At the Castlemartin training ground in Wales, the British Army’s Challenger 2 tank shoots an armored-piercing sub-caliber practical shell with a shortened range. Combat shooting remains the key to maintaining a high level of combat training and crew coherence.
One hundred years ago, the British army first applied Tanks in military operations, but the power of her current armored forces has greatly weakened and changed. What is their current state and plans for the future?
Since the end of the Cold War, the British Ministry of Defense has been one of many who have taken the liberty to say that in today's operational space there will not be a great need for main battle tanks (MBT).
Such a position of the state prompted a dramatic reduction in the number of tanks in the British army and crews on which they could serve, from the 14 regiments (British equivalent of the battalion) with the total number of tanks about 1000 tanks in the late 80-s to three regiments in accordance with the current Army 2020 Army Modernization Program.
Today, these regiments have enough tanks and trained crews and can guarantee that all of them can deploy a squadron (British equivalent of a company) - roughly 18 tanks - to support the leading armored task force LATF. This group, after receiving the order, must come forward within 30 days.
After the current transformation cycle is completed, the term for the deployment of a staffed brigade, including 56 tanks, will generally be 90 days.
Over the past 25 years, British armored forces have twice demonstrated their capabilities. The first demonstration took place in the 1990-1991 years, when a rash decision was made to throw two armored brigades (including three Type 57 tank regiments with the 171 tank Challenger 1) to liberate Kuwait as part of Operation Granby.
Later in 2003, two regiments of Challenger 2 tanks (and part of the units of the third regiment) were to be hastily deployed in Iraq in Operation Telic 1. Their number was later reduced to one squadron, which remained in this theater of operations until the end of Operation Telic 2009 in 13.
Despite the request put forward in 2006, the British army’s tanks did not deploy in Afghanistan in Operation Herrick. However, starting in 2007, British troops in Helmand province often sought the support of their allied tanks: a platoon of three Danish tanks Leopard 2A5DK; US Marine Corps M1A1 Abrams; and in the period from 2006 to 2011, the year was a reinforced squadron of tanks Leopard 2A6CAN and Leopard C2 from the neighboring province of Kandahar.
Ultimately, the representation of heavy British armored vehicles from 2010 of the year in Afghanistan was limited to three Trojan stripping vehicles (engineering version of the Challenger 2 tank) and two Challenger CRARRV armored repair and recovery vehicles deployed in Helmand province.
Since the middle of the last decade, the British army has mainly focused on peacekeeping operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, which led to a corresponding reduction in combat training (in the form of tactical exercises and armored maneuvers) of the rest of the combined-arms forces in the UK and Germany.
Nevertheless, the capabilities of armored forces were supported by the participation of tanks and infantry fighting vehicles in basic training for hybrid combat operations (the concept of the “three quarters war”, the essence of which is that in a relatively small urban area one unit will be forced to simultaneously and military operations and peace enforcement operations and peacekeeping operations), which all combat units have already undergone.
A New Look
In accordance with the five-year review of strategic defense and security, published in 2010, and the final structure of the British Army 2020 program, each of the three remaining tank regiments (battalion analogs) was assigned to one of the three rapid-response infantry brigades of the 3 division . (The army consists of eight more combat brigades: the 16-th air assault brigade and seven infantry brigades of subordinates of the 1-nd division, none of them has attached armored units.)
Each tank regiment has its own name: the King's Royal Hussars (KRH) Royal Hussars, the Queen's Royal Hussars (QRH) Hussars, and the Royal Tank Regiment (RTR) Royal Tank Regiments. In addition, the expanded order of battle includes one reserve regiment, the so-called Royal Wessex Yeomanry Royal Territorial Regiment, which provides all three regular tank regiments with spare tank crews, but does not have a single tank of its own.
All three regiments are armed with the Challenger 2 tank, which was originally developed at the end of the 80-ies by Vickers Defense Systems (now BAE Systems). BAE Systems delivered a total of 1994 serial machines to 2002-386 for the years; current plans provide that some of them will remain in operation until 2035.
The upgraded weapon system based on the 120-mm smoothbore Rheinmetall cannon and a number of improvements in the undercarriage and fire control system were approved at the beginning of the last decade for the Challenger 2 tank as part of the proposed extension program, but due to funding problems in 2008, it was stopped. In 2012, the capacity extension program was included in the life extension program for the Challenger 2, which will upgrade or replace various subsystems of the tank. In accordance with the life extension program, the 227 tanks of the Challenger 2 tanks will be upgraded.
