Challenger tanks grind to a halt as desert sand clogs filters

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The Independent Online

Railtrack has the wrong kind of leaves on the line, now the British Army has wrong kind of tracks on its tanks. That, combined with the wrong kind of sand meant that Britain's main battle tank, the Challenger II, kept breaking down during the Saif Sareea 2 exercise in Oman.

The 67 tanks, costing £2.5m each, had been sent to the Middle East without being adapted for desert conditions, and as a result, their filters kept clogging up. There was an additional problem of the tracks being unable to cope with sand.

The Ministry of Defence had expected the filters to last for 24 hours each. Instead, they lasted for four. This could have been prevented by the filters being replaced for about £1,300 each, before they were sent to Oman.

General Sir Mike Walker, the Chief of General Staff, defending the decision not to replace the filters, said: "It was done for cost reasons. That is something you have to take into consideration on any exercise. There were also problems with the tracks. This was caused by the type of sand here, it was like talcum powder."