once resources are being matched to ambition.

Mike W
November 4, 2012 5:16 pm


Brilliant article. Really thought-provoking – the result of a lot of hard work.

I am intrigued by the firepower question. Some seem complacent about the Challenger’s main armament. Fluffy Thoughts, for instance, says, “Not worried about the gun: Leave as is”. I am rather more anxious than that but am not sure what the solution should be. I am the son of a Master Gunner but have inherited none of his expertise or knowledge, so this will probably seem like the most unqualified drivel.

I think like you, TD, that if we are unable to take advantage of newer ammunition, “Challenger 2 will continue to slip behind the state of the art.”

I can understand that changing the L30 for a smoothbore would not pose major problems: As you say:

“Swapping the gun itself would not present a significant challenge and was trialled in 2006 by Royal Ordnance Defence as part of the £3.5m Smoothbore Option Technical Demonstrator Programme (SO TDP)”

but adapting the vehicle for carriage of single piece ammunition would require a major rework and that of course means cost. The ideal solution of course would be to replace the whole turret. Here, however, I must concur with Fedaykin who says, “In the end with a 2030 OSD, replacing the turret to get a new gun has to be weighed against the cost of buying a new tank outright.” so that option des not seem likely. Maybe, though, a compromise could be struck, with, say, only 50 (56?) Challengers benefiting from a new turret fitting. That would provide a “cutting edge” regiment for our armour. After all, are more than 50 tanks going to be needed for most of the contingencies we are likely to face in the immediate future? I can appreciate, though, the problems that would be caused by having two sets of ammunition etc. etc.

Incidentally, I thought that the 2006 Royal Ordnance Smoothbore Option did involve a whole turret change but I might very well be wrong about that.

Anyway to change tack slightly, like Peter Elliott I would like the fantasy shower to roll on “including: hybrid drive, electric rail guns, common hull designs and swarms of active defence drones.” Whatever did happen to all those advanced ideas such as electro-thermal chemical guns, a 140 mm gun using liquid propellant, etc. etc.? I suppose that with the recent reduction in the likelihood of super powers confrontation, such ideas/programmes have been ascribed a much lower priority.

November 4, 2012 6:03 pm


Your suggestion did make a bit of sense, but when you popped off what seemed to be an attack on Phil, it sort of derailed the topic.

Think what x meant was to concentrate all the armour into an armour “super training school” and spin off units to brigades and divisions when needed.

I can see some good and bad points to it, good being commonality of training over all units resulting in interchangability, centralised logistics, concentration of skill and experience for training et al.

Bad I can see in less operations time with the parent brigade or division might mean a bit more friction during ops, having to add infantry to the “armour training school” for combined arms training or engineers for engineering liason training etc means that the school has the potential to metasize into a monster organisation.

In fact I think x’s suggestion might actually make it easier to get more armoured units into the field as they would not have been pre-assigned to parent units, making it easier to “borrow” from one brigade to another.

November 4, 2012 6:18 pm

@ Observer

At times I find Phil’s condescending attitude a bit much to take. We all know he has been to Afghanistan and I thank him for his service. But the supercilious way he addresses any deviation from the Army way bores to the put of insult. He seems to forget that others have real world experience in many spheres and have also read extensively on many subjects. It is him not I who turns a fun knockabout discussion into a chore. I know many here like to knock the likes of DominicJ and Fat Boy on Tour for some of their suggestions. But at least they are displaying some imagination. Anyway I shall do the gentlemanly thing and withdraw from the blog.

Peter Elliott
November 4, 2012 7:38 pm

It depends if it is more important for Tank Regiments to train in manoeuvreing with other Tank Regiments or to train mostly in co-operating with Infantry, Engineers etc.

Obviously they need to be able to do both but its a question of prioirities. For my money we are much more likely to be using single regiments to stiffen up an all arms force than to need a true ‘armoured spearhead’ type formation to send smashing up the battlefield.

We don’t have the logistic capability or the numbers for a long thrusting campaign in attack, and if anyone throws a brigade sized tank formation against us we are more likely to dig in and then counter attack it with air power.

If we ever try to fight the massed armour of someone like the Russians or the Chinese on our own we will be fukt either way around so that makes little difference.

@X We all love you really.

November 4, 2012 7:46 pm

How much would the Cloggies charge us for their second hand Leo 2 ? Is it really so unrealistic ?

We want to upgrade ideally to a more flexible smooth bore gun, to the Euro power pack, to upgrade the optics – yes ?

So is it not truly cheaper in the long run to do all this in one go by going Leo ???

As noted their is considerable commercial efforts in the Leo upgrade market, this may allow the OSD to be pushed further out, providing a greater return on investment.

November 4, 2012 8:05 pm

No one seems keen on Abrams, instead favouring Leopard. Why?

November 4, 2012 8:18 pm

Maybe because Abrams is simply not good. Leopard2 has beaten all of its competition in all competitions. Abrams gets foreign sales only through U.S. military subsidies or in deals involving very much political effects such as Saudi-Arabia and Kuwait thanking for ODS.
Leclerq won only when leo2 was not in competition.

Everybody prefers Leo2 because its mobility, durability, endurance and reliability are great while the gun is the same (or better with A5, A6).
Protection appears to differ only in a non-decisive way.

Most notably, there’s still no Abrams with a competitive fuel consumption, even after addition of the APS. Same with Leclerq’s overly thirsty high power density diesel engine. Abrams also has a design fault that means tankers prefer not to rely on one of its fuel tanks, instead keeping it as reserve – which further reduces its practical off-road and road range. Combine a poor such range with the classic problem of moving supplies to armoured spearheads (rarely happens satisfactory) and you got a tank that’s as unsuited for mobile warfare on the operational level as was the M-48.
Yes, they can bash incompetent Iraqis. They would need to be much more careful for logistical reasons when facing Russians, though.

November 4, 2012 8:42 pm

@S O – thanks for a comprehensive answer, however, when you say: “Leopard2 has beaten all of its competition in all competitions.” – I assume you’re talking about exercises, not actual conflicts? Has Leopard2 seen action anywhere? Doesn’t mean it’s not a good tank, just asking.

November 4, 2012 8:48 pm

And Leopard 2 is available second hand, Abrams isn’t, put to SO’s point, no one but massive US Army could support gas guzzling gas turbine engine !

November 4, 2012 8:49 pm

You leave this blog and call people condescending every time someone challenges your view on things x. And it’s definitely pot calling the kettle black on the condescending attitude by the way and we’ll ignore the snideness and dripping sarcasm that accompany a lot of your ripostes.

But I don’t condescend unless someone is being very rude indeed and there really is only one nice chap who truly pushes that button with me

And I make no claims on my experience in anything other than some very narrow matters, you’ve tried that line so many times my eyes rolled when I read it.

My views on the Army and how it should be organised are just that, my views. I post them here because I am happy for them to be challenged and enjoy the learning process that goes with the dialogue. Obviously you’re a more sensitive soul. Fine, I’d suggest you don’t comment on my ideas and thoughts then. We all consume this blog in our own way and some people on here are more up for a heated debate than others, it’s just the fucking internet mate and a bit of intellectual banter to varying degrees for various people.

Mike W
November 4, 2012 9:18 pm


Am interested in your idea of acquiring Leopards from the Dutch:

“We want to upgrade ideally to a more flexible smooth bore gun, to the Euro power pack, to upgrade the optics – yes ?

So is it not truly cheaper in the long run to do all this in one go by going Leo ???”

Trouble is I don’t really know whether those tanks are really the latest thing (i.e. with all the recent upgrades). How much updating would they need? I think they are A6s with the MTU(1479hp?)powerpack. I think they probably have the 120 mm L55 gun too but am not sure. So probably not much upgrading needed.

The other problem is how many the Dutch have to sell. I believe that they were about to sell 100 to Indonesia (was it?), but the deal fell through. Would 100 tanks be enough for us? If we need 227 Challengers, then we need the equivalent. Or don’t we?

November 4, 2012 10:58 pm

Mike W – all in all they had about 400, and some already went to Canada and yes I doubt very much they are all A6 – so time to hit the inter-webs and find out I guess :-)

John Hartley
John Hartley
November 4, 2012 11:21 pm

Preparing to be shot down on this, but we went for Challenger 2 as it was deemed easier & cheaper than upgrading Challenger 1. Might it be easier to have a new build Challeger 3 with smoothbore gun & new engine designed in, rather than trying to bodge an upgrade of existing tanks? Also keeps the UK tank factory going.

November 5, 2012 12:22 am

I strongly suspect the preference of Leo to M1 has more to do with pricing and trade regulations than actual performance, remember, most of the Leo sales were 2nd hand, which meant very cheap prices, along with the fact that it’s easier to approve arms sales in Germany than the US.