A separate financing scheme adopted for the improvement and maintenance of regular ammunition, to date, allows for only such minimally costly restoration and modernization measures as are necessary to extend the shelf life of existing stocks. Ammunition that is at least 25 years old and which is not currently manufactured in the UK is stored in warehouses. No type of regular ammunition is compatible with modern standards for insensitive (inert) ammunition.
The first tangible change in the fate of the British armored forces occurred in 2012, when publicly announced before the withdrawal of the British contingent in December 2014, the reduction of troops in “Herrick” operation allowed these units not to return to Afghanistan and concentrate on their combat training for future tasks.
The first tank regiment to return from their last Afghan tour in October 2012 of the year was KRH, which acted there as the lead unit for the Lashkar Gah battle group. Not having tanks in this theater, he mainly performed the tasks of dismounted infantry, using the mini-protected Mastiff 6x6 vehicles and the Warthog track terrain vehicles.
After the necessary recovery and combat training, two KRH tank squadrons (“C” and “A”) were successfully identified to support the intermediate armored group, the leading armored battlegroup LABG (later armored battlegroup) and later the leading armored tactical group LATF, deployed by head 12 th armored brigade. Since the end of 2013, this team has been responsible for performing special tasks (which theoretically include the conduct of hostilities). It was decided that it would be replaced by the 1 motorized infantry brigade in January 2016, and that in turn would be replaced by the 20 motorized infantry brigade in January, 2017.
Currently, the British army is in an intermediate state, more precisely in the process of transition from the old structures to the new ones, changing areas of responsibility, changing the deployment of their bases and auditing military assets. That is why the 12 motorized infantry brigade was not replaced on time, and its combat duty was extended for 18 months. However, as soon as the “perestroika” turbulence calmed down, it became possible to establish a standard duration of readiness (12 months for a brigade and 6 months for a combat group), which is considered optimal for maintaining “proper service” in accordance with the revised adaptive operational readiness mechanism of combat units within Army 2020 (A-FORM) programs introduced in the 2015 year.
The 1 motorized infantry brigade entered its “training” year at the beginning of 2015, and its full-time RTR tank regiment, which provides armored capabilities for this brigade, began joint combat training in the UK and Canada (Level 4 / CT4 joint combat training) .
The 20 motorized infantry brigade, which is the last to leave Afghanistan, is currently undergoing restoration and reorganization at its bases in Germany and the UK and will take up combat duty in the 2017 year. By 2020, the last unit of this brigade, including QRH, should finally (after almost 70 years) leave Germany and return to its home base in the UK along with other units of the 3 (British) division stationed in the Balford / Tiedworth area.
Combined-arms maneuvers of the Prairie Storm level combat group, conducted at the British base BATUS in Canada, allow British tank crews and infantry units to practice working with their support groups, including an engineering squadron engaged in making passes in minefields. In the photo, the extended clearance charge of Python, released from a Trojan engineering tank, detonates, and thereby ensures the passage of the 1 Yorks battle group
On the range like home
In May-June 2015, combat shots of the KRH tank squadron took place at the Castlemartin artillery range and platoon level tactical exercises (CT1) in the training area of Salisbury Plain.
At basic levels, the essence of joint combat training (distances and set targets at British artillery ranges have not changed significantly over the past 40 years) has remained traditional, although some changes may be worth making.
Since the end of World War II, the British tank regiments, as a rule, had three tanks per platoon, but in accordance with the Army 2020 program, the structure was four tanks per platoon. This gives greater organizational flexibility and combat redundancy, which allows each platoon to potentially perform more tasks when dividing into pairs, as well as being closer to the combat training of tank platoons of the American and German armies.
In the UK, there are four training grounds on which it is possible to conduct fire training with live firing. These are Castlemartin, Kirkudbreit, Lulworth and Salisbury Plain, but none of them yet correspond to a completely new platoon structure.
The Castmartin ground has enough directresses for simultaneous operation of four Warrior infantry fighting vehicles, but the limitations of the length-firing sectors make it difficult to conduct combat firing at the platoon level of four Challenger 2 tanks. In connection with the installation in the future of the new 40-mm guns on the upgraded BMP Warrior motorized parts and new Scout reconnaissance units, it will also be necessary to upgrade these shooting ranges. This is the concern of the army headquarters, which keeps this issue under control.
