Land vehicles

Warrior: Why's The Army Retiring The Military Vehicle?

We spoke to a land warfare expert to discuss why the service has decided to cancel long-planned upgrades and retire the vehicle.

The UK military set out the future for British Army land vehicles in March's Defence Command Paper, including Warrior, Boxer, Challenger 2 and Ajax.

As part of "modernising" plans, a planned upgrade to the Warrior has been cancelled, with the armoured vehicle being retired by the mid-2020s and the capability replaced by Boxer.

The Defence Command Paper states investments in Boxer will "allow the Army to respond at pace to deliver soldiers around the battlefield, travelling long distances quickly, cross country, and in the most austere and hostile environments".

After waiting in line for a weapons upgrade for the past decade, the Warrior vehicle will miss out on "one of the most lethal medium-calibre weapons in the world".

Janes' Samuel Cranny-Evans, an armoured land warfare expert, explained both the financial and strategic thinking that led to the phasing out of the Warrior, which has been in service since the 1980s.

"It's been known for a long time that the procurement process was sort of getting ahead of itself and not delivering what it should be delivering," he said.

Although broader examples within its procurement strategy have been criticised, in March 2019 the Ministry of Defence admitted there were "some initial challenges to overcome", while confirming the Warrior upgrade was delayed and £227m over budget.

The £1.3bn upgrade was focused on the vehicle's turret with hopes of upgrading to a larger CT40 cannon with the ability to fire accurately on the move.

The original Warrior used a dated, unstablised weapon system which required the vehicle to come to a stop to ensure accuracy.

Mr Cranny-Evans suggested readiness, alongside budgeting, as factors in the decision to phase the armoured vehicle out.

"It doesn't matter how good your vehicles are if you can't actually get them to the theatre in time to stop something from escalating beyond your control," said the expert.

Watch: In 2019, we were given a look at the Warrior upgrades being tested out by the Army.

The armoured vehicle has been in service since the 1980s – seeing service in both Iraq wars, Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan.

Funding which would have kept the Warrior in service could now be spent on maintaining and progressing the likes of the Boxer, Ajax and new Challenger 3 "so that they can get there quicker when needed," Mr Cranny-Evans added.

The Ajax reconnaissance vehicle is set to receive the 40mm cannon the Warrior has missed out on, as are France and Belgium's Jaguar combat vehicles.

They will benefit from what Mr Cranny-Evans predicts to be among the "most lethal" weapons of its kind worldwide.

"That capability that it would have provided Warrior would have made it a tenable and justifiable vehicle going into future conflicts," he said.

In 2019, the Army hailed plans for the new Warrior turret as a "game-changer", however, Janes' analyst refrained from describing the scrapped concept in the same terms.

Further developing a vehicle which has already been "extended beyond its planned service life" was unfeasible for a reshaped Army, he said, doubtful of any improvements being possible without "significant costs".

The weight of additional armour ahead of deployment to Iraq "tested the limits" of the Warrior's chassis, although its experience in the Middle East highlighted a need for even more upgrades, explained Mr Cranny-Evans.

The vehicle has "exceeded what was expected" from its performance since 2018, he added, with that progress overshadowing procurement issues for an upgrade announced in 2011.

Citing a military commitment to Libya and the Middle East and a financial crisis at the time, the expert said any programme delivery would have been hard-pushed for success.