Tank Craft 21, Challenger 1, British Main Battle Tank of the Gulf War

This book demonstrates why the Tank Craft series has become so very popular. There is a concise analysis of the tank’s design, development and variants with in-action photographs and specially commissioned full colour drawings and exhibition grade models of a selection of available kits. – Very Highly Recommended.

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NAME: Tank Craft 21, Challenger 1, British Main Battle Tank of the Gulf War
FILE: R3056
AUTHOR: Rob Griffin
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword Tank Craft
BINDING: soft back
PRICE: £16.99                                                                
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: Cold War, Gulf War,  armour, main battle tank, column warfare, tank 
battles, deserts, armour upgrades, fire control, mobile engagements, air superiority, 
Op Granby, Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Iraqi Army, Republican Guard, Liberation 
of Kuwait

ISBN: 1-52675-653-6

IMAGE: B3056.jpg
BUYNOW: tinyurl.com/sfbhqvm
LINKS: 
DESCRIPTION: This book demonstrates why the Tank Craft series has become so 
very popular. There is a concise analysis of the tank's design, development and 
variants with in-action photographs and specially commissioned full colour 
drawings and exhibition grade models of a selection of available kits. – Very 
Highly Recommended.

When Iraq invaded Kuwait, Prime Minister Thatcher was quick to commit British 
troops to protect Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States before preparing to liberate 
Kuwait from the Iraqi invaders. She was also effective in working with the US 
president to build a very wide series of Alliances with countries that would not 
normally fight alongside each other. However there were many challenges.

Logistics were to be a major challenge, both in finding available aircraft and ships to 
ferry out troops and all of their weapons and supplies, and in managing this huge 
operation. The British Army was a long way behind where it should have been in 
adopting integrated computer systems to enable fast armoured forces to be supplied 
on the move and a crash program was put in stream before the end of the first day of 
the Iraqi invasion. The Prime Minister authorised unusual procurement and where 
MODPE had suggested it might be able to shorten procurement to only 12 months, 
new systems were built in days and weeks with the Army users participating directly 
in the functional specification and for those soldiers, helping to explain what they 
needed, being trained to train their comrades. The result was that for the first time, 
the Army got what it needed very quickly at a fraction of the normal procurement 
costs, making it difficult to understand why the politicians forced the Army after the 
war to return to the same old flawed procurements. The Army actually fought back 
when deployed to the Balkans, taking Op Granby systems with them and leaving the 
newer less capable equipment behind in barracks.

New computer systems and communications, including many extra international 
Internet cables and nodes, which helped the explosion of the Internet through the 
1990s, and some very creative logistics actions, saw what could have been a disaster 
becoming a huge success. That still left many challenges particularly in finding 
functional armour to ship out.

The Challenger 1 was a brilliant design and potentially the finest tank of its 
generation. It packed innovation into the armoured hull and inevitably that resulted 
in more than a few teething problems. These were made worse by the low annual 
mileage for the fleet. On the day of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait there was only one 
fully functional Challenger 1 in the entire British Isles. There were a few more in 
Germany and a larger number in Canada. At the time, and in the after battle wash-up 
meetings, there was much debate of the reasons for their sorry state. The primary 
difficulty was that armour was already being seen as outdated on what was considered 
likely to be a nuclear battlefield and vulnerable in non-nuclear conflict with precision 
anti-tank weapons. The Main Battle Tank was coming to be seen as a large target, 
rather than a battle winning asset. That meant the tanks that had been built were 
available in inadequate numbers and these numbers were further reduced by 
serviceability issues. The result was that most Challenger Is were in Germany, or on 
training ranges in Canada. In Germany they covered very few miles each year, 
tiptoeing around German cabbage patches trying to avoid upsetting the natives. In 
Canada the training ranges gave Challengers a good work out but with fewer training 
hours each year than should have been conducted. There were priorities to keep an 
adequate number of tanks in full operational condition for training, but there were
 servicing limitations in Germany and the UK. One example of this was a problem 
that was common and addressed by replacing a component that had failed, when one 
was available. Spares availability often mean engineers robbing one tank to keep 
another operational and also operating tanks below desirable levels of functionality. 
That was clearly a problem that should not have been allowed to occur but it was not 
fairly a fault of the tank crews, or of REME. Essentially it was a result of budget cuts 
with the troops working around problems of other peoples making. It did however 
mean that symptoms were often responded to, rather than trying to find the source of 
the problem, or simply working with a much reduced fleet of Challengers.

Once the armour had arrived in the Gulf, a series of intensive training exercises were 
undertaken to adequately prepare for what could well be a very difficult conflict. Iraq 
had a large army and large quantity of modern, mainly Russian, weapons. That 
included a substantial air force and a great quantity of modern armour. Very quickly 
vehicles were breaking down and typically a year of use in peacetime Germany was 
exceeded in a single day, sometimes in a matter of hours. It was a great credit to 
British soldiers that they managed as well as they did at this stage. A great deal of 
effort was put into getting to grips with the issues and a new engineering management 
computer system, that had been designed and built in less than a week, began to come 
up with some interesting results. A problem that had affected the Challenger 1 
frequently was identified as a steel bracket that broke and then affected other 
components. The failed components were replaced eventually but not the bracket that 
caused the problem. A bracket costing a few pounds could be replaced under urgent 
preventive maintenance, saving hundreds of pounds on other components. Equally 
important was that it dramatically increased Challenger availability.

What was never fully tested was the ability of the Challenger 1 in a fully equal 
conflict. On paper, Iraq had the numbers of planes and tanks of modern design to 
present a very real challenge for the Allies. In reality, Allied air power almost 
immediately achieved total superiority and this meant two factors followed. The first 
was that Allied armoured formations could strike rapidly without the enemy having 
adequate intelligence of their position and numbers. The second was that air power 
was rapidly reducing the number of available Iraqi tanks. Trained in Russian tactics 
of the 'hedgehog' position, Iraqi tanks were dug in around a central hub that 
accommodated resting crews and command personnel. That looked good in a desert 
landscape with much protection but it had a serious weakness. Allied aircraft circling 
at around 17,000 ft only had to look for heat blooms when the tanks started their 
engines, which they had to do about every two hours to ensure they were always 
ready to move out quickly. The aircraft then dropped 1,000lb smart bombs on the 
heat blooms and at the centre of the circle. From 17,000 a smart bomb did not even 
need to explode because the kinetic energy was sufficient to cut through the armour 
of the day. That greatly reduced the number of Iraqi tanks available for the 
Challenger 1s to attack and it seriously damaged Iraqi morale.

This book captures the Challenger 1 as it was continued to be upgraded and there are 
many full colour drawings and photographs to show both the Challenger 1 in service 
and the available model kits. As with other books in this very popular series, the 
author has included photographs and details of the specialist add-on and replacement 
parts that enable a model maker to turn a good facsimile into an exhibition grade 
model.