Land vehicles

Does Britain Need Tanks To Have A 'Credible Defence'?

It comes amid reports the British Army could scrap its tank fleet as part of cost-cutting measures.

The curator at The Tank Museum in Dorset has told Forces News it would be a mistake if the British Army decided to get rid of its tanks.

It follows a report by The Times which suggested military chiefs are considering plans to scrap the Army's fleet of Challenger 2 tanks and Warrior armoured fighting vehicles to focus on new capabilities, such as cyber warfare. 

David Willey told Forces News the tank is "still a very credible weapons system" and is likely to continue to be for "decades to come".

"If we want to 'remain in the game'... if we want to have a credible defence, tanks are still part of that make-up that means you’re a serious army," he said.

"Even though they’ve been around for 100 years, they have something about them, not just their psychological impact, but the fact they’ve got mobility, the fact they’ve got firepower, the fact they’ve got protection – they’re three things soldiers have wanted for thousands of years.

"It’s very hard to see any army in the future not requiring that.

"Of course if they go, they go, but if anyone argues they’ve come to the end of their working life – look on the news, look around the world, tanks are being used all over the place still."

He added tanks are "the epitome" of what he calls "hard power", and their all-round ability makes them unparalleled as a battlefield force.

Challenger 2 on Exercise Saif Sareea 3 in Oman 021018 CREDIT MOD.jpeg
The Challenger 2 is the British Army's main battle tank (Picture: MOD).

The report by The Times claimed the Government is to look at the plans as the cost of upgrading the vehicles has soared.

It said the UK is now "sounding out" NATO partners for an overhaul in its contribution to the military alliance and is hoping to focus on taking a new leadership role in attack aviation - offering all of its 50 Apache helicopters to the allies.

Mr Willey said despite the Apache's capability, it still cannot replace some of the work done by tanks.

He said: "Apache has to leave the battlefield, a tank can remain on the battlefield, so it can hold ground.

"Apache looks dramatic, looks fantastic, you or I could attack it with a tin opener and do a lot of damage. You’re not going to do that with a Challenger tank."

A column of Warrior armoured fighting vehicles moving along an autumnal forest track in Poland during Exercise Black Eagle 190319 CREDIT MOD.jpg
Military chiefs are also considering scrapping the Warrior fleet, reports say (Picture: MOD).

"It [Apache] has stunningly good presence but it’s still not like when people turn up with tanks - quite often it stops the fight even breaking out," he continued.

Mr Willey also pointed out how other NATO nations are in fact strengthening their tank fleet, rather than reducing it. 

He warned the UK must "tread very carefully" as it may not be part of NATO forever.

"Really seriously, without a tank you are at a major disadvantage in many situations," he continued.

According to reports, the move is part of proposals to radically modernise the UK Armed Forces.

While Mr Willey admitted tanks might not last forever, he said right now there is "very little that can replace the tank".