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back to article BAE mounts the Last Charge of the Light Cavalry

Global arms multinational BAE Systems has announced its bid to squeeze a last bit of cash out of the Ministry of Defence before next year's probable change of government and certain major reorganisation of MoD procurement plans. The company says that it will put forward an offer tomorrow (Thursday) to supply a version of its …

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Of course...

What we really want are fast and mobile armoured power-suits, with jet packs.(Forever War by Heinlein)

or Gigantic armoured robots (MechWarrior)

Knife missiles (Banks) might be a little too much of course.

And lets not talk about EE 'Doc' Smith eh? no-one wants planets travlling at light-speed to be used as a weapon, though I guess BAE would like the contract.

ttfn

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Stop

Heinlein?

@Paul Murphy

I think you mean Starship troopers?

Forever War was written by Haldeman and is actually one of the best anti-war books I've ever read.

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FAIL

No doubt BAe will play the buy British card

As they usually do. They will claim that while the actual body is Swedish the systems will be made and installed (and no dobut a few will have to be developed as they don't exist yet) in the UK and as we know these are the real cost of any modern AFV (certainly any BAe will make).

BTW The Forever War may have borrowed its tech from Starship Troopers but Joe Haldermans views were shaped at the sharp end of Viet Nam.

Fail because something tells me whoever wins this contract the folk at the sharp end will not be that impressed.

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WTF?

Light armour still useful for UN "policing" actions.

The majority of armour used on UN policing ventures seems to be wheeled APCs or armoured cars, as they project less of a threat and intimidate less than real tanks, but still allow the UN to get around quickly and with relative safety. They also usually carry a large enough main weapon to ensure they can win a fight against lightly-armed "insurgents". Of course, armoured cars and wheeled APCs are also cheaper to buy and maintain than real tanks and a lot cheaper to deploy to the usual UN hotspots, which is the main reason they get the job. With that in mind, I'm suprised the British Army is still looking at a tracked recce vehicle.

Mind you, if the project is cancelled then the Scimitars can still do a reasonable job. If a real anti-armour capablity is required it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to put a ATGM in a box on the turret side (much like the old Vigilant setup on Ferret). And I'm sure there is no magic property in Afghan mud bricks that will stop the existing 30mm Rarden cannon round punching almost as big a hole in a wall as any new 40mm round (though the old L23A1 76mm of the original Scorpion would probably be far more useful for making man-sized breaches).

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@Gavin

Your quite correct - I forgot myself in the excitement of visualising 'Tommy Atkins' bouncing around the battlefield avoiding IEDs and rogue policemen.

If I recall correctly Forever War had similar suits, but were always out date, and prone to lopping off limbs.

Of course i could always be mistaken.

Where's the 'where's my flying car?' icon?

ttfn

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Just a little point though...

We have made some pretty decent tanks. Scorpian is well thought of as a recon tank, and the Challenger 2 is, as far as I recall, pretty well respected (although this is probably in a large part down to the effectiveness of its armour)...

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Oh dear, the "tank is obselete" shtick again...

Lets see, we agree that heavily armoured vehicles are necessary, even for those "light" wars which are supposedly the only ones we will have to fight. The current MRAP's weigh a minimum of 10-12 tons (eg the US M-ATV), with the bigger ones like the the Ridgeback and the Mastiff at 24-30 tonnes, which is about the same as a Warrior IFV. However, off road these vehicles have very limited mobility, which is why the Army uses tracked Vikings for the Helmand "green zone". Now we have to improve their mobility, the logical solution is to mount them on tracks. The Canadian army (after retiring all their tanks after the Cold War) has just bought 100 Leopard 2's from Germany after their wheeled LAV's failed to cope with much of the terrain in Afghanistan. Once you have a heavily armoured vehicle, on tracks, and doubtless mounted with some sort of stabilised weapon, you have a "tank"; something that was supposedly obselete! As for the supposed replacements for "tanks", apart from the vastly increased cost, fuel and maintenance requirements of helicopters, they are about as much use as a telephone directory in the Amazon when they are on the ground. A vehicle can be an excellent fighting platform even when stationary.