If you check most of the users of the Leo, you would find that a lot of stock came from German and Dutch Cold War surpluses, while the sales of the Abrams are more direct sales to countries directly involved in the US, i.e receiving US military aid (notably Iraq and Kuwait). Australia is a notable outlier though, replacing their Leos with Abrams.

There IS better fuel efficiency in the Leo vs the Abrams, think it was 20% better, but it hasn’t slowed down the Ausies, since tanks are never known as fuel efficient in the first place, constant resup is already in place to counter this deficiency.

No offence to SO, but I have a strong suspicion of emotional bias in his analysis and preferences, amidst other things.

November 5, 2012 12:23 am

I think a new design uk built tank would be a good idea but who would build it john BAE want out of AFV design and build so that leaves GDUK but at what cost the MOD would do there usual 10 year pillar to post to save money and we would be left with nothing if we could build and design a new tank in under 5 years from start to depolyment then yes.
After GW 1 vickers visited my regiment 14th/20th Kings Hussars regarding design features for challenger 2 for ideas to help them be mmpre user friendly if they want a new design they need to do the same now because they need to be looking at the next generation tanks/afv now not 2 months before a RFP.
The problem is were in is we’re not prepered to fund the defence of this country properly every governemnt since the collapse of the cold war has done defence on the cheap when “new labour and chopper brown ” looked at defence they saw a personnel piggy bank to raid for pet projects like the future rotorcraft budget taking £2billion out just when wew need helicopters in Afghan and iraq
We should divert at least 30% of DFID budget to defence to re-equipe our knackered and obselete equipement

Lord Jim
Lord Jim
November 5, 2012 12:25 am

The Challenger II should meet our needs with a limited upgrade until its OSD. The CHARM3 round is and will be sufficent to deal with any forseen armoured threats and if the Belgians can provide a new HESH round to replace existing stocks which are rapidly approaching their shelf life even better. I am also assuming we have sourced new charges for an overseas suppliers as we can no longer manufacture them. I don’t see the need for a fleetwide installation of a OWS but having a number available for certain ops would be useful.

I too am a fan of the Leo2 but by 2030 it is also going to be very long in the tooth even in its A6/A7 varients. By then most Eurppean armies that wish to retain a MBT force will be looking for a replacement and a joint programme headed by the Germans could be the way to go. They seem to be able to run and manage AFV programmes competently and have good and well funded R&D. Aimed at existing Leo1 and Leo2 users it is probably the only non US option that would be affordable.

Looking to organisation we are well and truely basing out future on the Brigade, either operation as a whole or providing Regiment battlegroups. We would do well to expand on the curretn ideas of keeping the bulk of our MBTs nicely tucked up and warm in storage and have only one or two squadrons allocated for training. Those in storage would be in two varieties the first being identical to those operated by the regiments for training and allow those to be rotated through maintenance and overhaul. The second variety would be a rienforced Regiments worth (say 5 squadrons) and full warfighting standard.

As operating at divisional strength will only be done in exceptional circumstances and highly unlikely as getting the three brigades moved to where ever would probably be beyond our available means. If done however, the remaining regiments would have to deploy with their standard spec. varients, possibly augmented by kit purchased through UORs.

As only divisional staff will conduct training at that level and only on “Paper”, and as I doubt we will retain sufficient rear support elements for such a formation regardless of PR spin, the excetional circumstances that would need the division to deploy would have to be extremey exceptional.

My personal opinion is that GW1 and GW2 will have been the last time the UK deploys large Armoured/mechanised formation above brigade strength. Whilst the ideas based on ISTAR allowing for lighter and leaner formations doing the jobs of traditional heavy formation have been severely bashed post GW2 and Afghanistan, the planned increase in ISTAR assets will however allow smaller heavy formations to operate over a greater area with increased level of co-ordination and impact, especiallly when other assets such as fixed and rotary platforms are added.

So to sum up

1. We need to ensure the Challenger 2 remain relevant up to its OSD of 2030 but not cutting edge.

2. Its replacement will have to be a joint programme within Europe with a small possibility of US involvement.

3. We need to concentrate on the creation and training of the 3 new Armoured Brigades, ensuring they are fit for purpose.

4. Maintain a Divisional Headquarters to handle multinational operations and maintain posts for senior officers for whom there are insufficient regimental and brigade command posts, and conduct wargames just in case.

November 5, 2012 12:54 am

I know wiki isn’t the most reliable source but in 1997 money each challenger cost about 3 million so what would that be now 4-4.5 so to we would need to spend over 1 billion to pelace them but for a brand new and more protected vehicle would this be a better solution probably but it all comes down to funding and we would need a rapid escalation in the middle east with iran or a new cold war with russia for any dramatic increase for this too happen

November 5, 2012 1:05 am


Think there is actually a fear in international joint projects in defence, and for good reason. Most multi-national projects have ended up in rather bitter infighting on requirements.

Some examples are the ASRAAM, MBT-70?, Horizon to name a few.

If there is going to be a joint project, the requirements are going to have to be so loose as to please everybody, yet tight enough to remain relevent. Not an easy task.

November 5, 2012 1:06 am

Well a bit of research suggests the NL only had 119 Leo 2 left, so not enough for our needs anyway !

November 5, 2012 2:27 am

@Michael; it’s safe to assume new Challengers would today rather be around GBP 6-10 million apiece, especially if fixed costs are included in per unit accounting.

November 5, 2012 3:31 am


Why 6-10 million? Once again, I’ve to ask you to justify your figures, not just pluck them from thin air.

Mike W
November 5, 2012 8:05 am

Thanks for doing that research. Rather confirms what I felt. Interesting idea, though.


“The problem is were in is we’re not prepered to fund the defence of this country properly every governemnt since the collapse of the cold war has done defence on the cheap …….We should divert at least 30% of DFID budget to defence to re-equipe our knackered and obselete equipement.”

Well, precisely. The lack of funding is at the root of most of our problems in defence today. It has to be put right.

Actually, after all the diversion about Leopards, I am coming round to what John Hartley says. I think, though, John, that any upgrade to Challenger would be done at Telford rather than at Newcastle.

November 5, 2012 9:23 am

Why is there any need for a smoothebore, so German, so last decade (or three)? The days when the tank was the primary means of defeating another tank are over. As I keep pointing out anti-tank is now spoilt for choice.

Once you ditch the outdated notion that anti-tank by tank is critical, and accept that DU is available and works, then rifled is the way to go. HESH is a good multi-purpose round, after all HESH was originally designed to defeat concrete. What is needed is a lower velocity HE round (preferably with a MRF of the type made by Mr Diehl) to better engage infantry positions that aren’t in buildings (you need a bit higher trajectory to do this job properly, something the RAC has forgotten since WW2, but I live in hope that an infantryman in the Close Cbt directorate might be on the ball. A few old fashioned cannister would also be useful in some circumstances, cheap and nasty, just the job the UK defence budget.

John Hartley
John Hartley
November 5, 2012 9:49 am

Random thoughts.
Has the Newcastle tank factory closed, or is it in the process of closing? ie could it be saved with a new order? Does BAE want to be out of tank production or was it forced on them by lack of orders?
If new build, why not consider the Vickers Mk 7 as well as Challenger 3. The Mk 7 was developed in the late 1980s, but lost to C2. The Mk7 used the Leopard 2 hull with a British turret. Could take rifled or smoothbore guns, depending on customer choice. Weighed 55 tons, so still heavy, but not as bad as a C2. An updated Mk7 (8) with smootbore gun & latest armour might be the way to go. Just freeze EU contributions to pay for it.

November 5, 2012 10:30 am


I believe your assumptions may be too optimistic in terms of the costs of upgrading the existing Challenger 2 platforms. When the upgrade path for Challenger 2 is audited, I think the costs will be too great to justify this course. Far better to buy second-hand Leopard 2s (the Dutch are so keen to shed theirs that they can be had for about €1.5-€2 million each ). I don’t think we should do this either.

I think two things are clear:
1. We need to use the 120 mm Rheinmetall DM62 smoothbore – because the ammunition varieties available and ammunition costs over the life of the vehicles make this the most cost-efficient and combat-effective solution that achieves commonality with NATO
2. We need to use the MTU 883 Ka 501 engine again on grounds of cost and commonality but also for reasons of long-term reliability and longevity.

As soon as you decide that you want a 120 mm smoothbore – and this gun is what would fundamentally upgrade our tank fleet, you need to fit a new turret to Challenger 2 (and all the more so when you include new sights and fire control optics).

