The British Army could lose one third of its Challenger 2 main battle tanks as part of the government’s ongoing Strategic Defence Review.
The tanks – which were designed to counter the threat of a Cold War Soviet Union – were threatened with being retired to save costs.
However, it is understood that officials are considering upgrading 150 of the 65-tonne weapon systems to prepare them for the next generation of warfare.
The Government is planning to scrap 77 Challenger 2 main battle tanks, pictured, to pay for the upgrade of 150 others, it has emerged
The Army is also considering scrapping its fleet of Warrior Armoured Fighting Vehicles ahead of schedule to replace them with the new Boxer APC
The remaining Challenger 2 tanks will be upgraded with a new turret, barrel and technology
According to The Times, the Ministry of Defence held meetings with ministers on Monday ahead of the publication of the strategic defence review, with sources claiming ‘pretty painful’ decisions will be made.
Already, it is feared that army will lose 10,000 personnel over the next decade as part of the economy drive.
The new defence review is expected to be published next month.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that the military is receiving more than £16bn in extra funding, though each branch of the military is making its case to avoid the worst of any downsizing.
Some £1.2bn is being budgeted for the upgrading of the Challenger 2 to a Challenger 3 model, with each of the surviving tanks receiving a new turret and barrel.
One defence source claimed the upgrade will turn ‘this relic from the Gulf war… into something that can fight the next war’.
The Government is planning to replace its aging fleet of Warriors with the Boxer, pictured
General Sir Richard Barrons said: ‘The army recognises they are in the foothills of a profound transformation. This will be an evolution from their way of working to a manned, unmanned and autonomous mix. The army is not in good shape and has been told to get smaller, all of this could make sense so long as we see the rest of the plan. Without that, this is just financially driven stupidity.’
When Challenger 2s beat Saddam’s tanks 14-0
Tank-on-tank exchanges are rare in modern warfare, and the only time a Challenger 2 has been defeated by another tank on the battlefield was in a friendly fire incident in Iraq at the hands of another Challenger 2.
But it was in that conflict in 2003 that the Challenger 2 had its proudest moment.
A squadron of 14 tanks from the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards confronted a similar number of ageing Soviet-era T55 tanks.
Every Iraqi tank was destroyed and every British tank untouched in a battle that one cavalry officer said ‘was like the bicycle against the motor car’
The PM committed £16.5bn extra towards defence spending over the next four years.
He told MPs that the UK will once again become Europe’s leading naval power, while the RAF will also receive new high tech equipment.
He also committed to a ‘space command’.
The PM claimed: ‘The international situation is now more perilous and intensely competitive than at any time since the Cold War.
‘Everything we do in this country – every job, every business, even how we shop and what we eat – depends on a basic minimum of global security.
‘Our people are sustained by a web of lifelines, oxygen pipes that must be kept open – open shipping lanes, a functioning internet, safe air corridors, reliable undersea cables, and tranquillity in distant straits.’
Mr Johnson said the announcements mark the end of an ‘era of retreat’ and could help create 10,000 jobs a year.
In a speech to the Policy Exchange think tank, General Sir Nick Carter, Chief of the Defence staff warned about the threat posed by ‘authoritarian rivals’ such as Russia and China.
Gen Carter said the need to effectively integrate forces across land, sea, air, space and cyber meant some older capabilities would have to be discarded – a move that would entail some risk.
He said: ‘This means that some industrial age capabilities will increasingly have to meet their sunset to create the space that is needed for sunrise. The trick is how you find a path through the night.
‘We know this will require us to embrace combinations of information-centric technologies but predicting these combinations will be challenging.
‘We will have to take risk, accept some failure and place the emphasis on experimentation.’
Graphic shows the number of tanks per country, according to data from the International Institute for Strategic Studies