The British Army’s fleet of Challenger 2 main battle tanks (MBTs) and Warrior Armoured Fighting Vehicles (AFVs) could be cut under plans reportedly being drawn up by military chiefs.
According to The Times, cyber capabilities, unconventional warfare and attack aviation would become a focus of the British Army’s offering to NATO instead of armoured vehicles and MBTs.
Responding to the reports, MP and Chair of the Defence Committee Tobias Ellwood told Army Technology that Armoured Vehicles were a ‘critical, yet neglected’ tool in the UK’s Arsenal and called for ‘strategic decisions not ham-fisted cuts’.
Reporting the story, The Times quoted a government source as saying: “We know that a number of bold decisions need to be taken in order to properly protect British security and rebalance defence interests to meet the new threats we face.”
The UK’s defence budget is likely to face cuts as the government looks to offset the cost of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.
One source told The Times that the changes would mean the UK would no longer be seen as a ‘credible leading NATO nation’.
The source said: “We simply will not be viewed as a credible leading NATO nation if we cannot field close-combat capabilities. It places us behind countries such as France, Germany, Poland and Hungary,”, adding that the move was “dressing up financial pressures as capability choices”.
Ellwood told Army Technology that while it was welcome that the Ministry of Defence (MOD) was ‘recognising and responding to’ the changing nature of threats to the UK, cutting armoured vehicles in favour of cyber could be ‘cost-cutting under the guise of modernisation’.
Ellwood said: “We should first agree what is Britain’s place, role and ambition in a fast-changing world. We traditionally step forward when other nations hesitate. Let’s establish our vision from which we develop the appropriate defence posture.
“Operational debates over land vehicles vs helicopters are far too premature when we have not confirmed how, where and when our military might be used.”
He added: “Whilst it is clearly positive that the MoD is recognising and responding to the ever-changing nature of threats to UK security, this newest development may simply be cost-cutting under the guise of modernisation: a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul.
“The Defence Committee will be monitoring developments closely and have launched an inquiry into the current capabilities of Armoured Fighting Vehicles in the UK. Armoured
vehicles are a critical, yet neglected, tool in our arsenal. Now is the time for smart, strategic decisions, not ham-fisted cuts.”
The Times reported that the UK has already approached NATO allies to discuss the plans and reshape the MOD contribution to the alliance.
Responding to the story, a MOD Spokesperson said: “Our commitment to NATO is unwavering, and the UK recognises that as a global military power our greatest strength remains our alliances.
“We are engaging our international allies and industry partners as we develop and shape defence’s contribution to the Integrated Review.”