Military

BAE Systems bid provides glimpse into the future of Britain’s battle tanks

BAE Systems bid provides glimp...
The upgrades will extend the life of the Challenger 2 until 2025
The upgrades will extend the life of the Challenger 2 until 2025
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The upgrades will extend the life of the Challenger 2 until 2025
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The upgrades will extend the life of the Challenger 2 until 2025
The upgrades will include an improved fire control system
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The upgrades will include an improved fire control system
No  Challenger 2 has ever been lost in combat
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No  Challenger 2 has ever been lost in combat
BAE wants to add a thermal imaging system to the Challenger 2
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BAE wants to add a thermal imaging system to the Challenger 2
The upgrades will extend the life of the Challenger 2 until 2025
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The upgrades will extend the life of the Challenger 2 until 2025
Key elements of the proposed Challenger 2 upgrades
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Key elements of the proposed Challenger 2 upgrades

In service since 1998, the British Army's Challenger 2 main battle tank is reaching middle age, and the Ministry of Defence is looking to extend its life until 2025. BAE Systems originally built the Challenger 2 and has put in a bid for replacing many of the key systems, which gives us a look at what the British tank of the next decade could look like.

Originally conceived during the Cold War days of the 1980s as a replacement for the Challenger 1, the Challenger 2 is in service with the British Army and the Royal Army of Oman. Though it had previously been used in peacekeeping missions, it first saw combat during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, where it gained a reputation for survivability thanks in part to its Chobham armor. No Challenger was lost in battle and some survived up to 70 rocket grenade hits in a single action only to go back into service in a matter of hours.

The challenge for the British Army is deciding what comes next. Back in 2001, with the Cold War behind and 9/11 still ahead, the government had no strategy about what to do when it came time to replace the Challenger 2. What would replace them? Would their life be extended? Would they be replaced at all? Was it time to rethink armor strategy altogether?

The upgrades will include an improved fire control system
The upgrades will include an improved fire control system

This changed with the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review, which identified the new Russian T-14 Armata main battle tank as a serious potential threat and stated that Challenger's L30A1 120 mm rifled gun was now obsolescent. Since the Challenger 2 was still a highly effective vehicle, and the economics of replacing over 400 tanks that originally cost £4,217,000 each was prohibitive in an age of austerity and political uncertainty, the Ministry of Defence decided to upgrade the existing tanks and began soliciting bids.

The goal of the upgrade program is to extend the life of the Challenger 2 to 2025 and to replace key technology systems with more advanced designs. The BAE Systems bid, which includes seven partners, is likely to be one of several proposals and could change before the final selection, but it gives an idea of what the tomorrow's main battle tank could look like.

Since the armor and powerplant of the Challenger 2 are already top tier, the upgrades envisioned by BAE and its partner companies focus on more turret-based technologies. For example, the Commander's primary sight will provide a 360⁰ view of the vicinity and the ability to electronically hand off targets to the gunner. In addition, it will integrate with a new thermal imaging system for day and night surveillance and target engagement that the company says will allow for 24-hour operations.

Key elements of the proposed Challenger 2 upgrades
Key elements of the proposed Challenger 2 upgrades

Another upgrade is the gun control system, which moves the turret and aims the gun under the command of the fire control system. BAE says the new systems will improve speed and accuracy while future-proofing the technology.

The Challenger 2's subsystems will be controlled by a new electronic architecture that includes a new Commander's crew station, as well as the capacity to easily expand and allow for new interfaces, reconfigurable displays, and controls.

BAE says that if it wins the contract, the Challenger 2 Mark 2 standard will be converted at the General Dynamics' factory in South Wales.

Source: BAE Systems

6 comments
LaurencePotgieter
when are governments going to stop spending fantastic amounts on alleged defense and start looking after their voters with that money, rather? i will tell you the answer: when politicians stop getting bribed by arms manufacturers. not going to happen. a multi billion dollar industry. or in your case, pounds.
hkmk23
Complete and utter waste of money.....one helicopter gunship or UAV and they are toast....its a wonder the british army does not bring back the cavalry horse as a "green" option!
Mel Tisdale
The recent breaking of so many temperature records and massive methane plumes in the Arctic are strong evidence that we have fired the clathrate gun; a much feared climate change event. If that is so we have to accept that we have entered a period of abrupt climate change. If we are in abrupt climate change, the only battle the British army is going to fight is one for food and lets hope the current spec. is up to the task. Whether they will distribute any food they commandeer, or keep it to themselves, is a moot point. (Certainly, if a member of the special forces tells me to keep my fingers off his grain, I will not be disputing the issue.)
JohnStelling
The armor on the Challenger 2 , in the FRONTAL ARC which is the most heavily armored part of the tank has been penetrated in Iraq by advanced anti tank weapons, probably a Kornet missile. The armor on the Challenger 2 is good but it is not "top tier". Moreover, the 120MM rifled gun on the challenger 2 is inadequate to deal with modern armored threats like the T90MS and T14. At a bare minimum this program should be looking to replace the obsolete gun with the modern Rheinmetall L/55 so this tank can use the latest most advanced NATO standard munitions. The goal of this upgrade seem not to be to really do much at all about those two major problems or add something like an active protection system, but to increase the situational awareness of the crew enough to keep this credible until the British Government hopefully has the funds for a new platform a few years down the line.
keith14
To my way of thinking this money to be spent on upgrading the challenger two could pay for a lot of hip, knee, and other operations for the also ageing public. But as always, wars become more important than an ageing population.
chann94501
The Challenger 2 wasn't envisioned. The Challenger 1 was developed for Iran as the Shir Iran and was never really developed to UK army requirements. The Army had it foisted on them to give an order to the company. Challenger 2 was a private venture to show that Challenger 1 could be fixed. The UK MoD weren't interested until the Challenger 1 was thoroughly trounced in gunnery competitions, so bad it was embarrassing. Others say the armor isn't top notch, but the only penetrations didn't result in even an M kill much less a K kill, even when the lower frontal armor was penetrated by a tandem warhead as the tank climbed a berm it only injured the crew and the driver, less some toes, reversed a mile and a half. Yes the gun is outdated, when I was involved RO had been trying to sell a better gun to the MoD for years. The engine can run 1500hp with a software change too, and the US already had it certified in trials two decades ago.