The UK is moving at a good pace to make its new main battle tank, the Challenger 3, a reality. The British Ministry of Defense, together with the Anglo-German industry Rheinmetall BAE Systems Land (RBSL), reached an important point at the beginning of the year, the Critical Design Review (CDR), so that the design of the tanks is already compliant and the defense company has started construction The first prototypes began, starting from the current Challenger 2, the version currently in use.
In this first phase, costing £800 million, the aim is to work on a total of 148 Challenger 2 tanks and convert them into the improved, fully digitalized Challenger 3 version from 2027.
This required a modernization and expansion of the RBSL production facility in Telford, UK, where the Boxer vehicles are also manufactured.
Outside the main order, but as part of the improvement program, work is also underway to integrate the active protection system (APS) Trophy MV. The improved tank will have more firepower and protection, but will only be sold in limited quantities.
The United Kingdom is experiencing a slow but inexorable decline in its armed forces, which in the case of the army has been reflected in ever-decreasing numbers of battle tanks since the end of the Cold War. This modernization of the main battle tank Challenger, which is currently in use, is intended to ensure British operational capability until at least 2040. The Challenger 3 option was selected in favor of purchasing new Leopard 2 tanks available in Germany.
The new tank will feature a fully digitalized turret, ensuring the tank is “the deadliest in Europe,” said Nick Cowey, Challenger 3 senior program manager. The all-new turrets are the most important part of the upgrade, but other work is also underway This also affects the hull, the main gun and various systems. They will therefore have a new 120mm L55A1 smoothbore gun from Rheinmetall, which will replace the current 120mm rifled gun and offer significantly greater speed and penetration. It will be able to fire the latest generation of programmable ammunition (high yield and kinetic energy), thus adapting to NATO standards.
Survivability is significantly improved thanks to more advanced armor, a new laser warning system and the aforementioned Trophy MV active protection system (APS).
In addition, it will feature two new independent thermal imaging cameras and fully integrated automatic target tracking, large area search and assisted target detection. It will also include a new driver’s visor with front and rear thermal imaging cameras.
It will also be significantly more agile thanks to a new hydrogas suspension and an updated engine with improved cooling. According to the Ministry of Defense, the new car will reach a top speed of 95 km/h, while the Challenger 2’s limit is around 60 km/h.
Another important improvement is the transmission systems that will improve communication and data exchange with other ISTAR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance) vehicles and assets, such as drones and other unmanned vehicles, in future operations. There will be an open system and new digital terminals.
The first examples of the modernized tanks are expected to be delivered in 2027 and the unimproved Challenger 2 tanks are expected to be phased out. The Soldier of the Future initiative also includes structural changes based on a “lethal and agile” force of around 72,500 soldiers by 2025, up from 76,000 in 2021, and organized primarily around Brigade Combat Teams (BCT). Dropdowns.
By 2030, these BCTs are expected to operate a range of new ground vehicles and aircraft, including the Challenger 3, Ajax infantry fighting vehicles, Boxer wheeled armored personnel carriers and the AH-64E Apache attack helicopter.
According to the British Army, the current Challenger 2 has served in combat missions in the former Yugoslavia and Iraq, with no casualties from enemy attacks. They are currently integrated into four tank regiments in the British Army: The Queen’s Royal Hussars, The King’s Royal Hussars, The Royal Tank Regiment and The Royal Wessex Yeomanry. Each of the four regiments operates 56 Challenger 2s each, for a total fleet of 224 vehicles.
Challenger 2, which first appeared on the battlefield in 1994 as a replacement for Challenger 1, weighs 75.0 tons in combat-ready condition. There are four positions for crew, from commander to gunner, including loader and driver. The main armament consists of a 120-millimeter L30A1 rifle cannon with 47 rounds and a second chain gun and a 7.62-millimeter L37A2 hatch machine gun.
With hydropneumatic suspension and Perkins CV12-6A V12 engine, the Challenger 2 has a capacity of 1,592 liters and a range of 550 km on-road, approximately 250 km off-road on internal fuel and a top speed of 59 km/h. h on the road and 40 km/h off-road.