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The Antiques Roadshow Comes to Salisbury

British Army Exercise Tractable - Mounting Point 02

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.

Mounting Point

British Army Exercise Tractable - Mounting Point 02

British Army Exercise Tractable - Mounting Point 01

British Army Exercise Tractable - Combined Arms Demnonstration 04

British Army Exercise Tractable - Combined Arms Demnonstration 03

Rail; Warwell and Warflat

British Army Exercise Tractable - Rail 06

British Army Exercise Tractable - Rail 05

British Army Exercise Tractable - Rail 04

British Army Exercise Tractable - Rail 03

British Army Exercise Tractable - Rail 02

British Army Exercise Tractable - Rail 01

Mexeflote and Point Class RORO

British Army Exercise Tractable - Mexeflote 06

British Army Exercise Tractable - Mexeflote 05

British Army Exercise Tractable - Mexeflote 04

British Army Exercise Tractable - Mexeflote 02

British Army Exercise Tractable - Mexeflote 01

Combined Arms Demonstration

British Army Exercise Tractable - Combined Arms Demnonstration 14

British Army Exercise Tractable - Combined Arms Demnonstration 11

British Army Exercise Tractable - Combined Arms Demnonstration 10

British Army Exercise Tractable - Combined Arms Demnonstration 09British Army Exercise Tractable - Combined Arms Demnonstration 08

British Army Exercise Tractable - Combined Arms Demnonstration 07

British Army Exercise Tractable - Combined Arms Demnonstration 06

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
Challenger 2 2025
Driver Track Training Vehicle 2025
Challenger Armoured Repair and Recovery Vehicle 2040
Trojan 2040
Titan 2040
Warrior 2025
Saxon Out of service
Samson 2026
Spartan 2026
Scimitar 2026
Samaritan 2026
Sultan 2026
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
Mastiff 2024
Jackal 2030
Vector 2015
Bulldog 2030
Panther 2037

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.

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187 Responses

  1. We bought 2 elephants. Less than Hannibal had admittedly, but still crucial for land warfare.

  2. Going how long it seams to take to get new equipment in to service we are going to have to look at Chally2 soon. That out of service date is not that far away (2025).

    Do you think we are going to come over all Belgium and not replace them?

  3. I could see Challenger II replacement drifting five years to the right at least maybe more. I can’t see the Army entirely wanting to give up their MBT capability but on the other hand I don’t see how a replacement will find funding.

  4. Certainly there will be calls to do a major upgrade of Challenger II beyond the current minor planned SLEP. You could put a new power pack in it without too much pain, replace the running gear and electronics etc but to put in a Smoothbore that would require a new turret. Once you do that as well you are close to the point you might as well buy a whole new tank off the shelf.

    If that is the case it boils down to who can still do that these days, wouldn’t touch new build Abrams with a barge poll personally as they are rather expensive to run. So Leopard 2 variant maybe, they are up to 2A7+ in their product line:

    Or maybe a wild card like the South Korean K2 Black Panther (even if it does look like a Science fair):

    Or maybe one of these new Stealth concept tanks that BAE Systems and others produce promotional material for?!

  5. Fedaykin, I think there was talk of an FRES variant along the lines of the stryker mobile gun system replacing challenger2s at one point.
    Not something I personally would like to see happen mind, If it was brought in to supplement our lighter forces that would be fine with me. Though I would like to see a mortar carrier variant developed too.

  6. I thought a Challenger 2 Life Extension project at least existed on paper with some concept studies going on even if it hasn’t actually been funded yet?

  7. As well as looking at the state of the sexy kit, spare a thought for the Engineer and logistic support kit without which all else is useless. Bridging – BR90 is facing an upgrade to cope with ever heavier CR2, but that is (I would guess) most likely to focus on safety and unlikely to extend its (relatively low) fatigue life – probably the opposite. Also, the vehicles that carry panels and launch equipment are capable but already 15 years old and unique to this equipment so supportability will be an issue soon. For wider gaps we have M3 amphibious bridging which is now 20 years old, albeit lightly used. As for MEXEFLOTE – the grand daddy of them all – it was designed at the Military Engineering Experimental Establishment (MEXE) at Christchurch in the 1950s and originally made in the early 60s. It was about to be scrapped when the Falklands war demonstrated that we would be stuffed with out it. In my day the annual event was to move the programme funding line that was called “MEXEFLOTE Replacement” one year or more to the right, to allow sexier kit to stay in and still balance the books. I suspect it vies with FV430 vehicles for the title of oldest antique in the road show.

  8. The Korean K-2 or the Japanese Type-10 (assming the Japanese can persuade themselves to export weapons) are probably the better option for Britain. Newly built Leopards might not actually be cheaper, and they aren’t really designed to interface with all the shiny new technology Korea put in their tanks, nevermind that the A7 concept does not even contain a hardkill system and largely fixes some leftover problems from Afghanistan.
    Adapting the K2 would be an issue because it is mainly designed to beat North Korea, so it would likely work against Russia, but be at a greater risk in cities. Based on existing adaptions of anti-Russia-tanks for urban warfare that should be managable, though much of the protection of the K2 relies on NERA (like ERA, only rubber behind the top plate instead of explosives, so it can be used without murdering supporting infantrymen) and the base armor is only strong in the front.

    The biggest issue is probably that all larger European gouvernments are unwilling to import high-profile military technology, except if it comes from the US. Which is fairly odd, considering how little input the US allow people to give when they export things.

  9. “We bought 2 elephants.” – “We” being the army budget?

    Hannibal would never have had to cross the alps if the Romans hadn’t built a fleet (twice) and defeated the Carthaginians at sea thus shattering their grip on the Mediterranean.

  10. @TD

    A brilliant post, TD. You have summed up succinctly and incisively the state of the Army’s armour.

    What Jeremy says about Bridging is true but the Engineers are quite well off for armoured vehicles (Titan, Trojan and Terrier). However, the general state of the British Army’s armour is pretty abysmal at present. FRES SV and the Warrior upgrade will make a difference when they finally appear but will be nothing compared to what we need.

    I remember writing a few years back in one of your threads that, unless something was done, we would end up with block obsolescence in armour. It’s arrived, hasn’t it?

  11. @ Mike W

    “FRES SV and the Warrior upgrade will make a difference when they finally appear but will be nothing compared to what we need.”

    So what do you need and why?

    Feel like I am on the DS today.

  12. It is a staggering indictment of the complete mess that the MOD/Army (they have to share the blame) have been made out of vehicle procurement! Just looking at the table getting into the situation where eleven different vehicle types need replacing within a three year period beggars belief! Especially considering how much time and effort has been spent looking at replacements over the decades.

    I just keep on thinking about the recent procurement of the Tide class for the RFA, on time and on budget with £150 million being fed into UK industry to do the high end fit out whilst the South Koreans do the steel bashing! That is how a defence procurement should work not this farce and the Green types whine about CVF, get your own house in order!

  13. This comes back to the basic question of what exactly does the UK want to be (or be able to do). The strategic questions that can then be answered (and well documented) by the Chiefs of Staff Committee.

    It would be nice if the SDSR2015 could actually define these strategic requirements.

  14. APATS

    Will have to answer in detail later, possibly tomorrow, She-who-must be obeyed- has just called me to a meal and there are other things to do after that but will reply. Cheers!

  15. @Sazuroi

    I wouldn’t hold your breath over the British Army every operating a Japanese tank! Ironically I showed a friend of mine who is an ex British army tanker and was involved in the CR2 procurement the Type-10 a few months back. He was rather dismissive feeling it probably lacked armour being under 50 tons, also the unit price is a bit steep. Technically Japan has opened up to the idea of exporting its defence equipment but going on what recently happened in Australia it might take plenty to persuade Japanese manufacturers to even try!

    When the Australians invited Japan’s two main manufacturers of their Diesel subs to a conference they flatly refused. They are used to dealing with one customer “Japan” and have a fair amount of reluctance entering the international defence market:

  16. APATS

    What do we need?

    We don’t need an army with heavy armour.

    We Don’t Need Elephants

    We don’t need 35

    we don’t need half our forces.

    We choose to be interventionist to regard events half way round the world as our business. To worry about our place in the world WASAWPYK. and all that.

    In order to do that there is pretty much universal agreement amongst the armed forces of the world that we need tanks and heavy armour.

    So no I can’t give you a figure- I don’t know enough to do that.

    Some new ones is all I know.

  17. @ IXION

    I read the first 90% of your post and switched off before I got to the bit before you admitted you did not know. perhaps you could find a forum called “lawyers against government policy as it interferes with my legal aid budget” :)

  18. @Sazuroi

    “they aren’t really designed to interface with all the shiny new technology Korea put in their tanks”

    No…they are designed to interface with all the shiny new GERMAN technology that Leo users put in their tanks.

    ” largely fixes some leftover problems from Afghanistan.”

    Which means that the Leopard 2 , unlike K-2, Altay, T-10 et. al. , is actually tried and tested.
    And as for APS , several systems have been tested on the Leo2 by both Rheinmetall and KMW, but none of their customers have asked for it as yet.

    But i don’t think the UK needs to buy a completely new foreign MBT at all ……..because there is ooodles of development potential left in the chally….what’s lacking is the will(and money perhaps) to actually embark on a serious upgrade program. Installing modern sensors and electronics is relatively cheap and easy , the drivetrain should be fine for the forseeable future, and if not a ready made drop-in-pack could be purcased from the now Rolls Royce owned MTU.
    They only real critical part of the challenger is its gun. The armor piercing rounds for the L30 is at best marginal against present and future threats and with little room for improvement. The lack of a modern programmable multi purpose round is also a great handicap.

  19. I thought I might start a blog about the actual defence of the country rather than how we stick our nose into others. Lord West was wittering on about Yemen yesterday. Oh great another worlds lightsocket for us to jam our dicks into and flick the switch…….

  20. @ Ixion

    Or a blog about how isolationism works (see US for examples) or how defence starts 12 miles off the coast, have a look at what we import and where it comes from. Or a blog about justice only matters when you are getting paid for it (screw the rest of the world). Genius.

  21. @MikeKiloPapa

    “They only real critical part of the challenger is its gun. The armor piercing rounds for the L30 is at best marginal against present and future threats and with little room for improvement. The lack of a modern programmable multi purpose round is also a great handicap.”

    And therein lies the problem, to put a new gun CR2 you need a new turret! Once you go through the effort and cost of designing a new turret for CR2 plus upgrades to the whole vehicle you are rather close to it being easier and cheaper just buying a whole new tank.

  22. @Fedaykin

    “to put a new gun CR2 you need a new turret!”

    No you dont ! (i think ;-) ….) …you need to “clean” out the existing turret and design a new bustle.

    I know the previous attempt at mounting the Rheinmetall L55 gun and the official reason why it “failed”..and i dont buy it. The Challenger 2 turret is not significantly smaller (if anything its bigger) than the Leo’s and neither is the intruding part of the german gun that much larger than the L30.
    The big issue as i understand it, was ammo stowage. That because of the larger one piece round the total ammo carrying capacity would have been to small. But IMO that is bull, because a M1 style turret bustle would be able to accomodate at least 30 rounds in blow-off protected compartments. A further 5-10 could be carried beside the loader beneath the turret ring.
    I think what killed the project was cost, and perhaps a little NIH syndrome kicking in ?

  23. Discussion Point:

    Is a 120mm gun still required or is the concept a dinosaur?

    Alternatives includes smaller, faster firing weapons with exotic natures (e.g. 57mm Bofors, 76mm Oto) including rocket assisted rounds combined with missiles that can either be fired cooperatively or directly.

    How is a 120mm used operationally: In the open, in terrain, in an urban setting? Could these “smarter” weapons bring superior performance in these settings?

    What would be their limitations?

  24. @The Other Chris
    Interesting point to discuss.
    When the Iraq’s invaded Kuwait the defending Kuwait army Alvis Saladin with its low velocity 76 mm L5A1 gun was able to destroy Iraq T55s
    I would also question if armour protection has increased enough to make the 120 rifled gun ineffective that if need replacing.

  25. @TOC

    Some form of large caliber direct fire capability is required yes, though not necessarily a 120 mm gun.
    The overall concept is about as obsolete as carriers, attack helicopters and nuclear submarines. I dont know if you would classify them as dinosaurs ;-)

    “How is a 120mm used operationally: In the open, in terrain, in an urban setting?
    In all of the above + a few others. A modern MBT can be used with equal effectiveness in attack as well as in defence, it can be used for surveillance(overwatch positions). In woods and urban settings it can operate succesfully with the help and support of infantry. In short the tank is an extremely versatile piece of equipment.

    “Could these “smarter” weapons bring superior performance in these settings?”


    “What would be their limitations?”

    Range, accuracy and lethality. For missiles, excessive costs compared to kinetic munitions would be a factor.

  26. According to an industry observer the UK no longer has the industrial plant to build MBT. Does this invalidate the talk here of updating Challenger? I assume the observer was referring to the Vickers plant @ Newcastle, Elswick?

    The next APC design, which I thought the UK had adopted, is a Spanish design and we will assemble it here from imported parts.

  27. Use is what it come down to. During WW2 something like 90% of rounds fired by tanks where HE so they spent most of there time supporting infantry and providing fire support. They just did not have to carry out direct combat with other tanks so did not need to use AT rounds.

    It also raises questions of how you use artillery and indirect fire against armour.

  28. One thing that a modern smoothbore 120mm gun would give you access to is some of the more interesting multi-purpose and time-fused projectiles which would somewhat increase the operational flexibility. A modern 120mm is no less ‘smart’ than any other calibre.

    That said, if you were going to give up on anti-armour KE performance, you could pack a 105mm which has much of the same shinies these days and gives you more rounds stowed for a given mass and volume.

