MBT Challenger 2 with an upgrade package for urban combat
Great Britain intends to maintain a high combat capability of its armed forces, for which it implements modernization programs for all branches of the military. Some of the desired results have already been obtained, while others will only appear in the future. At the same time, part of the modernization programs provides for reductions, write-offs, etc. It is expected that as a result of all these processes, the armed forces will more fully meet modern requirements.
Improvement through reduction
Due to the regular cuts in the defense budget and other factors, the ground forces in the past decade have been regularly subjected to one or another reduction. So, in 2010, the total number of personnel reached 113 thousand people, and now there are a little more than 79 thousand in the service. Also, various divisions and their material part fell under the reduction.
The 2015 Strategic Defense and Security Review set new goals for the modernization of the armed forces over the next 5-10 years. The plans for the ground forces were compiled into the Army 2020 Refine program. The main part of its transformations was required to be completed by 2020, and some were postponed until 2025.
HMS Astute – the lead ship of the project of the same name
The plans provide for maintaining the size of the army at 82 thousand people. and a reserve of 35 thousand. Reconstruction of some of the connections is proposed. So, two motorized infantry brigades are converted into shock brigades with different equipment and other tasks. These or those transformations will affect ground units, army aviation, logistics and control loops.
Initially, the Army 2020 Refine plan provided for the maintenance of the Challenger 2 main tanks with an extension of the service life. Now the army has approx. 230 of these machines, two-thirds of which are in line divisions. Now the issue of complete abandonment of tanks in favor of equipment of other classes is being worked out, which, as it is believed, will save on operation, as well as ensure an increase in combat capabilities when solving the proposed tasks.
It is noteworthy that plans to purchase new equipment will lead, at least, to a numerical reduction of the army. As part of Army 2020 Refine, they plan to purchase 589 vehicles of various types from the Ajax family. They are intended to replace the Warrior infantry fighting vehicles, some samples of the CVR (T) family and, possibly, Challenger 2 tanks. It should be borne in mind that the Warriors alone have more than 760 units, and the Ajax cannot become a full-fledged replacement for them. numerically, not to mention another technique.
Frigate HMS St Albans (F83) – the last ship “Type 23”
The development of the Royal Navy as a whole is proceeding in accordance with plans, incl. taking into account the 2015 Review, a number of ships of the main classes are under construction, including strategic missile submarines and multipurpose nuclear submarines. There are also plans for surface ships of the main classes and are being implemented. Two aircraft carriers of the new project were built and commissioned; their aviation groups are being formed. Replacement of other ships is expected.
However, as it is now becoming clear, the modernization of the surface fleet is facing significant problems. In the coming years, the KVMF is going to decommission the oldest Type 23 frigates, which were commissioned in the early nineties. In the future, this process will continue, and it is proposed to replace the old ships with modern ones. To replace the Type 23, promising PLO frigates Type 26 (8 units) and Type 31 (5 hulls) are being built.
New ships turn out to be quite expensive – the Type 26 will cost £ 1bn ($ 1.3bn) and the Type 31 will cost £ 250m ($ 330m), so two series of 13 frigates will cost the Navy 9.25 billion pounds (more than 12 billion dollars) The lead ships of the two projects will be transferred to the KVMF in the coming years. Serial construction will stretch almost until the end of the decade.
The expected appearance of the Type 26 frigate
In late August, the British press reported problems in the frigate building program. The possibility of early decommissioning of the old Typ 23 with the transfer of the construction of the serial 26 and 31 to the right is being considered. Due to this, it is planned to reduce the costs of operating and building ships, which will redirect money to other programs. However, such a result will be obtained at the cost of a sharp drop in combat effectiveness.
By accepting such proposals, the KVMF will reduce the number of ships in service, worsen its anti-submarine capabilities, and also complicate the organization of combat services. Such prospects look especially interesting in the context of the threat of Russian submarines, which the British command regularly talks about.
Air Force Problems
The RAF is also facing challenges of some sort. Their main plans are related to the purchase of F-35 fighters. In the coming years, the first formations using such equipment will reach their initial operational readiness. At the same time, due to financial constraints, KVVS and KVMF buy the same equipment.
Multipurpose fighter Eurofighter Typhoon
Eurofighter Typhoon fighter-bombers will continue to operate until 2040. There are 160 such aircraft in service now. According to the Strategic Review, by 2025 the number of squadrons for such equipment will be brought to seven and will be maintained at this level until the end of the Typhoon’s operation. However, the fleet of such aircraft is already facing technical problems. According to various sources, no more than two-thirds of the fighters are in a combat-ready state.
The situation with patrol aircraft looks optimistic and at the same time pessimistic. Since 2011, the KVVS were left without aircraft to search for submarines, which is why all the PLO tasks were assigned to the ships. In March 2020, KVVS received the first two Poseidon MRA1 (Boeing P-8) aircraft out of nine ordered. Thus, it becomes possible to resume patrolling, but the full restoration of patrol aircraft will take place only in a few years.
From negative to positive
In recent years, the British Armed Forces have faced various challenges and problems, as a result of which they have acquired their current form – with all the advantages and disadvantages. One of the main difficulties was the constant reduction of the military budget. So, in 2010, approx. 45 billion pounds (almost 59 billion dollars), and by 2020, expenses fell to 39 billion pounds (about 50 billion dollars), although since 2015 they have remained at about the same level.
First F-35B for KVVS and KVMF of Great Britain
In such conditions, the army had to maintain the existing personnel and operate the available equipment, as well as conduct foreign operations, conduct exercises and implement programs with a reserve for the future. Naturally, some projects had to be sacrificed in favor of others. It was for these reasons that the tank fleet was reduced, the construction of ships was delayed, and patrol aircraft did not receive modern replacements.
Currently, a course has been taken to modernize the armed forces, and specific requirements are imposed on these processes. In fact, when drawing up plans, the Ministry of Defense is required to ensure a combination of high defense capabilities and a limited size of the army with the corresponding costs for its maintenance.
General plans for the development of the armed forces have already been drawn up, and some of the programs are already being implemented. At the same time, the military department will have to determine the future of several important areas and launch new programs. The result of all these measures should be the formation of less numerous, differently equipped, but combat-ready and effective armed forces.
It is not yet clear when the UK will be able to overcome the accumulated problems of the past and ensure quality growth. As the events of recent years and well-known plans show, now and in the near future, we are mainly talking about reductions of one kind or another.