Ajax Tanks – Not fit For Purpose

One of the gloomiest updates at the RUSI conference last week was about the replacement for the Scimitar light tanks that have been in service for 50 years. I operated a fleet of them (known as Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance) in Norway, Denmark, Germany and Bosnia when they had a Jaguar 4.2 litre petrol engine, but this was replaced with a Cummins diesel after my return from Bosnia. They have been extended beyond their out of service date several times, but are now effectively obsolescent vehicles.

The long wait for the Ajax tanks, which seems to have gone on forever and will stretch way beyond the date that we were promised by the contractor when it was awarded the project. The first tanks should have arrived in 2017, but reliability and safety issues continue to delay this £3.5 Billion project and the failings this year have led the House of Commons Defence Select Committee to comment that it was “yet another example of chronic mismanagement by the Ministry of Defence”.

The history of this flawed project from the cancellation of the over-elaborate FRES programme, to the removal of reliability engineers from Abbey Wood, would make a fascinating, but depressing read. The delay of this project is seriously undermining the British Army’s transformation, but more importantly, we must think of the soldiers who are operating obsolescent equipment in the Baltic and West Africa and make them the top priority for the delivery of the first tanks, not the troops in administrative garrisons.

Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked) of B Squadron 17th/21st Lancers in the Arctic Circle, 1980

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