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Defence Committee slams UK’s ‘deplorable’ armoured vehicle capability

By Harry Lye 14 Mar 2021 (Last Updated March 12th, 2021 15:26)

The UK Parliament’s Defence Committee today published a report, criticising the ‘deplorable’ state of the UK’s Army's armoured fighting vehicle (AFV) capability. The report comes just days before the publication of the UK’s Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy, which could see these capabilities cut further.

Defence Committee slams UK’s ‘deplorable’ armoured vehicle capability
A Challenger 2 tank on Castlemartin Ranges in Pembrokeshire, Wales. Credit: Cpl Si Longworth RLC (Phot).

The report, “Obsolescent and outgunned: the British Army’s armoured vehicle capability”, states that UK’s Armed Forces are at ‘very serious risk’ of being outmatched in both quality and numbers by potential peer threats.

MP and Chair of the Defence Select Committee Tobias Ellwood said: “Over the past two decades the Ministry of Defence has allowed our Armoured Fighting Vehicles capability to atrophy at an astounding and alarming rate.

“Of the vehicles, we do still have, some date back to the early 1960s, when the Morris 1100 was the most popular car and Elvis was the Christmas number one.”

MPs noted that AFV programmes had been left vulnerable having been weighed against the UK Government’s desire to fund “other priorities, such as ‘cyber’ and information warfare”. The report adds the programmes had been ‘plagued’ by uncertainty and most recently delays due to the Integrated Review.

Ellwood added: “A mixture of bureaucratic procrastination, military indecision, financial mismanagement and general ineptitude has led to severe and sustained erosion of our military capabilities.

“This will have a profound and potentially devastating impact on our ability to respond to threats from adversaries.”

The report criticises the MOD and British Army for embarking on ‘overly-ambitious procurement programmes’ adding “Too often the Ministry of Defence has aimed to deliver the 100 per cent solution tomorrow, rather than the 80% solution today”.

The report includes a chart showing when current British Army armoured vehicles entered service alongside the times latest Royal Air Force fast jet, Royal Navy warship, the year’s most popular car and the then Christmas number one.

Examples include the FV430 series of vehicles which entered service in 1962 when the RAF was flying the English Electric Lightning and the Royal Navy was commissioning Leander Class Frigates. At the time, the most popular car was the Morris 1100 and Elvis Presley’s Return to Sender was Christmas number one.

When the Warrior Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) was introduced into service in 1984, the RAF was flying the Panavia Tornado and Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas was Christmas number one.

Like FV432, the Warrior IFV is still in service. The vehicle has not received any major upgrades over its service life and the Warrior Capability Sustainment (CSP) designed to upgrade the vehicle could likely be cut as a result of the Integrated Review.

Commenting on the Integrated Review, Ellwood said: “I hope the Government will take these issues into account when implementing the Integrated Review: there is still time to amend the Defence Command Paper and the Defence and Security Industrial Strategy and strengthen our decaying Armoured Fighting Vehicle fleet.”

In the review, the UK’s fleet of Challenger 2 Main Battle Tanks (MBTs) could also be trimmed, the vehicle is due to be upgraded as part of a yet-to-be approved Life Extension Project. The UK has 227 in service; however, reports have said that after the Integrated Review only 150 will be upgraded, with the remaining 77 tanks to be mothballed.

The report also mentions Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked), which was introduced in 1970. CVR(T) is set to be replaced by the British Army’s new Ajax family of armoured vehicles.

The report concludes: “This report reveals a woeful story of bureaucratic procrastination, military indecision, financial mismanagement and general ineptitude, which have continually bedevilled attempts to properly re-equip the British Army over the last two decades.

“Even on the MOD’s own current plans, but subject to the Integrated Review, we are still some four years away from even being able to field a ‘warfighting division’, which, itself, would now be hopelessly under-equipped and denuded of even a third combat brigade.”

Ellwood added: “In a conflict, the capable men and women working for the armed forces may find themselves outmatched, reliant on a fleet of outdated and outmoded fighting vehicles. The government should make no mistake, these failures may cost lives.”