“British Army To Reduce Frontline Tanks By A Third”
The British Army is reportedly planning to reduce its number of frontline tanks by to up 33%.
The move, which would see all of the Challenger 2s in one of the three tank regiments replaced with Ajax fighting vehicles, could leave the UK with fewer tanks than Serbia, according to the Times newspaper.
Russia, meanwhile, is said to have 2,700 frontline tanks, although it has many more in reserve and is currently bringing the T-14 Armata into service.
The plan, which would leave the British Army with around 40 more tanks than the traditionally neutral Switzerland, is reportedly set to be announced in coming months.
Colonel Bob Stewart, who commanded British forces in Bosnia, said:
“You should only reduce your main battle tank numbers with great caution. Reducing your tank strength may well be misconstrued by our potential opponents and be perceived as weakness in our will to properly defend our country.”
The decision would see Britain’s tank numbers fall from 227 to 170.
112 would serve on frontline duty, with the remainder used for domestic training or in Canada.
Germany, by comparison, has 306 battle tanks, France 200, Poland 971 and Serbia 212.
It comes after the Defence Secretary rejected reports that defence insiders thought the Ajax would be “useless” against anything more than “incompetent enemies”.
Rumours of delays were widely circulated, due to issues with the vehicle’s gun, including the integration of the cannon with a specially-built turret, and a shortage of funds.
However, Sir Michael Fallon denied that the £3.5 billion programme to build the vehicles could be delayed due to the alleged glitches with the weapons system.
The Ajax is lighter and faster than the Challenger 2, with a top speed of 44mph, but is more lightly armoured and has a 44mm gun, as opposed to the Challenger’s 120mm. The vehicle does, however, have a longer range and can cover a wider area.
In response to the reports, an MoD spokesperson told Forces TV the plan would see the Army go from having three to two Armoured Infantry Brigades – plus two Strike Brigades which would have the Ajax.
They added that it’s still being decided how many tanks the two remaining Armoured Infantry Brigades will have, so it can’t be assumed all those in the lost regiment will be scrapped.
The Army, meanwhile, feels that adding the Ajax to capability will make it more relevant and of more use as part of NATO. The MoD said in a statement:
“The Challenger 2 fleet is due to have a £700 million life extension project that will ensure capability until 2035. We are also investing in the transformational, multi-role Ajax armoured vehicle and the Warrior infantry fighting vehicle.
“The project is not fixed and could potentially include upgrades to the main gun, ammunition or armoured protection. We’re open to innovative, cost effective proposals that could improve the capability.”
Original post forces.tv