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News as it happens

Posted by Richard Monday, April 23, 2007 ,

On the BBC and from The Times is news of a British Challenger tank being damaged by an IED. The driver was very badly injured, losing his legs.

It turns out, however, that this occurred on 6 April and was reported shortly afterwards by Michael Yon, from whom we picked up the details, commenting on them on 14 April, over a week ago.

Such is the hubris of the MSM, however, that the Independent glibly announced that "Details of the attack on the Challenger only emerged today." That is the MSM for you – nothing is "news" until they report it.

We've said it before, but it is worth repeating. When it comes to important news and developments – especially in respect of the British campaign in southern Iraq – the media is often behind the curve.

Typical of the genre, the BBC goes to Professor Michael Clarke from King's College's Defence Studies Centre, for a quote (as does The Telegraph). He tells the BBC that the Challenger 2 tank's armour is usually "inviolable", adding: "Most of the things on a battlefield are not much of a threat to a tank, usually."

The expert then continues: "This is worrying, because if there are many of these sorts of very heavy penetrative Improvised Explosive Devices around in the area then no vehicle is safe." The Sun thinks it is ahead of the game here, claiming by way of an "exclusive" that the bomb was an explosively formed projectile - denied by the MoD.

As to Clarke's comments, they are not true either. The armour on Main Battle Tanks is optimised to protect from hits from other tanks (and anti-tank weapons). The underside armour on the Challenger is relatively thin, with no ballistic shaping, which makes it vulnerable to mines and buried IEDs.

The last tank to have had ballistic shaping to the underside seems to have been the M-60, which first entered service in 1960 (and was still in service in 1991) – another example of lessons learned and forgotten.

However, that shaping is to be found in the Mastiff, at last being introduced into Iraq. Based on US experience, there is a possibility that it could have protected its crew from the blast. But you wouldn't expect the BBC to know that.

That said, you do wonder why Challengers are still being deployed in Iraq. Their main armament, the 120mm gun, is of very limited use in the sort of urban warfare that our troops are fighting, which leaves a single GPMG (machine gun) with which it can fight. These tanks could be far more use to us in Afghanistan.

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