RE: Chris Thomas and Martin Gregorie
RE: Chris Thomas - take a look at many of the modern anti-tank choppers, do you see the way the sighting systems are being developed to move from the nose to mast-mounts above the rotar? The Eurocopter Tiger is a good example. Take a look at the Longbow Apache and check out where the millimetric radar is. That's because the modern anti-tank doctrine is to keep the chopper behind cover as much as possible. The reason is a host of field systems have become available to attack a chopper that stays out in view or hovers for too long in one spot. Yes, the tank will have a hard time getting a shot at a chopper hiding behind a hill, but the chopper has to pop up to find the target and take the shot, and this is when it is vulnerable.
Even Hellfire needs the target spotted and marked by a laser (AFAIK, the TV and self-homing variants still don't work), so that means someone has to put themselves in a position where they have line-of-sight for the duration of the missile's flight. If it is the chopper itself, it has no means of distracting or stopping the faster APDS or HESH round from say a Challenger2, whilst the tank can deploy smoke and move after or during the shot. As Jonathan Schofield noted above, he could fire accurately to 22 miles with the old 120mm gun from the Chieftain, which is a bit further than the max 5 miles range of the Hellfire. The Hellfire then still has to make a critical hit, which means holding the laser steady on a specific point on a probably moving target. On the other hand, a hit from a 120mm HE round on just about any part of the helicopter airframe will mean one less chopper, period, and if the chopper makes an evasive action it is highly likely to lose the laser mark on the target, which means a wasted Hellfire. This line of thought has led the Israelis to test using tank-fired airburst shells loaded with flechettes (made infamous recently for killing a Palstinian TV journalist) as a means of forcing an attacking helo to break off an attack and drop laser lock.
More worryingly for chopper crews, some people have pointed out that MBTs are now so expensive it makes sense to give them a proper anti-aircraft suite. It would be a simple task to mount the same millimetric radar from the Longbow Apache in a retractable mount on a Challenger3, tied into the main gun's ballistic computer, and then you have a system that could accurately target helos in all weather and light conditions at ranges beyond any current or planned anti-tank missile. Take it a step further and use a laser-guided 120mm shell (tech already proven with Copperhead), with the laser designator aimed by the radar, and suddenly the helo is at such a disadvantage you might start questioning why we are planning on buying more anti-tank helos.....
So, you see, the Hellfire-vs-tank scenario is not as cut and dried as a lot of people like to make out.
RE: Martin Gregorie - the Amercian M3 light tank, aka Honey or Stuart, didn't shed tracks on tight turns because it couldn't make tight turns! Unlike British tanks, which could turn on the spot, it had a turning radius of about forty feet. Whilst this was fine in the open desert, it was a big problem later in the European theatre. It wasn't until the M5 version with twin engines arrived that the Honey could trun properly. The Stuart also had two other big problems due to the radial aero-engine in the version supplied to the British (the Guberson diesel engined variant was kept by the Yanks). Firstly, it drank high-octane aviation fuel, which meant it burnt VERY well. Any hit penetrating the enginebay just about guaranteed a fire so fierce it often melted the armour! Secondly, the engine was rear-mounted but had a driveshaft from the rear to the front sprockets. This ran through the middle of the fighting compartment at waist-height, stopping the crew from moving with the turret if it was traversed. In consequence, the turret was rarely turned in combat and the crew were reliant on the driver pointing the tank roughly in the target's direction so the gunner could then make the minor adjustment to score a hit.
The Honey was popular with the British as it was fast and reliable, two vital requirements in a recce tank, and had better armour and a better gun when compared to the tiny Light Tank MkVI it often replaced. However, when the Crusader was finally sorted, the 6pdr-equipped MkIII was preferred for battle recce by the experienced 7th Armoured Division at Alamein as it was lower, heavier armoured, and had a much better gun. Again, it was a case of there being plenty supplied by the Yanks. For real recce, the British preferred to use quieter, smaller and faster armoured cars.
But, to get back to the point of the article, the British armoured industry should survive on its own merits, not Government hand-outs, otherwise it is just an expensive postponement of the inevitable. Of course, if those hand-outs can be disguised as "upgrades" and "attritional replacements" for existing Army vehicles then that's just fine. ;)