UK’s pricey new tanks are so loud that they’ve caused health problems among troops
Trials of the British Army’s new Ajax tanks were halted for several months after soldiers testing the vehicle became sick from its loud noises and vibrations, the Times has reported, amid concerns about other serious design flaws.
The UK government ordered 589 Ajax armoured fighting vehicles from US-based General Dynamics in 2014, but the military hardware, costing over £3.2 billion ($4.5 billion), appears to be far from battle-ready.
According to the Times, trials launched in November were paused until March after soldiers testing the vehicles became sick. The tank, which is said to vibrate violently and is also extremely loud, reportedly caused troops to suffer from swollen joints and ringing in their ears.
One defence industry source told the outlet that the vehicle is so noisy that there are concerns that it could trigger “neurological conditions” among its operators. All soldiers who have taken part in the trials must now undergo hearing tests.
The UK military is issuing noise-cancelling headsets in an effort to salvage the new generation of tanks, the paper said. The headsets previously used by troops were unable to reduce noise in the vehicle, forcing them to limit their time inside the tank to 105 minutes.
In an earlier report published by the Sun, a source within the army claimed that soldiers who ride in the Ajax “complain that their hearing has been affected.” The source added that the Ajax project was a “complete shambles” and that it was wasting taxpayers’ money.
The alleged health issues associated with the tank were revealed after the Times ran a story detailing how technical experts identified several “safety issues” with the Ajax, including excessive noise inside the vehicles, and cannons that can’t fire while on the move due to vibration.
The problems have been alluded to before. In March, a parliamentary committee released a report in which it heavily criticised the government for not properly maintaining Britain’s conventional military forces. The document noted the high cost and delays plaguing the Ajax program, and specifically pointed to the vibration issue.
The first Ajax vehicles were scheduled for delivery in 2017, but according to the Times, so far only 14 of the 589 have arrived, and without their turret.