The tank is now a century old technology

And yet government procurement still gives us:

It comes after trials of the vehicles had to be suspended from November 2020 to March of this year, after it was found troops had suffered swollen joints and tinnitus while being inside the vehicles.

In a Government report seen by The Telegraph it states that safety limitations on the tanks include “speed restrictions of 20mph” as well as “limiting time in the platform to 1hr 30mins before crew change”.

The report warns that due to the speed restrictions, which are understood to be caused by design flaws that have resulted in excessive vibrations that prevent cannons being fired on the move, the Household Cavalry regiment “cannot conduct effective collective training on the platform”.

Meanwhile, it states that due to safety limitations the current design means “the vehicle cannot reverse over an obstacle more than 20cm high”.

You should have seen the food in the Soviet rations shops after only 70 years of government procurement.

Still, this is fun:

The programme to deliver a new family of armoured fighting vehicles was decided in 2010, with 589 different variants of the vehicle ordered in 2014.

Gonna be fun with spare parts, isn’t it?

45 thoughts on “The tank is now a century old technology”

  1. The thing that should shock you the most is that the vehicle is based on a successful off the shelf design called ASCOD that is in service with several armies. How General Dynamics and the government have managed to screw it up to this degree is insane. BTW, the existing Warrior infantry fighting vehicle, which is obselete and 30+ years old but effectively the same vehicle as Ajax had a similar 10 year failed upgrade program, which has just been cancelled and now the vehicle will be junked without replacement. You would have thought buying an Ajax variant to replace Warrior would have made sense too, but the MOD thought otherwise.

    The Army hates armoured things. Unfortunately, they are the key to winning wars, especially with countries that decline to arm themselves with sharpened kiwi fruits ;-(

  2. One place you don’t want to be in a modern battle is inside a tank.

    In Desert Storm the allies possessed depleted uranium shells, the Iraqis did not.
    Grozny showed the vulnerability of tanks in urban landscapes.
    With drones and tankbusters and soldiers having to take Pride Month off, the only future are Terminatir style robot tanka

  3. @Ottokring; actually, the exact opposite is true. Without armoured vehicles, you cannot fight an urban battle; Iraq rammed it home to the degree now that urban operations are now listed as reasons for needing tanks, when pre-2003 the opposite was generally asserted.

    Drones are only now an “issue” because Western armies have been assuming no air defence threat for the last quarter century 🙁

    Incidentally, there really is a terminator, a Russian tank based vehicle that was developed post Grozny for urban operations

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BMPT_Terminator

  4. For UK government/MOD fuck ups look no further than the Typhoon and the ‘I know, let’s take the gun off to save money’ idea then, after spending a few million, ‘Let’s put the gun back on ‘cos the plane doesn’t work properly if the gun isn’t fitted’ (see also Chinook).

  5. “589 different variants”

    Anyone with better knowledge than me care to guesstimate just how many vehicles in total will be deployed? I.e do we get just one of every variant, or dozens of them or what?

  6. Military procurement has been a disaster since the end of the cold war (at least), mainly to it not being considered a priority apart from maintaining jobs in key constituencies and funneling money to BAE systems.

    To me, one of the most annoying things about Dominic Cummings early departure from Downing Street was that he was serious about reforming defence procurement.

  7. I have big worries over the new royal yacht being messed up from the very outset. The figure bandied was £200million. No small sum, but who thinks it will cost that? They could get a very nice 400′ superyacht from Deutchland/Dutchland for that no doubt. But its got to be Britland so the limited pool of warship/boaty mcboatface makers/refitters. At some point Prince Charles is going to ask for it to run on Sheep manure, and insist on a full orchestra pit.

  8. Rupert, yeah that’s the kind if thing I was thinking of. Looks pretty badass. Interesting that Peru wants to buy some.

  9. Give each unit/whatever a budget. Let them buy the arms. If they’re going to be in the tanks, they’re likely to buy better value equipment than the politicians.

  10. Ducky McDuckface

    On that Russian thingy;

    “A small number were delivered to the Russian Ground Forces for evaluation beginning in 2005. The Russian Defence Ministry finally ordered the BMPT in August 2017. Deliveries of more than 10 vehicles were begun in early 2018.”