  29. @MikeKiloPapa

    Sigh, when they put the Rheinmetall L55 on CR2 BAE Systems the manufacturer, the MOD and the Army found the total bomb load was reduced to six rounds. The CR2 is fundamentally configured in a different way. It uses three part ammunition with combustible case charges stored in the hull using wet storage below the turret ring, rounds are stored in the bustle and an ignitor stored in a magazine beside the breech mechanism. The bustle on a CR2 turret is significantly smaller than on a tank configured for a smooth bore 120mm, just look at a comparative picture of a Leopard 2 alongside a CR2 if you don’t believe me:

    There just isn’t the room in the bustle for many one piece rounds even if you somehow cleared it out. On the other hand your suggestion of somehow cutting the old bustle and extending it to fit the one piece rounds is pretty much a non-starter. That assumes you can just gas axe it in that way regardless of the integrity of the whole structure, that would be a significant intervention on the metal beyond the exotic and top secret Chobham bolted on. It also assumes that it is even reconfigurable to accept one piece ammunition without great cost. It would be easier to design an entirely new turret, considering the turret has all the most expensive bits of the tank beyond the power pack you end up very close to just drawing a line under it all and buying a whole new tank.

  30. davidbfpo – Vickers plant in Leeds (ex-Royal Ordnance Factory) closed soon after BAE bought Alvis-Vickers; the Newcastle site (Vickers) closed when GD won FRES-SV and the CV-90 lost. I believe the plan was to modify Swedish built CV-90 to full UK spec at the Vickers works. All BAE’s UK armour work now resides at the ex-GKN works in Telford, which might cope with MBT sized vehicles (Warrior is not much different in width & height terms) but may be challenged by the weight of the hull, both floor loading and crane capability. And of course if a new line is needed the chances are new production machinery would need installing to suit.

    As for all capability lost? Not really. There is specialist knowledge required in the engineering (design & production), there are specialist materials and security aspects involved, but essentially the task is to build a 70t vehicle. As was proven in WW2, truck plants and locomotive works can quickly switch to tank production if the need arises; maybe the next generation MBT will roll out of the ex-BREL railway yard at Derby?

    As for ASCOD being assembled in the UK? I’m not sure there’s been a definitive company statement, but a Spanish employee at DVD when the PMRS vehicle was on display said he thought all vehicles would be Spanish built, with just things like radio fit done in the UK. Bear in mind he spoke no English and I speak no Spanish, so there may have been missed nuances…

  31. On the “Who needs MBTs?” notion. There’s also the issue that the enemy gets a vote.

    For example the oft repeated notion that light/mechanised infantry and CAS is the way to go; because planes or IFV’s killed x many (old, knackered and poorly crewed)tanks in the Gulf War. Well any competent enemy is going to roll their tanks over your infantry and rush your airbase. They’ll lose a lot of tanks for sure, but how many need to make it inside even the largest NATO airbases perimeter to put it out of action? They don’t even need to make it that far if they can escort some MLRS/SRBM/Howitzers into range.

    You can switch the specifics around in that example all you like. The point stands.

    Remember the Taliban took out an entire USMC squadron with a handful of guys. Also remember that even though those Saladin’s took out some of the oldest least capable MBT’s in the world they were still over-run and their country still fell.

    The best description of a tank I ever heard was “Battlefield Bully”, nothing can match it’s ability to fix the enemy and shape the battlefield. Whether that’s pressing them back or holding the line.

    There’s still nothing else on earth that can kill as many tanks as fast as a tank, let alone keep doing so day after day. The only things that come close all need to RTB afterward being gone for hours at minimum, day’s at worst. None of which can weather sustained enemy fire.

    Compare the fates of the stranded Chally that took huge amounts of AT fire and was back in the fight in hours in GW, to the Apaches in the Karbala gap forced back by machine guns, 1 lost with crew captured, rest out of action for a month.

    This who needs tanks nonsense has been going on for 20 years and yet in every major conflict in that time tanks turned out to be needed. As far as I’m concerned it’s a nonsense propagated by those who either don’t want to pay the bill or would rather you spent the money on their product instead. It still amazes me that otherwise sensible people even entertain the notion. No other competent military on Earth would hear of it. Most still invest heavily in keeping their tanks in top shape.

    We need to suck it up and pay the piper for Chally 3.

  32. The changed armoured environment (ie masses of tank divisions equipped with reasonably advanced tanks are no longer the main concern) makes HESH ever more important. This needs a rifled tank gun.

    The reason there is approaching mass obsolescence is a consequence of the last 12 years of operations where heavy armour had only limited relevance. It’s also useful to note that 105mm Lt Gun (ISD 1975) and AS90 (ISD 1994ish) are also due out in 2030.

  33. Well we’ve got IXION’s overall strategy – insular defence only.

    How about other’s?

    Intel gathering? Where? Continuous?
    Policing? Where? Continuous?
    Intervention? Where? How big? How long?
    European defence? What scale?
    Homeland defence? What scale? Nuclear?
    Humanitarian? What scale? Who? RN? RFA? RAF? Army?

  34. If you want to reduce the number of fights* in your own back yard** you need to have the inevitable ones in someone else’s back yard instead.

    * Fights: Diplomatic, economic, humanitarian and of course those of an unfortunately more bloody nature. If we hadn’t “intervened” in SL/Liberia, would Ebola still be relatively contained to that “back yard”?

    ** Whenever there’s a dust-up in a back yard, damage to windows (so to speak) is sure to ensure.

  35. @APATS, @IXION: “lawyers against government policy as it interferes with my legal aid budget”

    That’s the Law Society, surely?

  36. Obsvr – we might suggest the real reason for the upcoming cliff-edge of obsolescence is because there has not been a military equipment refresh strategy for decades now; in its place are on the one hand grand studies leading to protracted and vastly expensive procurements (Sexed-up Technofest, Overpriced, Very Late projects – STOVL) and on the other, infills of UORs to cover for the future not-yet-here STOVL equipment (the Just F***ing Buy Something projects – JFBS). Thus we can segregate procurements into the two groups – Mastiff, Jackal, Warthog are JFBS, carriers, F-35 and FRES are STOVL. Funnily enough, the RN and RAF seem much less prone to JFBS panics, managing to fill their capability gaps with vacuum.

    It might be realistic that there are no long term military equipment strategies now; back when they seemed to be in place we had recently finished WW2 and Korea and were focussed on one threat, the USSR. A situation that was not only constant but potentially catastrophic, keeping public approval for defence investment high. Many UK citizens would now happily lose the armed forces altogether if the beloved NHS got the cash instead. Without public support the funds will be limited more and more, without a constant enemy and constant funding there will be no strategic equipment programmes all neatly interleaved and scheduled to reach service just as old equipment retires. Expect then one or two STOVL glory projects but mostly JFBS panic buys for the foreseeable future.

  37. @chris

    Pretty much agree albeit with the carriers the cost overruns and delays were Labour and coalition governments induced by in large. They could of main-gated them several years earlier and only did when the great one eyed financial genius realised there was an election coming and failing to get them through main gate would harm his constituents. Then the trip off into reconfiguring for CATOBAR sucked up further funds for no return.

  38. It seems the new Russia family of heavy armour ,Armata, is in early production both the MBT & APC . Both on a common(ish) chassis and are to operate side by side at the leading edge of combat .
    We may see them on display in their final form at this years Victory day parade in Red Square.
    The old T-80 is posted as having a combat weight of the early forty tons , as our new GDLSCBP ( General Dynamics Land Systems Common Base Platform) can perform at up to 42 tons , a base for a medium weight MBT? Down into the shelter it is…..

  39. With the exception of the lack of numbers, and the issue around UV, I rather think TD is overdoing the issue. The recce and IFV situations are in the process of being resolved (albeit at a snails pace but its at least happening) and the MBT may be 25 years old but design wise so is the technology in everyone elses. Only the new tanks from Japan, SK and Turkey could be said to offer any improvement and thats almost entirely derived from using a newer powerpack.

    MoD OSDs have long been a joke and I wouldn’t worry too much about what they about obsolescence in capability terms- because they say nothing about that.

    The one issue to watch the new Russian family; the early photos suggest to me that MBT is derived from the Objekt 195 prototype but with a smaller main gun- if that is the case then they may have moved the needle but time will tell. The IFV for now seems to have stuck with the standard Russian 30mm and may not really offer anymore combat wise than rehashed Warrior does.

  40. @Hohum, pretty much agreed. I don’t think we should be fixated on age. UORs / Afghan hasn’t helped the refresh strategy, hence it being late. We need to work, in my view on pushing Mastiffs etc down the chain, but that will take time. Ultimately, a reaction force of 3 heavy brigades (Challenger / Warrior / FRES SV), 3 Medium Brigades (FRES SV / UV) and an adaptable / contingency / home defence force of 3 or 4 light brigades (the rest of the kit – and forces) – ie ‘hi plus – true lo’ rather than ‘Hi – fudge’ combination.

    UV needs to be as close to off the shelf as we can get. I’m happy for FRES SV to wear a degree of gold plating. Warrior upgrade will keep it relevant. Longer term roadmap should be what comes after Challenger, in the meantime keep tweaking it.

  41. Warrior is having a Lockheed built new turret amongst other things and will push its OCD to 2035 if all goes well and is budgeted for in the WCSP but the C2 Life Extension Programme whose research cost £15m is nowhere in sight as so much is in the air , new gun / same gun ?, which power pack (MTU Europack?) , which electronics ( what’s in the SV Scout? ) and will not be announced until SDSR 2015. Me just buy some nice new Leo2A7’s , by the time BAE ( who tightly hold the IP and design rights ) have f**ked us about it will be cheaper. Mark my words ( that’s Deutschmarks’ as there will be no Euro by then) BAE will be true to form plus the Army have fell out with them.

  42. ‘What Jeremy says about Bridging is true but the Engineers are quite well off for armoured vehicles (Titan, Trojan and Terrier)’

    All of which outrun their support who are in Bulldogs and Panthers. Which now means rather than the armoured battlegroups having to slow down so as their close support units can catch up, which was not too much of a problem when the armoured engineer vehicles were based on the cheiften chasis and the formation had similar performance’s, we now have within those close support units the lead elements needing to slow down so their support elements can catch up which can start to become a bit of a headache and also dimishes your capability to use the newer vehicles to their full potential.

    The Bulldogs in the armoured infantry which are carrying the mortars do not suffer to the same extent as they have the range of their weapons in their favour whereas you need to physically be their to breach. Although the ABSV variant I believe would solve this for the armoured infantry units, has anyone got any info on the project?

    ‘MBT may be 25 years old but design wise so is the technology in everyone elses’

    Although everbody else has continuosly upgraded the systems within the vehicle such as fire control, battle management, transmission etc with the Abrams and Leclerc currently on the 3rd upgrade.

    From the pictures it seems we should have prioritised FRES UV over Scout.

  43. With all the slagging off about BAE and tracked things with turrets, weren’t they right about the Warrior turret?

  44. Challenger has had its upgrades, most notably BGTI. I don’t know what happened to P-BISA though.

  45. TOC – in what way right about turrets? Do you mean the now dropped idea of LM to cut Warrior turret fronts away to install the CTA but retain much of the back/top of the original? I met an Army chap at Bovington a long time ago who said Warrior turret hatches were too small for soldiers wearing the modern kit. Maybe LM should have listened?

  46. Chris,

    LM did what the requirements sheet demanded, and MoD ok’ed it. I’m glad the decsion was changed but the whole affair, whilst embarrassing is hardly a big deal. The project is still under its cost cap.

  47. Challenger has not been upgraded to BGTI. Only Warriors and Scimitar had BGTI upgrades as part of the Bowman uplift. CR2 still has P-BISA intigrated into the FCP.

  48. @Think Defence

    I think you paint too bleak a picture.

    The Challenger 2 LEP hasn’t been cancelled or curtailed. The decision not to fit a 120 mm smoothbore gun at this stage was because a new supplier for its 120 mm HESH ammunition was found. Yes, the Rheinmetall L55 120 mm smoothbore is probably a better gun with superior ammunition types, including a programmable HE round, but the gap between this and Challenger 2 is not as significant as some people would suggest. As of today, right now, I would say that Challenger 2 is a better all-round tank than the Leopard 2A5, if not the A6 and A7+. It is certainly better protected.

    I don’t think it makes sense to spend money on a new tank right now. I do think we will need to replace Challenger 2 before 2035-2040, but that penny has already dropped within MoD circles. I would say that we will more than likely look to replace it sooner rather than later, probably starting around 2025. That being the case, certain people believe we should spend as little as possible now. The vehicle electronic architecture, fire control system, and driveline are clear priorities since they will ensure commonality with a generic BA battlefield management system as well as system reliability.

    If this is true for Challenger 2, it is also true for the Warrior CSP. This hasn’t been cancelled or curtailed either. And unlike CR2, Warrior will get a new gun, the 40 mm CTAI cannon, which is starting to look like a very impressive weapon indeed, despite initial misgivings. A production order for Scout SV hasn’t been delayed and will follow shortly after the final Scout SV vehicle is shown at DSEI this September.

    FRES UV (now called UVW) is also funded and has a very clear path to service. I know, because I’m involved with it. Given ongoing development of the 8×8 genre since the US Stryker brigades first entered service, the latest designs are significantly more capable than the vehicles that entered service between 2002 and 2008. In terms of off-the-shelf solutions, the Patria AMV+, KMW Boxer, GDLS LAV 6.0 / LAV700, VBCI+, CIO Freccia/ Centauro and ST Kinetics Terrex are all viable contenders – we could buy any one of these vehicles and have a first class solution. The MoD has budgeted for 800 to enter service from 2020-2021.

    Looking further out, there is a clear recognition within Army circles that we need to invest in a new MBT. This is a bit of ‘volte face’ from just 18 months ago when quite a few politicians were saying that the tank had become obsolete. MBTs may be less relevant to the most expected deployment types, but clearly we still need them in the event of a substantial peer-to-peer conflict.

    The US Abrams M1A3, which is currently under development, has a diesel engine option which adds significant combat range while reducing operating costs by 14% per mile! We could partner with the USA to develop an improved armour package that offers increased protection without an increase in gross vehicle weight. We could also partner with Germany to develop a Leopard 3. This will have a completely new turret, which is already under development. Leopard 3 might be our best option if we wanted a new MOTS design quickly. Producing any of these vehicles in the UK would not be an issue. BAE may have closed its facilities, but GDLS has built a new factory for Warrior and Scout SV turrets. They could and would easily expand their facilities if we bought Abrams.

