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Uk Surges Ahead With Challenger 2 Upgrade


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#941 Chris Werb

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Posted 20 July 2019 - 0556 AM

I don't have a strong opinion either way on Challenger 2, but doubt anything we can come up with will come close to a from the ground up new design by a technologically advanced Far Eastern country. Maintaining a defence industrial base sounds good as long as it benefits the economy more than an equivalent investment elsewhere in the economy. We also get into reinventing the wheel and the opposite of economies of scale. Nimrod MRA4 and AEW for example. Defence spending is notoriously bad at creating jobs. I would be more enthusiastic if we had managed to export meaningful numbers of our last few generations of tanks. However, our defence experts tend to go to countries I wouldn't trust with a wet towel. That has to stop. There is also a moral argument that it is wrong to send our troops into battle in an inferior vehicle, just because it is British designed, made or assembled, or some percentage of each rather than entirely imported.
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#942 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 20 July 2019 - 1016 AM

So we have tanks that work, and we should throw them all away and buy another tank to keep far eastern workers employed? This is precisely why we have increasingly little defence establishment left. There is little logic replacing a vehicle that can be upgraded, and with the pound on the floor as it is we are going to be paying through the nose for the privilege. Looked at what happened with F35.

 

For me, its got nothing to do with it being British. Its available, and we really have to start learning the lesson we cannot keep throwing away viable equipment anymore. We cant afford it, and post Brexit, we are not going to have a pound anywhere near competitive to go to the Koreans, or the Japanese or even the Americans and buy the best off the shelf. We are going to made do with what we have and make the best of it.

 

Yes, on this one, we really want to be taking a leaf out the Russians book. As far as defence procurement, they know how to ring the very last ruble out of what they have, and I respect them for it. Its why they have 12000 tanks for a song, and we have 200.


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#943 Chris Werb

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Posted 20 July 2019 - 1343 PM

As I understand it, a big part of the reason for the upgrade is that systems in the vehicle are becoming unsustainable. It has a non standard gun which also causes problems with ammunition supply and with no growth pathway. If you have a limited number of things full of old, no longer supported tec. Perhaps from suppliers that no longer exist, sooner or later you either have to develop and deploy a big upgrade or buy something that works and is supported off the shelf. I can see arguments in both directions, but, with the spectre of UK involvement in the specification and development process, I doubt the difference in price would be that significant.
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#944 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted Yesterday, 03:24 AM

If we are going to put a new turret on it, that is going to be a far cheaper option than buying a new tank. The idea we have to buy new Tanks is great for defence contractors, but do we really need to buy South Korean tanks, when what we face are lightly warmed over T72B's? No. Even an L27 will go through an unmodified T72B's turret. That is what it was designed for.

 

There is clearly an intent by Rheinmetal to involve itself more in British AFV production. Challenger 2 is only a sideline of that, but a significant one. Do we really want to queer their pitch, when we may be on the brink of actually getting a significant AFV production capablity back, after 2 decades of Governments showing utter indifference to it? Id suggest not. We cant afford to lose the jobs, and we cant afford to piddle away indigenous production capability, at a point when buying in from abroad is going to cost us an arm and a leg. We made that mistake cancelling Advanced Harrier and the inherent cost rise of F35. We cannot afford to do it now.

 

Id argue we can afford to be even more pragmatic. For example, rather than upgrading AS90, lets keep the turrets, and buy the Polish Hulls that they are new building to carry their licence produced AS90 turrets. Then get on their upgrade path and work towards something like Braveheart. Will we do it? No, of course we wont. We will find an expensive option and run with it, just like we did with Apache.