    Twelve years evaluating the thing? Beginning ten years after Chechnya?

    And, for Ajax, it’s 598 vehicles ordered, about 5 or 6 variants I think, along the lines of the FV430 series.

  11. (Long time lurker, first time poster: Hello everyone!)

    There aren’t 589 variants. That I suspect is the total number of vehicles ordered.
    There are six variants (possibly seven: there is an additional variant proposed/under development).
    So this Telegraph story may tell us more about the current standards of reporting at the Telegraph than procurement at the MoD.
    Ajax is basically the replacement for the old Scorpion tank CVR(T) family of vehicles.

  12. I sure hope this doesn’t affect the Army’s core mission of equality and diversity and climate change!

  13. So long as you can still fly a rainbow flag from the long pointy bit at the front. That’ll show the Taliban we mean business.

  14. And Hello.

    And yes, the variant thing I agree, it’s about the Telegraph, not MoD. But then we know about pendantry around here, don;t we?

  15. Another advantage for robot tanks, especially in the Russian army, is that you won’t have the squaddies drinking all the anti freeze.
    There’s a line in the Irish comedy Botched that goes someting like
    “You know being in the Russian army isn’t all about drunkeness, homosexual rape and cannibalism !”

  16. The British don’t seem to have been much good at military procurement since before WWI.

    More of an Infantry Combat Vehicle than a Tank surely?

  17. Armored vehicles for the British Army have, for the last quarter-century, been a case of the mismatch between procurement cycles (five to ten years if you get it right and don’t mess about) and senior officers’ time in post (two to three years) which means that at least three Very Senior Officers (and the layers below) will oversee any given project.

    So, when in the 1990s the science, analysis, field trials, and user experience all say that the replacement for the ageing CVR(T) recce vehicles should be a tracked vehicle, about 25-30 tons, low profile and low signature, with lots of sensors (especially mast-mounted) and not too much firepower (TRACER if anyone remembers), the VSOs declare that’s not good enough; it’s got to be 17 tons and fit into a C-130 Hercules to be airlifted to any trouble spots, it’s got to be much more heavily armed and armoured, it’s got to be on wheels not tracks, and their word is not to be doubted or questioned.

    Cue expensive efforts to squeeze a gallon into a pint pot to meet these requirements for what was grandosely termed FRES (the Future Rapid Effects System) before a change of VSOs meant that airmobility in a C-130 was a stupid idea, what idiot civilian came up with that, and instead the CVR(T) replacement needed to be a “medium tank” able to fight for information, so a Spanish chassis was chosen so that it could be lengthened, re-engined, redesigned and adapted to fit a turret with a bespoke Eurocannon.

    As a result, the Ajax “scout vehicle” is taller, heavier, louder and slower than the Main Battle Tanks it’s supposed to be scouting out without being detected; and if it wants to “fight for information” it’s firing a 40mm gun (a high-performance one, but at an eye-watering cost per case-telescoped cartridge) while receiving the enemy’s choice of 125mm armour-piercing, high-explosive, or gun-launched guided missile – which even in modelling and simulation, never ends well. Of course this all assumed that Ajax actually worked at all, which it appears it doesn’t (buying ‘off-the-shelf’ and then changing almost every component isn’t actually a recipe for success…)

    Not to be outdone, the next set of VSOs declared that the Army’s future lay in “Strike Brigades” of lightly-armoured, mobile forces which would “concentrate to fight but disperse to survive”. So, they chinned off artillery (too difficult to supply with ammunition), air defence (was there an air threat in Afghanistan? No? Proves there’s no air threat, that’s operational experience talking!) and anti-tank capability (again, no enemy tanks in Afghanistan, tanks are so 20th century…) to have infantry drive around in wheeled APCs with very light armament, because that’s how you’d win Afghanistan. If the enemy turn up with a few old T-55 tanks, or a handful of helicopter gunships, or some 1960s artillery… the Strike Brigades die like mice under a Flymo, but apparently we’ll only ever be fighting insurgents whose heaviest weapons are an AK-47 or a suicide vest now.