    We will also look to acquire a replacement for Warrior from 2025 onwards too. With the development work done on Scout SV, adopting the ASCOD 2 would be easy, especially since it was originally developed as an IFV. The USA is also developing an improved version of the Bradley M2 fighting vehicle. This will have an upgraded driveline as well as replacing the 25 mm Bushmaster cannon with a new 30 mm cannon. it would be easy to mount a warrior 40 mm CTAI turret on a Bradley. The German KMW Puma IFV, however, seems to beset with problems. They’ve had to add an extra road wheel to improve cross-country mobility, so the automotive testing programme needs to be repeated – adding time and cost to deployment plans. The hull is so low and cramped that the infantry can only be accommodated in reclining seats. This makes a speedy exit from the vehicle is also uncomfortable to use for long periods. The UK has examined the Puma but doesn’t like it – with good reason IMO. It’s a rare mis-step from the Germans.

    Ultimately, UK thinking is that 8×8 wheeled AFVs can add a significant rapid deployment capability and for that reason are highly desirable (and more so than Jackal or Foxhound) because can transport a whole section to deliver more boots on the ground). However, once vehicle weight grows above 30 tonnes, you need tracks. It isn’t a case of wheels instead of tracks but wheels plus tracks. The US and German armies have adopted this structure. We will also adopt this structure when UVW arrives. The French and Italians have moved predominantly to wheels and i tend to think this may be a mistake.

    So, on balance, I think that the UK’s AFV strategy is sensible and well-considered. Yes, we do lack money. But we’re not as vulnerable or lacking in capability as you suggest. If the balloon does go up and we quickly need to buy new AFVs, the range of MOTS solutions available now is considerable.

  49. @Monty

    ‘FRES UV (now called UVW) is also funded and has a very clear path to service. I know, because I’m involved with it.’

    Excellent, can you tell us whether we are looking at entire brigades or battlegroups based on the vehicle or just as a Bulldog/432 replacement within our current set up?

    If we are going for entire formations are these going to be earmarked as the most likely units to be deployed due to their easier logistics and deployability?

  50. @Kent
    Like it – did you see The Simpsons where Homer designed a new car for his brother.

    @ All the oldies
    Reminds me of the news excerpts for Ex Lionheart 84.

  51. Neil,

    Correct, my mistake. Does anybody know how well P-BISA works? If it does what it was meant to do and does it reliably it should be an impressive piece of equipment.


    M1A3 doesn’t really exist. There are a series of technology demonstration programmes but the will and the money are not there to make any major changes. The US Army will keep playing with prototypes but a wholesale upgrade programme is a long way off. The vehicle is currently expected to last until 2050.

    Leopard 3 is also not what you think it is; there is single budget suggestion for some very preliminary studies- and nothing else. And looking at how messed up Germany military procurement is it is unlikely to go anywhere fast.

  52. Hohum,

    P-BISA works very well. There was a little bit of push back by some crew commanders until they were shown it working in all of its glory. After that as soon as they thought it was not working they cried for it to be fixed. Different regiments utilise full data differently. We embraced it when we first got Bowman and think we’re pretty good across the whole battleground as we continually push it’s use.

  53. The EuroPowerPack which incorporates the MTU 883 V12 diesel ( an evolved version of the Leo2 plant) has been successfully fitted in the Challenger 2 E and in some demonstrators for the Turkish army when they were interested in the M1A1 . The South Koreans in their K2 and the Turks in their Altay use it as well as the UAE Le Clerc Tropicalise . If the C2 is re-engined its likely to be the favourite. The unit is built under licence by General Motors and has been incorporated in various US armour prototypes , the Crusader SPG and the USMC new amphibious assault vehicle ( in the water had a short duration rating of 2600hp ! ) but like many US armour project like the GCV now shelved. It is likely to be the engine of choice in the new German-French MBT research program to but who knows what will be next.

  54. Oh and Puma, before we all pile in with the usual uninformed Scout is too expensive and evil and it eats kittens and its not British and blah, blah, blah. Puma is now expect cost €4.4-€4.8 billion (up from an initial budget of €2 billion), numbers have been cut from 400 to 350 and its 53 months behind schedule.

  55. @Monty, I’m heartened by that analysis. Other than a direct Challenger replacement in due course, there seems a decent plan, slow perhaps but we can probably take that risk post A’Stan

  56. monkey,

    The MTU883 is not an evolved version of the Leo 2 plant, it is a completely different and physically much smaller engine to the extent that when you put one in a leopard 2 it leaves a 1m long hole length-ways in the engine bay. It has also been tested to 1,650hp. The Turks have just signed a contract with a Turkish firm called Tumosan to develop an indigenous engine for the Altay, this after a failed attempt to acquire the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries engine from the Japanese Type 10 MBT.


    Thanks, P-BISA is one of the great unsung upgrades of the British army in recent years- easily forgotten but if as you intimate its doing what it was meant to be doing then its a very significant improvement indeed.

  57. @Hohum
    I didn’t realise the Turks had placed an order to develop the indigenous 1800hp unit yet but it wont be ready for the first production run of 250 ( out of a 1000) so they will use the lower powered 1500hp MTU unit to start with. The Altay is evolved from the K2 but is heavier to suit their needs and they feel the need for the extra power as they will operate at higher altitudes than the South Koreans too. The 873 is indeed much bigger than the equivalent 883 unit but in the way of engineering one leads to the other .

  58. @Kent

    I think a “Continental Siege Unit” might be a bit too provocative. :)

    I think all this talk about a new MBT is a bit premature. The important thing is the recovery of the economy first, then saving. Only after that comes the spending lest we run out of money half way and are forced to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    As for collaborations, that is a tough one, the timing is totally wrong. Unless you want to do a Russian co-op, not many other countries are in the market for a new design. The French have their fairly new LeClerc, the Asian countries have their new designs already, which focus more on mobility than the heavy armour concept that the UK is used to and the Germans simply don’t have the finances or the inclination. Only ones that I can think of that might be interested are the Russians and the Chinese. And if that happens, we can go ice skating in hell!

  59. monkey,

    883 and 873 are different engines. One only need look at Altay to realise its heavier. The K2 may be indigenous but it looks astonishingly similar to a design from Wegmann from the late 70s/early 80s.

  60. One last thing on weather the gun needs upgrading. Armour-piercing fin-stabilized discarding-sabot (APFSDS) so charm3 can overmatch any current armour including our own Dorchester armour. Remember the tank triangle armour, fire power and mobility. No one can up armour to defeat APFSDS for the same reason that kill heavy tanks in the 50s. So its down to fire power and mobility then.

    If the gun can not be defeated with armour then you have to increase mobility which is the root the Russians took (low profile high mobility low armour).

    To defeat mobility you have to have a gun that can be more accurate or can our range your opponent.
    120mm rifled is fine for that so no need to upgrade.

    our armour is fine so that just leave improving mobility so power pack is what needs changing.

  61. @Thread – the first commercial Graphene product has just been released…a pricy (but very long lasting) light bulb which suggests that although expensive the material is viable for industrial production…so lets see a consolidated product line of everything from bullet-proof boots to a new generation of SSBN’s by 2020 shall we? :-) After all, technological and industrial development has been driven by military needs since Julius Caesar was a lad, and we have a very good track record in that area (it being 600 years on, check out how many longbows and arrows Henry V took to France).

    Comes out of Manchester, so feeds into the “Northern Powerhouse”…would be an industrial world beater on the same scale as the Railways or the Web…we have an election coming up…all it needs is a politician with balls, backbone and vision to make it happen…there’s even an election coming up to win hearts and minds.

    Bollocks…I knew there was a massive snag…I’ll take more water with it. :-(

    @Deja Vu…Lionheart ’84 has it’s own re-enactment society these days…saw them at Chatsworth at the end of the summer.


  62. @as

    I think the issue is the DU round, CHARM3 is still capable of penetrating/overmatching any armour but not the Tungsten equivalent.

    The Tungsten penetrator fired from the German L55 can overmatch enemy armour.

  63. I just don’t see the point of Tanks anymore – we hardly ever use them and they are just too easy to take out.

    I would be 288 attack helicopters instead as these are far more flexible. Tanks are a thing of the past and although helicopters do need to return to base (that base can be anywhere with fuel and munitions, therefore it can be 1mile or 100 miles behind the front line. The ability to get in cause havoc and back out again is massive.

    Given the amount of money defence seems to have I would vote for helicopters that can be used daily over tanks that frankly we will most probably never use in anger in this country.

    If there is another Iraq – I am sure the US will be happy to deploy tanks if we deploy a 100+ apaches instead. Its all about bang for your buck I am afraid and Tanks just aren’t worth the money.

    It looks great seeing it all out on exercise – pity its older than me for the most part.

  64. @APATS

    As promised yesterday, here is my reply. I shall probably get into trouble with TD for indulging in fantasy fleets but I don’t consider these to be fantasy. Rather a necessary correction to all the cutbacks we have suffered over recent years. Here are just a few suggestions:

    Actually, since I started writing this, I have been considerably cheered up by Monty’s contribution and in the light of his more informed knowledge, some of my suggestion might appear fanciful. However, I am going to press ahead and if people tear these ideas apart, so be it.

    We need a serious upgrade of the Challenger 2, not just the stripping of retired Challengers to provide the parts necessary, something called Obsolescence Management, I believe. The tank needs a new powerpack (1,500 hp) like the one fitted to the the Challenger 2E (an export version produced by BAE a few years ago). This has been mentioned by other people.

    More importantly, it needs a new gun. If fitting the smoothbore German gun is not feasible, because of problems regarding ammunition storage, then a new turret must be the answer. I was, however, somewhat surprised by the point that Obsvr puts forward about the changed armoured environment making HESH ever more important, which in turn makes a rifled tank gun necessary. Perhaps a certain number of the rifled gun versions should be retained then.

    On the subject of FRES SV, both a greater number of the vehicles and other variants are required. 590 (approx.) is not a bad number for starters and Lockheed Martin UK was awarded a contract for over £650 million to manufacture 245 turrets for the Scout SV. However, the original plan for approx. 1,240 vehicles in five blocks has been cut back severely and it looks as if Blocks 1 and 2 have been conflated. The obvious candidates for new variants are an anti-tank missile variant and a direct fire vehicle. Ambulance and manoeuvre support vehicles are also needed but these might very well come under the ABSV programme, if it survives (see later).

    As far as the Warrior upgrade programme is concerned, it has been reported that Lockheed Martin are also upgrading 380 of the Army’s Warrior vehicles with new mission systems and fully digital turrets. The facts and figures relating to this upgrade are far from clear, however. Although Lockheed Martin have quoted this figure for turreted vehicles, some sources of information suggest that the figure might be as low as 250 – grossly inadequate for six Armoured Infantry battalions. It is far from clear where other variants (e.g. recovery and repair vehicles, ambulances, etc.) fit in to the scheme.

    The situation regarding ABSV is also confusing. Has it even been funded yet? The MOD/ Army’s decision to “run on” the Bulldog until 2030 puts the ABSV programme in doubt, I feel. If it went ahead, that project could produce some of the missing, but vital variants we need: e.g. a mortar vehicle to replace the FV 432-based vehicle, an ambulance version etc. Even an ABSV anti-tank missile variant has been suggested and there have been reports that the Army is trying to obtain funding for it.

    FRES UV seems absolutely vital to the future of the British Army’s mechanised formations (at present, while Mastiff fills the role, called Heavy Protected Mobility Battalions). The Mastiff, although a superb vehicle in COIN warfare, is cumbersome over rougher terrain and not the kind of vehicle to fill the fast-moving, off-road role needed in mechanised units. Still Monty seems to be suggesting that things are moving on the FRES UV front: “The MoD has budgeted for 800 to enter service from 2020-2021.” That is really good news.

    Monty’s comments rather worry me in one respect, however, and that concerns what he says about PUMA. He asserts that the German programme seems beset with problems (the need to add an extra road wheel to improve cross-country mobility, the hull being low and cramped (reclining seats for the infantry) etc. My question is, isn’t the PUMA developed from the same base vehicle as our own FRES SV? Does it have some of the same problems?

    I haven’t said anything about the plans for a MRV(P) because I don’t know much about the project. However, the time is approaching when we shall have to replace both the Landies and the Pinzes by something far better protected and, ergo, something armoured.

  65. @Pacman27 – Haven’t seen attack helicopters operating in sandstorms, monsoons, or hurricanes. Just sayin’.

    A friend commanded an M1A1 Heavy in Desert Storm and took three direct hits to the frontal armor (two turret/one hull) from 125mm tungsten-steel APFSDS T72s at approximately 500 meters in a sandstorm. (His was the only Abrams the Iraqis saw.) The projectiles stuck like darts in the armor without penetration. His tank remained operational until the maker’s reps replaced it a couple of days later to take it to the rear to demonstrate the survivability to our allies (to sell more tanks).

    Helicopters cannot hold ground, and, if the enemy has a first class ADA network, they have survivability issues as well. If a tank breaks down, it doesn’t fall from the sky.

  66. @pacman

    I think that’s horribly misguided. Attack helicopters, like the A-10, are useful tools when properly employed. But they aren’t a standalone. Abandoning heavy armored and mobile artillery is basically saying you never intend to fight under and condition where you don’t have near total air dominance and massive SEAD support against a capable foe. Not to mention weather conditions and other such events.

  67. On a side note we do not have another anti tank vehicle other the chally2 since we retired the FV102 Striker – Anti Tank Missile Vehicle with no replacement. we need a new tank destroyer more urgently then we need a new tank. There are lots of missile systems we could base it on Brimstone, Lightweight Multirole Missile (LMM) or TRIGAT-LR (PARS 3 LR).