While there have been many complaints in the past regarding restrictions on kilometers traveled, practical ammunition or fuel reserves, this is not a particular problem for a tank squadron. This may be due to the fact that the existing stockpiles of spare parts and ammunition were at one time intended to provide a significantly larger number of Challenger 2 tanks than the British army currently needs to deploy. The recent increase in activity in the military-political sphere in the Baltic countries entails the need to demonstrate the competence of British expeditionary armored expeditionary capabilities, and this will undoubtedly be useful in solving any such problems that impede the planning process and execution of assigned tasks.
In order to perform the so-called annual test of the crew of the ACT (annual crew test), the crew of the Challenger 2 tank can count on shooting 83 ammunition from the main armament of the tank, as well as 2940 cartridges from an 7,62-mm machine gun. In the academic year (once every three years), the crews also conduct an estimated live shooting at the platoon level, during which you can shoot additional 42 projectiles from a cannon and 1200 ammunition from an 7,62-mm machine gun. Before the start of combat shooting, personnel undergo intensive training on simulators (including 20 exercises for gunners and 4 or 5 exercises for the crew as a whole, including annual comprehensive testing) in their unit. The target designation procedure is performed at the crew level (on simulators and at the shooting range), and then at the platoon level as part of joint combat training.
The distance to the targets fired from tank guns (mainly static tank hulls) at the Castlemartin range is 3 km or less, whereas for auxiliary armament the maximum distance is about 1100 meters (burner tracer time). The percentage of hits from the gun for the operator-gunner and the commander during the annual ACT should be at least 75%; a similar standard for firing a coaxial machine gun (7,62-mm L94A1 Chain Gun), but in the latter case, the standard exercise is to shoot three rounds of five rounds (one sighting and two "for defeat") for one target. Shooting from a twin machine gun is considered more difficult from a technical point of view, although even if we take a separate L94A1 machine gun, then its dispersion characteristics are regarded by some as “too insufficient” for fire to suppress.
The first expedition test of the 12 second combat readiness brigade LABG was the Black Eagle exercise held in Poland in October of the 2014. In the background, the Challenger 2 tank, manned by the crew of the squadron “C” KRH, working in tandem with the tank of the Polish army Leopard 2A4. In the course of the exercise, a method was developed and fixed for the advance re-entry of tanks in long-term storage. Interestingly, the British tank does not have the usual camouflage cape.
One of the “legacies” of Afghanistan was giving each company one advanced aviation gunner (in the 80s there were only three gunners for the brigade). As a result, the Challenger 2 tank squadrons are currently accompanied by a modified version of the Warrior artillery surveillance vehicle, which houses the commander of the fire support group along with an advanced observer and advanced aviation gunner coordinating with jet aircraft or attack helicopters
The original Challenger 2 armament and fire control system requirements had previously determined that the crew should be able to fire from the L120A30 rifled XNUM mm cannon with individual ammunition with 1 rounds of fire per minute. However, the need for this kind of long-term firing will not occur very often: in a series of standard tests, one tank, as a rule, will need to fire five targets (including one for a machine gun) for 10 seconds, set at random azimuths and distances in the sector more than 55 °.
According to one of the officers of the squadron, the creation of the right "atmosphere" and the interaction of the crew in the tower is the key to success in battle.
At the end of the center of the armored troops, the crew member usually begins as a driver, then he is promoted to the operator-gunner and loader and, finally, to the commander of the vehicle, with a certificate of training in several specialties.
In addition to its main function of providing the main and auxiliary weapons with ammunition, the loader also performs the functions of a radio operator and shoots from the 7,62-mm universal machine gun mounted next to the hatch; he also makes a significant contribution to the detection of targets for the gunner operator and the commander. The driver also contributes to target designation at short distances, taking advantage of his day and night observation devices with a wider field of view in the front sector of the review; he can also assist the loader by counting the number of shots remaining in the store, thereby ensuring that the shells will not end at the most crucial moment when the target is fired.
Tank crew commanders are either in the rank of corporal (junior sergeant), sergeant (at the age of 22-25 occupying a loader, or older in the case of platoon sergeant), or officer (platoon commander, deputy squadron commander, squadron commander and armored combat group commander of the unit). After completing the 44 weekly general officer training at the Royal Army Military School in Sandhurst, the officers of the armored forces attend a six-month training course for crew commanders at the Bovington Armored Center, where they are taught driving, artillery, communications and tactical techniques. Corporal corporals who have passed through the ranks of sergeants, attend the same courses.
After completing the compulsory educational training required to obtain ACT qualifications, the newly minted officers initially occupy the position of a platoon commander under the supervision of their more experienced combatant sergeant. After the new platoon commander undergoes joint training on tactical methods and general combat at the British Army BATUS (British Army Training Unit Suffield) training base in Canada, his dependence on the supervising combatant sergeant may decrease markedly (depending on the qualities of the new officer). As a result, a candidate for the post of officer may already command the soldiers only two years after entering military service. (For example, in the German army, a newly appointed tank officer may take up a position in his battalion no earlier than 79 months after the start of his military career.)
