Moderniser ou remplacer, tel est le dilemne face auquel de trop nombreuses armées modernes se retrouvent confrontées en ces temps d’économies (forcées). Un choix cornélien qui n’épargne personne, mêmes les plus grandes armées actuelles ; à l’image d’une armée britannique sur le point de déterminer l’avenir de son parc de chars Challenger 2. Face à un programme d’achat jugé économiquement inenvisageable, le ministère de la défense britannique semble en effet s’être résolument tourné vers ce qui semble avoir toujours été son plan A, à savoir la prolongation de la durée de vie des Challenger. La date de sortie de service de ceux-ci devrait donc être déplacée de 2025 à 2035. « Toutes les options, allant de ne rien faire du tout à l’achat d’un nouveau tank, ont été étudiées durant la phase de concept du projet « CR2 Life Extension Project ». En l’état, il est très peu probable que l’armée [britannique] choisisse la solution consistant en la fabrication et l’achat d’un nouveau char de combat. Une décision définitive sera bientôt prise concernant les Challenger 2, et la phase d’évaluation du projet « CR2 LEP » devrait en conséquence commencer début 2016, » a récemment déclaré un porte-parole du ministère de la défense britannique.
Soldiers from the Queen’s Royal Hussars are conducting a major live-firing exercise at the Hohne ranges in Germany. The exercise is part of regiment’s annual training, which also involves the transportation of heavy armour. Pictured, a Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank being loaded on to train transports in Sennelager.
Reserve soldiers of the Royal Wessex Yeomanry recently trained with Challenger 2 main battle tanks and RAF Chinook helicopters on Salisbury Plain for Exercise Spring Warrior.
For the first time in more than a decade the unit teamed up with the RAF. Their joint mission with air crew from 27 Squadron RAF Odiham was co-ordinate the delivery by air of personnel and their Wolf Scout Land Rovers.
Driver Trooper Marcus Cribb talks about his role as a Reservist working with Challenger 2 and how being a Reservist fits in with his civilian life.
Army Reservists of the The Royal Wessex Yeomanry (RWxY), the South West's Army Reserve Cavalry Regiment taking part in Challenger 2 main battle tank live firing exercise.
As their civilian colleagues drove to work through the morning rush hour on Monday 18th November, 40 Army Reservists from the West Country climbed aboard Challenger 2 Main Battle Tanks to experience live firings first hand as they trained to become tank crews.
Reservists of the Royal Wessex Yeomanry have trained alongside former regular soldiers in a live firing exercise on Lulworth Ranges, Dorset.
Normally based at squadrons in Bovington, Salisbury, Cirencester, Barnstaple and Paignton, the reservists spent their weekend being rigorously tested at Five Tips Range – one of the premier firing ranges in western Europe – to make sure they are ready to become reserve crewmen on the Challenger 2 main battle tank, and to carry out important support roles such as medics in the future British Army.
As a result, the Royal Wessex Yeomanry will also become one of only a handful of reserve units to be a part of the British Army’s reaction forces; ready to deploy anywhere around the world to protect Britain’s interests and national security.
This challenging and exciting new role was bestowed upon the Royal Wessex Yeomanry following the publication of the government white paper ‘Reserves in the Future Force 2020’ earlier this summer, detailing the future structure of the British Army and how it will operate. It also outlined the creation of a well-trained, well-funded, well-equipped and fully integrated reserve force.
In all, 4 tanks were involved in the exercise, each one crewed entirely by reservists and commanded by a former regular soldier. Everyone in the crew from the commander to the gunner, loader and driver were continuously tested by regular soldiers from one of the units that the Royal Wessex Yeomanry will be paired with in the future.
The teams worked together in the cramped and intense atmosphere inside the hull of the Challenger 2 tank to fire the weapon’s main armaments, the 120-millimetre (mm) gun and the 7.62mm coaxial machine gun – engaging and destroying multiple targets whilst travelling at more than 25 miles per hour across difficult terrain.
Commanding Officer of the Royal Wessex Yeomanry, Lieutenant Colonel Chris MacGregor, said:
The capability of a tank comes through its crew. It’s not the individuals inside it. So, one of the things they’ll be practising is that interaction and integration and, in many ways, what you’ll find inside a Challenger tank is the microcosm of all the changes we’re making to the Army in that we have integrated crewmen.
In some of the tanks there may be a regular, and you’ve got reservists who are normally a civilian in some other occupation, and they are having to come together to work in absolutely harmonised ways to get the effects that you’ve seen today to reach that military capability.
One of the Challenger 2 tank gunners was Lance Corporal Rob Stiff, a senior IT project manager. Lance Corporal Stiff is a former regular soldier with 7 years in the infantry with the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment behind him.
Now Lance Corporal Stiff is a reservist serving with C Squadron, Royal Wessex Yeomanry. On returning to the military as a reserve he said:
I missed the camaraderie, I missed the guys and I missed doing something that fulfilled me completely. The Army always gave me that. I didn’t leave the Army because I’d fallen out of love with it; I wanted to start a new career before I was too old, and this gives me that fix.
I get to be with guys and girls of the completely same mindset. We’re all here for the same reason; good banter, good laugh, work hard, play hard, and we’ve got a really worthwhile role now in the Army going forwards.
Months of hard graft over countless weekends have been put in by the reservists in sophisticated simulators to earn the prerequisite qualifications to enable them to operate to the best of their ability inside the Challenger 2 tank.
The Army Reserve aims to recruit up to its full manning of 30,000 trained soldiers, with up to an additional 8,000 soldiers in training, to provide an integrated and trained Army by 2018.
