September 11, 2012 Think Defence
A guest post from Paul G
A strange title however it will be explained further on in the post.
Now that it has been decided that there will be an armoured brigade and it will have MBT’s, talk can now turn to having an MBT for the 21st century. I have a background in armour (7 armd wksps 87-92) but as my primary role was telecommunications, it was limited to fixing the radios and the intercom harness when the turret monster had a munch on the cables!
So, although having not lived and worked in them, I have always had a healthy interest which has inspired me to have a sort of “fantasy tracks” attempt at a post, makes a change from fantasy fleets. I was going to do a short history of the beast, but I’m more interested in its future, than it’s past. Challenger 1 and 2 were and still are highly respected pieces of equipment, chally 2 had impressive feedback from GW2 and yet due to piss poor circumstances countries like Canada are buying leopards, I say piss poor due to the fact that if someone did come asking, we no longer have the ability to produce them, or should I say there would be unwillingness by you know who to build them. (IMHO).
Before discussing replacements, I suppose we should ask what to do with the tanks that will be no longer required, I would hope we can avoid the scenes we witnessed with the nimrod where the cranes ran amok, nor would I like to see them become targets down range at lulworth. The obvious answer would be stripped down for spares or sold on /given away to Jordan like last time. Maybe some could be converted into more titan and trojan engineer vehicles. Personally if there were any going to the engineers I would like to revive the AVRE demolition tank. As we have seen urban warfare has played a prominent part in recent conflicts, resulting in the leopard being adapted with a front blade and a high elevating 12.7mm co-ax gun.
Cent AVRE were deployed in GW1 to deal with obstacles attached to the armour group to provide assistance and more importantly under cover reducing risk to soldiers. Now people like Tony Williams are the experts on calibres however a nice BFO gun to create a big enough hole for vehicles on a challenger chassis would be nice, space would be made by the removal of the gunner (crew of 3) and there would be no need for most of the present challenger (ie TOGS, and everything required for the stabilised turret). This could also relieve the infantry platoons from carrying weapons such as matador for breaching.
The Challenger production line closed many years ago and BAe are going to close the Newcastle factory in 2013 when the last terrier is completed, This fact effects the question “where or who in the UK could build a new MBT” and I did try and offer a solution in my last post with ref to converting the MLRS to command vehicles and HIMARS using the supacat chassis, mainly to retain the workforce and keep the factory while the challenger 3 was being designed on the computer. However could the cost of the design be that great that it would simply easier to buy the leopard 7 and ride the obvious political storm. That explains the first half of the title.
Obviously you have to compare the two side by side to weigh up which would be better, now this has been done on many forums by people far better qualified than me plus it would save on the comments by people pointing my mistakes. With that in mind I would like to give a brief overview, with a few numbers and what I think are salient points. The most obvious observation is that the UK is flying solo with the 120mm rifled barrel against the rest of the world with their 120mm smooth barrel pros and cons have been discussed at length but I think it’s time to join the party and get with the smoothbore. It has been fitted and trialled in a challenger turret but it was deemed too expensive to redesign the turret for it to be effective with a large percentage of challenger going it would seem that cost would now be reduced.
One of the main problems is the smoothbore uses one piece ammunition and BAe stated that even with modification the turret could only hold six rounds, now you don’t need the brains of a rocket scientist to realise that’s pants! If you look at a side view of the challenger and the leopard you can see the difference in turret size, also bear in mind the challenger is 8.3m long and 3.5m wide compared to the leopards 9.97 and 3.75 respectively.
Not the best comparison, but 90% of the photos online aren’t side views! Basically the leopard is ma-hoo-sive.
Challpard or leopenger?
No I haven’t been on the sherry, to cover all bases I thought about a hybrid vehicle either a leopard turret on a challenger chassis or a challenger turret on a leopard chassis. Why? Well spreadsheet phil likes a bargain and with the aforementioned manufacturing problems purchasing a chassis from Germany but using a UK turret (preferably a newly designed not the present one) could soften the blow, We are the world leaders in protection and it’s only the new leopard 2A7 that has finally added more protection. I can’t see the present challenger chassis been used as the engine is possibly the weakest on a MBT today, it’s ironic that many years ago an export version of challenger was offered to Greece (lost to leopard) with a more powerful, smaller and economical engine, yet it was never adapted by the British army something I have never understood. Even now there smaller engines than the perkins 1200bhp, these knock out 1800+bhp it would be nice to leap over the leopards 1500bhp and get out front again.
The rank outsider options
The Abrahams has to get a mention however this is just as old as challenger 2 and has a very complex and thirsty gas turbine engine (watched some REME air techs fix one by the roadside in GW2 while the vm’s stayed well clear)! Also there is our new chums, the French not to mention an emerging industry in the south east. The very last resort I forgot to mention above mainly because it’s stupid would be a cut and shut to lengthen the challenger chassis to bring it into line with the leopard (hey desperate times etc etc).
So what would I like? Well I like my AVRE idea with today’s tech a nice big cal gun (and possibly the MCLIC breacher) with modern rounds could be a game changer not only with punching holes for the vehicles if you’re on team shag nasty and something destroys your well built defences then morale sinks. Selling surplus hulls be it fighty or convert to engineer type to Jordan to fund this along with stripping down for high use areas like BATUS is a start.
After that let’s get the ball rolling on the new challenger 3, please don’t tell me we don’t need it in future wars it’s been decided we are going to have them and it’s not the point of the post. Let’s get in line with everyone else and go smoothbore, it would be nice to be designed and built in the UK, however I would accept the UK doing the turret and KMW providing the chassis, they are pretty good at it! Plus if we part funded with Germany to develop the 2000bhp engine, it exists already but needs some testing in armour. This could help with export if we developed turret tech that could be used with existing leopards as they are in service everywhere.