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Challenger II in Saffron Manjaca

By CPO Tim Adams
First published in
SFOR Informer #89, June 7, 2000

Manjaca ranges - Over 120 special guests from a multitude of different nations took front row seats May 26 at an impressive performance of skill, speed, maneuvering and firepower that followed a classic script, but showcased new performers: British Challenger II Tanks. The earlier script, evolved through the centuries by horse cavalry commanders, was brought into the 20th century by the writings of Sir Basil Liddel-Hart, then further refined by modern armour experts like Generals Erwin Rommel and George Patton. The 14 Challenger II of C Squadron of the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment brought the time-tested battle scenarios alive with agility, accuracy and thunderous power that impressed even experienced tank commanders and would have made Rommel and Patton green with envy.

This public demonstration and opportunity for the media to observe the tanks in action came at the end of a training and firing exercise called "Saffron Manjaca" which was held at the Manjaca ranges near Mrkonjic Grad where the Challengers are based. Saffron is their Regimental colour. "This training area represents a great opportunity for live firing," said Squadron Commander Maj. Sebastian Pollington (UK.) He explained that the squadron is deployed in Bosnia and Hercegovina for six months as part of the patrolling operations being conducted by SFOR. "The tanks are held as a reserve here in Bosnia, but that doesn't stop us from time to time coming out to train."

Maj. Pollington briefed the spectators on Challenger II and its target acquisition and weapon systems before crew members dressed in sharp, crisp, black uniforms gave personal tours of the tanks. Following the static display, a single tank demonstrated target acquisition and rapid firing of 10 rounds in 60 seconds. Then a tank firing accurately on a target while moving at 40 to 50 kilometres per hour (KPH) proved the effectiveness of the Challenger II's computer targeting system. Next came the three tank troop fire control demonstrations, a half-squadron fire control demonstration and a full squadron battle-run. The troop exercises also included firing on the move up to 50 KPH and dispensing smoke to conceal movement and positions.

All the visitors showed appreciation of the swift action of tanks deploying, while delivering 120-MM rounds and machine gun fire on multiple targets with deadly accuracy, but perhaps only fellow tankers truly appreciated the finesse and subtleties of each well executed move. A visiting tank commander from the Republic of Srpska Army (VRS) had some very knowledgeable comments and questions about tactics and crew conditions according to Pollington. "His observations centred around how tanks are used tactically, the kinds of technologies that modern tanks these days incorporate and the ethos that drives a tank regiment."

Maj. Pollington was justifiably pleased with how each of the 104 members in his squadron performed and worked together as a team. "I'm delighted with the way the day has gone. It's been a very complex demonstration to establish here and you have seen a number of different dimensions to the demonstration, culminating in a full squadron fire-manoeuvre exercise, which requires a good deal of control. But it requires a deft touch; we can't over-control it to the extent that the training value is lost.

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: UK
Exercises and Training