The MoD committed in the 2015 Defence Review to creating ‘Strike Brigades’ built around these vehicles, and Army chiefs have been experimenting since then to build the most lethal and versatile force.
The army’s Strike concept envisages a force that can self-deploy up to 2,000km and be used as protected troop carriers in low-intensity counter insurgency operations, as well as having the firepower to take on Russian tanks.
In any future confrontation in Eastern Europe, Russian air defence systems would make resupply by aircraft almost impossible, the report says, and to meet the weight restrictions of the vehicles – to ensure a high top speed – they could only carry limited armour. As a result, the Strike Brigades “must compensate by being sufficiently lethal”.
The army has been in a process of managed decline since 2011, the researchers state, and has faced cuts of £31 billion to its budget. Additionally, the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan reshaped the army to focus on counter insurgency operations.
General Sir Nick Carter, then Chief of the General Staff, said in 2015: “We bent ourselves significantly out of shape from 2007 onwards to be able to deal with the challenge that we were confronted with in Helmand.”
The army is still equipped with Mastiff vehicles, bought to protect troops from road-side bombs in Afghanistan. However, these “worn-out…battlefield taxis” are no good against tanks, the report warns.