As to the merits or otherwise of the CV90, I would aver it's too big and heavy, although a good replacement for the Warrior, and something in the CVR(T) weight class would make more sense, with an up-armoured German Wiesel being a good example. As for the disaster that is the Jackal, the designers have come up with a non-mine protected deathtrap that weighs as much as a CVR(T), but without the 360 degree armour and a 30 mm cannon.

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WTF?

Interesting...

It is interesting to hear Lewis put forward an argument that the tank has been replaced by air power, when he spends most of his time campaigning to have air power replaced by the Navy. Interestingly, the argument that air power had replaced everything was what left us without proper naval power and amphibious capability in the Falklands War. Had the Argentinians had just a handful of tanks (proper tracked main battle tanks), the Falklands War could well have gone a very different way since we couldn't really get enough air power over the islands to take out tanks. It would be very easy to envisage a regional operation in the future which gets into the same problems.

We probably don't need as many tanks as we have, but one of the biggest lessons of military history is that you shouldn't plan to fight the last war. Your only choice is to maintain flexibility, and that means having some of everything. Including Main Battle Tanks and Air Superiority Fighters. The reason for this is obvious. People who want to fight you in the future will usually try and aim themselves against your weaknesses. As such, the likelihood of going up against an opponent who has seem that you have no fighters, or no battle tanks, and aligns their forces accordingly is pretty high. It is highly unlikely that the Argentinians would have been fool enough to invade the Falklands if we still had a bunch of proper carriers for example.

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Be realistic

Discussion ignores the infantryman's guided weapon, such as the TOW . I am sure they have advanced a lot since the last but two Israeli war. Nevertheless it is odd that we never hear of them, it is all RPGs.

Anything concetrated on the ground is vulnerable from the air and from the ground.

The only way forward is by dispersed infantry carrying rockets and guns.

Tanks seem to have no role except to show force when occupying a city. Remind me, what happened in Basra ?

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Grenade

british tanks not great?

'Britain hasn't produced especially great tanks' - I was under the impression the Centurion and Chieftain were quite superb - they certainly had long and successful histories - and that the Challenger 2 is as good as any of its contemporaries.

also - the reliance on air power was what tripped up the Israelis during the early stages of the Yom Kippur War. It's a bit worrying that doctrine is becoming so reliant on having both air superiority and limited enemy air defense.

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Tank vs tank? Patton said it was Tank vs Infantry

"The idea was developed to make light tanks and infantry vehicles more able to penetrate their rivals' armour in classic tank war."

According to Patton ("War As I Knew It"), the best use of a tank is not to fight other tanks. The tank's purpose is to tear the living daylights out of the enemy's infantry. But of course things have changed since WWII. We don't seem to need the top armor so much as we need armor on the bottom for all of the IEDs.

What with the terrorists targeting civilians and patiently waiting until patrols are exposed, I don't see that a tank is especially useful these days. I have to agree with the generals, don't scrap them but don't buy any new ones, either.

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Grenade

@cphi

Not quite.

The Egyptians brought in Soviet SAM sites and that effectively nullified air superiority of the Israelis.

The point some are trying to make is that land armor is 'outdated' because of air superiority in terms of jets and more importantly 'tank killers' like the Apache Longbow and the Warthog (A-10).

However, that assumes a doctrine that may not fit current urban combat where you need some form of armor to support skirmishes.

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FAIL

Here we go again...

People have been saying the tank is obsolete for decades, and can be replaced with other stuff. Every time they then have to fight a war, and whadyaknow? They turn to be bloody useful after all.