    Infantry fighting vehicles, for proper warfighting? Well, we’ve got the 1980s Warrior, except it’s getting long in the tooth, so let’s put the same 40mm Eurocannon as Ajax got on it in a stabilised mount. BAE said “that’s a big job, quicker and cheaper to build a new turret”, General Dynamics said “those thieving gits at BAE are lying and trying to rob you, it’s just a quick simple swap to put a bigger gun plus all the stabilisation gear in there, we can do it for half the price”. Several billion pounds later, GD said “Tell you what, this gun swap business isn’t working, you’re going to need a new turret, no you can’t have a refund.” So, Warrior’s now being binned without replacement.

    And that’s just armoured vehicles. I could say much more, or I could describe the disaster zone of artillery or air defence (where we’re now obsolete, outnumbered and outgunned with a single Russian motor-rifle brigade having more and much better kit than the entire British Army) but it’s just too depressing.

  18. On the positive: having such awful military procurement may atleast help cramp politicans’ style when they decide to divert attention from domestic issues by going to kill some furriners in da sandpit.

    Losing all offensive capability isn’t such a bad thing. Did we ever find those WMD?

    And when the politicians hear the mobs, and order the troops out against the anti-lockdown protestors (or those demanding boilers, etc), the army will be able to say: sorry, we cannot attend till a week next wednesday. It’s too far to walk and someone has lost the extension lead for our tank!
    Oh, and can we have some black-market diesel for our generator please, as the power grid is in ‘demand management’ so even our phones don’t work.

  19. Did we ever find those WMD?

    ” I’m sure we did, umm yes, they’re around here somewhere…Quick, look over there, danger! Right-wing extremists and conspiracy theorists are going to kill us all!”

  20. Did we ever find those WMD?

    Yes, they are over there in that baby food factory. Well at least they were 45 minutes ago.

  21. “Armored vehicles for the British Army have, for the last quarter-century, been a case of the mismatch between procurement cycles (five to ten years if you get it right and don’t mess about) and senior officers’ time in post (two to three years) which means that at least three Very Senior Officers (and the layers below) will oversee any given project.”

    Which seems to indicate that the purpose of the British Army (& no doubt the other 2 services) is to provide careers for boys who want to play soldiers & not to serve the interests of the UK. In which case why don’t you all fuck off & play soldiers with some other country’s military & save the British taxpayer a great deal of money?

  22. Dreadful. The F-35 is a disaster, these new armoured vehicles seem to be a catastrophe, and the aircraft carriers are calamities waiting to happen. It seems to matter not a whit whether the government is Labour, Coalition, or Conservative; the shit show continues.

  23. We’d be as well going back to a mess of Etonians on horses with shiny swords led by a bloke wearing a cardigan. It’d be a lot cheaper in kit and no more expensive in lives lost.

  24. BiS,

    A colleague (also frustrated at the waste and lack of success) pointed to the threefold root of the problem, which can be summed up as:-

    1. There are no votes in Defence.
    2. Nobody changes their vote because of Defence issues.
    3. Did I mention that voters don’t care about Defence?

    Ministers and VSOs respond far more to harrumphing letters in green ink demanding that the third battalion of the 13th Loamshires be preserved in perpetuity, than to actual tedious scientific evidence and operational analysis about what’s needed and what works. Which is why the Army is basically a mass of under-recruited light infantry battalions, which preserve historic cap badges (and associated Regimental commands and administrative structures…), are cheap to equip and run, and are claimed to be able to “operate in demanding terrain” – in other words, “the bits of the map nobody cares about”. If actually fighting against an opponent with even WW2-vintage armour and artillery, though, they die like baby mice under a Flymo – they don’t have mobility, firepower or protection.

    Similarly, the general public tend to be woefully ill-informed with any large vehicle with a visible weapon being a “tank”, every Pusser’s grey being “a battleship”, the new carriers “calamities” because a new shaft seal leaked (at 200 litres per hour, it would have taken only forty years to flood her to the waterline, and a £4.99 pump from Pets At Home would barely have kept pace with the inrush!)… The idea that “the F-35 is a disaster” seems largely to be peddled by a failed defence analyst turned jazz musician (like the Guardian, Pierre Sprey seems to have managed to be “wrong about everything, all the time”) – successes are ignored, problems exaggerated.

