You sometimes encounter defence acquisitions that make you shake your head in disbelief. However, most nations does not in fact acquire their systems through random acts of management, meaning that there’s usually a not insignificant amount of reasoning behind even the stranger ones – even if they might require a bit of explaining before one understands them.
This was most certainly the case with the Latvian decision to acquire the FV107 Scimitar (of the CVR(T)-family). While I have nothing in general against acquiring armoured fighting vehicles from the surplus market, the old British reconnaissance vehicle seemed an unlikely choice as the sole tracked AFV for a force undergoing modernisation and mechanisation. However, as usual there is method to the madness, and I was in luck to some time ago get to talk to a person who had insight into how the procurement decision was made. Thinking outside of the box is the key phrase.
When starting to plan the mechanisation of the force, it was clear that the Latvian Army wouldn’t have the funds to start fielding tanks of such an age and on such as scale that they could compete with the Russian units. But infantry likes to have direct fire support, so something was needed. This could be handled e.g. by infantry fighting vehicles such as the CV9035 bought by Estonia, or by arming wheeled APCs such as Lithuania had done with their Boxers. However, Latvia chose another path. The CVR(T) was available on the cheap, which was a key factor. Tracked AFVs are useful in other situations as well, as simply the sight and sound of tracks can have a psychological effect on your enemies. It’s not a tank, but on the positive side it is light and small enough to be carried around by normal trucks as opposed to requiring heavy loaders, meaning the logistics train required to give the vehicle operational and strategic mobility is also rather cheap. And did I mention, the CVR(T) is cheap?
The bottomline is that for a country with a limited budget – stopping tanks means infantry weapons and anti-tank missiles. Buying the dirt-cheap CVR(T) meant that there were more money left for Spike-missiles and enhancing the mobility of the infantry in the mechanised brigade, while still enabling the force to get a fire support vehicle. And while the CVR(T) isn’t much of tank, it actually isn’t much worse than the CV9035 or Boxer when it comes to providing fire support. Granted it has a 30 mm RARDEN which isn’t up to pair with the Orbital ATK Mk 44 of the Lithuanian vehicles, but the profile is quite a bit lower than the Boxer or the CV9035.
Unconventional thinking lead the Latvians to a 70’s designed light reconnaissance vehicle which became their heaviest land system. And with more than one analyst having called for different countries to think outside of the box to ensure that their force structures aren’t simply chosen based on old concepts, I have to say I respect the Latvians for actually doing so. Picture source: Latvian Armed Forces Flickr / vrsž. Gatis Indrevics and srž. Ēriks Kukutis