BAE earlier unveiled a proposed upgrade version prototype for the British Army’s Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank, which includes the IMI Systems Iron Fist hard kill Active Protection System.

Using its sensing and response systems, the manufacturer says that the system identifies various incoming anti-tank missiles or armor-piercing threats launch or flight towards the vehicle and in a split second automatically intercepts them by a small interceptor launched in an accurate timing and a safe distance, and without involving the vehicle’s team while preventing collateral damage to the protected vehicle.

The system senses incoming threats via a fixed active electronically scanned array radar sensor and an optional passive infrared detector. When a threat is imminent, an explosive projectile interceptor is launched towards it. The interceptor explodes very near the threat, destroying or deflecting and destabilising it without detonating its warhead.

This project joins a series of companies and AFVs that integrate various Iron Fist APS configurations, such as the CV9035NL APC of the Swedish BAE Hagglunds for the Dutch Army, the American Bradley APE for the US Army, and a series of projects in Australia, Europe and of course in Israel.

Image result for Iron Fist' hard kill system

In June 2016, the US Army chose Iron Fist Light to protect its light and medium armored vehicles as part of the Modular Active Protection System (MAPS) program. The decision to select Iron Fist was reportedly made because of the system’s light weight, ability to fire interceptors without shock, and low cost.

BAE systems say that Black Night comprises cutting-edge technologies and capabilities, which are being offered to the Ministry of Defence as part of the Challenger 2 Life Extension Programme.

Simon Jackson, Campaign leader for Team Challenger 2 at BAE Systems said:

“The UK is home to some of the world’s finest engineering companies, who have pushed the boundaries of combat vehicle design with Black Night.

We are providing the bulk of this upgrade from home soil, however, we have chosen the best defence companies from around the world to collaborate with also, including names from Canada, France and Germany who bring unique skills and proven technology. The British Army has our commitment that we will deliver the most capable upgrade possible, and the best value for money.”

The features touted by BAE include:

  • Active Protection System – Systems allow the tank to detect incoming anti-tank missiles or armour penetrating rounds and automatically launches a counter-explosive to neutralise the threat.
  • Laser Warning System – When targeted by enemy weapon systems, the tank can identify the source of the threat then automatically slew the gun to point at that source, making it quicker for the crew to counter-fire.
  • Regenerative braking – The tank has been made more energy efficient by using less energy-hungry kit and installing regenerative braking in the turret, which generates power when the gun slows down into position.
  • Thermal Imaging Technology – Front and rear infrared cameras (similar to those used in television programmes such as Planet Earth II) provide extremely sharp night imagery, helping troops identify potential threats and move undetected in hostile situations, while also shaving valuable seconds off reaction times.
  • Accelerated fightability – New equipment controlling tank’s weaponry is faster, meaning the crew can identify an enemy, target and engage more quickly.

The Challenger 2 tank, built by BAE Systems in the 1990s, served in Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq. BAE Systems is now leading the strategic partnership Team Challenger 2 bid to keep the tank battle-ready for the next twenty years, as part of the Ministry of Defence’s decision to extend the tank’s life until 2035.


  1. Surely, this is the minimum level of upgrade or what is the point? It’s over one hundred years since the first tanks were deployed in WW1, and yet, the MBT is still there as strong a battlefield concept as then. There has been a lot of nonsense talked about MBT’s, and if their days are over on the modern battlefield, I would say give me more, please! In combination with such advanced technology, the CH2/MK2 can keep going until replaced, and yes, by another MBT. Sadly, CH2 numbers were ridiculously low in comparison with the Chiefton fleet, and I’m dumbfounded as to why!

    Let us just get on and deliver this upgrade or possibly a mixture of both competitors, when the other one can be bothered to show itself?

    • The reason why is cost. Pure and simple, same as everything else.

      When politicians cut the defence budget the MoD look to cut the army first. Especially post Cold War when the likelihood of facing massed mechanized units storming across Europe faded away.

    • Post Gulf War 2 the Army was purely conducting a police action and countering insurgents who used improvised explosive and RPGs. The Chally wasn’t really needed but as sadly demonstrated by the epic failure of using Snatch vehicles, Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles were. Hence why the Urgent Operational Requirement (UOR) to buy Mastiff, Foxhound etc. The money was diverted from the earlier Chally upgrade program. This is because the UOR was paid for by the Treasury and the sustainment had to come from the Army budget. Unfortunately, the Chally 2 was needed in Afghan, as we didn’t have a decent “door knocker” for blowing through really thick mud brick walls. When I was working with the Canadians they had their Leopard 2s doing the job, definitely an improvement over a frame charge.

