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Thursday, 2 August 2012

Tooling up for a fight?

In recent weeks, while most politicians have been focused on the economic crisis, the purchase, by several Middle Eastern States of huge numbers of tanks seems to have gone lmost unnoticed. When the Kingdom of Qatar purchases 200 of the high-tec German Leopard tank there are some important questions someone needs to ask I think. Especially if it comes on top of their neighbours, the Saudis, purchasing 600 of the same product.

Certainly there will be a long delivery period and I'm sure they will be spread over several years. These tanks are big, heavily protected, fast and equipped with a gun system that allows them to deliver and series of shells in a way that allows them to drop all the shells on their target simultaneously. Simultaneously? That's right. Six rounds fired in rapid succession, but each at a different trajectory, allows all six shells to arrive so close to each other the receiving target won't notice an interval. It uses GPS and programmable munitions as well, has a very small crew and, as tanks go, is economical and operationally adaptable and robust.

OK, so these two governments (and it appears several others) are making some sensible purchases in military equipment. But why? It is worth noting that the last Blair government review reduced the British arsenal of Main Battle Tanks to just 30, and Germany itself has only around 60 of the Leopards (though apparently a higher spec version than they are allowing the manufacturer to sell). Alongside the tanks, the Saudis and the Qataris (Total Population of native Qataris is 750,000) have bought new aircraft, placed orders for high-tec warships and other hardware. By my estimation there must be a personal tank, aircraft or ship for each Qatari soldier, sailor or airman! There are reports that the Omani government is also shopping and re-equipping.

I know the whole area is subject to 'tensions,' but just what are they 'tooling up' for? We know Iran is spending a vast amount of money on military equipment, much of it being developed with North Korea and domestically. We know that the Shia leadership has a longterm ambition to overthrow the Sunni rulers of Saudi and other Arabian peninsula states, but, is this the reason for this arms expansion? Or is there another intended target?

One certainly recognises that the orders bring much needed money and jobs into Europe, but I find myself hoping that the politicians in our western democracies - who are all busily cutting our own armed forces to little more than local militia - have noticed, and their various Military Intelligence gatherers know what is going on and who these buyers plan to use these weapons on.

2 comments:

  1. How does the Leopard model being sold cope with desert conditions? Weren't 50% of Western tanks down for repair at any one time during the Oil Wars? Add to that number with the incompetence level of those who are to drive/repair them and the effective number of MBT's ready to fight might only be a quarter of what they purchase.

    Training and procurement schedulings seem once again to suggest a 4 year plan.

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  2. According to the reports here, these are specially adapted to desert conditions and there's a 'support' package with them ...

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