The hulls will also need new engines and gearboxes. Again, its far cheaper and more cost-efficient long-term to simply buy a new chassis and Leopard 2 is the only game in town.

We could simply buy a bunch of Leopard 2A7s. The thing is we don’t need them today. We need to have a solution ready by 2020. That’s 8 years away.

My recommendation is that we should conduct a JV with Germany to develop a new Leopard 3 tank that will be a development of the latest Leopard 2A7 but with better protection – Dorchester armour added in a very clever way. This could re-equip the Bundeswehr as well as the British Army, but it could also be sold to Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The sales would fund the development and bring down the cost to us and to Germany. So this could actually be the cheapest solution in the long-term.

One more thing. Right now we have 227 Challenger 2s. Once BAOR is safely re-housed in the UK and we have money in our coffers again, we will want to restore our tank fleet to around 400 vehicles. We’re not a credible ally to the US with less than this number.

November 5, 2012 10:50 am

@X and Phil

I was absent for you’re rather heated discussion on the merits of the planned brigade structures and the alternatives.

X I must confess that I was thinking something similar to what you were advocating, namely that if we are only going to deploy 1 armoured brigade every 10 years then it makes sense to keep 1 brigade containing all of our deployable armour at high readiness instead of spreading the assets across 3 formations.

‘Any expeditionary force generated w/notice is bespoke for the operation. I cannot think of a single occasion since the war where we have deployed a force larger than Battalion in its peacetime organisation’.

Phil if this is the case then why don’t we get ahead of the game and have 1 purely armoured formation ready for operations instead of 3 that aren’t? Surely it would save a lot of resources and faffing around when this brigade is needed, plus it would allow other formations to adopt a lighter organisation which you must admit are generally more useful day to day?

November 5, 2012 11:17 am

Actually Challanger, the 3 units ARE dependent on assuming one is kept ready for deployment, but instead of all armour, the unit kept at readiness is a combined arms brigade. It’s similar to the ships, one at readiness, one absorbing new cadets fresh out of school and the last working down for R&R on a rotating cycle.

If you had an all armour training brigade, you would have something similar, only internally, where you would have one regiment at readiness to be loaned out, one in training and the 3rd working down.

In the end it’s the same thing, just rotating at a different location.

“Once you ditch the outdated notion that anti-tank by tank is critical”

This is a premise that has yet to be proven. And I think you got it backwards, rifled was old, smoothbore is the latest. I know you don’t like what smoothbore is designed to do, but that still doesn’t change the fact that smoothbore is the path most armies are taking. Not only Germany. Internationally.

As for DU, other than the political and environmental concerns, works best with only a single plane of shearing force (part of the “self sharpening” characteristic of DU). Spinning the round not only robs it of energy, but adds more planes of ablating, “eating” up the rod faster. So if you went rifled, DU won’t work that well any more. You can go tungsten core, I think it’s not self-sharpening, but all in all, smoothbore is still better for FSDS.

Which of course is not what you want.

November 5, 2012 11:21 am

Replace CR2 and Warrior by licence producing Merkva 4 :-)

Combat proven, uses 120mm smoothbore, has integrated active defence system, rear compartment very useful for infantry, assault pioneers, CPX etc. Using one chassis for both purposes will drive up the volume to a reasonable number.


Peter Elliott
November 5, 2012 11:58 am

Very sensible. Unfortunately it would casue uproar in certain circles if we were seen to be buying lots of Israeli equipment. (I know we buy bits and peices like Watchkeeper from them anyway but tanks are a high profile item and the press would pick it up.)

Shouldn’t be a huge issue to ‘reverse engineer’ the design and badge it as British. A redesign would be called for anyway to incorportate hybrid drive and whatever else comes along in the next 10 years.

November 5, 2012 12:30 pm

“The days when the tank was the primary means of defeating another tank are over.”

Still, a mounted combat force with a defensive mission needs means to stop tanks and a mounted combat force with an offensive mission needs means to continue this mission when it encounters tanks.

“This is a premise that has yet to be proven. And I think you got it backwards, rifled was old, smoothbore is the latest.”

Depends on how far you look back. Rifled guns were rare until the 19th century. The first guns were smoothbore.

“Why 6-10 million? Once again, I’ve to ask you to justify your figures, not just pluck them from thin air.”

The air isn’t thin to me. :)
That’s the range for newly procured combat vehicles:

Leclerq USD 9.3 million
Puma EUR 7.65 million per unit, overall contract value
Leopard 2 sale to Saudi Arabia supposedly EUR 4 to 7 million (almost no R&D)
Stryker USD 4.9 million per unit, fixed costs not included.
FRES GBP 4.2 million per unit, overall contract value (but bound to rise over the duration of the program and figure meant for more than 3,000 vehicles, so with better dispersion of R&D costs than possible in a MBT probram. On top of that, R&D is limited because of existing baseline vehicle.)

Add to this the commonly quoted ~6% p.a. inflation for Western military procurement, as the program for a new MBT would not start right now, but in the future.

November 5, 2012 1:07 pm

SO, yes or no answer. Is there a transition now from Rifled to smoothbore?

The Leclerc’s price is a bit low. Think that is supposed to be euros. It’s also in the World Records as the most expensive tank. Hardly baseline.

I’m going to leave to others to tell you why Puma and Stryker shouldn’t be on that list.

And IIRC the FRES was

1) A whole family of vehicles, not a single vehicle
2) Not in service yet. Which makes the 4.2M per vehicle a bit suspect.
3) A semi-OTS program, not a design program.

The only example I can even consider as standard is the Leo sale to S.A, and even that is not accurate as it does not factor in R&D. And considering your bias, I can’t help but suspect you got the figure by taking the Leo2 sales then tacking on 2-3M on the price to make it look better.


Most likely. If there is to be a joint project, I’d recommend NOT having the partner in Europe so as to avoid arguments on workshare etc as well as competing in the same market. Israel would be a good partner, maybe Saudi Arabia if they are really interested in diversifying and you can sell the idea that they need to be independent of external supply. Turkey just got theirs with Korea, so those 2 are out, ditto for India.

November 5, 2012 1:17 pm

Merkava 4 is an interesting idea. The US has a different name for the same concept: GCV: Ground Combat Vehicle. Engine in front. Crew compartment or turret at the back. Makes a huge amount of sense, so long as it can be adequately protected.

Simon, in the previous thread on this subject, wisely pointed out the stupidity of using very expensive assets to neutralise cheap and cheerful threats, e.g. Missiles shooting down quadrocopters. Similarly, it is folly to design, build and deploy very expensive assets that can easily be neutralised.

I wonder if this is what will do for the tank.

If you put an entire battalion in Hyundai off-roaders and equip them with hand-held ATGWs, I am sure this formation could do much to neutralise a Russian or Chinese Tank battalion. It all depends on how good the hand-held ATGWs are. If new types of tanks can easily be defeated by a proliferation of the latest RPG models, then armour is a waste of time.

I would definitely want battalions in Foxhounds with ATGWs. But I think I would also want tanks.

Peter Elliott
November 5, 2012 1:18 pm

Just don’t tell the Israelis and the Saudis they are working on the same project .

Probably an either / or there!

November 5, 2012 1:52 pm

lol that was an either / or. Bad punctuation on my part.

Monty, what a lot of these ATGM supporters don’t tell you is that these ATGMs are actually very sparse on the ground. Assuming they swap out the old 84mm RR for a SPIKE, it’s only 2 launchers per infantry company maximum, and that is even assuming that they would put it that far down on the ORBAT. Most likely, it’ll end up in a heavy weapons company, similar to the Javelin. I’m not familiar with how many Javelins per coy for the UK, you’ll have to ask the serving members, but even assuming 6 (USMC, and that is SMAWS), that is ~2 launchers per rifle company that it is supporting.

The concept you are talking about is the ..CAAT? MAAT? US support company. They mount TOWs on Humvees and use them like how you described. Numbers? 6 TOW Humvees per support company.

Very low numbers.

November 5, 2012 1:57 pm

Sky News, this weekend showed an item of the Syrian Ciivil War, they had footage of a Rebel 4×4 Pickup, fitted with and firing a small MLRS!

November 5, 2012 2:08 pm

2p Worth of scepticism.

TD you are advocating

1) New engine
2) New gearbox
3) Refurbished (at least) tracks wheels suspension)
4) New turret
5) New gun
6) New fire control.

Tell me again how this is in any realistic way related to Chally 2?

Also (and I could do with a good laugh) How much do you think this will cost and how long do you think it take? UK’s attempts at ‘ Hang on rest of the world I’ve got a better idea we can do on the cheap’ rarely actually work out. The 120 mm rifled gun being an example.

