Thursday, July 24, 2008

Insurgents driving the development of MBTs?

Whilst reading up on some new equipment and updates being procured by the British Army i found that the army's Challenger 2 MBT (Main Battle Tank) will be receiving a number of armour and weapon updates. Nothing is new in that of course, tanks are always under development and like all military equipment there is a constant effort to improve faster than your enemy can. However in the past what drove MBT development was other MBTs.

Tanks like the Challenger 2 were designed for World War 3 and tank battles against the Soviet Union. The need to kill Soviet tanks is what drove development of the tank. However since the end of the Cold War the prospect of epic tank battles across Central Germany has pretty much disappeared. In the 2 wars against Iraq the Challenger 2 mostly faced much older Soviet-era tanks like the T-55.

Since the fall of Saddam Hussein however tanks have been used to support ground forces fighting the insurgency and this seems to be driving MBT development now. The Challenger 2 has had armour upgrades especially at the front to improve protection against IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) e.g. road side bombs. The tank has also had an extra machine gun fitted atop the turret that can be fired remotely from within the protection of the tank (though just for development at the moment). Such an extra gun is not really aimed at fighting other tanks but another anti-insurgent measure. Other armour upgrades have sought to improve protection against rocket propelled grenades. The tank has had to develop to combat not the latest cutting edge Soviet design but pretty low-tech but insurgents with no lack of courage or ingenuity.

Images from MOD Image Database
Republished from my general tech blog

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