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Tanks are rocket-proof, so why is the Ministry of Delusion still flexing its missiles?


THE Ministry of Defence has announced that the few Challenger 3 tanks that it will own shall have the (Israeli) Trophy active protection system (APS).  

It’s very pleased with itself (again) as this renders its tanks pretty much invulnerable to anti-tank rockets and missiles.  Read that again – the only thing that can kill a Trophy-equipped tank is another tank.  

Note also that this system was developed by the Israelis (who have considerable experience of the tank versus anti-tank contest) and it works; it has been in service with the Israel Defence Force since 2010.   

For whatever reason, the British Army has always been reluctant to learn from the Israelis – despite the latter having far more experience of modern warfare. (Fret not, woke warriors – this is not anti-Semitism, it’s crass stupidity). 

Trophy is not the only Israeli system (they also have one called Iron Fist).  Nor is Israel the only country to have developed such a system. The Soviet Union (as it then was) has been developing tank-based countermeasures since the 1970s.   

The latest version is Arena, developed and deployed in the 1990s. It’s old hat to the real world, just news to the MoD (and, it seems, many of the defence correspondents in our Pravda emulation mainstream media). 

The bit that has been missed is that such systems also render tanks invulnerable to drones too. (The much-touted footage from Armenia was of tanks that did not have APS).   

All the anti-tank weaponry (missiles and rockets) that our light role infantry can carry are useless against a modern tank.  Unfortunately for those infantrymen, the machine-guns on modern tanks are even more effective than they were in the First World War. 

The (postulated) ‘any sensor, any shooter’ concept won’t work against vehicles equipped with APS (and there are versions that fit on lighter vehicles than tanks). Yet our defence establishment is determined to reduce our armoured capability in pursuit of this delusion. 

Amusingly (one has to laugh, otherwise one would lose the will to live), one of the many problems of the new Ajax reconnaissance vehicle is that it is far too big, due to the need to add protection (our politicians have an anathema to their failed defence policies resulting in body bags).   

Putting on armour adds weight, which demands more power, causing more weight etc.  Armour is so heavy that it is generally only applied to the front of vehicles (although Ajax has some extra on the sides – more weight and an even bigger vehicle). APS for a tank weighs just one ton and protects all round.  At some £500,000 per vehicle it is (in defence terms) remarkably cheap.   

APS has been around since well before the inexplicable decision to procure Ajax was taken. Why was it not specified?  Worse, it hasn’t been specified for Boxer (the Army’s new infantry vehicle) either.  So any enemy with an anti-tank weapon, such as the ubiquitous RPG, will be able to fry them. 

This is yet another demonstration of the intellectual ossification of the MoD and the British Army.  While one may perhaps lay the blame for incoherent policy at the door of Captain Chaos the Prime Minister, ignoring a proven capability for over a decade is inexcusable.   

But in an army that is numerically dominated by light role infantrymen one must expect pedestrian thought.  We desperately need to find a Cardwell or a Haldane to sort the mess out. 

Meanwhile, the new ‘strike’ concept is flawed and the 21st century Tommy Atkins faces a combat environment that would be all too familiar to his 1916 forebears. 

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Patrick Benham-Crosswell
Patrick Benham-Crosswell
Patrick Benham-Crosswell is a former Army officer who has spent the last 30 years in commerce. He is the author of Net Zero: The Challenges, Costs and Consequences of the UK's Zero Emission Ambition. He has a substack here.

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