So yea a Chally 3 or new Leo will cost a packet.

Quite possibly nearly as much as an upgraded Chally 2 by the time the usual suspects have finished with it.

Let’s cut to the chase and go straight to buying the right kit, now rather than after 10 years of hyper expensive buggering about trying to make the usual ‘british’ solution work… A la Chinook Nimrod etc etc.

Peter Elliott
November 5, 2012 2:50 pm


Just becuase current doctrine for ATGW Technicals is to use them sparingly doesn’t mean they couldn’t become mainstream equipment some time in the future.

Before WW1 the British issued only 1 machnine gun per batallion. That was thought to be enough, but cavalry were still plentiful and seen as essential for manoeuvre warfare.

By 1916 there were thousands and thousands of machine guns in service across the Western Front but cavalry as a viable teeth arm had become part of history.

Not saying the same will happen with Tanks and Technicals, but sudden paradigm shifts do sometimes occur.

Peter Elliott
November 5, 2012 2:53 pm

I read TD’s article as saying the above is the menu that we could choose from if we really wanted, but becuase it would cost a bomb and we are skint we will actually make do with just some new computers and sights as enerything else will remain ‘good enough’ up to 2030.

November 5, 2012 3:19 pm


Remember I did avocate a quick build technical for emergency use of civilian vehicles. Large numbers of SPIKE/Javelin armed technicals can work, provided you have the numbers and I see it as sustainable for only a short time for one reason. Cost. Those missiles are hellishly expensive. Vehicle mounting avoids a lot of the size and weight penalty for these missile systems, but the cost per missile is terrible. If it was taken in en-mass, training/maintainance cost will go sky high. More like UOR and not core.

My point wasn’t actually the Humvees, it’s more the impression that ATGM proponents give of every squad with a Javelin/Spike is not true, and that you would get only 2-3 launchers per company due to weight and limited ammo (The USMC only deploys with 3 rounds per Javelin). 6-9 rounds, assuming all kills. An armoured company is 15 vehicles. That is even assuming that they get released from the support company in the first place.

My guess is that for most, SOP is something like letting the infantry act as a tripwire and buffer against armour while rushing ATGM teams to the location. Sucks to be infantry sometimes.

November 5, 2012 4:13 pm

@ Obsvr,
“Once you ditch the outdated notion that anti-tank by tank is critical,”
— Anti-tank has long been a diverse ‘industry’ so to speak. The problem is that no other form of anti-tank weaponry combines speed, cross country mobility, protection and firepower quite like… another tank.

@ Challenger,
“Phil if this is the case then why don’t we get ahead of the game and have 1 purely armoured formation ready for operations instead of 3 that aren’t?”
— Maintaining three brigades at high readiness would cost more is probably a good starting point. The new model adopted allows us some felxibility. We can send a high readiness armoured brigade to one small scale operation and still have two left in reserve for other uses.

@ Monty,
“If you put an entire battalion in Hyundai off-roaders and equip them with hand-held ATGWs, I am sure this formation could do much to neutralise a Russian or Chinese Tank battalion”
— Depends if they’re operating in a vacuum or not. The problem with a Hyundai off roader is that you can rip it apart with machine gun fire. The kind of artillery fire that may or may not damage the optics of a tank will strip the exposed crew off the back of the Hyundai. And in a straight up fight, the tank crew can reload much quicker, probably have access to better optics and have greater off road mobility.

November 5, 2012 4:23 pm

What Chris said.

And the tank has a machine-gun.

November 5, 2012 5:01 pm

Peter Elliot And TD

Official Apology!

Of course Peter you are right as is TD (as always.. Well nearly always there is still his ‘if it flies it belongs to the RAF’ heresy.

I withdraw my remarks aimed at TD. My post should have been a bit more scattered at the various posts of lets upgrad this or that type. My objection stil stand to spending to much money trying to soup up an old vehicle with design issues.

November 5, 2012 6:27 pm

“Phil if this is the case then why don’t we get ahead of the game and have 1 purely armoured formation ready for operations instead of 3 that aren’t? Surely it would save a lot of resources and faffing around when this brigade is needed, plus it would allow other formations to adopt a lighter organisation which you must admit are generally more useful day to day?”

Because they are on a readiness cycle. You cannot keep a formation at high readiness for extended periods of time or indefinitely. By going down to one brigade you effectively reduced the very high readiness component to a company / squadron group and the HR element to a battlegroup whereas with 3 Brigades its 1 Battlegroup at VHR and a Brigade at HR and the remainder able to follow with notice.

It is simply the cost of doing business. If you want a Brigade at HR and a BG at VHR indefinitely you need the 3x Bde structure, especially if part of your mission set is to generate a division. 3X and 16X don’t have to worry about the whole Brigade being on HR anymore nor roulement operations, they simply need to generate 1 unit at VHR.

November 5, 2012 6:27 pm

I’m not beating the drum for Abrams, just thought you tank people might find this interesting:

When Paul G posted his tank article, didn’t we conclude that the UK buy would be too small to justify the R&D costs of a new in-house tank? The idea of buying a licence to produce a modified Merkava sounds intriguing.

Wish my damn American spellchecker would stop underlining every other word! It’s called ENGLISH for a reason :-(

November 5, 2012 7:58 pm

Catching up..
Observer, re. unmanned turrets:

I didn’t say it was completely without advantages, but that the commonly-held advantages do not hold up to scrutiny.

Regarding overall size, remote weapon stations tend not to be much smaller than equivalent manned turrets.

Vision loss starts the second you install a RWS. That a manned turret can be degraded by incoming fire is irrelevant as you can install the same (and better) sensors on a manned turret.

Hull profile – the loader and gunner are in the turret, the driver can be reclined. You could recline the weapon crew and commander but it would make it tricky to evacuate

Lord Jim
Lord Jim
November 5, 2012 9:57 pm


yes youare right there have been many cases where multi-national project have failed, but there have been successes. With a successor MBT few nations will be able to go it alone nore want to so some kind of co-operation will be needed. If you look at the Leo2, it was a very flexible design with it being taylored to the requirements of each customer. The Germans have a very good history in this, AFVs that is. Look at the Geppard and its Dutch variant the Caesar which had Dutch radar and electronics.

I would suggest that a future MBT programme should be German led but the design should be flexible enough that is countries wish they can install their own electronics and even powerplant. Jointly funding such a programme whould reduce lond tern costs as it would allow national requirements to be included in the vanilla design, and allow individual nations to add their expertise to the design such as armour from the UK. Modular armour such as that fitted to the Israeli Merkava 3 and 4 would even allow each nation to fit the protection level they desire to the hull of the tank in addition to choosing which add on variety they wish. The 120mm should be more that suffient btu advances in ammunition will make this more so. I would also suggest a single production line but that is more a political decision than one bases on practicality or economy.

November 5, 2012 10:25 pm

mr fred, compare

Think it’s a 0.5cal on the Boxer RWS

vs the Platt Mount on the Warthog, how can you say it’s not much smaller?

Fact is, once you plan to put a human being in, you have to assign space for him to move about. Most RWS mounts are on light vehicles like the HMMVWs which don’t have much space and weight for a turret mount. Though turret mounts HAVE been fitted on them too.

The picture of the M113 was especially telling for me as I’ve familiarity with the M113 40/50 (40mm GMG tandemed with a 0.5 cal MG) manned turret. The size difference between the 2 systems is massive.

As for sensors, I’ll take your point that the same sensors can be fitted to a manned turret. Better sensors? Not so sure, the only possible better one is the mk 1 eyeball, and buttoned up, you tend to use the vision blocks. Though you do have the option of sticking your head out at own risk.

Hull profile, you’re probably correct, but look at what RWSs are commonly mounted on, IFVs and APCs. The need for an infantry section already inflates the hull to a fairly high profile, so it’s probably less loss than fitting it to an MBT, though the American TUSK does that too.

I’m not saying RWS is “the godlike system, all bow before the RWS”, I’m saying that there are pros and cons to both manned and unmanned, and until 20mm, the tradeoffs are close enough that it’s more a personal preference call as to what your army uses. 20mm and above, manned is clearly the superior system.

November 5, 2012 10:50 pm


Partially true. If you took the Abrams and the Leo aquisition process and added in the initial joint US/German MBT-70 project, the picture actually becomes very familiar. An MBT aquisition process that went totally balls up. The MBT-70 was a project with admirable goals that were just a bit out of price and technical reach. A pity really. The breakup caused the birth of the Leo and the Abrams, good tanks, but still doesn’t change the fact that both were actually the fallback option.

