British Army to roll out upgraded Main Battle Tank in 2027
Rheinmetall BAE Systems Land (RBSL) has won an £800-million (US$1.1-billion) contract from the Ministry of Defence to upgrade 148 of the British Army's Cold War era Challenger 2 Main Battle Tanks to Challenger 3 specifications. Work will begin this year and the upgraded tanks are expected to enter service in 2027.
Originally developed in 1986 to replace the Challenger 1 Main Battle Tank, the Challenger 2 entered service in 1993 and saw service during the 2003 Iraq invasion by Coalition forces. Since then, the British Army has been faced with an increasingly urgent question about the future of armored regiments. Will they need to be replaced with new heavy tanks to face near-peer threats like Russia or China, or will they need to be swapped for lighter, more maneuverable, autonomous vehicles in the face of emerging threats?
Because of the enormous expense of producing a replacement rank, the British government has opted, in the near term, for a life extension program to keep the present vehicles in service through the 2030s. This will involve not only overhauling them, but also significant upgrades to produce a new class of tank, the Challenger 3.
The upgraded vehicle will be network-enabled with advanced countermeasures to improve survivability, and it will be armed with the latest 120-mm High Pressure L55A1 smooth-bore main gun, which will fire kinetic energy anti-tank rounds as well as programmable multipurpose shells. This gun will be housed in a new digitized turret providing better crew protection, and new long-range commander and gunner primary sights for better automatic target detection and acquisition for making a hit on the first shot.
"What a moment for RBSL, for our Armed Forces, and for UK prosperity," says John Abunassar, RBSL Board Chairman. "We are delighted to make this announcement and solidify the return of armored vehicle engineering to the UK. This announcement comes after years of hard work and collaboration with our customer, especially in the recent extraordinary circumstances brought about by COVID-19.
"The British Army will receive a world-class capability. RBSL, Vickers Defence Systems at the time, handed over the first Challenger 2s to the British Army over 25 years ago, and it is a great deal of pride for our engineers to take this next step together too."
Source: Rheinmetall BAE Systems Land