      The Iron Fist APS, I believe is better than the Russian Afganit system. The reason I say this is if you see how the system is fitted to the T14, it fixed to the lower part of the front of the turret. The system is a development of the previous Arena hard kill system used on the T80s. This was an urgent development due to the significant tank losses to RPGs in Chechnya. The Iron Fist uses a fully traversable turret, that has both azimuth and elevation movements. Therefore it can deal will both side and top attacks. The system has been proven to disable a Hellfire programmed for a top attack. The T14s Afganit by comparison can only deal with horizontal attacks. This is a must for making sure the Chally can sustain multiple engagements.

      • Oops, forgot to mention that Iron Fist and Trophy both use the same radar. This has the further capability of recording where the “shot” came from. This has been used by the Israelis very successfully with their Merkavas fitted with Trophy. As the main gun can be directly cued onto the firing point and the good news sent on its way. For battlefield situation awareness this can only be a good thing, especially when the tank is all buttoned up and you’re relying on your scopes to generate a picture of whats going on around you.

    • The MBT as a concept is obsolete, development really stopped at the end of the cold war which is why virtually all the tank chassis in service either actually date from that point in time (most Leopard, TXX or M1s) or were ordered from that point in time (Challenger II and Leclerc).

      During the cold war there was always a forcing function with one side developing new weapons forcing the other side to develop something to counter it. Every 10 years or so there would be a medium sized war which would allow NATO/Warsaw Pact to see how the weapons they exported performed in someone else’s hands.

      However since 1991 we haven’t seen that forcing function putting money into evolving the MBT. At the end of the cold war we were seeing prototypes for MBT with guided shells, mast sensors and unmanned turrets. We should have had two generations of MBT since Challenger II was deployed.

      It is likely that the second of those generations would have replaced the rotating heavy gun with a kinetic missile. A TOW sized missile can apply more KE to a long rod penetrator than a 120mm gun.

      Exactor (Spike LR) can go out to 20km, this will be the area support weapon for AT work in the British Army.

      The Javelin can now go out to 4km.

      The missing link is a direct fire vehicle mounted weapon that vehicle mounted unit coming into contact can use, I’d want to copy the US Kinetic Energy Missile which is a miniaturized version of this: This is LOSAT, it capabilities were minturised to a TOW sized weapon. It has a long rod penetrator though as you can seen that video at short range the deflagration of the still burning propellant is significant.

      If we look at the unique capabilities of an MBT:

      1: Line of sight precision fires – We can now give every soldier a Spike SR for a few $1000 per round.
      2: Anti-tank capability – We now have, Javelin, Hellfire, Brimstone and Exactor.
      3: Heavy armour able to fight for intelligence. – Against anyone with top attack ATGM the armour is of marginal benefit, other vehicles are equally capable of resisting the 360 degree threat from light AT weapons and IED’s.

      The MBT is a nice to have weapon for use in asymmetric wars where the other side doesn’t have long ranged precision fire. Once they do what you want minimised logistics tail and virtually every vehicle with, sensors and armour/APS.

      The vehicle you want cresting ridgelines and bounding ahead really just needs sensors, armour against small arms, and no crew.

  2. The power pack needs a damn good re think too. Any anti tank oppos out there know exactly why. Plumes of exhaust the moment the thing moves forward makes it a wet dream to track

      • The Chally 2E that competed for the Greek tank bid, had the 1500hp Europack fitted along with a new gearbox. So the technicalities have all be done before. I do believe there is another separate program to upgrade the engine outside of the LEP.

  3. This programme to me is more like a distraction from the main issues which are powerplant and gun. I believe there are separate projects for these and I would be more excited if there were a budget and news on these. My personal preference would be to concentrate on these fundamentals first then the above. If we’re are serious about ch2 then we need to strike a deal with Rheinmetall and look to a 130mm if possible. Regarding power with the potential for laser weapons etc the more the better I’ve heard that there maybe a 2000hp unit available. Also numbers need to be maintained. Exhaust control such as on Apache should be looked at. The powerplant should be the first upgrade as you then know what weight and technologies can be added, the lep equipment being discussed here should be next and main armament as soon as 130mm is available ask to be the launch customer. Otherwise as many have said the mbt should come out of our orbat as we will have to few without a big enough quality gap between us and the Russian designs.

  4. The article leaves out, that adding the Iron Fist is a costed additional option. Naturally the traitorious dishonourable ladies and gentlemen sat in their gilded tower at the HPs will say that the Challenger 2 doesn’t need such protection as being in the EU affords us all the protection we need.

