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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 21 July 2019 - 0324 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 21 July 2019 - 0454 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 21 July 2019 - 0456 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 21 July 2019 - 1058 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, 21 July 2019 - 1059 AM.

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#948 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 21 July 2019 - 1152 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, 21 July 2019 - 1153 AM.

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#949 Mighty_Zuk

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Posted 22 July 2019 - 0736 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, 22 July 2019 - 0738 AM.

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#950 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 22 July 2019 - 0744 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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#951 JWB

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Posted 22 July 2019 - 1220 PM

 

Russian efforts to equip its army with a new generation of tanks and IFVs (Infantry Fighting Vehicles) are about to go bankrupt, literally. Kurganmashzavod, the Russian firm that developed the new T-14 tank and T-15 IFV has been effectively bankrupt since 2016. Kurganmashzavod stays in business because it is part of a much larger firm, CTP (Concern Tractor Plants) which, as the name implies, is the largest manufacturer of agricultural equipment in Russia. Kurganmashzavod started out as a state owned industrial crane manufacturer in 1950 and later began producing military (for hauling artillery and such) and commercial tractors. During the 1960s Kurganmashzavod became the primary manufacturer of the BMP IFV. Kurganmashzavod developed several successful BMP variants into the 1980s.

 

https://www.strategy...s/20190722.aspx


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#952 Mighty_Zuk

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Posted 22 July 2019 - 1316 PM

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.


If all you keep in the tank is the metal structure, then you've effectively built a new tank.
After the upgrade, the Challenger 2 should remain effective for about 2 decades at least, but after that a new tank will have to enter service.
The path for new MBTs is already being paved, and some of these new technologies are requiring a redesign of the base structure as well.

This is why the Challenger 2 Mark 2 is necessary, but a Challenger 3 most likely won't exist. Instead the UK will have to look at importing new tanks.
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#953 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 22 July 2019 - 1316 PM

Exactly. So why do we need a next generation tank to deal with tanks that, suitably upgraded, date from the 1980's? And I dont believe we do.  Why exhaust resources on over-responding to a threat that might evaporate next year?


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#954 Mighty_Zuk

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Posted 22 July 2019 - 1334 PM

 
Russian efforts to equip its army with a new generation of tanks and IFVs (Infantry Fighting Vehicles) are about to go bankrupt, literally. Kurganmashzavod, the Russian firm that developed the new T-14 tank and T-15 IFV has been effectively bankrupt since 2016. Kurganmashzavod stays in business because it is part of a much larger firm, CTP (Concern Tractor Plants) which, as the name implies, is the largest manufacturer of agricultural equipment in Russia. Kurganmashzavod started out as a state owned industrial crane manufacturer in 1950 and later began producing military (for hauling artillery and such) and commercial tractors. During the 1960s Kurganmashzavod became the primary manufacturer of the BMP IFV. Kurganmashzavod developed several successful BMP variants into the 1980s.

 
https://www.strategy...s/20190722.aspx

Stupid article. Kurganmashzavod makes the Kurganets, not the T-14 and T-15. Those are made by the Uralvagonzavod.
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#955 Simon Tan

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Posted 23 July 2019 - 0407 AM

They are all under Rostec.


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#956 Chris Werb

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Posted 23 July 2019 - 1220 PM

No, I said I didn't have strong feelings either way. I don't think an upgrade is doomed to failure, but I do think there are pretty strong arguments  that upgrading Challenger 2 is a potential waste of money, largely due to the tiny number involved and the number of unsupportable systems you would likely have to replace (including those that will become unsupportable during the lifetime of the upgraded vehicle) and I don't think having an industry that can produce tanks and other AFVs is a particular benefit unless you're going to export substantial numbers because small batches, particularly if they are our own designs, will inevitably cost more. Then there's the question of who will buy them and whether we are willing to sell to those countries.


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#957 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 24 July 2019 - 0140 AM

As for the link, its clear they are planning to build Boxer. There is pretty clearly a large export market for that. Indeed, I have to ask why Rheinmetall would be investing in this country if there was not?

 

Well as I see it the only bits you need to replace are the engine, the transmission, the fire control the gun and the sights. And if you replace the turret, you replace half of those in one fell swoop anyway.

 

Waste of money? Well we buy Abrams  it will be incompatible with Trojan, Titan and CHAARV. Where exactly is the saving here, having to maintain 2 different drive train systems? The new training, the new vehicle data systems, and so on and so on. For what, 100 vehicles? It would probably be that low, because buying from abroad, we get less buying power than we do spending money here  And we scupper a deal with a European company that may actually build vehicles here.

 

Where is the trade off here, because im not seeing it?


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#958 Mighty_Zuk

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Posted 24 July 2019 - 0551 AM

To replace a tank every 40 years and maintain a minimum production capacity of 30 per year (considered a bare minimum in the industry), one would have to maintain up to 1200 tanks in service (including reserves).
It's possible to go lower to 900 vehicles if a tank is to remain in service for 30 years.

Go lower and you're retiring them prematurely. Go higher and you need to ramp up production.

Either way, it's not worth keeping a tank-making industry unless you're going above a ~900 tank fleet.
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#959 Adam Peter

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Posted 24 July 2019 - 0552 AM

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

 

Like cars, trucks, commercial airplanes?


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#960 JasonJ

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Posted 24 July 2019 - 0625 AM

To replace a tank every 40 years and maintain a minimum production capacity of 30 per year (considered a bare minimum in the industry), one would have to maintain up to 1200 tanks in service (including reserves).
It's possible to go lower to 900 vehicles if a tank is to remain in service for 30 years.

Go lower and you're retiring them prematurely. Go higher and you need to ramp up production.

Either way, it's not worth keeping a tank-making industry unless you're going above a ~900 tank fleet.

 

Hello Mighty_Zuk,

 

There are probably other factors that exists which could effect the standard that you state. Perhaps commonality of parts with other AFVs or kind of production scheme could be factors. Consider the production rate of the Type 10 tank.

 

2010...13

2011...13

2012...13

2013...14

2014...13

2015...10

2016...6

2017...6

2018...5

2019...6

 

Production of Type 10 tanks will continue to at least FY2023. In the current midterm defense plan (2019-2023), 30 Type 10 tanks are planned to be procured. So that would mean 6 more tanks for 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023 each.

 

There are 341 Type 90s in service. 873 Type 74s were produced but they have been retiring at a fairly high rate as units exchange the Type 74s and adopt to new defense guidelines and equipment for those guidelines such as the Type 16 Maneuver Combat Vehicle (MCV) or AAV7s. In 2016, about 400 Type 74s were in service from what I can find. So by now, I wouldn't be surprised if there were currently less than 200 Type 74s in service. So if we take about 100 Type 10s, 341 Type 90s, and 200 Type 74s, it comes up to 641 tanks. If we add in the Type 16 MCV, 109 have been produced so far. Adding them on still results in an amount fairly below the 900 level of about 750. The current midterm defense plan calls for the production of 134 Type 16 MCVs (22 of which made in 2019, so still another 112 more to go). However, as these come in, the remaining Type 74s will probably be gone.


Edited by JasonJ, 24 July 2019 - 0631 AM.

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