Imagine a commercial airline company whose planes are all approaching the end of their working lives. The ageing of the planes is well known and understood, the need for a replacement obvious. Yet company management spend twenty years bickering and dithering over what replacements to buy, spending billions on abortive attempts to solve the problem. Paralysed by indecision, no new planes are bought at all: the company falls into chaos and irrelevance. Eventually it ceases to exist.
A situation continuing for so long is nearly inconceivable in the commercial world. However, this is exactly what’s happened in the British Army, which has spent decades wrapped up in non-procurement of armoured vehicles. Endemic U-turns, delays, and cancellations mean that almost the entire fleet of tanks is hitting obsolescence at once, and the Army simply does not have the money to replace everything over the next ten years. A crisis point has been reached, with no clear way out. The result may well be that the country of Wellington and Montgomery becomes entirely incapable of fighting wars on land against a serious foe. The scandal of Army procurement has jeopardized the future of the entire institution, and yet it has received very little public attention.
Since the mid-2000s it has been apparent that the Army’s main battle tank, the Challenger 2, wasn’t effective against modern armour. A new gun was required, which in turn would necessitate a redesigned turret to accommodate new ammunition. Interminable budget crises and internal disagreement over how big an upgrade was needed have wasted the last 12 years. Requirements for a new turret, more powerful gun, modernised optics, and (ideally) a souped-up engine are today obvious to everyone, even the Army: where the money comes from to pay for all this is less so.
Leaked reports now suggest that the entire tank fleet is on the chopping block and may not survive the ongoing reconfiguration known as the ‘Integrated Review’. One might compare this to a gardener leaving his best tools to rust in the open air, and then being surprised when the local youths (Her Majesty’s Treasury, in this case) conspire to steal them. Yet incredibly, the Challenger 2 Life Extension Programme barely makes the top three in the list of mismanaged Army programmes. (end of excerpt)
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