  68. @Hohum
    As you say the South Korean K2 has a genealogy based on earlier designs. Perhaps we are in a fortunate position here in the UK , we have an MBT acknowledged as having world class static armour , an accurate 120mm gun and even the existing fire control system holds it own at present and a simple power pack change to the same series ( v12 ) as the Scout SV ( v8) would help it along untill we really need to change. I say fortunate as you have already mentioned the new Japanese , South Korean and Turkish tanks all will have seen a decades service which we can learn from. The Israelis no doubt will be moving forward too. The Franco- German project should yield some ideas and who knows what our bods on MI6 will be able to discover about the Amarta series ( a example to strip down would be mind blowing, who knows what you could buy on the blackmarket for a few million and a Swiss passport ) . The Poles’ are developing an MBT of their own too all of whom we could learn from to either buy MOTS or go our own way.

  69. As a retired schoolteacher I know nothing about armoured forces other than what I have read online and in histories of ww2, Korea, the Gulf wars etc. We need effective forces, but seem not to have any political leadership with interest or knowledge of defence and security. The UK cannot afford to develop all the equipment we need. We have to work with other nations as we did in ww2 on the development of radar etc. Surely this should be part of the EU, working together to develop the equipment and forces necessary for mutual defence and security. But then the EU cannot even sort out fish quotas. Obviously we need close cooperation with the US and other nations to get the best cost effective solutions.

    Spending on defence research, engineering and manufacturing produces high quality jobs and spin-off technological advances. Do we have any political leaders aware of this? Tyneside was once a centre of major defence industries, what is left?

    What is the role of heavy armour in the modern world? I do not know, but it might be very useful in defending the Baltic nations if Putin continues flexing his muscles. What about against IS? A powerful armoured force spearheading armoured infantry could do a lot to destroy the “caliphate”.

    Agile lighter armour with high performance armour penetrating missiles fired either from the vehicle or from a drone seems a very useful area of development. An agile multiwheel troop carrying vehicle with one or more attack and surveilence drones for support could be very useful and flexible for many possible scenarios. With modern technology do you need heavy armour to defeat heavy armour? (or high performace fighter aircraft to defeat high performance aircraft?) Is this the age of the long range missile?

    We need effective forces and the means to deploy them. Politicians please wake up before we are all stuffed. Our armed forces are at least as important as our banks or even the sacred NHS so get your priorities right.

  70. DavidNiven / MikeW,

    How UVW vehicles are used / deployed is still under discussion. Initially, the plan was a like-for-like replacement of Bulldog/ FV430 within Reaction Force infantry battalions. More recently, analysis of the accumulated experience of US Army Stryker Brigades in Iraq, German Army Boxer battalions and Polish Army AMV battalions, both in Afghanistan, and French Army VBCI battalions in Mali, suggests that dedicated medium armour formations could be preferable / practical / affordable.

    I would like to see the UK’s Adaptable Force reconstituted as a second Medium Armour division equipped exclusively with 8×8 vehicles. it is certainly not an impossible scenario. In addition to equipping nine infantry battalions with an APC version, I’d convert the three Jackal-equipped cavalry regiments to an 8×8 Direct Fire Varaint – something like the Italian Army’s Centauro. I’d also want command, recce, anti-tank, mortar, repair, recovery, ambulance and other variants. This would give us a rapid (by road) deployment capability that would enable us to send a brigade-size force across Europe within 72 hours (assuming the Chunnel was open). Being able to deploy wheeled formations rapidly buys more time to deploy heavier tracked formations.

    Within the current Army 2020 plan, we could easily field two divisions, each with 9 infantry battalions, including a heavy (tracked) armour division and a medium (wheeled) armour division. We would have an additional 3 infantry battalions that could placed within a light air portable brigade (equipped with Jackals / Foxhounds), 3 air mobile battalions (instead of 2), a SF Support Group battalion and five further battalions for Cyrpus, Brunei, Gibraltar and Public Duties.

    With Putin re-igniting Cold War tensions, the Army 2020 structure proposed by the 2010 SDSR is already obsolete. Of course, we should not pretend that Army 2020 is anything more than a deficit-driven cost-cutting exercise. By the time 2020 comes, I think we will have identified a number of important existing capabilities that need reinforcement not retirement.

    Many of the suggestions about Challenger 2 upgrades (new engine, new vehicle architecture, new turret etc.) make a lot of sense. The problem is that the turret of a CR2 is the single most expensive component, not the chassis. If you need to change the turret you might as well buy a new vehicle. As discussed on TD 2 or 3 years ago, a 120 mm smoothbore turret was developed for CR2, but abandoned on grounds of cost. It would have made much more sense to buy all 440+ of the Dutch Army’s Leopard 2s at about 1/3rd of the price of upgrading our CR2 fleet. I believe they were offered to Finland for about €250,000 each!

    I don’t think that a direct fire version of FRES SV makes sense. i would rather have more MBTs. If there is a genuine case for a medium tank, that requirement may better filled by a wheeled 8×8 direct fire variant.


    You’re right, the Abrams M1A3 doesn’t exist per se; I was using that moniker as a generic term to describe the next generation of Abrams. At any moment in time, the US DoD has a number of upgrades that could be quickly implemented if the need arose. A workable diesel engine solution has existed for a while now, and other proposed upgrades, including a 140 mm gun, could be brought into service within 12 months if necessary. Like us, the Americans are evaluating the case for heavy tracked armour versus wheeled medium armour.

    Any existing 120 mm tungsten penetrator can obliterate any existing MBT. Period. So focusing on adding extra armour to our MBTs is pointless unless it makes them proof against RPG-29s and the like. Far better, to focus on the gun itself and acquiring as many vehicles as we can for the money. Our obsession with quality seems unwise. During WW2, German tanks were materially better than allied ones, but in the end sheer numbers was enough to carry the day. i fear that may hold true today, hence the Russian adage: any tank is better than no tank.

  71. Can someone elaborate on why the only options for Challenger 2 are new turret or new tank? Why not better ammunition?

    Is there something specific to the rifled 120mm that means that fin can never be as effective as it is in a smoothbore?

    I’ve seen lots written about the fact that the ammo isn’t as effective as the new German stuff, but is there a reason why it can never be? Or is it simply that we don’t want to / can’t afford to invest in better ammo?


  72. If I were to pick a tank strictly for crew survivability right now to equip an armored division it would probably be the Merkava Mk IVm Windbreaker. I’d equip the infantry battalions in the armored division with the Namer with an RWS upgraded to handle a 25-30mm autocannon. Since the MoD seems to be risk-averse, this would seem the best option.

  73. @Monty

    Completely agree that Army 2020 should include a second wheeled, medium division alongside a heavy division instead of the Adaptable Force.

    The landscape has indeed changed since 2010 and most forces comparable to the UK’s have a heavy, medium and light force mix.

  74. @Monty – Your scenario for a “medium” armored division is eminently doable with variants of the USMC LAV and/or US Army Stryker.

    Recce – LAV-25A2 (25mm/30mm/40mm) or M1127 Reconnaissance Vehicle (RV)
    Direct Fire Variant – LAV-A2 with a big gun turret or Stryker M1128 MGS (not my choice, either, but it works)
    Command – LAV-C2 or Stryker M1130 Commander’s Vehicle
    Infantry – Stryker M1126 ICV
    Mortar – LAV-M Mortar or Stryker M1129 Mortar Carrier
    Anti-Tank – LAV-AT Anti-Tank or M1134 Anti-Tank Guided Missile Vehicle
    Fire Support – M1131 Fire Support Vehicle (FSV)
    Engineer – M1132 Engineer Squad Vehicle (ESV)
    Recovery – LAV-R
    Logistics – LAV-LOG
    Ambulance – M1133 Medical Evacuation Vehicle (MEV)
    Air Defense – LAV-AD (withdrawn from service but available – …General Dynamics GAU-12 Equalizer 25 mm (0.984 in) 5-barreled Gatling cannon, and two missile pods each with 4× FIM-92 Stinger missiles for Short Range Air Defense (SHORAD) duties. Capacity for 990 rounds of 25 mm ammunition, and 16 (including 8 reload rounds) FIM-92 Stinger missiles. This variant has been removed from service.[citation needed] A variant using the Mistral missile in place of Stingers was developed for the export market.[11])

    Is this what you had in mind? Dragoon Ride

  75. Kent,
    You could achieve a wheeled light armour formation with current US Army vehicles, but if you were out to buy the vehicles you wouldn’t choose those models.

    For a high-end AFV family right now, the Merkava/Namer is quite attractive, but for the same role ten years in the future, I think that a new build would be better. If nothing else, I would design for a lighter base that could be upgraded to heavy levels, giving a wider range of options for deployability and survivability.

    It might also be sensible to consider that a large, high mobility chassis could have uses beyond warfare. Swap the armour modules for stowage and you have a vehicle that can carry large quantities of supplies and equipment over broken ground – so disaster relief? Nation building? This capacity might raise the profile of the armed forces.

    The Challenger’s ammunition is both rifled and two-part. The latter limits the length of the penetrator, which in turn limits the anti-armour performance, as far as I can tell. The rifling tends to increase the resistance to the shot, so the velocity will be lower, therefore lower performance.

  76. Would it be overly cynical to suggest that all of these re-equipping necessities are at the confluence of the need for our political decision on common equipment with our European partners?

    The Army needs re-equipping almost all at once just as we have thrown ourselves on the pyre of national capability.

    A Defence review or two and we will all be European…… it or not, we can not afford the army we need and no-one needs the army we (think we) can afford…….

  77. @Jennings – Well, there’s Belgium…

    @mr.fred – The problem is that a new build will just be starting production 10 years from now. The Merkava Mk. IVm Windbreaker already has modular armor under its active armor.

  78. much of the issue seems to be that the Armies modernisation budget is largely located in the unallocated funding portfolio of the budget. If the MOD takes a major cut post 2015 this is likely to go.

    However if Alex Salmond takes control and the budget is protected then we should quickly see the army ordering a large number of replacement vehicles :-)

    Lets just hope if the Army does get a budget it sets its site on something more reasonable than FRES SV. An off the shelf buy with no messing about could get FRES UV deployed in numbers but I can’t see the top brass ever actually doing that. They will still want to mess about with it and make it unique and expensive.

  79. Kent,
    10 years’ time would be roughly when we want them though.
    I agree that for immediate acquisition, the Merkava/Namer is attractive, but it has some design features peculiar to its role in Israel that are not necessarily desirable for the UK and lacks some features that would be desirable. So if you have a 10-year window, why not use it?

  80. I think that during the Cold War tanks came to be seen as a one trick pony. This of course is nonsense. Some nations deployed MBTs to Afg, since the Taliban were a tad ‘tank-light’ they obviously had other purposes. I’d also add from experience that canister is excellent, 20-pr was good, 120 mm should be pretty impressive. But I’d add Splintex to the mix.

  81. Appreciate that we’re likely to already have significant details on the Armata.

    If we also consider that we’ve not been standing still ourselves – just have to extrapolate the work that’s gone into Scout SV as just one indicator – it’s worthwhile waiting for Armata to hit production before putting our own counter into production.

    On a separate topic, a diesel pack for the Abrams is interesting. Numerous stories of the diesel powered C2 being used to consolidate following the turbine powered M1A2 advances in GW2, allowing the Abrams to refuel and resupply before the next advance.

  82. @Challenger “Completely agree that Army 2020 should include a second wheeled, medium division alongside a heavy division instead of the Adaptable Force”

    Totally agree on the medium division point. Wheeled probably makes sense but I am platform agnostic (leave that to the experts). Its the formation that’s important.

    @Monty “Within the current Army 2020 plan, we could easily field two divisions, each with 9 infantry battalions, including a heavy (tracked) armour division and a medium (wheeled) armour division. We would have an additional 3 infantry battalions that could placed within a light air portable brigade (equipped with Jackals / Foxhounds), 3 air mobile battalions (instead of 2), a SF Support Group battalion and five further battalions for Cyprus, Brunei, Gibraltar and Public Duties”

    Yes please. Battlegroup or brigade deployment in heavy, medium or light format. Geared for fighting not long term ‘stabilisation’ etc

  83. TOC – tales from the time (quite possibly untrue) of the hairy-chested blue-eyed combat soldiers in their big heavily armoured Abrams howling past pedestrian ‘ordinary’ tanks like Challenger leaving them choking in the dust, only to be found 5 miles up the road parked with fuel gauge on ‘E’, waiting for the Lt. in charge of her fuel bowser to catch up and refuel them. This repeated all the way to the front-lines. You have to wonder whether the soldiers in their 60t armoured mobile fortress, or the Lt. with her unarmoured truck full of volatile fuel was the braver…

  84. The Army Reserve plan for Army 2020 is considered by many to be an impending failure. And some comments by politicians and brass suggest that plan B is to not worry too much about plan A failing.

    If the Army doesn’t end up training and equipping four or five reserve infantry battalions, might that free up a bit of cash for the vehicle programs? And how much does a reserve battalion cost?

  85. An interesting but old post ,2011, by Mr Axe complaining about MRAP’s . He points out the amount of sharp edges inside to catch the unwary or cause additional injuries during a blast / roll over event. Perhaps if he wasn’t grinding his Axe and more the sharp edges they would be safer :-) . He makes a valid point in that they will enter in his case the US inventory as too expensive ( and useful) to scrap a similar situation to us. A commentator on his post from the American SF points out that the MRAP’s were bought under their UOR and as such met the threats present at the time but the clever little talibanis adapted and enlarged their IED designs ( or were taught by external third parties :-( so the MRAP’s struggled with the later designs.
    Are their any on going programmes to modify Mastiff , Foxhound etc to counter these improvements since their purchase? The web seems to say no.

  86. @monkey – It was my experience that most military vehicles, especially armored vehicles, had sharp edges or, at least, corners that were…inconvenient. That was one reason why everyone wore a steel pot*/Kevlar helmet or CVC helmet in the vehicles. That’s also the reason GIs went through so much duct tape and scrounged so much foam rubber. MRAPs were designed to keep people from dying and, for the most part, did exactly that. As to what improvements are being made to MRAPs to counter improvements to hostile IEDs, I wouldn’t expect those to be trumpeted about**. “Loose lips sink ships” and all that.

