The British tank building industry is under threat after the Treasury decided its next generation of ar-moured vehicles will be made abroad.
The current generation of Scimitar
light tanks is due for replacement and the Army said it preferred the CV90
armoured reconnaissance vehicle, built by BAe Systems in Britain.
However, the Treasury overruled it
and awarded the £1 billion contract to the Ascot armoured vehicle of General
Dynamics, which makes them in Spain and Austria.
Officials at BAe said the contract
could have ultimately been worth up to £4 billion and would have created
hundreds more jobs at its factories in Newcastle and Telford, in Shropshire.
They warned that the Treasury’s
decision would mean that more than 800 jobs would be lost, which could presage
a critical drop in engineering skills.
An official said it would be
difficult to “retain the skills in armoured vehicle systems in the UK that
are necessary to support the front line”.
The spokesman added:
“Obviously we are going to have to look again at our footprint in the
armoured vehicle sector in the UK.”
The history of British tanks began
when the Mark I entered active service on the Western Front in September 1916.
It needed four drivers to control
it and filled with carbon monoxide fumes so quickly that the crew, who sat
unseparated from the engine, had to wear gas masks.
The Scimitars date back to the
early 1970s and they have been criticised for being too lightly armoured to
adequately protect soldiers against the type of improvised explosive devices
commonly used in Iraq and, chiefly, Afghanistan.