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#945 Chris Werb

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Posted Yesterday, 04:54 AM

How will putting a turret designed by another country with kit from that other country in it, dependent on ammunition from another country and putting it on a hull we already have constitute having a tank design and production capability? What are the actual advantages of having an AFV production capability of our own? How will we keep an order pipeline going given that our own requirements for heavy tracked AFVs are minuscule and no one else wanted the ones we made back when we did make them? That Polish SPH hull is South Korwan by the way :)
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#946 Chris Werb

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Posted Yesterday, 04:56 AM

How will putting a turret designed by another country with kit from that other country in it, dependent on ammunition from another country and putting it on a hull we already have constitute having a tank design and production capability? What are the actual advantages of having an AFV production capability of our own? How will we keep an order pipeline going given that our own requirements for heavy tracked AFVs are minuscule and no one else wanted the ones we made back when we did make them (because they tended to be a bit shite)? That Polish SPH hull is South Korwan by the way :)
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#947 Mighty_Zuk

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Posted Yesterday, 10:58 AM

So we have tanks that work, and we should throw them all away and buy another tank to keep far eastern workers employed? This is precisely why we have increasingly little defence establishment left. There is little logic replacing a vehicle that can be upgraded, and with the pound on the floor as it is we are going to be paying through the nose for the privilege. Looked at what happened with F35.
 
For me, its got nothing to do with it being British. Its available, and we really have to start learning the lesson we cannot keep throwing away viable equipment anymore. We cant afford it, and post Brexit, we are not going to have a pound anywhere near competitive to go to the Koreans, or the Japanese or even the Americans and buy the best off the shelf. We are going to made do with what we have and make the best of it.
 
Yes, on this one, we really want to be taking a leaf out the Russians book. As far as defence procurement, they know how to ring the very last ruble out of what they have, and I respect them for it. Its why they have 12000 tanks for a song, and we have 200.

The Soviet and later Russian defense procurement may seem good from the outside because their necessity in independence forced them into producing every category of hardware on their own, but their entire system is corrupted to the core.

Or would you really rather see at least 3 entirely different simultaneously developed pieces of hardware fulfilling the exact same roles in every service?

Edited by Mighty_Zuk, Yesterday, 10:59 AM.

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#948 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted Yesterday, 11:52 AM

MZ, I dont think you see what I mean. I dont advocate having three of everything. I advocate the Russian principle of not throwing anything away because it might be useful again. For example, they have been putting back into service 122mm field artillery to service Spetsnaz formations, and have in some formations been reactivating SPG9. Until recently, T80's were relegated to storage. Now they have been reactivating those too.

 

Witness our fetish for throwing away perfectly usable kit to AFFORD the next generation of kit, whether its Nimrod, Harrier or Tornado. Tornado would have gone completely in the early 2010's, if we hadnt had ISIS to plink.

 

I can still vividly recall about 2010 or so that the MOD were to shut down the Army's main storage centre for Tanks, by selling it off for a housing estate. That shows how far ahead we think ahead of the equipment in service.

 

 

How will putting a turret designed by another country with kit from that other country in it, dependent on ammunition from another country and putting it on a hull we already have constitute having a tank design and production capability? What are the actual advantages of having an AFV production capability of our own? How will we keep an order pipeline going given that our own requirements for heavy tracked AFVs are minuscule and no one else wanted the ones we made back when we did make them (because they tended to be a bit shite)? That Polish SPH hull is South Korwan by the way :)

 

Actually I think WE partly designed the turret, they are designing the integration. And as for being dependent on ammunition for another country, we are going to be even if we buy south korean.

 

I didnt say tank design and production. I said AFV production. The day of our building tanks here has gone and is not going to come back. There is however a great requirement for armoured vehicles other than tanks, which considering how the MOD utterly fucked up FRES we dont deserve to have. And yet, it seems to be coming to pass.

https://ukdefencejou...design-venture/

 

There is much to build on here, if we give it chance. Who knows, we might be part builder of Leopard 2's one day, who knows?  If we dont manage to screw it up again that is.


Edited by Stuart Galbraith, Yesterday, 11:53 AM.

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#949 Mighty_Zuk

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Posted Today, 07:36 AM

Stuart, you gotta look at this not from the eyes of an economist, but the eyes of an engineer. Or better yet, a combination of both.

An economist will look at Russia's tank fleet and see that they have X amount of tanks.
An engineer will look at Russia's tank fleet and see that they have an A amount of tanks that have X capabilities, B amount of tanks that have Y capabilities, and C amount of tanks that have Z capabilities.

Also, D amount of tanks that cannot be supported anymore.

It goes without saying that if you want to keep your hardware, of any type, relevant, you have to keep it updated frequently.
For tanks it means some form of substantial upgrade every 10 years and minor upgrades every 5 years. Service life of approximately 40 years with midlife upgrades included.