    *(Yes, I started in a pre-Kevlar Army.)
    **(Except by politicians [to include those found in the military] who want to be seen as doing something to protect the troops when all they’re doing is telling the enemy to step up their game.)

  87. @Kent

    Wow, your MBTs and IFVs are going super heavy with the Merkava chassis. I like it! :)

    Followed up one bound behind with a pair of 120mm mortar equipped recycled Bradleys/Strykers for immediate on call fire support.

    How would you configure your ABG? Number of MBTs vs IFVs?

  88. @Kent
    I can see that tipping off the potential OPFOR would not be wise and their are many government funded projects in to new armour technologies or active systems but at least a project to fix those known ‘blunt instruments’ lining the MRAP’s would be good. You mentioned the wearing of helmets inside vehicles , I have read a few reports were the cause of a sever injury or even death was caused by not wearing the mandatory headgear . All that duct tape and foam rubber must negate the effort and huge expense of manufacturers removing flammable/toxic fume producing materials from the construction.
    Your early Strykers (evolved MOWAG/BAELS PIRANHA) have had their lower hulls modified to improve the ‘Vee’ to help reduce the effect of underbelly explosions all ready so perhaps some external mods will be made to our Mastiffs etc if required.

  89. @Chris – Most of the advances in Desert Storm were by fits and starts due the higher ups “waiting for the shoe to drop,” i.e. the appearance of the dreaded Republican Guard reacting to our flanking movement. There was plenty of opportunity to refuel. Operation Iraqi Freedom did have some instances of combat units stopping to wait for fuel because they’d outrun the supply trucks. However, I’d like to point out that the same scenario played out in WW2 during the breakout from Normandy and pursuit across France.

    I always had the utmost respect for the folks who ran in those soft-vehicle convoys with lots of bypassed bad guys about. I didn’t always respect their navigational skills, but I respected their bravery.

  90. monkey, you always wear your helmet, sharp edges or not. The last thing you need during an overturn or accident is someone’s loose rifle smacking you on the head, or your head vs the roof/bulkhead of the vehicle.

    Kent, amazing how many people complain about the loggy’s sense of direction! Seems universal :)

  91. @Observer – Nah, I’d put two AMOS twin 120mm mortar turrets on Namers in each infantry company headquarters platoon as a mortar section. Each infantry battalion/armored regiment would get six Namer AMOS as a mortar platoon in the Headquarters Company./Squadron.

    Each battalion/regiment would have four line companies/squadrons with three platoons/troops each. In the tank regiments, one squadron in each would be designated as “dragoons” with an infantry fire team assigned to each troop tank*. Brigade Combat Teams would task organize as necessary for the mission. Brigade Headquarters would have a tank troop and an infantry platoon for security/reserve company (-).

    In a “square” BCT (2 tank/2 inf) we’re looking at 122 Merkava Mk. 4m, 124 Namer, 46 Namer AMOS. Please note that this doesn’t include any reconnaissance at brigade or regimental/battalion level. Each brigade would have a recce regiment as well as a recce troop** as part of brigade headquarters, and each regiment/battalion would have it’s own recce troop**. Nor does it include a dedicated anti-armor platoon/company for the infantry battalions (Namer ATGM?)

    Additionally, it doesn’t include possible Merkava Sholef 155/52 howitzers for the DS artillery, Fire Control Namers for FISTs, or Namerbulances for MEDEVAC.

    *(12 five/six-man fire teams. Dragoon squadrons would be commanded by a senior captain or junior major.)
    **(6-12 scout vehicles depending on type: fewer for Scout SV, more for modernized CVR(T) Scimitar Mk. 2.)

    Other than that, I haven’t really given it much thought. :D

  92. @All – The reason I suggested the Merkava/Namer family of vehicles for the “heavy division” concept was due to the survivability issue that faces the Israelis out of necessity: “We can’t afford great losses;” and the UK out of choice: “It wouldn’t do for our lads to get hurt doing something bloody dangerous!” (Just what I’m hearing.)

    With nine heavy battalions/regiments and three brigade headquarters. You could field a full three brigade heavy division (TEOTWAWKI*) or a two brigade division with the third brigade headquarters running training with two or three battalions/regiments (It’s going to be a long war, lads!). An alternative would be fielding separate heavy brigades as needed, perhaps in conjunction with lighter forces as long as they can be supported logistically. While equipment is important, if it is close in capability and numbers to the enemy’s, superior training and the will to fight make the difference. (The Israelis have proven that.)

    *(The End Of The World As We Know It)

  93. What I like about the Merkava is the placement of the engine in front of the crew compartment. I think it is a much more logical configuration because it provides an extra degree of protection across the frontal arc as well as providing a rear escape door.

    If a front-mounted engine configuration makes sense – and perhaps Chris is the best person to comment on the engineering compromises that will be necessary to make this work – then three basic combat vehicle types can be based on a common platform: –

    1. Main Battle Tank – maximum protection and maximum firepower and maximum mobility, i.e. well balanced capabilities (crew 3/4).

    2. Recce Vehicle – same protection as MBT but with medium weapon (40 mm CTAI / 30 mm Mk44 cannon) so that vehicle has less weight and thus increased agility / mobility (crew 4/6).

    3. Infantry APC – maximum protection and light weapon (30 mm M230ML cannon/ 25 mm Mk242) to maximise internal volume and restrict overall weight enabling full section / squad of 8/9 riflemen to be carried.

    Essentially you let the MBT and Recce vehicle provide offensive firepower and the APC provides the dismounted infantry with its weapons geared around defending its dismounts. The thinking is that the infantry deserve the same level protection as the MBT crew, but this adds weight. Therefore, a smaller weapon allows for more space and increased vehicle protection without sacrificing mobility.

    My understanding is that with the full armour package the FRES SV Scout matches CR2 for all-round kinetic protection while offering vastly superior Blast protection – all in a 40 tonne package. Mobility is in a different class. If you added a 120 mm gun to create a Fire Support Vehicle / medium Tank, you would still have the same level of protection and only marginally reduced mobility, with gross vehicle weight of 50 tonnes. So a FRES SV medium tank could be a good option if we need larger tank numbers.

    Would i still want a dedicated MBT platform as well? Not if the MBT was the start point for the trio like Merkava. it is better to make an MBT into an APC than vice-versa. A FRES SV with a 120 mm gun would be a true replacement for the CVR Scorpion which had a 76 mm gun. Very good it was too.

  94. @Monty
    If what you say is true and the new GD land systems Common base platform full fat version of the SV Scout is comparable to the armour of the C2 then taking a 2′ wide verticle strip of armour from its chassis all round as it is not needed to accommodate the recce crews internal hight requirement would probably leave enough over for a the turret to mount a 120mm gun. The 1.7m diameter turret ring on the SV Scout may need a bit of beefing up though :-)

  95. Monty,

    I seriously doubt that the FRES SV can match MBT levels of protection whilst being twenty tonnes lighter and a less optimal shape to start with. Unless there were some serious advances in materials technology in the last decade, of which I am unaware.

    SV will have protection common to its weight class and vehicle type, which is to say roughly on a par with a T55, or inferior to a T55 with modern armour upgrades. Unless someone has re-written some key rules of physics without me noticing.

    If you are looking for a heavy class vehicle, then an MBT and a troop carrier would be a start – not sure if putting a recce vehicle on the same chassis would be worth it, but perhaps you could use common components. My take on the commonality between troop carrier and gun tank is that it should be at component level too, not structure. The front engine and high roof of a troop carrier is at odds with the low profile and heavy frontal armour of a gun tank. That said, you could design the two to complement each other – heavy gun on the tank for destruction of point targets and a lighter, rapid-firing gun for suppression on the troop carrier. A Namer with a Kongsberg MC, for a current example.

    A recce vehicle on a lighter chassis, tooled up with sensors, small UAVs and UGVs, ATGW and anything else handy, can be a skirmish screen for the main force to prevent the enemy getting eyes, and hence artillery, onto the main force. At the same time, the recce screen is providing eyes for your own artillery and air. Protection wise I’d keep it light, with hard- and soft-kill DAS, plenty of smoke and a fast-firing gun to keep the threat in the outer layers of the onion rather than try and weather the hits. As it isn’t there to fight through strong enemy positions, just identify them for other forces, it’s going to bug out so can rely on consumable defences much more.

  96. Monty – I’m flattered… Clearly it is possible to configure armour to be front engined. From Scorpion through almost every tracked IFV to Merkava the principle has been proven. Although most vehicles are not exactly front engined because the driver tends to be shoe-horned beside the engine. But its not all peachy.

    The issue is one of balance. The modern turret has a long overhang forward of the ring (spaced armour, sloping armour, in the case of CTA pretty much the entire gun and autoloader). For head-out driving and for driver egress its a no-no having the driver hatch under the turret baseplate, which means the ring must move rearwards creating a very rear-biased balance. The bigger the vehicle is, the less this is an issue – moving the turret rearwards by 600mm on an MBT would barely show, but on Scorpion it would have been through the rear armour. It remains to be seen what solution LMUK create for upgraded Warrior – the early turret prototypes had a high undercut beneath the plate armour, to clear the armoured bump on front left roofplate. The production hull loses the bump and the turret armour will be revised to remove that obvious ballistic weakness. But that then may mean the turret and driver hatch arguing over the same space unless one or the other is moved.

    Big turrets tend to fit better onto rear-engined hulls, where the driver is further forward and there is a more convenient overall volume at the rear for powerpack and fuel (as in not limited by the driver having to sit beside the engine). Moving the heavy mechanical bits to the back allows greater thickness of armour over the frontal arc without overloading the forward suspension, countering Monty’s statement about the engine & transmission providing additional protection. (Undoubtedly they do, but being complex shapes full of voids and smaller components and not being made of armourplate, their protection level is uneven and essentially indeterminate.) The turret ring tends to sit in the centre of the vehicle giving reasonably consistent balance firing on any bearing. Also the engine bay has the luxury of height right the way to the back of the vehicle, where at the front it would have to fit under the gradient of the glacis.

    There are unconventional ways to make smaller vehicles work well with the engine bay to the front, some of which I have explored in my designs. But they may require compromises that might be a step too far for the User at the moment. But hey – twenty years back who would have thought the military would seriously consider tactical use of toy helicopters piloted from mobile phones?

    I am an engineer; I do not see the need for ‘common chassis’ solutions. I see as much advantage in commonality of components and subsystems. The hull is just the armoured box everything fits into. As such (and if starting from a clean sheet), it would be entirely possible to create forward engine APCs, ambulances & utility carriers and rear engined turreted combat vehicles in very different hulls using the same suspension, transmission, engine, electronics architecture, fire suppression etc etc. Why limit the design by mandating a common hull? From the limited material available it appears this approach has been taken with Armata MBT and Kurganets IFV in Russia.

    Anything else I should add, Monty?

    monkey – ref lowering Scout’s roofplate – we have commented before that it appears the rear volume in Scout has no room for dismounts, its too full of – um – stuff. So it doesn’t need the height for seated dismounts as it stands (pun!). You might have thought the lower roofplate would have been done already? My assumption is that they couldn’t fit all that stuff into a lower height compartment, although had they started with the lower roof they might have made it work – first rule of AFV internal volume: whatever space is available will be filled. “There’s enough room for this gubbins” “Look – we have the space if we move stuff around to carry this useful widget” “Just fit this stowage into the volume left over there” and so on.

    mr.fred – snap…

  97. @Monty, @monkey – The weight saved by leaving the turret off the Merkava resulted in increased headroom, a bigger rear door, and increased armor on the Namer. The Namer has a crew of three and carries 9 fully armed and equipped infantrymen (a full US infantry squad). Depending on where you’re going to be operating, the Namer, at 60 tonnes, may be a leetle bit big for recce. If the Scout SV is as well-protected as the advertising copy claims, it will probably do the job, agility, speed, and quietude depending.

    The Scout SV with a turret ring diameter of 1.7m (67 inches) seems a little tight for a 120mm gun. The turret ring diameter of an M1A1 is 2.13m (85 inches). Might even be tight for a 105mm gun. With a reinforced hull and a larger turret ring, a medium tank option might be attractive.

  98. @Monty

    I do hope we go for all wheeled formations I think they have merit considering all the operations we have been involved in since the first Gulf war. Personally I would like to see the wheeled units used as our lead task force units rather than what we are envisioning with army 2020.

    Are the army still looking to replace the 432 and CVRT variants with the same wheeled vehicle in the armoured formations or are they going for all tracks (my preferred option) based on the FRES SV chasis?

  99. The article calls it a light tank. 44 tons and it’s a light tank….

    But that’s what it will be used for anyway….

  100. Am with Mr Fred on this, as soon as we start talking about Scout having comparable levels of protection to CR2 then what comes next is obvious

    It is dangerous and I think there may be an element of wishing it to be, rather than is

  101. monkey – I think the photo is of PMRS, the turretless support vehicle that was at DVD last year. Like I said, the rumour was that the space behind Scout’s turret basket was stuffed with gubbins. (APU? Incredibly compact, economical and useful Bowman? IT networks? General stowage? Spare rounds & ammo? Bigger fuel tank? Who knows.) That rumour corroborated with a chap in green from Bovington Camp.

    IXION – calling it Light Anything is a misnomer.

    TD – I suppose its possible the thing has stuff like Chobham/Dorchester attached, after all GD have the knowledge from Abrams work (the Chertsey research was gifted over the pond a long time back). But from the looks of it, the vehicle profile is still mostly ASCOD, with the exception of the hamster-cheeks down the sides. So maybe we should politely and generously grant it protection a bit better than other 40t IFVs of recent design?

  102. @Chris – thanks for the update .
    The Scout SV units full fat version weighs almost the same as an original T80 MBT ! Is the T80 a light tank ? The new T14 is meant to weigh not much more and that packs a 125mm gun , I too wonder what weighs so much .

  103. I’m sceptical in the the Skepsis/Skeptikoi sense regarding the protection levels.

    It’s not outside the realms of possibility to say that similar levels of protection are achievable.

