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Where’s the Anti-Tank Reserve?

Jack Watling
RUSI Defence Systems, 7 July 2020
Martial Power Programme, Military Sciences, Land Forces
The British Army needs a mobile anti-tank reserve capability in order to credibly stop opposing heavy armour during a peer conflict. Without it, outnumbered UK armour will be held at bay while infantry are overwhelmed

The survivability of armour on the modern battlefield is increasingly threatened. The Syrian Army have lost over 3,000 tracked armoured vehicles over the course of their nine-year civil war. Ukrainian forces lost whole manoeuvre elements of vehicles in artillery strikes over the summer of 2014. But while there are an increasing number of weapons systems that can destroy armour, they must be available to tactical formations in sufficient quantities in order to be effective. The tools to defend units against armour exist, but in the British Army they are scarce.

Recent campaigns in Iraq and Libya have seen the limited employment of armour by adversaries. The weakness of adversary command and control has meant that hostile armour only deployed in small packets; usually unable to overwhelm the anti-tank teams supporting light infantry. These armour packets also had to fight against coalition forces with complete control of the air. Against a peer adversary, air support would be intermittent, and armour would be employed on an incomparable scale. A light infantry unit might feel confident in its ability to stop a pair of antiquated T-72s. They would, however, be helpless against a complete squadron of modernised T-90Ms.

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Dr Jack Watling
Research Fellow, Land Warfare

Dr Jack Watling is Research Fellow for Land Warfare. Jack has recently conducted studies of deterrence against Russia, force... read more

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