    As a result, from the inside there are successes (the carriers, the F-35Bs and Merlins operating off them, Airseeker, Poseidon, the Type 45 destroyers’ air-defence capability…). There are issues (wrong engines used on the T45s to nakedly buy votes, ignoring engineers’ warnings) that can be fixed. But then you get the weapons-grade cockups (Nimrod MRA.4 where “it will be cheaper to re-use existing airframes” – no, it isn’t, it’s not even safe to do so; most of the Army’s heavy metal for the last twenty years). And nobody’s held accountable because (a) nobody actually cares, (b) the truths, half-truths and errors merge into a messy smear; (c) nobody really cares.

    There have only been two really serious efforts to get a grip on Defence in my lifetime. The first was the 1998 Strategic Defence Review, which laid out what the British military was meant to be able to do, what they’d need to do it, and the limits of the possible. (Unfortunately, it was never funded, with Gordon Brown refusing to release the money and Tony Blair unwilling to push the issue – so we got the tasks, but not the means to do them). The second, surprisingly, was the 1981 Defence White Paper, which addressed a catastrophic shortfall between tasking and money, and was willing to cut back on marginal and fringe tasking to focus on the immediate threat from the USSR. (Of course, that led to the Falklands Conflict, where it turned out that those “marginal and fringe” taskings mattered rather a lot after all)

    There’s a need for a proper, thorough review of what we want to be able to do, what we’re willing to spend to do it, and how we get from where we are to where we need to be. The one time we did it properly, we got caught out by events; the one time we got the theory right, we never got the money to implement it.

    Instead we get lazy headline-grabbing “reviews” that are salami-slicing exercises in delay and dissembling, and often run catastrophically badly (some of the major decisions announced in the 2010 review, were made in a rush – and went expensively wrong – because David Cameron was “bored with all of this”, ignored the analysis, and went for the sort of popular-but-wrong decisions we’ve got very used to)

    Not that I’m bitter or anything… it pays my salary, and I’ve managed to head off a couple of expensive mistakes and get a couple of things right, but it’s frustrating to see that it can be done properly – but so often, isn’t.

  25. ‘the new carriers “calamities” because’ … because buying the bloody things made no sense. We are already an existing aircraft carrier with a big anti-tank ditch between us and the Frogs. Anywhere else serious in the world where we might try to use the bloody things they’ll suffer the fate of the Prince of Wales and the Repulse. Glug, glug, glug.

    The Chinese must be enormously amused by the thought that two such under-defended targets might present themselves off China’s coast. Mere target practice for their shore-to-ship missiles. Hell’s bells, for the price of those bloody things we could have littered our coasts with shore-to-ship missiles that might have justified the title Ministry of Defence.

  26. Defence has no meaning to the average voter until we get our arses kicked by Bongobongoland ( cf The Flaklands War). Admittedly the grade A balls-up that was Basra barely impinged upon the public consciousness, but I guess that the truth was pretty well hidden and Blair was gone anyway.

  27. Ajax is not a tank. Like, not even close.

    It’s a scout vehicle.

    Everyone keeps writing about how ‘the tank’ is too loud and crap and I’m getting confused because the Challenger ain’t new and it’s considered a pretty darn good design.

  28. Dearime,

    Who’s got the means to find and strike an aircraft carrier? The US, of course. Russia, China, us, the French. And then… maybe the Indians? After that, the list looks a little bare. Turns out, it’s very difficult to even find a carrier at sea, let alone mass enough force to strike it.

    The Imperial Japanese Navy had spent decades and a fortune building a dedicated anti-ship strike force; when we sent a brand-new battleship and a WW1 tinclad out into their bombsights without any fighter cover, they gratefully sank them. (Those same land-based bombers never sank a carrier)

    A more relevant example might be HMS Illustrious, which was hammered hard by the Luftwaffe off Malta; she survived, made port, and was back in action to fight her way through the rest of the war.

    The notion that any tin-pot dictator can easily sink a carrier doesn’t hold up to examination… unless the North Vietnamese refrained from sinking a US carrier or three on Yankee Station out of the kindness of their hearts, for just one example.

  29. Bloke in North Dorset

    Jason,

    I though the point about that “leak” wasn’t the volume of water but that at high revs the slight misalignment and resultant vibrations could be catastrophic? So did I get the wrong end of a stick?