    For example we need to consider that if both vehicles can survive a strike from anything up to (or beyond) an RPG-29 before penetration, and have methods for mitigating this penetration, the claim can be asserted.

    I know first-hand that material production techniques alone result in more durable items for less material than one from just two decades ago and that applications of techniques beyond material production serve to improve performance further.

    As an indicator, Trent turbine blades are now grown from a single crystal and are hollow with an internal reinforcing structure*. In addition, a boundary layer is produced by forcing cool air through outlets in the blade that both increase efficiency and protect the blade from higher temperatures alongside a transpiration cooling technique. It’s lighter, more efficient and handles higher heat and pressure for less of the same material used in relatively recent decades.

    * similar to some bridging trusses :)

  104. Very nice discussion, this.

    @ monkey’s link with the suit guy: The interior of the verhicle looks absurdly long, am I right in the assumption that this is an optical trick?

    @ The Other Chris: Yay progress! But if this can be done nowadays, would it not allow for the weight of MBTs to be reduced by swapping out armor elements? I don’t know how much of this “composite armor” stuff can be freely exchanged and how much would essentially require building a whole new hull to integrate newer materials, but from appearances, there should be at least some margin for upgrades. Probably less than this “modular armor” everybody seems to have now.

  105. No idea, Chris and Monty are definitely the folks to ask on the subject. I’m only passing skeptical comment on the topic from a materials point of view.

    As for vehicles being larger inside than outside, I’m constantly surprised that the Rest of the World doesn’t realise that Dr. Who is just a BBC Period Drama following the (future) historical theft of one of our RAF operated TARDIS devices…

  106. The key issue missing from this debate is the question; against what? You can make a vehicle that weight as good as CR2 against kinetic or shaped charge or HEAT etc etc. Customisation to the threat has been the big armour advance over the last few years. Equivalence against all threats, at once, I don’t think so. For one no matter how secret the tech itself was, this new wonder armour would still have a cool name and marketing campaign.

    Not to mention the typical marketing PR BS angle. It meets all min requirements to achieve the same DEFSTAN’s/STANAG levels thus is equally protected. Conveniently ignoring how much CR2 exceeds them by. Just as an example.

  107. TOC – Timelord references might baffle some of our more distant readers. Thinking about it, why would the future historical theft be of a ModPlod phone kiosk and not the more impressive hypersonic VTOL strike bomber?

    Sazuroi – our existing MBT (Challenger 2 here, Leo 2 there) already have great thicknesses of add-on armour to bring the protection level up. Technically no reason why these couldn’t be upgraded/replaced with no effect on the underlying structure. But inside all the appliqué is still a steel tank. There are some advantages in reworking the vehicle structure using resin/fibre composite materials, which tend to be lighter for a given protection level. They also act as their own spall-liner, and have a significant advantage in that there are no real difficulties maintaining protection levels on edges between planes as the reinforcing fibre mats fold & stretch round the corner and the resin seals the edge into a seamless solid. One of the issues with plate armour welded structures is that welding softens the material so great efforts are made to create complicated interlocking overlapping joints with welds displaced laterally between inside and outside. Difficult and quite expensive. So a composite core vehicle with appliqué makes a lighter well protected vehicle. Its just a shame the resin/fibre composites cost so much.

  108. @IXION – I remember seeing a reporter standing in front of a line of M113s/M901s saying, “As you can see, the Army has tanks ready to move in the event…” What was behind the newsmoron was clearly a scout platoon from a mech infantry battalion if he’d known how to read a simple bumper number. This ignorance is endemic to politicians, newsmorons, and copywriters.

  109. Faulty chameleon circuits have been the bane of mechanics careers for years to come.

  110. TOC

    No you just have to make them a really hot sweet cup of tea.
    (lets see who gets THAT reference)

  111. @Chris
    Composite manufacturing technology is coming on leaps and bounds in driving down costs and improving quality control even for very complex shaped one offs using Automated Placement Technology . Possibly no more rigorous area is in submarine hull construction. Boeing are laying up the hull of a 5 man submarine for working at depths of 3000m (3km) using their machinery using carbon fibre in this case for another private company. Next year the 6000m version will be available. This one has a 7″ thick hull.
    “The Cyclops submersible will feature a seven-inch thick, individual-fiber-placed carbon fiber hull using proprietary Boeing manufacturing technology. The ability to accurately place thousands of individual strips of pre-impregnated fiber will overcome many of the hard to control variables surrounding traditional filament winding processes and permit the hull to withstand the very high compressive loads at 3,000 meters (300 bar/4,300 psi).”
    I can’t think of anywhere more when you really really need them to get it right .

  112. I hear a lot about front mounted engines giving extra protection, but I’m not really sure if this is true. I suspect it has more to do with needing the rear for infantry than any extra protection. After all, if you filled up the entire front engine space with Chobham or Dorchester, isn’t that a lot more protection than an engine block?

  113. @Mr Fred:-

    You said: “Scout SV will have protection common to its weight class and vehicle type, which is to say roughly on a par with a T55, or inferior to a T55 with modern armour upgrades.”

    At IAV XV in January of this year, we were told that Scout SV would set new protection standards for its weight category. No specific details were provided to explain how this would be delivered, but the 8×8 wheeled vehicles shortlisted for Australia’s Land400 contract all provide STANAG Level 6 protection (i.e. 30mm x 173 APFSDS) across the frontal arc in a package that weighs less than 32 tonnes. And that’s without appliqué Dorchester armour. So FRES SV with Dorchester armour should be significantly better protected than a T55 or any other 40 tonne AFV. As I say, blast protection is certainly superior to CR2. In terms of kinetic protection, it is supposed to come very close.

    The production version of the Scout SV vehicle that we will see at DESEI in September will be a significantly different vehicle from the ASCOD 2 from which it is derived. GDLS has redeveloped the basic platform to create a new vehicle. The point to make is that, however good Scout SV is, I don’t think the Army would accept a version with a 120 mm turret as a CR2 replacement. A 120 mm gun turret adds at least 10 tonnes of weight to the vehicle which slows it down.

    Put the same armour package on a Leopard 2A7 and you have a very much better MBT than CR2. I am hoping we will develop a Leopard 3 with the Germans. Since they have now decided to spend more on defence, and a new Leopard turret is already under development, it would be easy to add our expertise in ceramic / composite armour.

  114. Obs – in my long tome (10:39pm yesterday) I said much the same. Yes they would add protection but it would be a random effect based on the incoming projectile’s path through the machinery. Engines to the rear mean you can load the front with genuine armour of known performance. In my designs I found ways to use the engine bay as part of an armour solution that didn’t depend on the ballistic protection of the mechanical bits, but as I said that introduced other compromises that Users might not accept. I have heard it said (possibly by my manager at Alvis) that there’s no such thing as a perfect engineering design; all design involves compromise, good design is just a better balance of compromises for the particular need.

  115. On ore serious note as I have said before at some point the rising IFV is going to meet the falling tank. After all the full fat SV Is not that much smaller or lighter than a tank.

    It will get sent of to be a tank and used as such…. so let’s bite the bullet.

  116. On a more serious note as I have said before at some point the rising IFV is going to meet the falling tank. After all the full fat SV Is not that much smaller or lighter than a tank.

    It will get sent of to be a tank and used as such…. so let’s bite the bullet.

  117. “Timelord references might baffle some of our more distant readers.” – Distant in time or space?

  118. Monty,

    Sounds like PR Weasel-speak to me. I can set new standards for a 40t vehicle by putting it in a paper bag – new standards don’t necessarily mean good. Likewise comparable can be turned anyway you feel like it. I can compare a biscuit tin to a submarine hull and that’s comparable, but it isn’t similar.
    Fundamentally, the ASCOD-based FRES SV has a taller hull so needs more armour area to protect it. I can’t see how you could match the protection of something that is a better shape and half as heavy again.
    It wouldn’t surprise me that it has better blast protection, being as it was designed for it and the CR2 wasn’t. Though it raises the question of how much weight goes on blast protection and how that squares with the claims of KE protection.

    The MoD would be wise to not accept a 120mm armed SV because it’s a bad shape for a gun tank and will be less well protected.

    I would argue against a Leopard 3, if for nothing else than it is a singularly uninspired name, hinting at equally uninspired engineering. Likewise a Challenger 3 or an Abrams 2.
    I’d rather not go to the Germans for AFVs. Components, perhaps, but not the whole deal. Leopard 2s have an advantage in that the German Government bought loads then sold them off cheaply once the cold war ended, creating an instant customer base.

  119. The unfortunate CHA2 blue on blue incident in Iraq should not be forgotten when considering MBT armament. 5km range, hull down (actually it seems to have been half turret down), direct hit with HESH, target effectively destroyed. It shows that the idea that only smoothbore and APFSDS is effective at these sorts of ranges is nonsense for well trained armies.

  120. @obsvr; That’s a rather spurious assessment of the incident.

    That incident involved the round hitting an open hatch lid. Which directed the explosive force and hot fragments into the tank. The resulting fire is what ultimately doomed the tank as ammo(HESH) on the turret floor cooked off. It was also the second round fired. The first round(near miss, just short) having thrown 2 of the crew clear who were on top of the tank and set them on fire. They were hatches open with half of the crew on the tank rather than in it, one sleeping on the back deck, one working in the same area, another sleeping inside, one on watch in the MG. They were unable to button up and move to readiness due to injuries and debris from the first round.

    In short they were about as vulnerable as a modern MBT can be. A firework could of destroyed them.

    This incident is about poor command and control and TTP resulting in improper arcs and poor situational awareness.

    Had they been buttoned up and at readiness they and their tank would have survived. Everything else being equal they would have suffered cosmetic damage only and possibly lost the pintle mounted MG on the commander’s hatch.

    Making assumptions about MBT armament or armoured warfare in general from this incident would be foolish. HESH is also range agnostic it will do similar damage at 50m and 5km. As it’s a low velocity round that relies on it’s explosive content.

    Full MOD report;

  121. ‘It will get sent of to be a tank and used as such…. so let’s bite the bullet’

    In what sense? The FRES SV will probably be used in some form of fire support but the CVRT it will replace was used in the same role as it’s not a new role for such vehicles. If you mean we will be sending FRES SV out as our armoured element of a battlegroup, then that will only happen if you place a tank gun on the chasis to begin with, and only after time would it slowly take over the role when all the institutional knowledge of the reasons why you should not use it as a tank would have disappeared.

    The French who are massive fans of armoured cars with tank like guns for ops like Mali have not retired their Leclerc but have constantly updated it. Most western nations that were under the ‘tank is dead’ spell have reversed their decision, Canada in particular after recent combat experience.

    I can see the reasoning behind basing an MBT on a FRES chassis with component commonality etc in the same way as the CVRT family of vehicles, but the hull etc would have to be a clean design specifically for the job, just throwing a turret on an IFV hull won’t be very desirable as an with a lot of wasted armour protecting nothing but air.

  122. Looking back at the original article and it is apparent that every AFV there is running around naked. Compare:
    Is training as relevant if you aren’t lugging around all the stuff you would in reality, especially logistics exercises like this one?
    I can understand not wanting to tax equipment if you don’t need to, but how do you identify problems you are likely to see on a real deployment?

  123. mr.fred – CVR(T) was designed as a 9t all-up weight vehicle. On a visit to Imber talking to the driver of a Sultan command vehicle in the hand of the Lancers he said their vehicle was running at 12t. More than 30% overloaded – no wonder it looked a bit low. Its performance must have been pedestrian too; a good job then that it was driven into cover and parked for the duration of the exercise. I couldn’t work out if it was the norm for all Army vehicles to be quite so heavily laden.

    On a parallel note the exercise was notable for a breakdown chain – one CVR(T) tried to drive along a sloping gradient and pulled both tracks off. The Samson sent to pull it out ended up on the same gradient and lost its track too. A second Samson was on its way, leaving the command concerned that it was the last of their breakdown wagons on site and if it too fell off its tracks they would be in the embarrassing position of needing to call in external assets to recover the recovery wagon that broke recovering the recovery wagon that broke recovering the original breakdown…

  124. @Mr. Fred – Completely agree with you. All vehicles should be at TES all the time IMO. Sadly the treasury disagrees with me. The whole notion of TES should not exist. It’s just double speak to make it appear as if they’re improving something when in reality it’s aberration caused by salami slicing.

    When was the last time anyone saw a T72 without it’s full armour package?

    @Chris: That gave me a laugh. Shame though, but what can you expect with 50 year old tech?

  125. On the comparison of the nude C2 to the Cinderella going to the ball C2 can someone please update me on how often a C2 , Warrior or one of the CVR(T) series actually moves. Are they taken for a spin daily , weekly , fortnightly? Chris mentioned seeing a example of British armour up for sale with a genuine 29 miles (IIRC) on the clock. If they hardly ever move , certainly over non- paved terrain then why not leave the party frock on. It must cost a considerable amount to book the kit out of stores , check it , fit it then dismount it , check it and book it back into stores again for the next party. I imagine much of the skirts and turret bustle padding ( you get the dress analogy now ? ) get very much in the way of greasing your nipples or lubricating your suspension as well as a thorough clean down after being out there getting all dirty but hey that will happen in the field on operations and theirs nothing like practice. On the side I did like that someone be it from the user or the seller side has put up to 40% weight growth from the nude SV into the drivetrain etc.

  126. Chuck,

    I can see the point in being able to remove armour (and other systems) to facilitate peacetime activities, but only where it doesn’t affect the training. For learning to drive and maintain the thing, gunnery training, or peacetime road moves it doesn’t hurt to change the all up weight, and it probably reduces wear and tear on the automotive equipment. It also facilitates moving on public roads where every other vehicle is 2550mm wide and a 3m+ vehicle isn’t going to be helped by another metre or so of additional armour.
    That said, if you are running an operational exercise, you should be planning on getting that additional armour that you are planning on using to the same place as your AFVs before the off.

    Unless of course you plan to go into combat without the extra shinies. Which would make sense if they are role-specific fits and you are sanguine about taking casualties due to not having the full armour setup.