I do agree on the lack of desire to solo design though. I’m still of the opinion that companies should do their own R&D. After all, they are the ones reaping the profits. Not going to happen though. With high risk projects, having a major supplier fold is a disaster for any army.

I still do think Saudi Arabia might be worth a look as a partner. Other close neighbours are trying for local produced MBTs and there will be a drive for them to “keep up with the Jones”. They are also not so familiar with MBT designs that they would try to step on the toes of the more experienced partner. Economically, they are not that badly off, and the boost it gives to their automotive sector would dovetail nicely with their desire to diversify. They are also a desert country, prime tank terrain, so designing for their terrain should be no problem too.

November 5, 2012 11:08 pm


We are talking at different ends of the scale. I was looking at large calibre remote turrets, citing the examples of the Jordanian Falcon turret on the CR1 and the Polish Anders turret.

For the application of RWS, I agree that on APCs and for small calibre weapons they are a sensible option. So I think that we are in fact in violent agreement.

Better sensors – yep, Mk1 eyeball plus direct optics is far higher resolution that any current camera system

November 5, 2012 11:52 pm

Oh, in that case, I’m actually in agreement, large calibre remote weapons really offer no advantages over large calibre manned turrets and huge disadvantages, including the inability to service the weapon and future upgrades.

Guess we really were talking on the wrong ends of the topic.

0.5 cal is the largest I’d be comfortable with on a RWS, and even then I’d worry about the ammo.

If you wanted an infantry bay on a next gen MBT though, you’d have to put people in the turret, else you won’t have any space. The Merkava turret is huge and the Challenger and Leo2’s turrets are not small either, especially the uparmoured ones.

November 6, 2012 12:17 am

“I’m still of the opinion that companies should do their own R&D. After all, they are the ones reaping the profits.”

— Now there is a statement I can get behind all day long. Reminds me of Northrop, who went off their own back to create the F-5 with an eye open towards the export market and ended up selling over 1,500 units.

Or the fact that the Eurofighter prototype EAP was essentially brought together and put up without government support for the longest time.

Funnily enough, non-military manufacturers generalyl see no problem in teaming up with universities or other companies to do their own R&D work because of the sales it subsequently generates. Nor do they expect one customer to fund their entire work schedule.

Who remembers the days when we used to furnish the armies, navies and airforces of many nations with our equipment? Long old time since that happened on a regular basis.

November 6, 2012 1:21 am

“SO, yes or no answer. Is there a transition now from Rifled to smoothbore?”

Of course not. That transition happened from the 60’s to the early 90’s.
The initial transition from smoothbore to rifled cannons happened in the 1850s to 1880s, of course.

“The Leclerc’s price is a bit low. Think that is supposed to be euros. It’s also in the World Records as the most expensive tank. Hardly baseline.”

The UK MoD is known for being inefficient in procurement. I think the Leclerq is a perfect baseline to them.
Besides, I doubt that the French really have beaten the Japanese MBT price tags.

“I’m going to leave to others to tell you why Puma and Stryker shouldn’t be on that list.”

You don’t seem to have gotten the news that modern AFVs cost so much in large part because of sensors and electronics, not because of steel tonnage. They’re like aircraft now; about 40% and more of production costs are electronics and sensors.
The Stryker and Puma with their gold-plated electronics suites are near-perfect on that list – especially the Puma with its small production run.

November 6, 2012 1:42 am

“I think the Leclerq is a perfect baseline to them.”

To the point of a world record? You really have a good opinion of them don’t you…

“Besides, I doubt that the French really have beaten the Japanese MBT price tags”

Think you mean Korean, the K2 Black Panther. Different country, along with the fact that if you called a Korean a Jap, you’ll likely get punched. They’re still furious about the WWII thing, along with a lot more ancient baggage. Historical enemies you could say. Back to MBT costs, the K2 is still cheaper than the Leclerc.

I’ve already suspected you of bias, the fact that you choose a World Record and claim it as standard, along with the fact that you never differentiated between “total contract cost” and “single unit cost” just as long as the number is high just makes it more pronounced. And of course, my opinion of your analysis is already so low it’s sub-terranean.

Lord Jim
Lord Jim
November 6, 2012 4:12 am

AS Observer pointed out the MBT-70 programme did lead to two good designs being developed but as partners the US and Germany found it hard to agree on even the basic layout and especially the armament. The US was wedded to the M81/M81E1 152mm gun/launcher as fitted to the Sheriden and ended up fitting it to the M60A2 as a compromise solution and giving then to the Armoured Cavalry regiments. The Germans wanted a 120mm Smoothbore. The US wanted a Gas Turbine engine the Germans a Turbo Diesel.

The solution I am putting forward is akin to the panavia organisation but with a couple of major differences. Germany would be lead and responsible for the core design with input where needed from other countries. Notice i said “Needed” not allocated due to some workshare agreement. So where a country has to greatest expertise it has input. Yes I know an arguremetn could be made that we built the CA2 and it is better than the Leo2 but how many CA2s were exported compared to the Leo2!

We also cannot afford to follow the US idea of jumping generation with AFV design and wanting the best of everything. What We and many other countries will need is a platform to replace worn out existing platforms. Improvements in capability for sure but evolutionary rather than revolutionary. What I see being developed would be a Leo2 with modular Dorchester Mk2 armour, improved turret design and upto date electronics, the latter of which could be taylored to each nations requirements.

I agree Saudi might be a good partner but they continue to have problems setting up in country manufacturing programmes for anything but basic vehicles. They are more likely to replace the half a fleet due with a competiion between whatever Europe and the US have to offer at that time, then set up a maintenance facility run by the winning contractor(s). If the US is still using the M1A2 in whatever guise existes then there is a chance a more current european design may win.

One thing though about specs for the next MBT. I am strongly in favour of a co-axial 12.7mm rather than the current 7.62mm but would retain the latter for any RWS fitted.

As for the Leclerc, yes it is a good design but the Frence lost million on their export deals as they sold them below cost. I am also not a fan of the three man crew. We are cutting manower to the bone and I can only see this as a further excuse for further cuts regardless of technical issues.

November 6, 2012 4:16 am

Unless SO is talking about the Japanese Type 10, which is currently running at about $10-11 million per unit?

Lord Jim
Lord Jim
November 6, 2012 4:22 am

Regarding national R&D, fine let companies carry on but the way things are heading, few countries will be able to maintain a full spectrum of design and manufacture and to try to do so regardless of cost is unaffordable. The UK for example has a shrinking defence manufaturing base and in no way is it logical to try to maintain a bespoke Rolls Royce capability if we can only afford cheaper platforms.

To do so means the Government has to stump up the additional “New” cash which I see as exsteemly unlikely and I cannot see BAe Systems doing it off its own back. Besides BAE now sees the US as the home of the AFV programme. The French AFV industry is losing money hand over fist and the French and Italians are not much better. Lower level European manufacturers such as Poland, Turkey would make good partners but only Germany has the full infrastructure left to lead a new MBT programme.

I would have loved to have seen a CA3 designed and build but that train has left the station and isn’t coming back. So we either partner up in Europe or buy whatever the US comes up with.

November 6, 2012 5:42 am

Chris, that isn’t even out of prototype stage yet, much less have a production model to compare, and I think the quoted target figure was ~6-7M USD IIRC? It was in one of the reports. I don’t remember anything saying it was 11M or anywhere in that range.

It’s like putting a price on FRES when not even a single field unit has been bought yet.


Think the US is the best bet then. I can’t see any European Consortium not degenerating into a tug of war match between individual requirements, project leadership and workshare.

Lord Jim
Lord Jim
November 6, 2012 8:03 am

The US is a good bet as long as the project doesn’t mirror the F-35, but at least there won’t one version for the US Army and another for the USMC unless they want one that is amphibious and the Air force want one that can fly

John Hartley
John Hartley
November 6, 2012 8:44 am

If the West was serious about new MBT R&D, we would have a US/UK/German 135 or 140mm electro thermal tank gun project.

November 6, 2012 9:10 am

@ Chris.B.
“– Anti-tank has long been a diverse ‘industry’ so to speak. The problem is that no other form of anti-tank weaponry combines speed, cross country mobility, protection and firepower quite like… another tank.”

You only need heavy protection if you get into harm’s way. Close AD provides a model, stay a tactical bound back. The great advantage of Swingfire was its ability to remote the operator from the vehicle, another option is a mast mounted sight. Keep the vehicle out of direct view from its targets, you don’t need heavy armour. Very simple really. Lighter armd vehs can also have better xcountry mobility because they aren’t trying to take tons of dirt with them, they go over it. Just remind me what AFV was used in FI and why? Soft ground is where you want their tanks, just hope the sappers have got the going map correct.