British Army reservists stand atop a Challenger 2 main battle tank [Picture: Sergeant Russ Nolan, Crown copyright]
The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards have bid farewell to the Challenger 2 main battle tank and welcomed in the Jackal armoured vehicle.
With 60% of the regiment deployed on operations in Afghanistan, the Rear Operations Group in Bad Fallingbostel, northern Germany, led by Officer Commanding Major Steve Walters, formed up to pipe the last of the tanks out of the barracks that have been their home for nearly 30 years.
This is one of the first significant steps of the Army 2020 programme which sees the formation of the Adaptive and Reactive Forces.
The Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Ben Cattermole, spoke to his soldiers in Kabul with fond sadness at the departure of the Challenger 2 main battle tank but also of the great opportunities that will come as they rerole to light cavalry.
Lieutenant Colonel Cattermole said:
Today marks a historic day in our 335-year history as our 3 remaining Challenger 2 tanks leave Wessex Barracks in Bad Fallingbostel.
Since our last deployment on Challenger 2 in 2008, the regiment has continued to conduct armoured training but has frequently reroled to fulfil counter-insurgency and training operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
So, today, 75 years from when our predecessors first took to tank soldiering we will hand over our tanks and focus entirely on our future as Britain’s leading light cavalry regiment.
We will integrate fully with the new Scottish and North Irish Yeomanry and shall stand together as Scotland’s Cavalry.
Corporal Stevie Barrett, who has qualified as a Challenger 2 driver, operator, gunner and most recently a crew commander, said:
It’s a sad day for the regiment to be fair, as the tanks have been around for a very long time, but it’ll be good to go onto something new and a new role. The regiment is very capable of doing that and so it will be good to step up and move on.
I’m looking forward to the challenge ahead and doing something new will keep the guys interested. As part of the Rear Operations Group we will be doing instructors’ courses and commanders’ courses so that when the guys come back we can teach them.
Corporal Andy Stewart drove the first Jackal into Wessex Barracks to mark the regiment’s new start. He said:
This is a big part of the regiment’s history; it’s a big part of my history. When I came I started on tanks and I have been on operations in the Challenger 2 as well.
However, it’s quite exciting to be part of this whole new transition to working on a new platform (vehicle) and being here on the day when the regiment will move into the future.
I’ve had good times with the Jackal on operations and in my training. It is one of the few vehicles in the Army that genuinely put a smile on my face when I got to drive it. People think it looks vulnerable, but it’s really quick and really effective.
It is a really reliable piece of kit and you can tell a lot of money and preparation has been put into it to make sure the vehicle is ready for us. We’re moving on and everybody likes a challenge – that’s why you join the Army.
Army reserve soldiers from the Royal Wessex Yeomanry are this week training with Challenger 2 tanks on Salisbury Plain.
More than 100 soldiers are training to become crewmen on the armoured vehicles and this is the first time in several years that the unit has had the opportunity to train with Challenger 2 on Salisbury Plain.
The reservists are spending a week on the Plain taking part in Exercise Wessex Dragon, which is their annual training camp.
The exercise is also an opportunity for the unit to use and train on its new fleet of Wolf Scout Land Rover vehicles which were recently delivered to the unit’s squadrons as part of the government’s ongoing £1.2 billion investment to revitalise the Army Reserve.
Trooper Elliot Metcalfe said:
The training stands today have been very good and very informative on all different aspects of the Challenger 2, and I have enjoyed using the laser technology system which is fitted to our weapons so we can simulate firing and hitting a target.
Captain Damien Thursby said:
Since the Future Reserves 2020 announcement we are actually getting to see the tanks more and having more opportunities for all the guys to get out on exercise with regular units, which is great.
Corporal Nathan Howard said:
The is the first time we have been able to take the tanks out as a troop working under our own steam and it is very beneficial learning to live with our tanks out here for 3 or 4 days.
These reserve personnel are preparing to fulfil a vital role in the future British Army as, by this time next year, the Royal Wessex Yeomanry will formally become the only armoured reinforcement unit in Britain.
As a result, the Royal Wessex Yeomanry will be one of only a handful of reserve units to be part of the British Army’s reactive forces which are held at a state of higher readiness and are prepared to deploy anywhere around the world to protect Britain’s interests and national security.
This challenging and exciting new role for the Royal Wessex Yeomanry was bestowed upon them following the recent publication of the white paper ‘Reserves in the Future Force 2020’. This document detailed the restructure of the British Army and the creation of a new, well-trained, well-funded, well-equipped and fully integrated Reserve Force.
In order to successfully fulfil this enhanced new role, the Royal Wessex Yeomanry will work closely with the aforementioned regular regiments and, from now on, will train alongside them in preparation for any possible future deployment.
Lieutenant Colonel Chris MacGregor said:
Integration is absolutely vital so we have borrowed for this training 8 tanks from one of our paired regular units, the King’s Royal Hussars, and a crew from the 1st Royal Tank Regiment, which is another. We also have instructors from these units permanently based with us.
There is a desire on the part of regular forces to invest in their reservists and likewise the reservists want the best capability they can get and that comes through great training and opportunities like this.
The First Royal Tank Regiment recently conducted live firing at Castlemartin Ranges in Pembrokeshire for the last time before amalgamation with the Second Royal Tank Regiment in August 2014. The live firing was the culmination of a challenging return-to-role training progression that sees the regiment perfectly poised for the forthcoming challenges of Exercise Prairie Storm 4 at the British Army Training Unit Suffield in Canada in October. Pictured, D Squadron conduct a systems performance check prior to beginning live fire exercises.
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