  127. @ToC
    Which theater? Tanks in Europe ( which should be located all in the east where the threat is IMHO) for full Russian forces onslaught . Every where else we would have weeks if not months to prep for as we don’t move unless there is a UN resolution in place and can adapt the fit to the theater.

  128. Then you have to pull off all the stuff you spent days installing for a different theatre.

    Might as well run it bare and install when needed instead.

  129. Observer,
    That’s all very well, provided that you also train the drivers and crew in operating and maintaining it with all the likely additional kit as well as practice getting the kit to where the vehicles are /are going.

  130. TES is a bit of a misnomer. Which ever theatre say a CR2 is going to operate in in its going to have the full armour package. Can you image the headlines if poor Jonny is killed in a CR2 lacking the full spec! The only theatre specific kit is likely to be EW, you don’t want to be sending out electronic signals advertising your location if their is no threat from IED’s.
    It is sensible not to have it fitted all the time, saving wear and tear. However given that units are not going to be issued with their vehicles (apart from a few for training)* presumable they will arrive fully prepared!!

    * The whole fleet management idea as it is being executed. I believe you will end up with a lot of soldiers with too little to do and too little hands on experience of their kit, while their will be too few civilians with too much to do keeping the vehicles in good condition. You can’t just leave a CR2 in in a nice hanger and sometime in the future jump in and drive it off to war.
    Just like the just in time or as I like to call it the just to late approach to holding stock, its another business idea which just does not translate well to the defence realm. In fact I would be surprised if it even saved that much if any money.

  131. TES is perfectly apposite, on the basis that it is any theatre to which it must be an entry standard to.
    At which point training in the altogether with the AFVs makes as much sense as the infantry training in shorts, vest and running shoes.

  132. Up thread their was talk of a common basic design of MBT IFV and SPG as was pointed out it would be difficult to reconcile the different requirements and layouts. I thought I would give it a go for what its worth.
    First I have always thought an IFV should have comparable protection levels to an MBT. Given that’s its task is to get the infantry safely to where they need to fight and then support them in that fight they will have much less scope for manoeuvre than a MBT while facing the threat of anti tank weapons notable ATGW and RPG’s. They should also be able to carry a full dismounted section of 8 men, which current IFV,s can’t do. This requires an IFV of a similar size to current MBT’s.
    With that said how do we reconcile the different layout requirements. I would suggest. an electric drive system. The technology is maturing rapidly and is being used more and more so it shouldn’t cost a fortune to develop a suitable system. It would however be necessary to employ two engines rather than one large one, whether diesel or gas turbines. Two engines producing the same power as a single large one are of course less efficient more expensive and take up more space, but what they do give you when combined with an electric drive system is much greater flexibility.
    Looking at layouts the MBT would have the two engines and electric motors in the rear a traditional layout while the IFV would have the engines in the sponsons on either side with electric motors at the very front of the hull, this should allow the turret to be move further forward creating more space for the dismounts and leaving room forward for stowage. As for the SPG both the engines and electric motors would be in the forward hull leaving plenty of room for a large roomy turret at the rear.
    As well as providing for more flexible layouts their are other advantages to a twin engine electric drive system. If we include a relatively large battery pack in the design this gives us many options in using the system to best advantage. AFV’s spend a lot of time stationary they could be operated solely on battery power, if its just a short halt one engine could be running ready to move instantly with the second engine started when more power is required. In fact with FADEC, the battery pack and each engine could be operated to provide the optimum combination of power and efficiency.
    While I have assumed that both engines would be the same diesel engines, as I believe this would be the optimum solution, you could use gas turbines (this arrangement should at least over come some of their problems with fuel consumption) or a mix of diesel and gas turbine or engines with different power outputs.
    I now wait to be shot down in flames!

  133. @ mr.fred
    While some training at full TES would be desirable I don’t believe its necessary for all training.
    Other wise you could argue that all training should be conducted with every vehicle fully bombed up!

  134. whitelancer,
    Agreed. You don’t want a full armour fit for every time you go to to the ranges. At the same time, I am concerned that not taking the full load-out on exercise renders the exercise less useful or, worse, dangerously underprepare the participants and observers for the logistical effort that would be required for a real deployment.

    Hybrid drive, as far as I can tell, will be the next thing for AFVs, for the versatility of internal layout as much as the efficiencies and power generating capacities. If you get the design right, you can use the same power generating unit on every AFV in service, just using increasing multiples for larger vehicles.

  135. mr.fred
    I think we basically agree, but we shouldn’t confine ourselves to AFV’s. How often do infantry or any other soldiers far that matter train in full combat kit? In many respects I believe its more important that they do rather than having our AFV,s at TES for training.

  136. Going to have to disagree; Train how you fight. That goes for all arms. RAF and RN tend to do this why not Army?

    RWS; complex system with complex optics. When do they practice maintaining it, operating it, reloading it and it’s quirks?
    Drivers need to know how the vehicle handles with the extra width, height and weight. When do they find out how it affects his vision, the vehicles balance, stopping distance, acceleration, turning circle and feedback from the controls.
    Then the same with with comms/EW/logistics and so on.

    Then there’s learning to deal with all the interactions between these system’s and how they affect the way you fight and maintain the tank and how that affects the overall tactics of the squadron/BG.

    When do they learn this, if not on the biggest combined arms exercises we perform?

    They need to be able to do all these complex and difficult instinctively while exhausted and under fire. How do they do this on systems they’ve never handled before reaching theatre?

    How many of our crews of our crews have even handled TES spec CR2? Let alone done full combined arms live fire exercises in one. Training in the poor cousin of the vehicles you will actually fight in is not the same as training in the vehicles you will fight in.

    Then there’s the other side of this; Do we have enough gear to bring our already small tank force up to TES spec? Is it fully functional? Pretty sure the answer to both of those questions is no. We’re operating on the dangerous assumption we will always have time to refit our tanks and purchase the parts from abroad to do so.

    Then with all this in mind remember we do it this way as a matter of convenience and saving a few pennies. A fool’s bargain.

    Train hard, fight easy.

  137. Fundamentally I agree with you train as you mean to fight. The problem with doing this with the likes of CR2 and Warrior is the additional wear and tear on them. They were simply not designed to take the weights being imposed by TES. As for the likes of RWS certainly that should be a permanent fixture, but with this whole fleet management nonsense I suspect your right and their are not enough of them ,or indeed of any other TES kit to fit the whole fleet. No doubt they intend to rectify this just to late, sorry I meant just in time!!!!

  138. If they can’t handle the weight for exercises how will they handle it in war? When will everyone involved learn to handle the extra maintenance requirements imposed by that weight? What to look out for? How best to mitigate/prevent it?

    A single war could easily eclipse the training mileage put on these vehicles over an entire lifetime.

    Weight and the wear caused by it is an issue certainly, but running light in training isn’t a solution it’s simply the act of pretending it isn’t an issue.

    You aren’t ‘saving’ the tank you’re just leaving it’s crew unprepared for entirely foreseeable problems.

  139. I don’t Know if their are any major issues. If their are operations in Iraq should have highlighted them, and remedial action taken. I would hope that ATDU and ITDU run full spec wagons to ensure they can cope. I just don’t see the need to do all training at full spec and imposing unnecessary wear and tear and of course cost. Where I would employ full spec wagons is BATUS, that should give plenty of experience for all concerned. As well as picking up any problems before the wider fleets are effected.
    Of course in an ideal world we would go to Vickers and get them to knock up a fleet of CR3’s designed to TES. Not going to happen though is it.

  140. The conventional combined arms portion of the Iraq War was massive force deployed against a vastly inferior foe. Lasting about 5 weeks. Assuming the next will be so short and one sided is just another dangerous assumption.

  141. Ref TES.

    I do not think there is enough kit to put on every vehicle, most of the time we only buy enough to equip what we have we planned to deploy in our SDSR assumptions. So in the case of Herrick and Telic we will have enough to equip a brigade with some extra kits for pre deployment training (probably battlegroup sized).

    Re Whitelancer’s comment regarding soldiers not having the experience to maintain and use their vehicles. It has already happened with the C vehicle contract so I see no reason why it will not happen with the rest of the vehicle fleets with ‘whole fleet management’ coming for everyone.

  142. @Chuck
    Who said any future war will last only as long as the first stage of the Iraq War? I think you need to read the posts more carefully.
    Its all very academic anyway as its unlikely that their are enough kits to equip more than a small portion of the available vehicles.

  143. There is also the problem of breakage. Slat armour is notorious for this. How much kit can you afford to lose in exercises without even seeing the enemy?

    On the bright side, such breakage is the worst in armour, the other services don’t suffer so much equipment breakage as they either have equipment that is easier to protect (infantry) or their environment is less harsh (air force). One pass through a forest and a tank loses parts.

  144. DavidNiven,

    To a degree, but not universally. Also available for export – to Singapore, for the sake of example.
    Also, not being used on exercise, as far as I can see.

    Also; how much kit can you afford to lose to the enemy because your troops hadn’t seen or used it before they needed it?

    There may be a fine reason why this exercise was conducted without appliqué fits. It might be that the MoD and the Army are willing to eschew additional protection and equipment in order to save time on deployment. It seems unlikely but it might be the case.
    Something worth thinking about nonetheless.
    It also raises questions about the financial model for AFV ownership, with whole fleet management potentially increasing training costs which may not have been captured in the case that justifies its use. Likewise, if we husband our AFVs and try to upgrade them rather than replace them over time, protecting them from wear and tear, does that save us money or does it cost us in the quality and value of what we get later, since the design skills have faded in the interim?
    AFVs are often compared unfavourably to the automobile industry. I suspect that this is in no small part because the automobile get to produce thousands of items on a steady drumbeat, recovering usage data from real-life use rather than building scattered hundreds intermittently and getting usage data… never?

  145. mr.fred

    ‘To a degree, but not universally’

    It probably hasn’t replaced aluminum bar armour completely in UK service due to it’s susceptibility to the degrading effects of the environmental (most notably UV rays) conditions on it’s ability to offer the same levels of protection after time. The patches used to make speedy repairs to standard bar armour have a life of 6 months (maybe less but 6 springs to mind from memory) once removed from the protective shipping packet. If you look at pictures of Tarion mounted on vehicles such as the HET you will see it looks like slabs of body armour rather than mesh. This is due to material being placed over the panels to mitigate the effects of the environment, and the reason we have not universally taken up it’s use is probably down to the large amounts of aluminum bar armour we have left over.

    The more recent brochures of Tarian seem to show it being used without a protective cover so one can only assume that a solution has been found to the degrading problem.

  146. Whitelancer

    ‘Anyone know how Tarion works?’

    The same way as regular bar armour, either by crushing the warhead on an RPG to disrupt the detonation or by preventing the shaped charge from forming properly.

  147. DavidNiven,
    It’s all about tradeoffs. You may have to replace the mesh of Tarian more frequently than metal bar (it’s usually steel though) on an environmental basis, but how often would you have to replace the metallic bars when they’re been bent out of shape (which also means it doesn’t work) or ripped off?
    Of course, you don’t need to use in-life or even ballistic standard netting for training, so it’s not like its being used up on training.

    The original HET panels were probably partly about environmental protection, but it was also hiding what it was. That came to an end pretty quickly, but the first time it was out in the public eye they were pretty cagey about what was in there.

  148. mr.fred

    ‘it’s usually steel though’

    It is yes, but the stuff we use is made from aluminum to reduce weight and aid mobility it’s also the reason we use Tarian as patches as you cannot just heat it and bash it back to weld as a repair like you would steel bar armour.

    I’m not saying it is not any good I’m just pointing out that the reason we probably have not fully moved to it’s use is because we have a lot of bar armour left over.

    ‘probably partly about environmental protection’

    I strongly think it was about environmental protection, there is a tag on the patches that require you to write the date when the patch was fitted so as not to use it past it’s useful life, the HET’s used Tarian due to it’s light weight so probably needed to keep it covered to prevent a complete replacement every tour.

    Personally I prefer Tarian as it is less likely to deform after an IED strike and trap the occupants of the vehicle inside, and if it the frame does distort the mesh is easier to cut through to gain access than the traditional bar armour.

  149. Thanks DN.
    I get how bar armour achieves it effects just don’t understand how Tarion manages to do the same.

  150. whitelancer

    It traps and crushes/squeezes the warhead within the mesh in the same manner as normal bar armour.

  151. Thanks again DN
    Wouldn’t have thought it was capable of that but it obviously works.

  152. Joining the conversation late, but a couple of comments on the new vs upgrade vs foreign purchase MBT.

    My experience with the MOD is that there are simply too many people having an input to any new platform requirements to have any hope of specifying something that is remotely “efficient” in terms of capability vs cost. Then in the interests of fair play and perceived value for money this goes out to tender and the winner is always the company that promises to tick the most boxes regardless of their intention to actually tick them, and inevitably the cost spirals upwards and the In Service Date extends out to the far future AND we have to fund upgrade programmes in the meantime to retain capability.

    I would therefore try to rule out any new vehicle before it becomes the next FRES2 money pit unless this farcical method of new platform acquisition is radically updated (although I accept it probably works well for buying toilet rolls and the like).

    So I’d probably be biased towards an upgrade or the purchase of an existing system from abroad? I can’t decide which I prefer – ideally I’d like to try and retain UK engineering capability but I do get the nagging feeling that any upgraded platform (vehicle and/or armament) whilst satisfying the present needs simply doesn’t have the longevity required when compared to the expense involved – and buying an off-the-shelf platform, even if it does everything we want potentially leaves us dangerously exposed for support and spares and probably has wider political ramifications that we don’t even want to consider.

    Ruling out all of the above, we’re seemingly left with no positive options. Perhaps that’s why nothing has been done and we have so many platforms due for retirement in such a short space of time. So I’d propose something simple. Approach a company (preferably UK based, maybe BAES, maybe GKN, maybe look to rail or automotive sectors, but consider outside-UK including GD, LM, STK, etc, maybe more than one) and commission them to build a prototype with some core specifications and give them a team of operators. No intermediate ‘Systems House’, no vast and wasteful studies and technology programmes, no endless cycles of indecision, but a dedicated team of engineers and operators who can combine actual operational requirements and considerations with the art of the possible within a reasonable timeframe. And then we do what the Russians are really good at and iterate the design, not throw everything out and start again every time we want to make a change.