November 6, 2012 9:30 am

“I’ve already suspected you of bias, the fact that you choose a World Record and claim it as standard(…)”

I call you out as a liar, for I never wrote that.
Yes, you were rhetorically inept enough to attempt yet another strawman argument without avoiding an obvious lie. Didn’t you know the dirty rhetoric trick of a strawman attack is supposed to not include a lie? I get strawman attacks directed at me all the time, and very rarely they’re so clumsy.

Trash your ‘suspicions’ a.k.a. prejudices; they mislead you all the time. Try to understand what was actually written instead.

Yes, the Japanese habit of procuring a handful of high-end tanks per year makes their production incredibly inefficient. The Type 90 has been the most expensive tank during its production run as well (333 built in 20 years!) while being an ordinary Western Chobham generation MBT.

Brian Black
Brian Black
November 6, 2012 11:25 am

On companies doing their own R&D. What you’d end up buying is a generic international system rather than a bespoke British design, which doesn’t fit at all the history of MoD procurement. How many vehicle and ship programmes have we pulled out of because we absolutely could not live with some or other design spec? Though we do seem to tough it out with aircraft.
The SV programme might show the extent of what we could manage with an off-the-shelf tank. The ASCOD base vehicle already developed, but not fit for UK service. Similarly, I can imagine us buying an existing tank hull in the future, but developing a British turret for our own specific weapon, sensor, comms package.

November 6, 2012 11:42 am

To be fair, that has a lot to do with the high yen. In yen, the Type 10 is actually a bit cheaper than the Type 90, which is impressive in a world of spiraling costs.

November 6, 2012 1:29 pm

@ Obsvr
“You only need heavy protection if you get into harm’s way”
— Like in a war for example?

“Keep the vehicle out of direct view from its targets, you don’t need heavy armour. Very simple really”
— If it’s that simple, I have to question why the US, UK, France, Germany etc have not disposed of their MBT’s? We even had Swingfire, so we should surely be the experts in that field?

Something like Swingfire is probably not too bad on the defence, but what about going forward? You’d have to constantly be stopping and finding somewhere to hide your vehicle before you could engage, which is not really in the spirit of rapid, mobile warfare. Then you get five shots (or is it 4?), then you have to stop and reload with the crew outside the vehicle.

I don’t know about you but I see a lot of problems with this. You still have all the major protection issues associated with light armoured vehicles as well. The concept of hiding and using remote firing is quite a good one, but fundamentally there are only so many places you can hide, and once you fire you sort of give the game away.

Now what happens to your guy with the remote aiming sight when a pre-arranged artillery barrage drops on his position and either kills him or cuts the cable connecting the sight to the vehicle?

There’s a whole series of major issues which really relegate such a vehicle to being nothing more than an initial anti-tank protection for an armoured infantry force, as opposed to a tank replacement.

As for “them Islands”, I presume you’re talking about light tracked vehicles, which again suffer from a major shortage in protection.

“To be fair, that has a lot to do with the high yen”
— Maybe. Honestly I don’t know a huge amount about the Type 10, just that’s it’s supposed to be quite expensive.

@ Brian Black,
“On companies doing their own R&D. What you’d end up buying is a generic international system rather than a bespoke British design, which doesn’t fit at all the history of MoD procurement”
— Which probably says more about MoD procurement than anything else.

One way of mitigating that is for companies to pick up the phone or e-mail someone in the MoD and get a scope on what the current/future MoD thinking is regarding whatever system it is they’re developing.

If you’re a commercial, non-military company with any sense, then you go out and survey the (potential) customer base to find out what they want. Or build something that’s so desirable that it can’t be missed.

I get where you’re going though. Designing something to a specific MoD requirement can often lead to a product that is not desirable (usually through cost) to a wider market.

November 6, 2012 2:35 pm


“I call you out as a liar, for I never wrote that.”

You may not have written it, but that was what you DID. Just because someone does not say that he did not commit armed robbery does not mean he did not do it.

The Leclerc IS the world’s record holder for the most expensive tank, and you yourself say that it is baseline for MoD procurement. There is a reason it is “World Record” rather than average price. That is NOT a lie, it’s your actions that show it, not your words.

You have also shown a tendency to ignore facts and figures when you don’t like them, which screws up any analysis and conclusions you do. Your evaluations are unreliable on this basis alone. Add a dose of nationalism and parochialism and it becomes totally unreliable.

Should have followed Phil and stop reading, no point arguing with an ultra-nationalist. I’ll just ignore your BS from now on.


I’m with Chris on the external exports, most industry do a lot of legwork to see what their customer wants, and it is much better to get a generic design and tailor to customer requirements than to make it so that it only fits one customer and undesirable for other users. Unless your only customer happens to be continent sized like America or China.

From the 2nd hand Leo2 sales though, we can see that what most customers wants is a baseline MBT that is cheap, which means that any next-gen MBTs, while having adequate armour, also has to be looking for ways to lower cost.

Now.. how can we lower the cost?

Use diesel instead of hybrid-electric? Add on armour modules for 50% of the armour instead of intergrated armour? More dual use electronics like combined TI/NV sights? Less monitors, more vision blocks?

Any other possibilities?

Paper mache armour? :P

November 6, 2012 3:07 pm

If you’re planning (or perhaps just hoping) for large export orders you could go the ultimate cost cutting route and design the tank for ease of production over end use. Not sure how well that’ll be received by the customers, depends how you go about it I guess.

November 6, 2012 4:18 pm


The ultimate practitioners of that were the US in ww2.

The Dakota
The 2 1/2 ton truck the M2 and M3 half track, liberty ship jeep, and more particularly the Sherman, were designed about available commercial components.

That’s why the Sherman ended up with 3 engine types.

Most of the proposed upgrades and new designs after all start with MTU engines, Renk transmissions, Rmtl guns.

To quote paraphrase the great god Clarkson

‘How different can they be’?

November 6, 2012 4:30 pm

I just had the weird image of pouring molten metal into half a tank shaped mold, sheet stamping it and welding the other half on…


Ultimate cookie cutter tank!

November 6, 2012 4:56 pm

“The Leclerc IS the world’s record holder for the most expensive tank, and you yourself say that it is baseline for MoD procurement. There is a reason it is “World Record” rather than average price.”

Yes, and the reason is that no new British tank was produced lately and no entirely new British tank has been developed for quite some time. Another reason is that the U.S. attempts at developing new tracked AFVs are regularly aborted and thus leave the Leclerq / Type 10 unchallenged.

“You may not have written it, but that was what you DID.”
“That is NOT a lie, it’s your actions that show it, not your words.”

What exactly are my “actions” if not my “words”? Do I paint here, record audio, send in clay statues? My only actions here are words and punctuation.
The problem isn’t in my words, it’s in the “actions” I “DID” only in your fantasy. Thanks for pointing that out.

November 6, 2012 6:49 pm

SO & Observer


They all cost more than a the national debt of a Small African country. OK!

The reason new proper armoured vehicles are rarer than a competent politician these days, is because to go to the limits of modern technology with tanks is about as expensive as it is with fighter planes.

I would not hold ones breath waiting for a new western tank. And given that MBT 70 was one of the original multinational F’ck ups. I would have thought any european country suggesting ‘lets get together and build a new tank’ would suffer a tumbleweed moment.

November 6, 2012 6:58 pm

@Mr Fred.,

Ten years ago, I would have agreed with you about RWS. But optics have come such a long way recently that cameras positioned on a RWS top cover can provide superb all-round visibility. So maybe RWSs are now viable?

If you mount the gun by itself on a remote station with a 20-round magazine and autoloader behind it (with extra ammunition carried inside the hull below), this allows you to reduce turret size, the need for armour protection and the overall weight of the vehicle by about 30%. If you place the crew in an armoured box just behind the engine (now mounted at the front), there is no reason why they cannot poke their heads out ahead and below the gun. They will have excellent forward and sideways vision. There is no reason why the fourth crew member cannot face rearwards.

The overall weight reduction by my estimates for a better overall level of protection would be from 60 tonnes to 40 tonnes. This type of system has been successfully mounted on the US Stryker 8×8 AGS. It works well.

If a common platform for a dual-role infantry carrier and tank vehicle is the way ahead, then the infantry carrier will have a larger, higher compartment in lieu of the turret. In fact, there would be scope to create a third vehicle with 40 mm CTA cannon for reconnaissance. This might be the infantry version with a turret and reduced crew capacity.