  30. BiND,

    The shaft seal leak was trivial, a different issue was that a propeller blade had got misaligned (may have worked loose, may have clipped something) and a diver had to reset it – that would have caused annoying vibrations (getting worse the more power you use, plus also noisy – bad for avoiding submarines). Easily fixed, but when you’ve got a TV crew aboard you get your drama when you can…

    I’ll admit to being biased (part time Navy, been aboard Queen Liz for a few weeks, literally got the T-shirt 🙂 )

    Thing is, this sort of thing happens all the time on ships when they’re full of people working hard and the ships are being driven like the OOW stole it; I was on Dauntless when a high-pressure salt water main let go in the forward generator room (a heavy spray of salt water onto a twenty-megawatt, high-voltage generator set is Not A Good Thing – they had it stopped in minutes and fixed in an hour). If I hadn’t told you, would anyone know it ever happened?

  31. @Jason: so we’ve built carriers on the premise that the only nations they’ll be used again are shitholes? But why are we planning to fight shitholes? Usually what happens in shitholes is none of our business. But if it were, I doubt that carrier-borne aircraft are the cost-effective way to deal with them anyway.

    As for finding a carrier: as long as it and its aircraft use radar they are findable. I dare say the Chinese will sell the relevant equipment to any shithole that will pay for it. They’ll even supply operators, I’ll bet.

  32. @dearieme

    “As for finding a carrier: as long as it and its aircraft use radar they are findable”

    the RN has routinely conducted operations in emission silence for decades, in fact since WW2

    We are not completely stupid y’know

  33. Dearime,

    If we’re fighting away from home, it’s a lot easier to bring your own airbase (with support staff, munitions, spares, ALIS database…) than to try to find one you can take over and fly all that over from the UK.

    If it’s a big fight, we’ll have allies (though their own bases may be full – hence why in 1991 the US had no fewer than seven carriers supporting Desert Storm, there wasn’t room for any more aircraft ashore, and during TRIDENT JUNCTURE 18 Norway was full and carrier air was the only way to add more) and a couple of extra squadrons of F-35Bs with a mobile base to fly from comes in very handy (plus, it widens the attack axis, complicating the defenders’ life greatly); if it’s a smaller scrap and we’re on our own then having airpower available saves lives; and if it’s a medium-scale barney (Kosovo, Libya), who else has a carrier to deploy?

    And no, you can’t just find a carrier from its radar; indeed, during WESTLANT 19 we were training to avoid exactly that (keep a good picture of the outside world, without any distinctive emissions or being seen). Strangely enough, the cheap, simple easy ways to find and sink carriers never seem to work in real life…

    We can argue that we shouldn’t be interfering in foreign affairs… but that’s not what our elected representatives say they want, and unfortunately we (collectively) elected them.

  34. dearieme,

    I think things like aircraft carriers and the F-35 are a sort of show for the sort of people in this country on the right who measure the success of this country by having Sexy Big League weapons, and the sort of assholes who talk about “Britain’s place in the world”, like the rest of the world are ever going to show us any gratitude for our help in any substantive way.

    I don’t see any benefit of all this stuff. We aren’t going to fight China or Russia. They’re a sort of corrupt gangster capitalism that likes us buying stuff from them. What would they gain by sending troops into Kent? Or most of Europe. Our main enemies seem to be a load of the krankier RoPers who are armed with knives, rifles and home made bombs.

  35. We aren’t going to fight China or Russia

    Are t we?
    Are you sure? Really sure? Because if you are wrong….

    BTW fighting China and Russia doesn’t just mean directly, it also means via their proxies

    Nothing gives you more options than a carrier strike grouo

  36. Eh, who’s “we” who needs to fend off Russia (lol) or China (which is on the other side of the planet)?

    So Jason (always a great commenter) says:

    and if it’s a medium-scale barney (Kosovo, Libya), who else has a carrier to deploy?

    Counterpoint: who cares?

    Bombing the shit out of Yugoslavia and setting up a Moslem statelet in the Balkans run by drug dealers and prossie traffickers wasn’t good for Britain, and neither was murdering Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi (pbuh) and handing over his country to inbred child-rapists who burn people alive in cages for fun (when they’re not being ushered by our Home Office into free four star hotels in Britain before blowing the limbs off our children at concerts or stabbing our gay chaps to death in Reading).

