The United Kingdom Has F-35s and New Aircraft Carriers (But the Army Is in Trouble)

David Axe

The United Kingdom has new fighter jets, new drones, new aircraft carriers and new submarines.

But its army? Well, the army is stuck with old tanks, old artillery and old fighting vehicles, many of them dating back to the 1980s.

“It really is time for the army to become a modernisation priority,” Nicholas Drummond, a former British Army officer who is now a defense-industry consultant and commentator, tweeted on Oct. 22, 2019.

In his series of tweets the day before British defense secretary Ben Wallace set to meet with a key parliamentary committee, Drummond explained London’s relative lack of investment in the army at a time when the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force are benefitting from major modernization spending.

“For some, the army lost relevance when it was used to fight discretionary wars with ill-defined objectives, a lack of political commitment and an unaffordable resource requirement,” Drummond tweeted, referring to the American-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to which the Brtish Army has committed tens of thousands of troops over a period of nearly 20 years.

“The truth is that Iraq and Afghanistan are in a much better state than if we had never deployed,” Drummond explained. But politically, in recent decades the Royal Navy and RAF have been in a better position to argue for expensive new hardware.

The army, after all, was fighting wars that for the most part didn’t require expensive new hardware. Sure, the British Army acquired new blast-proof trucks to protect against insurgents’ improvised explosives.

But the tanks, fighting vehicles and self-propelled artillery that enable the army to fight a major war mostly haven’t played a major role in counterinsurgencies. The army didn’t need them for the wars it was in, so the government didn’t bother upgrading or replacing them.

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