The latest version of this was Gulf War 2 and the Stryker. The plan from the mid-nineties was to retire the M1A1 and replace them with Strykers that could allegedly move faster, could be delivered by air in large numbers, was more suitable for asymetric warfare, etc. If it needed to take out tanks, it could drop off the troops, who could then use their javelin atgms. They were proceeding apace with this plan right up until 2003, when the incredible success of the american forces in Gulf War 2 (in the assault phase) was down to the heavy armour blitzkrieg. If they'd been in Strykers, they'd still have won, but it would have taken much longer, and the american casualties would have been significant, instead of nearly zero.

And the retire the tanks and replace with apcs plan? Dead as a doornail. They're still buying strykers, but only to work with the tanks in roles to which they're suited. At least for a few more years, until they forget again, and start trying to replace something that works with shiny new tech that sounds good but doesn't actually do the job a tenth as well.

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Boffin

RE: @cphi

"....The Egyptians brought in Soviet SAM sites and that effectively nullified air superiority of the Israelis....." Again, not quite. The SAMs had been supplied well in advance of the War and moved gradually closer to the Suez Canal, nullifying IAF recce flights which starved the Israelis of information on Egyptian troop movements and exercises. Once the fighting moved into the Sinai proper (and outside the protective umbrella of the surviving Egyptian SAM batteries), it was the Israeli's greater drive and innovative spirit, along with superior armoured forces, that stopped and then reversed the Egyptian advances.

The SAMs did force a considerable change in IAF tactics, forcing the IAF jets to low level attacks where they suffered at the hands of AAA, SA-6 and SA-7 SAMs. A lot of IAF effort, especially from the all important Phantom jets, was focused on destroying SAM batteries, whereas in previous wars the IAF had simply blitzed the Arab airbases and then blitzed their armies. At no point did the IAF lose control of the air over the battlefield or over Israel itself, with both the Syrian and Egyptian air forces being soundly thrashed.

Probably the most noteable incident in the associated air war was the so-called Air Battle of Ofira, where two IAF Phantoms took on a group of MiG-17s with MiG-21 escorts and shot down seven confirmed without loss. This is a stunning example of the skills gap between the IAF and EAF, with the two inexperienced Phantom crews fighting at a low height where the MiGs had all the advantages, and yet still they won a resounding victory.

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What's the betting

That as soon as BAe get hold of these reliable Swedish tankettes and change them to meet the MoD's spec they'll turn out to be ludicrously expensive and completely unreliable?

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Tanks yes, medium vehicles no

I agree with the comments of those who think the tank is far from dead. The focus in the article seems to imply tanks were last used to any great effectiveness in the 1991 Gulf War. However, as some posters have already made clear, US (and British) tanks provided the spearhead in the Gulf War of 2003 and the Canadian's have re-equipped with tanks following their experience in Afghanistan (see Operation Medusa for example).

The idea that you will always have complete dominance of the air with plentiful ground attack aircraft/helicopters permanently present is fanciful both in practice and in the expense needed to resource it. Tanks can hold ground in a way aircraft can't and they provide vital protection for infantry. Like anything they are not invulnerable (very large IED's for example) but we wouldn't build any piece of kit or send soldiers anywhere if the only judgement of success or relevance was that none of them could be lost to any other type of weapon system.

Where I do agree with Lewis is on the irrelevance of medium level vehicles. They lack the protection of high end assets and they are too expensive for low level policing. It is hard to see what threat environment they are relevant for. As a US officer was reported to have said in Jane's Defence Weekly, when there were bad guys with RPG's about his troops didn't hide behind Strykers; they took cover behind M1's and Bradley's.

Some armoured recce in very very very modest numbers is okay but I agree with Lewis that we should be spending our money for recce on UAV's and well trained infantry.

I'm fine with investment on high end armoured vehicles and on low end policing vehicles but let's cut out medium capability vehicles that are good for no mission and focus on these two ends of the spectrum. The savings in FRES money would be far better spent on reinstating the four battalions of infantry lost in the last set of defence cuts.

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