2 war experts say British armor has the same production flaw that contributed to Nazi Germany’s downfall

2 war experts say British armor has the same production flaw that contributed to Nazi Germany’s downfall

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A Ukrainian soldier with a machine gun in his hands rides along a dirt road on a Challenger-2 tank on August 3, 2023 in Ukraine.
A Ukrainian soldier with a machine gun in his hands rides along a dirt road on a Challenger-2 tank on August 3, 2023 in Ukraine.

  • A retired UK colonel and a war historian are sounding the alarm on Britain’s tank production.
  • They warned against relying on advanced weapons too costly to scale up, a mistake Nazi Germany made.
  • Their chief concern is with the Challenger-3 tank program, which is set to produce 148 vehicles.

A retired British Army colonel and a World War II historian are urging UK authorities to recalibrate weapons production, saying Britain is too fixated on building world-class military tech that it can’t scale up.

This was the same problem that partially brought Nazi Germany to its knees, wrote Hamish de Bretton-Gordon and James Holland in a commentary published on Wednesday by The Telegraph.

“It would appear we are doomed to repeat the mistake Nazi Germany made in the Second World War — relying on sophisticated weaponry that is too expensive for mass production and will never produce decisive battlefield results,” wrote the pair.

Holland is a World War II historian, and de Bretton-Gordon led several commands in his 23-year military career, including NATO’s Rapid Reaction CBRN Battalion and the UK’s Joint Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Regiment. Before he retired, de Bretton-Gordon was an assistant director in intelligence services.

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Not enough tanks

One of the pair’s major concerns is the Challenger-3 program, which aims to supply the UK with its latest, best-in-class tank fitted with a powerful 120mm smooth-bore gun.

But the UK is only planning to field 148 of them, and de Bretton-Gordon and Holland said that’s far too few to fill the country’s defense needs.

They recalled how Nazi Germany had obsessed over the quality of its tanks, chiefly the King Tiger, but meanwhile only managed to produce less than 500 of them. The tank most heavily produced by Germany at the time was the Panzer IV, but even so, Hitler’s industrial complex built 8,500 vehicles at maximum.

Holland and de Bretton-Gordon contrasted that to the US producing more than 50,000 Sherman tanks and the Soviet Union building up to 84,000 T-34s.

In total, Nazi Germany built just under 50,000 tanks during the war, while the US built over 100,000. The Soviet Union built nearly 120,000 tanks.

The sheer numbers made a difference in World War II, and they’ll make a difference now, de Bretton-Gordon and Holland wrote.

“The old adage of ‘mass matters’ is as relevant in the battle for the Donbas today as it was for the battles of Kursk, a few kilometers to the east in 1943,” they wrote.

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The UK’s current main battle tank is the Challenger-2, with an estimated inventory of 227 vehicles. However, a UK Defense Committee report in March 2023 said that only about 157 are available for operations in a 30-day notice.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskuy meet Ukrainian troops being trained to command Challenger 2 tanks at a military facility on February 8, 2023 in Lulworth, Dorset, England.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskuy meet Ukrainian troops being trained to command Challenger 2 tanks at a military facility on February 8, 2023 in Lulworth, Dorset, England.

Western tanks such as the Challenger 2 and Leopard 2 might win against their adversaries in a one-on-one fight, but the Ukraine war is showing that they aren’t making enough of a difference because Kyiv lacks the mass to push through Russian lines, the war experts wrote.

As the pair put it: “One leopard is no match for a pack of hyenas.”

Advanced technology can still turn the tide of battle, but it must be a given that the enemy cannot counter the threat, they added.

Both called on UK authorities to “wake up,” writing:

Whoever leads the country next needs an urgent Defence Review. Two massive aircraft carriers and 150 tanks are no deterrence to the likes of Russia or China. And it is these countries which we need to design our deterrence around, not some imaginary enemy that suits single service rivalries. Ten billion pounds spent on tanks rather than carriers would give us the conventional deterrence so lacking at the moment, for instance.

Notably, de Bretton-Gordon was also once a commander of the 1st Royal Tank Regiment.

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Russia’s mass-production game

In June 2023, de Bretton-Gordon praised British armor for its quality in his commentary on the war in Ukraine. He said that Kyiv’s battle doctrine allowed it to effectively use tanks supplied by the UK against Russia’s low-morale conscripted forces.

“As a former tank commander, I know the Challenger 2 vastly outmatches what’s left of Russia’s armor,” de Bretton-Gordon wrote.

While de Bretton-Gordon continues to laud the capabilities of British tanks, the optimism and global conversation regarding Ukraine has shifted as Russia puts its economy on a war footing.

Moscow quickly expanded its defense manufacturing complex and recruitment drives to fuel mass reinforcements in Ukraine, prompting worries that it could sustain its heavy losses for several years.

Ukraine, meanwhile, is desperately trying to fill its ranks with more men and had a significant tranche of US aid delayed in Congress for months. While the flow of military equipment has resumed, Kyiv’s need for manpower is still great.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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