Certainly the single platform concept is gaining currency. It makes sense. Why shouldn’t infantry be as well protected as tank crews? It also reduces development costs. Using a wheeled 8×8 for comparison, the Italian Centauro and Freccia vehicles use a common platform but are quite different vehicles.

I’ve said it before, but I’d like to see the UK adopt an 8×8 infantry carrier and tank destroyer vehicles to complement Ch2 and Warrior formations. This would give you heavy armour at one of the scale, medium 8×8 wheeled armour in the middle, and light 4×4 Foxhound-mounted mobile formations at the other end of the scale, plus heliborne airborne forces. That would give us a true multi-role capability. (While Foxhound is fine as a 6-seater vehicle for light armoured battalions, I don’t think Jackal is right for the Cavalry role. Open, unprotected vehicles just don’t stack-up in the brave new world of IEDs IMNSHO.)

We do need some form of highly agile light armour. I just don’t think that Scout SV is an effective replacement for CVR(T). Perhaps the best we can hope for is a Foxhound variant with some kind of turret – a Fox CVR(W) reloaded? personally, I would like to see a new lightweight, fast tracked vehicle developed – a protected Bren gun carrier.

Does anyone else think that Scout SV will get canned in favour of upgraded Warriors? If not, can anyone tell me what a Scout SV can do that an upgraded Warrior with the same 40 mm cannon cannot?

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
November 6, 2012 7:02 pm


Procurement is a funny business and we in the UK are trying to get better. Not helped by Government interference and the continual cutting in number adding to the R and D costs per unit.

Bear in mind Germany has paid 500 million pounds for each F125, A Frigate with only a CWIS for AAW and no Sonar!

November 6, 2012 8:38 pm


Make sure that you are not treading the path that Observer and I went down. I refer to large calibre remote or overhead turrets.

This very moment the resolution of available cameras are insufficient to match the detail afforded by direct optics. For a comparison the iPhone screen is referred to as a retina display – the pixels are too small to be individually resolved by human eyesight. This is true only at arms-length. Think how many such screens and accompanying cameras with high-definition video feeds would be necessary to give an all around instantaneous, real-time view. Then take all that electronics and harden it to survive the environments that a military vehicle is subjected to. Then supply the power that the whole assembly requires. Then work out the reliability you require from every piece of the chain to maintain operational effectiveness.

If I mount the gun by itself plus 20 rounds in an autoloader? I get this:
OK, it is narrower. I had it in mind that the autoloader bustle flared out more, like the Anders does.Once you put the sights on it bulks up a bit in terms of vulnerable area.
You end up with a substantial part of the turret still there and needing to be protected. Side and roof areas are the same, if the bustle is larger you start getting around to having the same frontal area. as it isn’t then you get some saving there. But 20t saving? I doubt that most strongly. The turret barely weighs that much.

If you put all your crew in an armoured box behind the engine then you end up with a turret right at the back, crew who can’t operate head-out when the turret is active, dire depression angles for the weaponry over the front arc, a head-out view with very low restricted lines of sight, no view to the rear, limited or no access to the weaponry to maintain it or fix it if it goes wrong and an entry and exit route that crosses the path of the co-axial weapon.

Then, if something gets into the crew compartment it will kill everybody, if you lose power or the connection between hull and turret then you lose everything in the turret and your crew is more likely to lose track of where the turret is in relation to the hull.

I agree on the common base platform – each weight band, light, medium and heavy, should be based around a common chassis. It make tactical and logistical sense.

Open vehicles would concern me more in a conventional scenario than against roadside bombs, or at least any scenario featuring proximity-fused airbusting artillery shells. Heck, even Major Henry Shrapnel’s Spherical Case shot would put them in severe trouble.

November 6, 2012 9:38 pm

Monty, one very big good reason not to sit backwards while watching a monitor. Extreme nausea. That was one of the MBT-70’s killers. If you have a turret pointing in a different direction to the direction of travel and fed to a video screen, the difference will make you go “BLEERG….!!!”

For your multi-platform idea, it might be expensive. The Warriors will serve as Armoured Infantry, but the Infantry regiments will be using Jackels from the info above. Upgrading them to 8x8s would cost more.

It looks like they are going with 3 Armoured Infantry Brigades and possibly 7 Motorised Infantry Brigade Minuses (lol Motorised Rifles sounds so Russian), which are actually more like a Brigade+ considering that they only contain 9 Regiments, and 1/3 of them are tied up with “Standing tasks” (6 Regiments for deployment?)

Or at least I’m hoping it’s a regiment considering that they are mixing the symbols and terminology. I’m seeing Regimental descriptors with Battalion unit symbols, and Battalion descriptors with Battalion symbols, but 3-9 Battalions for a Brigade is a bit short (at 9. At 3 it’s… “you call that a Brigade??!! Go do it yourself!!!”).

High chance I’m misunderstanding something. That is a bit too small for an army, unless they mean 9 battalions per Brigade for all 7 Brigades. Which is more likely.

Dangerous Dave
Dangerous Dave
November 6, 2012 10:19 pm


Re long-rod penetrators, DU/CHARM3 etc.

“It uses a two piece ammunition design, unlike the 120mm smoothbore designs that use a single piece with combustible cartridge. There are benefits to this but one of the downsides is that the penetrator rod cannot extend back into the charge housing. This is how the length (and effectiveness) of the smoothbore penetrator is achieved, the length to diameter ratio being one of the determinants of performance.”

Agreed up to a point. The reason the penetrator of a smooth-bore APSFDS round goes into the charge casing, is precisely because it is a one-piece round. Making the projectile longer would make the round too unwieldy to handle in an MBT turret.

The L30 rifled gun on Challenger2, of course takes 2 piece rounds, so making the projectile longer (with the extra length protruding into the barrel instead of into the charge casing) is less of an issue as projectile and charge are handled separately in any case. Of course there may be issues with driving-bands, CoG of the projectile at it travels down the barrel, and, sabot design to make sure reliable impulse is achieved. But those are mere engineering concerns (!) I’m sure the concept of increasing the projectile length is feasible :-)

November 6, 2012 10:20 pm


Sounds like you are falling victim to the conspiracy that is the British Army nomenclature “system”. As a basic rule:
Armour and artillery are formed and deployed in Regiments, which are battalion-sized.
Infantry are formed and deployed as Battalions. The battalions belong to a regiment, but the infantry regiment is not a deployable unit and varies in size between two and six (if memory serves) battalions.
Brigades are deployable and are built, primarily, out of battalion-size units (in fact that’s a bit of redundancy – a Battalion is a Unit, a Company would be a sub-unit) A Brigade is roughly equivalent to a US-style regiment (i.e. 3 units) although it has become bigger by subsuming the support units that were previously part of Division, in order to become an independent formation.
A Division, back in the days when we could field them, would be three Brigades plus support units.

Hopefully that fogs the issue even more as I’ve probably got things in there wrong and the reality is of course even more complex and riven with exceptions and contradictions.

November 6, 2012 10:26 pm

Dangerous Dave,

The Projectile must be balanced and the Sabot must be as light as possible. The sabot cannot be driven much past the commencement of rifling without more force than can be applied.

It may be “mere engineering concerns” but there are limits beyond which it simply will not work.

If you could produce a suitably rigid or encased and sufficiently insensitive propellant, you could have part of the propellant surrounding the base of the rod like the increments on a mortar round and extend the rod back as far as you need with shorter propellant charges.

November 6, 2012 10:38 pm

So the Regiment is a Regiment until it is a Battalion, in which case it is no longer a Regiment but a Battalion which is attached to a Regiment which is not a Battalion. And Brigades are made of Battalions which are Regiments and Regiments which are not deployable. :P

Panadol please…

Has the UK ever considered renting out your training areas for military equipment? :)

November 6, 2012 10:52 pm

It’s easy! A regiment is a battalion unless its a regiment of infantry then the regiment of infantry has separate infantry battalions!

No exceptions I can think of!

Confused? Think of my poor girlfriend as I tried to explain to her that I was with one unit, but I would be going to Afghan with another unit, which was going to change its name for 6 months but would still be the same unit as before and that just before I went the sub-unit of the re-named unit of which I was sent to from my unit which was part of the same unit anyway was changed to another sub-unit name.

November 6, 2012 10:59 pm


And the postal service works. A miracle! :)

BTW Phil, there was a bit of discussion on ATGMs above, and I was wondering, how many Javelins to a Heavy Support Coy? Any idea?

November 6, 2012 11:02 pm

German naval procurement is as close to subsidising as it gets without being officially recognised as subsidies by the EU. The unneeded and overpriced 3rd EGV (universal replenishment ship) is an even better example than the colonial patrol cruisers.

