The Ministry of Defence has confirmed it paused trials of its £3.5bn fleet of army tanks over design issues, which reportedly include them being unable to travel safely at faster than 20 miles an hour.
The Daily Telegraph says problems with the Ajax armoured fighting vehicles, which are supposed to be able to go up to 40mph, also include an inability to fire cannon on the move.
Citing a government report, the paper adds that the speed restrictions had been caused by excessive vibrations in the tanks, and that crews were limited to 90 minutes inside them at a time.
The report, due to be published next month, says the tanks cannot reverse over obstacles more than 20cm high, that personnel must wear noise-cancelling headphones when operating them and have ear tests afterwards, and that the Household Cavalry Regiment “cannot conduct effective collective training” in them.
The MoD decided to bring in a new range of tanks in 2010, with 589 vehicles across a range of models ordered in 2014. But the programme has been plagued by problems and is four years behind schedule, with only 14 of the turretless Ares model tanks, made by the US firm General Dynamics, delivered.
The MoD said its training on Ajax variants had recommenced “with appropriate safety measures in place”.
A spokesperson said: “We are committed to the Ajax programme, which will form a key component in the army’s modernised war-fighting division, with current plans for initial operating capability scheduled for summer 2021.
“The MoD can confirm some training on the Ajax family of vehicles was paused as a precautionary measure. This is a normal measure for the demonstration phase of projects. An investigation, incorporating trials, is being carried out jointly with the manufacturer. It is inappropriate for us to comment further at this time.
“The health and safety of our personnel is of the utmost importance and we are committed to providing a safe working environment.”