    Could it work? I think so, but I doubt the necessary changes would be acceptable to those who would need to make them.

  153. bad_steve – there is another way, as you note. Your simple way is an approach taken from our industrial history (many examples) where the result has been notable engineering success. For example the original Mini, Jaguar’s E-Type, most of the 1920s/30s express locomotives, the Supermarine Spitfire, the bouncing bomb. In these cases there was a lead engineer (singular) who had control over the project’s direction based upon a relatively simple requirement, and who was left to the job without massed interference from committees, advisors, specialists or focus-groups. In essence the resulting designs were sharp and coherent and efficient at their primary task. What this approach needs from the customer set is a simple, coherent and achievable requirement (Cardinal Points Spec as was) and a hands-off ethos of management thereafter.

    Looking back at the AFV products of the past, most of the UK’s success stories came from Chertsey’s design establishment, where I strongly suspect the designers did stuff in small groups to get to a point where a prototype looked effective for a task before engaging the advisors who no doubt they could chose to ignore for the greater good if necessary.

    I have had the luxury of following my own design targets over the past few years – no customer ‘help’ involved – and have a set of neat and coherent designs. Not necessarily to everyone’s taste (mentioning no RT) but by the responses from the peer reviews thus far they present a realistic and effective set of designs which do not however follow the current AFV fashions (and are the better for that). Had I had a committee of customer representatives, SMEs, accountants, programme managers Uncle Tom Cobley An’ All on my back pulling this way and that with ever present threats of cancellation if whatever newly required widget wasn’t engineered in to the satisfaction of everyone concerned, I doubt the designs would have been outstanding at all, except in terms of costs.

    The approach has much in its favour – the process is fast, the process is therefore less expensive, the results tend to be very good at their main task, they are ready for service while the threat against which they were designed still exists, if they are not quite right the next generation can be designed to resolve shortcomings – no big deal if the projects are fast and relatively cheap. Having taken 30 years and nine-figure sums of money to create Scout-SV from the original Scorpion Replacement task, I doubt HMG will sanction an ASCOD-FRES replacement any time in the next 20 years (more likely 50 years on current performance), by which time the needs might be quite different to now.

  154. as – I think it would be a fair deduction that Falcon does not use high-protection armour (of Dorchester or Chobham variety) – if it was part of its current design then the turret structure would be incredibly narrow for its height and would I imagine be at risk of snapping off its base if a round hit the side (let alone not having the internal width for a 120mm gun breech). Again I surmise, but at full elevation the breech would swing quite low into the basket, so I guess the tall gun/autoloader structure underside is open into the hull. The shell magazine might be beyond a blast protection barrier though. So from a protection point of view my estimate is that it might be vulnerable to direct hits, more so than the heavy full-width man-up-top turrets used on typical modern NATO MBTs. The narrow silhouette mitigates the risk from direct head-on attack, but the vast rectangular (and absolutely vertical) slab sides do not appear robust.

    When I suggested an idea for a turret that had no room for a roof hatch to the Army trials experts the clear response was that there was an absolute need for the Commander to have all-round visibility by Mk1 Eyeball, specifically vital when manoeuvring in low-threat busy locations where running into obstructions or civilians was a real possibility. This turret has no such ability and would I imagine be rejected as swiftly as was my suggested design. Over time, I have no doubt that remote (electronic) vision will come to be trusted, but for the moment direct vision in the AFV domain seems non-negotiable.

    My opinion then is that Falcon is best suited to situations where the enemy is unlikely to be anywhere but ahead, and in wide open uninhabited terrain. As such, it might suit Jordan very well (and many other Middle East or sub-Saharan nations) – a desert queen. For those nations who would want the ability to fight in complex and densely occupied terrain its probably not the best choice.

  155. There’s a great deal that can be accomplished by Mk 1 eyeball that electronic systems cannot replicate yet. For sheer instantaneous field of view, quick changing area of interest, resolution, changing your point of view and relating what you are seeing to where you are, direct vision is very difficult for electronic systems to come close to, let alone beat.

  156. Speaking as someone who almost garotted himself on marking tape trying to ride a bike with an NVG, I would say that electronics have horrible depth perception. I thought the tape was at least 3 meters away until I saw the width expanding. So I have to second what mr fred said. Electronics < Mk 1 eyeball.

  157. It should be noted that both cameras and displays are developing a great deal at the moment, so there is scope for improving the electro-optics used on AFVs. Some day it might be on a par with direct view for spatial awareness, but I’d always favour an approach that lets you have both.

  158. Obs – my concepts include electronic vision but I fixed that particular problem. In theoretical fashion, that is, as building a full-on usable system would require more cash than the Piggy-Bank can spare. But rest assured the problem was identified and understood, and a solution developed, as the opportunities offered by indirect vision are really useful.

  159. Helmet vision systems have been in combat helicopters for 30 years now and IMHO will make the step over to MBT ‘s soon . Thales Scorpion system has been integrated into all Airbus military helicopters as a plug in add on with all you need already installed whether you intend to use the system or not , its built in. They also have the contract to do the same for to do the same for all US Army helicopters in partnership with Raytheon. The state of the art systems such as the one destined for the F35 which allow the user to see ‘through’ the structure must be quite un-nerving to get used to but must give a leap forward in visualisation. On todays integrated battlefield the wealth of information available must be overwhelming and a helmet mounted system providing tailored information a could see as a big leg up.

  160. @Observer

    You experienced two significant issues with NVG: Optic length and tunneling.

    If you ever have the opportunity to ask to try on something like a TopOwl helmet, I thoroughly recommend doing so (assuming the custom fit helmet suits!). The only comparison I can personally use to describe the difference is the switch from glasses to contact lenses.

  161. Over the years their have been many such crew in hull external gun designs, but as has been said above they all fall down when it comes to providing the commander with all round vision, which is absolutely vital.
    For the future it may be possible to replace direct vision with electro optical devices viewed on a helmet mounted display however its worth pointing out a few of the problems.
    Currently in both aircraft and helicopter applications the pilot still has his normal vision available they are not totally reliant on the helmet display. The environment in the cockpit is also much more benign than it is on an AFV. Could the helmet stand getting wet, muddy, dusty, hot, cold and knocked against anything and everything. The TopOwl helmet would be no where near robust enough. It would also of course not have to be too expensive. I’m sure we will get their one day just not quite yet.

  162. Without the extensive research and development capability the MOD used to poses I doubt their will be any future British designed AFVs, where would they be built anyway. When you have to start testing at MIRA you know something’s gone badly wrong!

  163. The other problem with AFV vision systems is parallax. With aircraft, everything is generally so far away that parallax between the sight and the operator is negligible. With an AFV, there are things you need to look at which are much closer, plus the movements tend to be more abrupt, so parallax is more of a problem.

    Most AFV studies to date also tend to rely on displays that are relatively low definition compared to the state of the art and very low definition compared to direct vision. In addition, these tend to replace, rather than augment direct vision, depriving the operator the opportunity to quickly move between tasks, such as observing, then checking position on a map, then checking vehicle status

  164. whitelancer – while I have to agree the deterioration of both MOD’s capability (“industry will do it for us”) and the defence industrial sector’s capability (“not worth the cost if there’s no business coming from it”) in terms of AFV specific development facilities, it is still possible to design, manufacture, trial and support AFVs here in the UK (just). When I worked at Alvis they had their own test track at Baginton. GKN had a track, Vickers had a track, RARDE Chertsey had a track. Lots of capacity to put vehicles through hell. You would hope BAE kept the GKN track – just in case MOD ever give them an order – but it might be a housing estate by now. Chertsey shut down. As far as I know both Vickers and Alvis tracks were sold off. So now we have the two civilian test tracks. MIRA & Millbrook, and I think a track in Devon belonging to Supacat.

    That’s testing then, not a rosy picture but still some capability. Design work requirements are much easier to satisfy – good people with domain understanding (or willingness to engage and learn) can cover much of the big packaging effort with little more than a spreadsheet and a CAD station; for the whizzy technology there are still specialist companies in the UK who could design and supply their particular components/subsystems. As for manufacture, as the industry stands I would say most of the manufacturing effort (as in raw materials to ready-to-fit component/subsystem) would be performed by the specialist businesses themselves; the ‘vehicle manufacturer’ would be the assembly facility where these parts come together. Big cranes and a good team of fitters required. So design and manufacture would still be possible in the UK. And of course if something can be made it can be supported (spares, training, documentation etc) so all bases could be covered.

    But these specialist businesses are not charities, nor are they serfs to MOD masters, and they will only survive while there is profit to be made. MOD’s “industry will do it for us” declaration, a phrase I read in one of the MOD’s strategy documents, blindly assumes whenever they need industry to do stuff, it will be there and ready to work. Strangely enough, it doesn’t work that way. Hence when MOD chose GD for FRES SV the old Vickers part of BAE was sold off; when the carrier module work came to an end the Pompy sheds were closed and gutted; when Harrier work concluded Dunsfold was sold. This bizarre approach that MOD have, where there is an apparent assumption they will be treated as royalty and whenever they want something done their grateful subjects in industry will rush forward eager to please their gracious customer, is far removed from the daily struggle for survival most defence sector companies face – exception being the huge and wealthy corporations, which is why so many small companies get soaked into the top dozen world players. In the end, if the current approach remains (here and in most western nations alike) then there will be so few defence capable corporations each having swallowed their smaller competitors that the glory-policy of competition for everything will be pointless. You want a pointy-jet? Lockheed makes them. You want a tank? GD makes them. What choice would there be?

    I have for a long time said there needs to be a very different approach to defence procurement – the volume of work is so small that the huge competition method is way out of proportion. 50 years back, when the UK was a proper world player and had exports to every corner of the world, MOD could and did act as a major player. But now in comparison to those days UK Defence is on the scale of a cottage industry. The procurement approach should adjust accordingly. My suggestion (not that anyone seems to bother listening) is for MOD to cease being the big ‘I Am’, and to partner industry in cooperation to jointly get good materiel as quickly as possible and at sensible cost. By the term ‘partner’ I do not mean boss-slave mistrust and audit, I mean personnel of all partners putting in productive effort. This is the path to regeneration and the growth of smaller businesses to become the next generation of eager and capable manufacturers, a chance to bring forward new talent and as a result lots of new and exciting ideas, products and capabilities.

  165. You all know the tune!

    Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Medium Brigade?
    My friends all drive 8X8’s, I must make amends.
    Worked hard all my lifetime, I’m not much help to my friends,
    So Lord, won’t you buy me a Medium Brigade ?

    ‘Strykers begin ‘road march’ across Eastern Europe’

    ‘U.S. Army sending armored convoy 1,100 miles through Europe’

    ‘Rosomak APCs Deployed To Hohenfels – 700 Kilometres Covered To Reach The German Base’

  166. Chris
    Afraid I haven’t your confidence. Take Chertsey, their was not only the test track their were three, the MIRA track equivalent with skid pan, slopes etc. Their was also a rough road course and a cross country course. Then their were all the other test facilities hot and cold chambers turret test facilities and many more If you wanted a mock up in wood or steel no problem. Now it may be that you could find all these facilities in the UK but not on one site and where would you find the expertise? While RARDE was an expense, it was in my opinion one well worth paying. Another case of knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing. As for manufacturing where today could you build an MBT without the government having to pay an extortionate amount for a new facility. As you say soon their will only be a few large players with the case of take it or leave it.

  167. whitelancer – indeed I agree it will be much more difficult now, with test sites for different aspects of the product dispersed far and wide over the country, but I remain optimistic (in a pessimistic sort of way) that there would be just enough capability to cover the test needs. At the moment. But without a flow of work these last vestiges of national capability will vanish.

    I fully endorse your view on the value of the Establishments (all of them not just RARDE), DSTL were supposed to carry the skill set forward but they are a pale shadow of their predecessors, and do little design of their own. As for QinetiQ its hard to see what their place is in UK defence these days; it would appear the MOD’s view that QQ would be a more efficient more accountable organisation still fully focused on the needs of UK MOD was based more on hope than reality. So I too am saddened and somewhat depressed that RARDE and the other Establishments were closed down, and think the UK will lose its indigenous military design & manufacturing capability in a few short years. That is unless HM Gov’t steps forward to kick some sense and rigour into MOD, such that it gets its act back together and gets serious about the business of defence. Wafting around defence shows doing window shopping is no substitute.

  168. Chris
    Personally I find it all very depressing.
    Selling off not only the research and development establishments but also Royal Ordinance out of some misguided assumption that private is always good and public is always bad was stupidity of the highest order. Nearly as bad as assuming public is always good and private is always bad. The best as always is a suitable mix.

    How can you get into a situation where you no longer produce ammunition for your MBT.

    Reading “HOW DEFENCE WORKS” I’m sure they think they are running Tesco from their “Head Office” in Whitehall. Pity they can’t run a war.

    I’m just waiting for the MOD to be sold off and the Navy, Army and Airforce outsourced. To China perhaps!!!!

  169. whitelancer – agreed in spades. An interesting comparison, looking at the likes of Tesco. Without doubt their buyers purchase more per year in cash terms; they are entirely customer driven, and their efficiency is extremely high (as in customer accepted vs. stuff rejected or out of date). Obviously few supermarket chains try inventing stuff never thought of before (with exception of Waitrose and Heston Blumenthal) so the comparison is not entirely apt, but in terms of a straight purchasing system with all the ‘just in time’ methods embedded, MOD is a long way back. Of course, for small volume demands particularly those that are not scheduled at a regular pace, ‘just in time’ cannot work. Manufacturers will not leave production capacity idle just in case an urgent order comes through once in a very dark blue moon. Those that try to use the mechanism but who have insufficient demand (volume or value) find out the method quickly morphs into ‘just too late’, then ‘just not what was ordered’ and finally ‘just no suppliers’.

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