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Maybe it's time for a return to the armoured car era

But in fact the toughest and sneakiest of all - the SAS - prefer to largely do without armour when playing that game, finding that a vehicle such as the Jackal is more to their taste. The Jackal was originally designed to SAS requirements as a sort of ultimate version of the heavily-armed "Wolf" or WMIK land rovers which were already very popular among our elite forces.

Nowadays every British combat brigade goes to Afghanistan with a Commando-style Brigade Reconnaissance Force (BRF) of specially picked troops trained up by SAS instructors and mounted in modern kit such as the Jackal.

For mobile off-road warfare, Jackal or its ilk seems more the way of the future in recce work than a new Scimitar. The hard-corps culture of the BRF - as opposed to that of the traditionally horsey, champagne-quaffing, ceremonial-loving cavalry regiments, even today a little reluctant to get too far from their mounts - seems more appropriate to the task. Especially now that so much mainstream recce activity is better done from the air or by robots, and now that so much warfare is urban or on-road anyway, and thus totally unsuitable for tracked vehicles.

So it's fair to say that the cavalry and BAE's tank division will be glad to see at least a few tanks make it under the bar before the new strategic review perhaps - at last - decides that classic WWII armoured warfare is largely over.

But plenty of soldiers won't be so chuffed, feeling that they'd rather spend the cash on other things. And plenty of taxpayers might rather wait and see if we actually still want to play Classic Tank War before deciding to buy classic tank war kit. ®

Bootnotes

*This is the so-called Case Telescoped Weapon System (CTWS), in which a 40mm projectile is moved back into the cartridge holding its propellant. This means that the projectile can be shot at very high velocity without needing to have a very long round and long cannon breech - the gun and its ammo have been "telescoped", allowing for a smaller, lighter turret and easier ammo storage and handling.

The idea was developed to make light tanks and infantry vehicles more able to penetrate their rivals' armour in classic tank war. However, it is now being sold as a means of piercing the amazingly resistant mud walls of Afghan compounds. (You can dream up a reason to send just about anything to Afghanistan, and people always do: this doesn't mean it's worth doing.)

**There are heavy air transports able to haul a single main battle tank, but this isn't practical. Blighty only has five such planes, and even the USA doesn't even try to despatch heavy armour by air en masse.

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