Sunday, May 03, 2009

This is a big mistake

Britain, the nation that invented the tank, is set to stop making it's own tanks.

In the week British troops formally ended their military operations in Iraq, BAe Systems, which makes the Army's Challenger 2 tanks, revealed it was closing its tank-making operation at Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

It's also going to be closing a number of other plants and there will, of course, be knock on effects on supporting industries as a result of the government failing to place any new orders for tanks.

Defence Secretary John Hutton has declared 'a rebalancing of investment in technology, equipment and people to meet the challenge of irregular warfare'.

I'm the first to admit that there is a need for new technology and equipment to "meet the challenge of irregular warfare", but it's stupid to believe that the tank is no longer necessary. The Defence Secretary should know as well as anyone that as recently as 2003 there was a very definite need for tanks in regular warfare as it was his bloody government that sent them in!

Not only that, but does anyone really believe that there could never be a time where war - conventional war - might break out again closer to home?

General Patrick Cordingley, Commander of the Desert Rats in the first Gulf War, warned: 'I think we have got ourselves into a real tangle here. If you look at the economic troubles of the 1930s, it ended in a terrible war.

'Are we saying it could never happen again, that we will not be drawn into a war where we will need a full range of forces and equipment?'

Exactly. It appears that our government may decide to still use tanks - but that they will be Swedish chassis topped with German guns. Great news if you''re a Swedish or German defence worker, but not as good for our British workers.

The most ridiculous thing about this is that it isn't as if the equipment we make is no good. The Challenger 2 is quite probably the best tank in the world - with the best gun. The only other tank to defeat a Challenger 2 in combat was another Challenger 2! Certainly something which the other MBTs to see regular action can not claim - the US Abrams, Soviet T series and Israeli Merkava.

This will be the final nail in the coffin of Britain's major defence industries. Not that long ago - even in my lifetime - we had a proud and successful record. It wasn't just our tanks - the Centurion and Chieftain - which were among the best in the world, we had the best aircraft and the best ships - all of which were made in Britain using British technology, British materials and built by British workers.

I know many people argue that a country as small as ours can't maintain a major defence industry - but fail to recognise that countries like Sweden, France and Germany can. Why is it they can and we can not? Why are we going to be reliant on those nations to provide us with the equipment we need for our army, navy and air force.

I've mentioned before that if the government really wanted to stimulate the economy they would best do so by re-equipping our armed forces with British built equipment. Instead, they are intent on killing off what little defence industry we have left.

It's a disgrace.


North Northwester said...

They never learn, do they?

There's a world of difference between, say, dynamite the Chunnel and mine the airfields isolationism/protectionism and recognizing that nations have interests other than the bottom line.

It's not just the British jobs for British workers aspect - as if that were trivial - it's just that I can foresee a dhimmified Europe allowing Iran or Pakistan to dominate west-heading oil supplies and an Obamanation either tardy or altogether refusing to act as world policeman.

We'd still need oil and imports and access to our world trading markets - and a Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and British Army to hold exporting ports until and unless the Americans or NATO or the Indians or whoever arrived.

Trusting Sweden or Germany to supply us with parts and replacements in such a scenario is dubious to say the least -remember when Belgium refused to supply us with ammunition during Gulf 1 and French Exocet missiles still reaching Argentina during the Falklands War?

We can't trust anyone to stay sane and pro-Western any more,(even Israel has its appeasers and dhimmis) so we need all the armaments industries we can maintain. And if that costs the taxpayer, then too bad.

How much Arabic does the taxpayer know, anyway? Fatwa? Jihad? Allah Akhbar?

Stan said...

Quite right - and apart from all that, once you lose those industries it is incredibly hard and expensive to start them up again from scratch. Not only that, but you'll have lost the wealth of acquired knowledege and experience gained over decades of development.

The Tories are no better. Even their defence spokesman - an army veteran - admits that there isn't a place for the MBT in the modern army today. He may be right - although the evidence of the Iraq war suggests otherwise - but even if he were, who is to say that the MBT would not be required in the modern army of the future.

Personally, I can not envisage any situation where it would not be necessary to have a MBT for the defence of this nation from an organised, aggressive invasion - and that is the primary purpose of the army - to defend the nation. Of course they aren't much use against terrorists and suicide bombers, but then again neither are aircraft carriers or air-superiority fighters.

We need armed forces that are capapble of defending the nation against ANY possible threat not just those which currently seem more likely.

staybryte said...

The whole idea of any kind of betrayal of those who defended the flag between 1914 and 1918 distresses me so badly I can hardly breathe.

William Gruff said...

Stan, you write some excellent posts but you keep making the classic mistake of uisng 'Br*tian', or Br*tish, when you should use England or English.

Br*tian is dead: England is our future.

Stan said...

I fear you are right, Mr Gruff, but as long as Britain still does exist I will continue to use that name while referencing our past - I don't think you can talk about England's recent history without doing so as it is inextricably linked.

In the future I can not see Britain staying together (unless something significant occurs) and England would emerge as a separate and distinct nation in its own right once more.

Ironically, seeing how it is the Scottish and Welsh that have been most nationalist in recent years, I see that break up actually being instigated by the English as a result of the dreadful imbalance that has been created by Labour's devolution plans. The US War of Independence was fought on the basis of "no taxation without representation" - well that is what we have in England. We are taxed to fund the profligate spending of the Welsh and Scottish governments in which we have no representation, but they are free to decide what happens in England where they do have representation.

That is very, very wrong.

Anonymous said...

iirc, we don't make ammunition any more, either.

We source it, all of it, from Belgium, of all places. No Belgium - or a rogue regime in charge there, no ammunition. None. We've closed the factories, paid off the staff, retired the managers, lost the skills and the experience - for ever.

Because Belgium, apparently, is a reliable ally unlikely to fail or be put out of action by any enemy.

It's beyond folly.

William Gruff said...

I don't think we can consider much that has been described as 'Br*tish' during the past fifty years as actually so (a Scotch draftsman or engineer working under a Welsh manager for an English company does not make it Br*tish).

Too much that was actually English has been misappropriated by the Br*tish for the benefit of the little nations of the 'union', and the English are poorer because of that. One of the numerous consequences of dissolution is going to be the need to discover how much, so that our descendants can ensure that it never happens again.

Anonymous said...

"a Scotch draftsman or engineer working under a Welsh manager for an English company does not make it Br*tish"

Why not?

They're all British, aren't they?

Rab C. Nesbitt said...

Scotch is a drink. A person from Scotland is called, (amongst other things), a Scot.
Anyway, BAe are just angling for a bale out from the tax payer. Read between the lines. (I blogged on the very same subject the other day)