Over the last couple of weeks the British Army has been dusting off the cobwebs and testing its ability to deploy the lead armoured task force from 3 DIV.
1,650 personnel and 570 vehicles conducted the move from barracks to a centralised mounting point in Ludgershall and then to various sea, air and rail ports of embarkation to demonstrate their ability to deploy on operations. The exercise also saw loading onto a ‘Point Class’ Strategic RORO vessel at Marchwood and offloading at sea via a Mexeflote with a follow up beach landing.
Rail; Warwell and Warflat
Mexeflote and Point Class RORO
Combined Arms Demonstration
This is the Army getting back into the business of deploying armour and is an impressive sight to see but those photographs do paint a somewhat depressing picture.
None of the vehicles were what would be considered the current Theatre Entry Specification (TES) because there simply isn’t enough of them to form a task force of this size, the CVR(T) has been in service since the early seventies and the FV432’s in service since the early sixties. The Jackals have a survivability question mark hanging over them should they be used in a combined arms maneuver operation against a competent well equipped enemy and when SV arrives it won’t be traveling on the same warwells and warflats as CVR(T) shown in the pictures above. SV Scout is in the pipeline but there exists no production contract as yet, the Utility Vehicle replacement for the FV432 seems a distant dream, Warrior CSP seems to be shrinking every week and the Challenger 2 is approaching obsolescence at a rapid rate, if it isn’t there already. The sustainment plan for Challenger will incorporate the absolute bare minimum to stave of spares availability, any ambition of replacing the engine or main gun are distant memories. I also wonder if the underlying issues with whole fleet management uncovered by Exercise Black Eagle a few months ago have been resolved, or was that a stricltly local issue?
Out of service dates for the main vehicles are below:
|Vehicle Type||Planned Out Of Service Date|
|Driver Track Training Vehicle||2025|
|Challenger Armoured Repair and Recovery Vehicle||2040|
|Saxon||Out of service|
|Snatch Land Rover (1, 1.5, 2 and Vixen variants)||Out of service|
|Snatch Land Rover (2A and 2B variants)||2024|
|Snatch Land Rover (Vixen Plus variant)||2024|
|FV 430||Out of service|
The Army of 2020 will have 5 years to count down to the out of service date for Challenger 2 and Warrior but does anyone else think the OSD of Panther, Bulldog (FV432 refresh) and CVR(T) are some elaborate joke?. The Bulldog base vehicle was designed in 1958 and CVR(T) rolled off the production line when flares were hip and groovy yet they are intended to stay in service longer than Warrior and Challenger 2.
As the British Army marches on towards its vision of Army 2020, we have to ask what kind of Army it will be, one fit for the challenges of 2020 and beyond or one best suited to an episode of the Antiques Roadshow.