British Army still has more horses than tanks, even though beasts useless in war

The Army still has more horses than tanks, with reports indicating the Ministry of Defence has a total 492 of the beasts, compared with 408 tanks at its disposal.

Figures published by the MoD showed that at the last official count the Army has 227 of the Challenger 2’s in their fleet, as well as 181 Scimitars, the light tank of the British Army – making the total number 408.

In comparison the Army owns 492 horse, two of these pony mascots.

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Previously the chairman of the British Armed Forces Federation, Douglas Young – a reservist who served in the UK’s 1st Armoured Division in the first Gulf War – said: "The figures don’t necessarily mean we have got too many horses, it’s more likely the figures mean we don’t have enough tanks."

Former Combat Support Officer, Gordon Wavell, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, said: “Maybe it’s time to focus on what’s important and drop ceremonial duties, because that is all the horses do.

"These horses would no longer serve in a war should there be one, it is purely ceremonial.”

He said the future of tanks in wars have long been under threat as more modern "anti-tank technology" which allows a "single combatant to damage, destroy a big expensive tank" with a "relatively low cost handheld weapon."

The British Army website reads: "Animals have played a vital role within the Armed Forces for centuries and, just like humans, they receive the highest level of training."

The MoD has both horses and dogs included in the serving fleet with all military animals starting their careers at the animal centre – the Defence Animal Training Regiment based in Melton Mowbray.

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Lieutenant Colonel Mike Robinson, Commanding Officer at the DATR, said: “We care passionately about our people and the animals we train. We want our animals to be driven, well trained and safe and we do that by providing them with the best healthcare.”

Speaking in Parliament Alec Shelbrook, new Minister of State for the MoD, refused to give new numbers of the number of tanks available to The British Army, but did give the number of horses currently serving.

He said: "The Ministry of Defence publishes statistics on Armed Forces Equipment and Formations on an annual basis. A further breakdown of Challenger tanks is not available as its disclosure would, or would be likely to prejudice the capability, effectiveness or security of the Armed Forces. The Army currently has 492 horses (including 2 pony mascots)."

The most recent figures, released last year show that as of April 2020, the United Kingdom’s Armed Forces had over 4,000 key land platforms, with the most common vehicle being the Bulldog, an armoured protection vehicle, of which there were 891.

The UK’s tank fleet included 227 Challenger 2s, the UK’s main battle tank, and 181 Scimitars, the light tank of the British Army.

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