Great Britain was the first country to field a tank in combat on September 15, 1916, during the Battle of the Somme. The Mk1 was not a success, and the majority of the armored vehicles engaged were destroyed or broke down.
But they paved the way for what would become a major weapon present on all battlefields ever since. If the Matilda and the Cromwell did not shine during the Second World War against their German counterparts, the Sherman Firefly, modified by the British and equipped with a long 76 mm gun, was very appreciated for its ability to pierce the Panther and the Teutonic Tigers.
The best tank produced by the industry across the Channel was, without doubt, the Centurion. Designed at the end of the Second World War, this 51-ton tank was well armored, equipped with a powerful 90 then 105 mm gun, and was remarkably reliable.
He was notably the spearhead of the Israeli forces which used modified versions of the Centurion against the Arab T55 and T62 during the Six Day War and that of Yom Kippur, before being replaced by the first Merkava of local manufacture.
It was also the British who invented the Chobham composite armor in the 1960s, which equipped the Challenger tank (1), making it one of the best protected tanks of the 1980s, with the American M1 Abrams, also equipped with this type of armor. shielding.
The Chobham and its derivatives were at the heart of the new generation of Western battle tanks, such as the German Leopard 2, or the French Leclerc, giving these characteristic angular shapes, because the composite armor did not allow the creation of complex shapes, or curves.
The British developed the Challenger II tank, still equipped with this armor, but whose performance was (and still is) considered inferior to that of its European and American competitors.
Despite this extraordinary historical precedence, the “armored vehicles” branch of the British BAe has just joined a Joint Venture created with the German Rheinmetall, the co-designer of the Leopard II, with a minority position, causing Great Britain to lose Brittany takes control of its armored construction industry.
This Joint Venture is organized around the order of nearly 500 Boxer infantry fighting vehicles from the German manufacturer by the British Army, itself following that of 589 Ajax armored vehicles from the American General Dynamics, also partly built by Rheinmetall, two contracts awarded to the detriment of BAe's local offers.
This industrial and historical shipwreck is above all the consequence of a blatant lack of anticipation on the part of the British political authorities who, mired in the Afghan and Iraqi conflicts, failed to anticipate the need for development of their armored fleet, and therefore to free up the necessary funds for upstream studies, the same ones which made it possible, 40 years earlier, to design the Chobham armor and the Challenger 1, and to have to turn to foreign solutions, quickly weakening their own industry.
A lesson to be learned for France, whose idealized European ambitions could well lead its Defense industry on the same slope as the British armor industry...