    Putin isn’t my enemy and neither is Xi. Random Mohammedans aren’t my enemy either. Westminster and Whitehall, otoh, are picking my pocket while flooding my country with semi-retarded savages from shithole countries. Patriotism is a mug’s game when you’re ruled by sociopathic thieves who don’t even believe in the continued existence of your patria.

    What’s the worst that can happen if “we” lose a war to the Slavs or the Chans? Are they going to bring our cities under foreign occupation, steal half our incomes, impose nonsensical petty restrictions on people’s daily lives, topple our statues and fill our airwaves with propaganda about how shit we are or something?

    Imagine that, eh? That would be mental.

  37. Steve,

    Entirely valid point – but it hits the 1981 Defence Review issue that, having declared we don’t care what happens in far-off Fumbuckistan and no longer need to be able to send a gunship to re-educate the natives… suddenly, when things kick off there, it turns out that actually we did care after all. (I mean, how many British people could have even found the Falkland Islands on a map in 1981?)

    Having the Nation Formerly Known As Yugoslavia completely collapse into permawar, and empty out most of its inhabitants (with their vitally-necessary personal protection weapons) to seek asylum elsewhere across the EU, with Britain mandated to take our “fair share”… might have been worse than stopping the conflict enough that most of the locals stayed home. (See, for instance, the seemingly-ceaseless flow of refugees who can’t find anywhere safe between Damascus and Dover, but can only take shelter in the UK). Doesn’t mean it was the right thing to do, but not all the alternatives looked better.

    But, one point is that for real problems, the military is like locking up your bike: if you wait for the point where you have immediate evidence of needing it to buy a bike lock, by then it’s too late (because your bike’s been nicked).

    Unfortunately, once you’ve got a military available… give politicians a hammer, and all sorts of foreign problems look like nails, and the temptation to send the RAF to blow up a few Toyota Hiluxes and declare “problem solved!” is huge. Worse, once you’ve got a conflict, you get the six-month command cycle of “new commander needs to make his mark, conduct the Big Winning Operation, earn his knighthood and move on” so you get – for instance – a massive operation to move a turbine to Kajaki Dam, where it then sits rusting quietly for fifteen years because nobody planned for “…and now we install it”. Looked great at the time, pointless and unproductive in reality.

    How to solve that? If I knew, I’d have been offering my services to Dom Cummings as a defence advisor (and would still not be having much significant influence beyond getting a few stupid procurements killed off early)

  38. @jason

    The essential problem is that Defence is one of the few bits of government that Gets Things Done

  39. Jason – I don’t believe NATO’s wacky Yugo adventure did anything to reduce the flow of “refugees”. We got a lot more Kosovars showing up in Britain after the 1999 war than before.

    Similarly with our Syrian adventure, which is aimed at trying to prevent the legitimate government of Syria from winning its civil war against jihadis.

    Similarly Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. All resulted in chaos, and a lot more Libyans, Iraqis, Afghans making their way to Britain. A crazy person might notice a pattern here.

    A military that is used by people who hate us to do us harm is worse than not having a military. I would solve this, as always, in a leonine manner. But in the meantime I tell my children to stay the hell away from the armed forces, because no son of mine is going to risk death for the coulrocracy.

    I suppose I feel like the Jews did under Roman occupation. I’ll render unto Caesar because the alternative is being crucified by HMRC, but there will be no blood sacrifice from this household because the thing our rulers call “Britain” and its “values” isn’t worth losing a fingernail over.

  40. Steve and Jason, outstanding comments.

    The test I think should be applied by the PTB is: ” Are the British people going to be a) safer, b) happier or c) wealthier after our intervention in Fumbuckistan or not?” If the answer is ” No.” then don’t do it.

    To be honest though, I think the only way to prevent our superiors appetite for expeditionary warfare would be to abolish the standing military and have a Swiss-style militia ( for actual Brits only – don’t want our dusky cousins getting hold of military weaponry) instead, with a small full-time professional component and, maybe because we’re an island, a slightly larger permanent Navy.

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