Rolf Hilmes, the leading German tank expert, wrote a decade ago that there’s no Leo3 project any more because 600 million Euro (or maybe then DM) would be needed for the development. Well, Puma did easily bust this, for the industry obviously decided to treat this rare project as a cash cow.

November 7, 2012 12:58 am

On Electro-optics – the resolution of the sensor and pixel density of a display are very, very different things ! It doesn’t matter if your displays are “retina” displays (yeah, thanks for that one Apple !) if your turret top sensor CCD only has a “resolution” of 2 Mega-pixels.

Based on some research on the net, a human eye looking through a vision block with a 120 degree field of view is roughly equivalent to 567 Mega-pixels, which would require quite a large format CCD ! (far from impossible though).

However, once the bullets fly, shells explode or whatever prompts our fearless crew to button up, things become rather more complex dont they !

Direct view vision blocks require protection from physical damage just the same as camera apertures do ! Electro-optics provide advantages in viewing multiple wave lengths and night vision, and in hardening against lasers (how many frequencies do your “laser hardened” googles protect you from ?).

Advantages of the human eye in peripheral vision, acuity, ability to detect motion etc are drastically negated by weather phenomenon, good camouflage by the prospective target, and a whole range of other factors.

Finally, tank commander in a full turret is higher up and thus has a better field of vision – erm’ OK, yeah, and we could put him on a horse and give him a telescope…… no seriously, I am sure there are indeed scenarios where this could be tactically important, but equally I can think of many where there are non.

Monty – ref:
“If a common platform for a dual-role infantry carrier and tank vehicle is the way ahead, then the infantry carrier will have a larger, higher compartment in lieu of the turret. In fact, there would be scope to create a third vehicle with 40 mm CTA cannon for reconnaissance. This might be the infantry version with a turret and reduced crew capacity. ”

Sounds like your talking about a heavier, better protected version of the Polish Anders – or the Merkeva / Namer.

“We do need some form of highly agile light armour.” –

Why ? What do you want it to do that cant be done by BVS 10 Mk 2 or Warthog ???

“can anyone tell me what a Scout SV can do that an upgraded Warrior with the same 40 mm cannon cannot?”

Well how about:
1. Not break down as often
2. Be easier to maintain
3. Do two things at once – as in, would we have enough Warriors to convert to meet the multiple requirements ? (including the whole fleet management approach, training fleet etc.)

November 7, 2012 3:53 am

As much as I like export sales, I won’t consider a Warthog as a wartime armoured scout vehicle. It was designed as a supply transport first and foremost, and won’t fair well against enemy scout tanks. You can use it as a supply/troop transport for infantry recce, because it’s the infantry that is going out, but as an armoured skirmisher, anything 0.5 cal and above would cut holes in it.

You will really need something like the Warrior or the FRES SV for more direct fire protection and a bigger gun to work on parity for the armoured recce role. Though the idea of a Merkava MBT scout is rather interesting… :) At least they won’t be expecting it!

If it is cost fesible though, I would like a scout to have at least semi-amphibious capabilities. It would allow the scout to sneak in through axis that the enemy don’t expect, avoid mined roads like what the Warthog does in Afganistan and would allow for them to break contact by evading through a river axis or water body.

BTW Jed, you free to talk about fireplans?

Peter Elliott
November 7, 2012 5:18 am

Talking about Recce:

Presumably one feature of a Diesel Electric hybrid could be an option to run in a ‘stealth’ mode for short distances, ie with reduced acoustic and thermal signiture by switching off the diesel engine and running on battery power.

Bet it would still clank a bit though.

Peter Elliott
November 7, 2012 6:35 am

Here’s a story about British bus manufacturer Alexander-Dennis.

It has a lot to say about hybrid diesel-electric drive. The fuel savings are real. Given the high cost of in-theatre diesel fuel the whole life business case for military vehicles should be compelling.

What the article also doesn’t mention is that the engine technology used in the buses is sourced from BAE.

Finally very good to see a British manufacturer which was saved from bankruptcy a few years ago is now sustaining itself by designing its product range to be attractive for export.

Maybe we should hire Alexander Dennis as build partner for our new Merkava derived design?

November 7, 2012 7:50 am


“I have to question why the US, UK, France, Germany etc have not disposed of their MBT’s? (1) We even had Swingfire, so we should surely be the experts in that field? (2)

Something like Swingfire is probably not too bad on the defence, but what about going forward?” (3)

(1) FUD on their part, better the deveil you know than the unknown.

(2) Unfortunely the Brtish Army is not notably sharp on corporate memory, add to that Swingfire wasn’t ‘main armament’ in RAC a bit of a fringe single troop in a regt. The innovation and greatly imprved training standard occurred when they were in RHA btys under top-notch imaginative BCs, when it reverted to RAC the dead hand took over again.

(3) Tactics, tactics, tactics don’t be so mesmerised by technology. As I said re Close AD Tactical bounds, moving from fire position to fire position. Isn’t this what MBTs are also supposed to do? Or have the amateurs taken charge of the zoo? Obviously if you are in umpteen sq miles of flat and featureless terrain then you might have no option but flat out, straight ahesd. However most of the planet isn’t like this.

November 7, 2012 8:55 am

Another point, I think the Firepower claim about tanks is a bit iffy as well as mobility and protection. Firepower it not just about a big bang, sustainability is another issue and affects all direct fire systems because ammo replen can be a tad tricky. Perhaps this is why tanks are so keen on shooting at other tanks – there aren’t too many targets therefore not too much chance of running out of ammo and having to withdraw to replen at an inopportune moment.

November 7, 2012 10:03 am

Aren’t we forgetting that a Tank, whether it be a Challenger 2, Panzer III or the MkI, was and STILL is a Shock Weapon of War.

In the last 96 years, no matter where the Battlefield. You wouldn’t want to be in a trench, watching one come at you!

November 7, 2012 11:27 am

Simon; I suppose you would be surprised if you learned how many tank “attacks” and “counterattacks” even of WW2 were actually a move into range and then hammering with the guns while not moving much any more.

This did change somewhat, but not completely, with fire-on-the-move (which was possible at short ranges in WW2, too: U.S. tanks M3 Stuart and later had a stabilised main gun).

Tanks don’t gain much advantage from closing with the enemy once he’s in their range and psychological effects are rarely simulated in exercises,

November 7, 2012 12:25 pm

@ Obsvr,

You really think we all cling to MBT’s because of tradition and fear of the unknown? I strongly doubt that. Perhaps it’s more that Swingfire is not designed to replace the tank gun, more just a defensive measure for lighter formations.

As for tactics, tactics, tactics, somehow I don’t think waiting for the unit in front to hunker down in a gully somewhere, send someone running out with a sight and get set up before the next unit can move is really in keeping with the spirit of rapid, mobile operations. Providing of course that the desired terrain is available for employing the Striker in the mode you require. You’d spend half your time just scouring the terrain ahead for locations suitable for the employment of the Swingfire system.

As for firepower, how is it you see a vehicle with a very limited carrying capacity, and an extremely limited, single use ready load, as being superior to a tank that can carry a much greater load, of a more diverse range of ammunition?

If anybody is going to have to withdraw for fresh supplies at an inopportune moment, then it’s going to be the Striker with its five ready rounds and five reloads, which it would be forced to use for both armoured and lighter targets.

And all this still doesn’t overcome the problem of the Strikers high degree of vulnerability when compared to something like Challenger.

To me it seems nuts. Striker is totally inadequate as a replacment for an MBT.

November 7, 2012 12:30 pm

@ S O

Standing off an opposition force, and annihilating them with superior firepower has been human nature, since we learnt to throw rocks! Only the Technology has changed, the basic strategy hasn’t!

Mike W
November 7, 2012 1:20 pm

“Does anyone else think that Scout SV will get canned in favour of upgraded Warriors? If not, can anyone tell me what a Scout SV can do that an upgraded Warrior with the same 40 mm cannon cannot?”

I can do no better than quote Jed’s reply to you:

“Well how about:
1. Not break down as often
2. Be easier to maintain
3. Do two things at once – as in, would we have enough Warriors to convert to meet the multiple requirements ? (including the whole fleet management approach, training fleet etc.)

We desperately need to update our armour fleets. I saw a Warrior on display at a major Armed Forces Day in the West Country and it looked as if it had been salvaged from the local refuse tip! We need to inject new blood as soon as possible.

“I just don’t think that Scout SV is an effective replacement for CVR(T)……….I would like to see a new lightweight, fast tracked vehicle developed – a protected Bren gun carrier.”

Isn’t there likely to be one developed before long? I am thinking of the BAE CV21. Now that could be a real moneyspinner for BAE. They won’t stick with it of course.