You know me, I followed the Merkava program for a long time so I will use it to raise examples.

You can say that we have 12 brigades of tanks. Each brigade holding ~100 tanks (exact figure changes frequently).
Alternatively, you can say we have about 1800 tanks of the Merkava type, or 4600 in total.

But of these 4600 tanks, the majority are Centurions, Tirans, and Magach that are no longer usable, and any upgrades in the MBT role are stretching them beyond their capabilities, or otherwise become far too expensive.

Of the remaining 1800 Merkavas, 250-300 are Mark 1 that are basically rust buckets that will need great investment just in reactivating them.

350-400 are Mark 2, of which the majority are in the same state as the abovementioned Mark 1, and the remainder that are in service are using many components that are no longer supported by any manufacturer, and the maintenance facilities are running out of. They're kept alive via cannibalization of retired units.

700 are Mark 3, of which nearly all are in service. Investment in upgrades is viable in some units, but overall are also using certain key components that are no longer supported, such as the engine. As they will retire, cannibalization will also be used to keep the remaining units active to avoid shutting down complete army units.

And about 460-480 Mark 4 tanks that are about to get their midlife upgrade.

Current course is to produce 30 tanks per year, and use spare production capability to upgrade existing tanks.

If we expand production capacity to our historical highest of 120 units annually, then we still wouldn't restore old units. Why? Because restoring an old unit is more expensive than building a new one.

For every type of tank that needs to be refurbished, a new and very expensive line needs to be made.
For every obsolete component, a new one needs to be developed, certified, and built, specifically for that model.
You can't stick an APS on an old tank that lacks the proper wiring for the task, and the batteries and generator that are also required. You can't stick a generator either if you don't have the necessary space.
You can't stick a new gun without redesigning the turret (technically you can but it's not safe).
You can't stick new optics on it without redesigning the entire computer architecture.
You can't design a new computer architecture and FCS without redesigning the stabilizers' interface.
You just can't do a lot of things without straining your production capabilities or budget, or both.

This debate surfaced in Israel a lot of times. Why not keep making Achzarit from existing and unused T-55? Why not turn older Mark 2 tanks into Namers? Why produce brand new Namers when base platforms for an HAPC already exist? And the answer was always money and time. New-built is always cheaper.
And when you focus on new-built vehicles, you can focus your R&D on keeping them updated.

And the only reason why Russia is now bringing back mothballed tanks is because it can't produce the T-14 yet. And if it doesn't produce anything, then it will need to shut down tank production.
So they're basically just keeping UVZ alive and running, knowing full well that these upgraded tanks are not going to reach parity with western equivalents until the T-14 is made.

Edited by Mighty_Zuk, Today, 07:38 AM.

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#950 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted Today, 07:44 AM

Yes, I understand all that. But the vast majority of Britains Challenger fleet has been lightly used. We only ever used 116 of them in 2003. Granted there may have been some more that were rotated as part of the subsequent peacekeeping operation, but with the bits of 386 lying around in Ashchurch and elsewhere, the argument that its worn out doesnt really stand up. Components of them certainly are. Acquiring spare parts of them certainly is difficult, with suppliers often having gone bust since 1996. But these are all supposed to be dealt with with the obsolecence upgrade.

 

Yes, I agree, it cant afford to produce T14. So my view is this, if we have to have a tank to match T14, if it ever arrives in numbers,  we probably need a new tank. But if the objective is to beat upgraded version of the tank Challenger 2 was designed to beat, which was I would guess T80U and T72B, then I have to ask what the problem is with us going the upgrade route. Its no different from what the Americans have been doing with Abrams since 1992, and they arguably can throw away tanks because they stilll have the ability to build more.  So for that matter, the Germans. They also have gone up the upgrade route because they lack the industrial capability to build more.

 

This is the reason I cant follow Chris's arguements. We must buy a new tank, because the old tank is out of date. Well, that is why we are upgrading it I would have thought. Its still a much cheaper option than buying new. :) And even if we bought second hand, we would likely have to upgrade for our purposes anyway.

 

The Russian's are still building T90A still I believe. But its in low batches. I get the impression its largely to keep the capability alive.


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