Ministry of Defence 'turns down German tank deal for fear of negative press’

'They made that offer to us and we should have taken it but there was an arrogance: we invented the tank, we have to have a British tank'

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The Independent Online

Britain declined the opportunity to buy a fleet of German tanks due to “worry about negative press headlines,” a defence source has claimed. 

German manufacturer Krauss-Maffei Wegmann offered to sell between 100 and 400 second-hand Leopard 2 tanks to the Ministry of Defence in 2015, but despite it being allegedly the best deal, the offer was turned down. 

The German proposal was one of several being considered for a £700 million contract to upgrade Britain’s Challenger 2 battle tank fleet.

“They made that offer to us and we should have taken it but there was an arrogance: we invented the tank, we have to have a British tank,” a defence industry source told The Times.

“There was a worry about negative press headlines.”

Hesitation around the deal also came from a reluctance to retrain British tank operators to use a new model, and the potential impact on the support chain, which is built around the Challenger 2. 

The German offer would have equipped the UK with tanks for a further three decades for roughly the same price as an upgrade to the Challenger 2 fleet, which would have extended its life by 20 years. 

However, one defence source told The Times the idea had not been ruled out entirely, despite the Government selecting two other companies, BAE Systems and Germany’s Rheinmetall, to complete the Challenger 2 upgrade.

“If it turns out that buying second-hand would work out cheaper overall then finance is king,” the source said. “If it is cheaper they will go that way.”

One offer that still stands would involve a deal of 200 second-hand models of the Leopard 2 for roughly £2 million each. 

A further £500,000 per tank could then be paid to upgrade the vehicles to a common standard, and then up to a further £1 million to be upgraded to an A7V variant with increased firepower. 

However, one industry source said it would be unlikely for the MoD to retrofit the Challenger 2 with new technology, and that it would be more likely they would buy the second-hand tanks. 

Another senior military source disagreed telling The Times he did not believe buying second-hand would be the way forward: “I don’t think that is in the race at the moment.”

The Independent has contacted the MoD for comment.