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Report: Obsolescent and outgunned: the British Army's armoured vehicle capability

15 March 2021

The Defence Committee is today publishing its report “Obsolescent and outgunned: the British Army's armoured vehicle capability”. The report describes the recent history of the British Army's armoured fighting vehicle (AFV) capability as “deplorable”, with the Army’s AFV fleet characterised by “increasing obsolescence and decreasing numbers”.

The report tells a “woeful story of bureaucratic procrastination, military indecision,  financial mismanagement and general ineptitude, which have continually bedevilled attempts to properly re-equip the British Army over the last two decades”.

The report states that the UK’s armoured forces are at very serious risk of being both quantitively and qualitatively outmatched by potential peer adversaries. Even under the MoD’s own current plans we are still some four years away from being able to field a “warfighting division”.

The report highlights that the Army’s AFV programmes and capabilities have been left vulnerable; weighed against the desire to fund other priorities, such as 'cyber' and information warfare, and plagued with uncertainties, most recently due to delays to the Integrated Review.

The report concludes that in order to support the retention of heavy armoured capability the UK requires an industrial base and the Committee supports the continuation of procurement and upgrade programmes and the proposal to develop a Land Industrial Strategy.

Chair's comment

Chair of the Defence Committee, Tobias Ellwood MP, said:

“Over the past two decades the Ministry of Defence has allowed our Armoured Fighting Vehicles capability to atrophy at an astounding and alarming rate. Of the vehicles we do still have, some date back to the early 1960s, when the Morris 1100 was the most popular car and Elvis was the Christmas Number One.

“A mixture of bureaucratic procrastination, military indecision, financial mismanagement and general ineptitude has led to a severe and sustained erosion of our military capabilities. This will have a profound and potentially devastating impact on our ability to respond to threats from adversaries.

“The Army’s Armoured Fighting Vehicle programme has been plagued with uncertainties, and the decision to invest in fighting vehicles is too often hampered by uncertainties over what the Army wants them for and pitted against the desire to fund other defence priorities. Whilst the defence landscape is certainly shifting, traditional warfare remains a very real and frightening possibility, and one for which we must be fully prepared.

“I hope the Government will take these issues into account when implementing the Integrated Review: there is still time to amend the Defence Command Paper and the Defence and Security Industrial Strategy and strengthen our decaying Armoured Fighting Vehicle fleet.

“In a conflict, the capable men and women working for the Armed Forces may find themselves outmatched, reliant on a fleet of outdated and outmoded fighting vehicles. The Government should make no mistake, these failures may cost lives.”

Further information

Image: MoD