According to the statement sent to Defence24.pl, the British MoD has suspended the reduction of the quantity of the stored Challenger 2 main battle tanks, at least until 2016. Currently the British are planning to review the policy pertaining the equipment that was withdrawn from the active service. Elements of the vehicles that were permanently decommissioned or that were modified so that they act as a drivers’ training devices, are all currently being utilized in order to support the operational activities carried out by the tanks that remain in the active service.
The British Army is going to check whether the equipment which is not being used by the front-line units should be stored, which would make it possible to reintroduce the vehicles into active service, or whether that equipment should be permanently decommissioned. Due to that reason it was decided to suspend the process of permanent withdrawal when it comes to the Challenger 2 tanks.
According to the release, at the moment when the strategic review of defence and security review was carried out back in 2010, the British Army had 145 Challenger 2 tanks at its disposal. It was then decided that the number of the Challenger 2 tanks that remained in the active service was to cut down to 227 - thus, the British Army was to have a surplus of 118 tanks. Up until today, 48 of the surplus Challengers were modified in order to serve as the vehicles utilized within the scope of the tank drivers’ training. This means that 70 “additional” tanks still remain in storage. According to the information above, withdrawal of these tanks is going to be delayed.
It shall be noted at the same time, that the relatively modern equipment, such as the Challenger 2 tanks, should not be utilized or disposed of (except for transfer of these tanks to the allied forces), even if the tanks no longer remain in the active use. This type of activities diminishes the defensive potential, limiting the possibilities within the scope of a quick reinforcement, should a sudden unforeseen threat arise, particularly once that threat is more significant than it was expected.
Let us recall the fact that it was the British who, as the first ones, carried out an exercise in Poland, the aim of which was to deploy a “heavy” battalion sized armoured combat group equipped with the Challenger 2 tanks. The initiative was realized in the light of the Ukrainian crisis. Thus it may be assumed that most of the UK-based observers did not expect a similar course of events during the Strategic Defence and Security Review, or even back in 2013.
Phillip Hammond, who was the British Secretary of Defence at the time (and who is currently acting as the chief of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs), stated, back in October 2013, in his conversation with the representatives of the House of Commons, that the threat posed by Russia for the NATO states is “currently non-existent” and that it may potentially arise in the future. Hammond made that statement during a NATO debate related to the deployment capacities and the capacities that would make it possible to defend own territory of the member states, stating that the further the countries are located from the Russian-European Border, the stronger is their will to carry out the stabilization operations in the Middle East or in the northern part of Africa.