The Dutch Army wiped out all of their tanks, then realized they had made a huge mistake
If the British army eliminates its remaining 200 or so Challenger 2 tanks – a distinct possibility as part of the UK government’s next integrated review – it will only be the second major NATO nation to abandon heavy armor.
As part of a cost-saving measure in 2011, the Netherlands reduced their overall force by 60 Leopard 2 tanks.
This decision was controversial to say the least. And it didn’t last. The Dutch experience could be instructive as the UK Ministry of Defense reflects on its own possible future without a tank.
The 2008 recession hit the Netherlands hard. The government reduce expenses $ 40 billion as of 2009. Among other cuts, the military eliminated its two tank battalions and their Leopard 2A6 tanks.
The Leopard 2s fired their last cannon shots in training in May 2011. “It looks like a funeral” mentionned Captain Johnny Romein, an officer in one of the tank battalions.
The Netherlands quickly sold Finland 100 of the approximately 120 Leopard 2s it had in stock. The plan at the time was also to sell the last 20 or so tanks.
But then, in 2014, Russia invaded Ukraine. Attitudes within the Dutch government have started to change.
While the military retained infantry fighting vehicles and self-propelled artillery, the lack of tanks meant big gaps in capability against a high-tech enemy like Russia.
There were things the Dutch army could no longer do. “Without the tank, maneuvers such as breaching or turning is no longer possible,” said Captain Chiel Nieuwenhuis, commander of a tank company.
A breach is a direct attack against enemy fortifications. A turning movement is a fast flanking operation that requires speed, mobility and firepower. After 2014, the Dutch army realized that it had to be able to carry out these maneuvers in the event of war between NATO and Russia.
Thus, in 2015, just four years after the storage of its last tanks, the Dutch government decided bring back some. But money was still a problem. Dutch officials saw an opportunity in the German army’s own plan to add tanks.
The German Army at the time was operating around 200 Leopard 2s and aimed to increase this force to around 330 tanks. But Berlin struggled to recruit enough troops for its expanding tank formations.
The Dutch and German governments have agreed to a trade.
The Netherlands transferred the last 18 Dutch Leopard 2A6s in storage to Germany. The Germans upgraded the tanks to the 2A7 standard and then formed a new squadron under the German Army Tank Battalion 414. About 100 Dutch soldiers joined the battalion, alleviating somewhat the labor shortage of the German army. German army.
The battalion is under German command but, in wartime, could support Dutch troops as part of a larger NATO operation. Indeed, the Netherlands leases some of the tanks they once owned.
“The values we defend are European,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Marco Niemeyer, German commander of the battalion, Told The New York Times
The British military must prepare for the same Russian threat that forced the Dutch army to partially restore its heavy armor. If the British abandon their tanks, they might also find that they can no longer break through or transform enemy defenses.
It’s not hard to imagine a time, years later, when a British army without a tank might have to do what the Dutch army did – and devise a desperate plan to buy back the heavy armor it comes from all. just eliminate it in the hope of saving some money.