Achievements in the field of simulation modeling can significantly save, including the expenditure of ammunition. At the same time, combat shooting still remains an essential part of the educational process; they confirm the practical skills in material and shooting and allow you to conduct system performance checks and annual testing of the ACT crew.
The result of the ACT is determined to a greater or lesser extent by the operational parameters of the tank systems and, as it ages, the degree of their “looseness” in the turret, especially the SLA. As the crews pass their tests, they begin to understand that much depends on the efficiency and well-coordinated work of all the systems of a particular tank, and that their readiness and the readiness of their commanders to perform combat missions depends on it.
By the end of the training, all 18 crews of the tank squadron “C” successfully passed their ACT tests. The squadron commander, Major Peter Pyrone, said that “squadron“ C ”is now confident in each of its 18 tanks.” This is a significant improvement compared to 2014 in the year when the squadron had only 14 tanks at its disposal, and the crews of only three tanks showed sufficient combat training and complied with ACT regulations.
As part of the ground force management program, gradually introduced by the British Ministry of Defense over the past ten years for all vehicles registered, the Challenger 2 tanks of two of the three squadrons, as a rule, remain on long-term storage in the military equipment warehouses in Eschurch. Storage conditions there allow the tanks to be maintained in working condition, but in the case of issuing contracts, the industry will be able to upgrade them in accordance with the agreed plan and standards without adversely affecting the planned combat training of the units.
Although this approach did not cause general approval, but “collectivization” or consolidation into a common fund of this kind has its advantages in terms of significant savings, as well as an impact on the coherence of military actions. This gives the staff of the regiment, who does not have the opportunity to work with their tanks, the “space for maneuver” necessary to enhance individual skills, that is, the opportunity to depart from the unit, enroll in courses and improve their professional level. As one of the officers said, "the regiment cannot endlessly press for full gas, otherwise it will not be able to perform the additional work required from it while maintaining its entire fleet in working order."
The commander of the tank squadron, currently serving as the armored component of the leading combat armored group LABG, Major Pyrone, noted that unlike his colleagues in two other tank squadrons ("A" and "B") he "owns" only 18 tanks, who hold the position as part of the base unit of the regiment. This basic unit, as a rule, consists of 20 tanks, two additional tanks serve as spare machines in case of damage, as well as reserve machines for training.
The KRH Royal Hussars Regiment has half of the parking spaces at its base in Tidvort, which has a “garage” capacity for the 72 tank, the remaining 36 seats are given to the RTR regiment. The latter was also tasked with providing a tank squadron for the LABG 1 Brigade battle group, that is, providing reinforcement to the base unit through additional tanks so that the second squadron can perform the intended shooting or tactical exercises or preparation for large exercises.
Tank Challenger 2 must be kept in a safe hangar (be it long-term storage or operation in the military) even if it is not equipped with electronics and additional armor in accordance with the modernization of the Theater Entry Standard (TES). In this regard, it is unique, but similar restrictions will apply to the prospective Scout machine, which should replace eight Scimitar machines, which are in service with the intelligence group of each regiment.
Current plans envisage the redeployment of a third QRH armored regiment from the “native” base in Germany to the base in Tidworth, and in this case difficulties may arise when deployed in existing 72 tanks with hangars; all the more precisely there will be no additional space for a perspective Scout machine. However, as one of the officers said, “the new financing will allow building the corresponding hangars in Tidvorte to house the base units of all three armored regiments.”
The operational readiness of the base unit tanks is also enhanced by the greater availability of squadron mechanics and mobile regimental repair shops. Also contribute to the crews of tanks, with enthusiasm using unofficial means. Major Pyrone cited as an example a simple vacuum cleaner (it is extremely popular with German tank crews and gunners), which “picky crews” can use in field conditions to maintain the relative cleanliness of the reserve space and turret systems, and which, most importantly, makes it possible to get rid of annoying sand.
Tank Challenger 2 TES, which received the designation Megatron, created a group of development and testing of armored vehicles for urban operations in Iraq. Note the silencer system of improvised explosive devices (similar to a bird feeder), the remote-controlled Enforcer combat module mounted on the loader's hatch, as well as installed in front of the electronic signature management system. Plastic mesh CoolCam, thrown on the upper surface of the tank, reduces heat from sunlight
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