After having been somewhat neglected in the 2010 defence review the Challenger II Main Battle Tank (MBT) is now one step closer to receiving a major update. Known as the Challenger II Life Extension Program (LEP) the update will see the tank have its service life extended to 2035 instead of the original out-of-service date of 2025. The contract which is said to be worth around £700 million will include logistical support for the tank and will also cover a similar upgrade to Omani Challenger IIs.
The MoD gave prospective companies until January 14th 2016 to produce an initial proposal for their assessment. It has now been revealed that three companies are in the running; BAE Systems (who originally built the tank), Lockheed Martin UK and General Dynamics UK. It was thought that German company Krauss-Maffei Wegmann who build the excellent Leopard 2 tank for a number of European countries would submit a proposal but pulled out after the option of new or second-hand Leopards was ruled out by the British Army.
From a political standpoint, British company BAE Systems has something of an advantage after Prime Minister David Cameron pledged more military contracts for British arms manufacturers in the run up to last year’s election. However, General Dynamics UK already has a large order for new Scout vehicles for the Army and could undercut BAE Systems if they agree to a new combined contract to cut overall costs especially if the American company promises to have the work carried out primarily in the UK.
Planned service entry for the updated tank is currently set as late 2018.
Private firm Cook Defence Systems have been awarded a £70m contract to maintain the British Army’s fleet of tracked Armoured Fighting Vehicles (AFVs). Based in Country Durham, the company has signed a four-year deal to support the Army’s Challenger II Main Battle Tank (MBT), the Warrior Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) and the Scimitar reconnaissance vehicles by building and maintaining replacement tracks. The deal is said to have secured 110 jobs with the company.
William Cook, the company’s General Manager, told The Times;
Tanks tracks may appear low-tech compared to drones and missiles but as armoured fighting vehicles become heavier and more powerful we have to use the latest manufacturing techniques and materials to minimise the weight and maximise the lifespan of track systems.
A brief video looking over this recognition booklet produced for American, British and Canadian forces based in West Germany in 1986 during the height of the Cold War. I found this at a charity shop for 50p but when I got home I discovered these go for around £25 on Ebay as they are becoming something of a collector’s item for those interested in the Cold War.
I will be uploading stills in the future should anyone want to look at it in more depth.
The British Army has deployed its Lead Armoured Battle Group to the plains of North East Poland to participate in Exercise Dragon 15. The exercises are taking place just 60 miles from the border with the Russian state of Kaliningrad Oblast. The armoured force will join up to 6,000 Poles, Germans and Canadians on the seven week training exercise which aims to improve the way the allies work together.
On the dusty Orzysz weapon range, dignitaries from the host and visitor countries were treated to a spectacular display of firepower with armoured vehicles from the UK, Poland and Germany firing shells at targets in a mock battle sequence for their benefit while British troops demonstrated the firing of two Javelin anti-tank missiles. The Polish media provided extensive news coverage of the display no doubt as a warning for Russia that the country is now better protected than Ukraine was last year.
Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Garner, Commanding Officer of the First Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment, said:
I think our proximity to the Russian border will be noticed, but I think the exercise is really all about exercising closely with our Nato allies and the assurance that that brings, especially to our Polish allies – obviously for them, the threat is very real and credible…I think it shows the UK is committed to NATO.
The British Army have deployed around 350 British Army vehicles 135 of which are Armoured Fighting Vehicles (AFVs). The exercise is being carried out in the wake of British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon’s statement that Britain is to station around 100 troops in Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania in an advisory capacity as a response to the heightened tension with Russia following Russian air strikes commencing in Syria.
An 18-year old German driver had a narrow escape when her Toyota Corolla turned in towards a column of British Army Challenger II tanks that were trundling through the town of Augustdorf. The driver, who was still a learner under German law, pulled out of a junction when she found herself confronted by the main battle tanks (MBTs). Fortunately the driver of the Challenger was able to steer away from the car enough so that only the front of the car was crushed while the passenger compartment remained in tact.
German police investigating the incident stated that the driver of the British tank had no opportunity to stop in time or avert the accident and cleared him of any wrongdoing in the incident. The Toyota was crushed almost entirely ahead of the steering wheel causing an estimated £8,000 of damage. The Challenger did not sustain any damage in the incident.
Welcome to Defence of the Realm’s SITREP for April 2015. For those of you who are new followers and have never seen one of these posts before I would like to welcome you and thank you for giving the site a look. Basically, this is my opportunity to let you you know how the site is doing and the direction it will be taking over the next month. It is also your opportunity to let me know your thoughts on the site in general as well as to offer your own suggestions/input in to any of the projects that are on the horizon.
Well, April is nearly over but what a month it has been. Two major events have taken place in terms of the site over the past month. Firstly, I have set up a Twitter account which although is in my own name it is primarily for the site. Feel free to follow and message me with any comments/suggestions/questions/etc. You can find my Twitter page by clicking here. I look forward to hearing from you.
The second big news of course is the establishment of a Defence of the RealmYouTube page. This has been a goal of mine ever since I started the site. At the moment it is still pretty primitive as I am learning more and more about the technology (and how to stop my voice from droning on too much) but I am hoping that over time this will grow into an informative amateur documentary archive. I am still interested in Podcasting if anyone else would like to join in and if so please message me.
Rest assured however that despite these developments the main site remains my top priority. After three quite intensive months April did go a little quiet and this was due mainly to me becoming quite ill. Nevertheless I am back now and planning my next few articles.
So here’s what’s in store;
Following on from my Dreadnoughts article I intend to do more work on the Warships Classification category. I am already planning articles on Flotilla Leaders and Bomb Ships (a type of shore bombardment vessel used up to the 19th century).
I am still working on my next aircraft comparison. As I said before it will be a comparison of the British Meteor F.8 and the French Dassault Ouragon. Another comparison I thought might be interesting to cover would be the De Havilland Vampire and the Saab J.21R in what I am calling Battle of the Boom Jets.
The Wilkins family are planning a trip to Bovington Tank Museum which I am very excited about. Not sure when it will be yet but it should be over the next few months.
Planning to revisit Yeovilton Fleet Air Arm Museum, the Helicopter Museum in Weston-super-mare and the fabulous Jet Age Museum in Gloucester with the goal of recording video for the YouTube site. If you would like to see some of the photos from previous visits then don’t forget to check out the Galleries page.
Well that’s all for the moment.
Thank you again for taking the time to visit the site. Your support is greatly appreciated.