The British Army Ajax armored vehicle emerges from the rut to enter service in 2025

Of all the European armies, the British Army is undoubtedly the one that has experienced the most drastic slimming since the end of the Cold War, going from 158.000 men and 900 Chieftain and Challenger tanks in 1989, to 79.000 men and 227 tanks Challenger 2 today, especially since unlike the Army or the Bundeswehr, it was already made up exclusively of professional soldiers, a centuries-old tradition in Great Britain. In addition to this size reduction, it was also exposed to intense operational pressure, in particular due to the interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan alongside the United States, Great Britain having been, each time, the second most major contributor to Allied forces behind the United States. At the same time, its appropriations have also been largely put under pressure, on the one hand because of the reductions in investment in defense following the Cold War, which fell from $47 billion in 1991 to $39 billion in 1999, and if the progression resumed from 2000 to reach $54 billion in 2012, it was again reduced thereafter to reach $51 billion in 2015, before finally resuming a growth curve bringing it to 68 billion in 2021.

In fact, and like the French Army, the British Army has been confronted over the past 25 years with an impossible equation, with stagnating or declining appropriations, plummeting numbers, and intense operational pressure, forcing it to postpone the modernization of its equipment and leading it, today, to have to simultaneously replace several of the equipment which is now too obsolete to take part in a high-intensity engagement, as is the case AS90 artillery systems, GMLRS rocket launchers, Scimetar armored reconnaissance fighting vehicles or Warrior and Bulldog infantry fighting vehicles. For this, London announced in 2018 the acquisition of 523 Boxer armored vehicles in no less than 11 versions ranging from armored personnel carriers to armored emergency medical transport, including mobile command posts and fire support mortars. . In April 2022, a second batch of 100 armored vehicles was ordered, without the details of the versions having been revealed, bringing the total to 623 vehicles, the first elements of which will join British units this year. It was for the British Army to compensate for the delay of another critical program, the Ajax armored vehicle.

Warrior Iraq Defense Analysis | Light tanks and armored reconnaissance | Afghanistan conflict
British Army tanks have been used extensively in Iraq and Afghanistan

Indeed, unlike the Army, the British Army did not give up a fleet of heavy tracked armored vehicles, and announced, in the early 2010s, the development of a specific family of armored vehicles based on the ASCOD 2 from General Dynamics, much to the chagrin of BAe and his CV90. Initially, the armored vehicle was to enter service in 2017 for its armed reconnaissance version designated Ajax, according to the agreement signed in 2014 providing for the acquisition of 245 Ajax, 256 Protected Mobility Recce Support (PMRS) composed of armored personnel carriers, command and reconnaissance vehicles, and 88 armored vehicles in the engineering variant, for a total of 589 vehicles and £3,5 billion. It was after that that things became severely complicated, with decisions and technical problems that led to the explosion of costs and especially delays. On the one hand, London demanded that the tank be assembled in Great Britain, forcing GD to build a factory for this contract alone, resulting in an additional cost of more than £360m. Above all, severe vibration problems and the intense noise level inside the tank brought the program to the brink of collapse, not without causing significant injuries to some test crews.

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