The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) is reportedly planning to cut a third of its Challenger 2 battle tank fleet due to budget constraints.
According to a report in The Times, the MoD intends to upgrade only 148 of its 227 Challenger 2 tanks.
The move will leave Britain with a fleet size smaller than Serbia, Cambodia or Burma. Furthermore, the UK military risks slipping to 56th in the global league table of the number of tanks available, the report added.
The army is expected to use the remainder of the Challenger 2 vehicles for parts. The report stated that some of the tanks could be patched up for deployment in an emergency.
An unidentified defence insider told The Times that the government has stripped around £31bn from the army’s budget since 2010.
According to The National Interest, military budget cuts have eliminated several assets, including 89 tanks, two aircraft carriers, two amphibious ships, four frigates, an army brigade, a third of the army’s artillery, as well as all of the airforce’s Harrier jump jets and maritime patrol planes.
An MoD spokesperson was quoted by media sources as saying: “We are committed to significantly upgrading our Challenger 2 tanks, ensuring we have the best weaponry and armour. These upgrades will provide the British Army with lethal warfighting capabilities out to 2040.
“The investment in the Challenger 2 upgrade is part of our £18.4bn land equipment programme. No final decision on the number of tanks to be upgraded has been made.”
The Challenger 2 tanks are the British Army’s main battle tanks and entered service between 1998 and 2002. They are manufactured by BAE Systems Land Systems and are also in service with the Royal Army of Oman.
Challenger 2 is based on the Challenger 1 battle tank and features 150 major modifications, including a completely new turret, L30 CHARM 120mm gun, and second generation Chobham armour.