    The money saved will go towards their John Lewis expense accounts, watching porn on Sky TV and employing chicks with dicks from Brazil as interns in which to allow these tossers to bugger somebody foreign as well as the British tax paying public.

    • “Watching Porn on Sky TV ” Christ Farouk, You need to get a grip mate There’s nothing but American Drivel on there. rarely even a Nipple ! not that I bother Watching.

      • captain P Wash.
        ““Watching Porn on Sky TV ” Christ Farouk, You need to get a grip mate There’s nothing but American Drivel on there. rarely even a Nipple ! not that I bother Watching.”

        Ok, I incorrectly quoted Sky as the source of the porn for Labours Jacqui Smith. The fact remains MPs were billing the tax payer for Sky and Porn. From the Giardian 2009:

        “The former home secretary Jacqui Smith says tomorrow she knew her husband had been watching pornographic films and that they had argued about it before it emerged she made expenses claims for two adult movies seen by him.”

  5. “Slew to Cue” is really a huge benefit APS gives that often isn’t appreciated as often as it’s ability to knock down rockets. The ability to instantly locate and strike against the source of an attack was noted by the Israelis to be a gamechanger.

  6. Maurice10. CH1 was originally Designed for Iran, way back In the 1970’s ,there Is a school of thought that was Grateful for the Revolution because otherwise, We might never have them at all, never mind the few CH11’s we have now. hope this Helps with your “Dumbfounded nes” .

  7. Captain-bear in mind the Shir2 that the Challenger 1 was derived from had some significant differences, mainly due to the different climate’s each would be operating in.Also the British Army order for C1″s was partly political due to all Tank orders being cancelled post revolution and the need to keep the RO factories in work.

  8. Seems like a common sense low risk and relatively low cost solution to keep the Challenger 2 relevant enough that its worth retaining.

    With the continuing collapse of the Russian economy its unlikely that we will be seeing large numbers of T14 immune to the 120 mm riffled gun firing CHARM 3.

    Challenger 2 is probably the best tank in the world if you want to cut through large armies of T55/T72’s which is probably as much as it will ever face in the next two decades. The HESH round still holds the world record for a tank to tank kill fired from a C1 in 1991.

    Challenger 2 has proven better than either of its contemporary’s at standing up to sustained punishment and I believe its the only tank that has still never been knocked out by enemy action despite suffering some of the most brutal attacks ever seen in the history of armored warfare.

    No point in wasting money we don’t have on upgrading to smooth bore 120mm unless rheinmetall can find a way to do it very cheaply which seems unlikley.

    Power pack would be a nice upgrade but its hardly essential especially if self protection systems can help to keep weight down in future its already the most heavily protected tank out there.

    upgrades for sensors, fire control and self protection is the cheapest and most useful upgrade package.

  9. My problem with the Chally2 and all of the potential upgrades is well why not bin the lot and have a Chally 3. When you think about it it would make sense. The Chally although it is a good tank needs a new powerpac, improved gunnery control, improved self defence systems and possibly a gun that can use American or European ammo which means smooth bore not rifled. As far as I am aware it would also mean a redesign of the turret as the NATO round is a solid round with auto loading and manual override. I also like the idea that the 120 mm L/55 can use the Israeli LAHAT with a kill range of 6,000m. The turret should be designed to take a 130 mm gun when it is fully developed. Taking all of these upgrades into account it is basically a new tank.
    I am not a tanky person but I do have a question that I hope someone could answer. The weakest issue with any MBT is heat, especially from the engine and exhaust. Is there a way to cool this down so that the temp would be as near as possible to its surrounding ambient temp? For example wrap the internal engine bay with a water jacket and have the coils of a fridge go through the jacket. It sounds stupid but something like this would improve the MBTs survivability from heat seeking projectiles.

    • The Abrams currently uses the M829A3 APFSDS-T round which has been specifically designed to knock out T80s with 2nd gen ERA panels. The round is a one part design and is nearly 900mm long. Compared to Chally’s 2 part (three including fuse) all the ammo is stored in the rear turret bustle, hence why it is so long. This is why the Chally would require a new turret.

      The exhaust IR signature can be reduced using “cold” air induction, which mixes cooler air with the exhaust and tries to spread it over a larger area. The Mekava uses a similar system, check out the front right side of the tank and you’ll see a large area exhaust. To cool the engine using an enveloping water jacket is not a completely silly idea. You’ll still be required to find somewhere to dump the heat (much like the cooling fins on the back of a fridge). However, water absorbs IR which could lower the overall temp of the tank. You would still need to insulate/isolate the engine to prevent convection to the metal hull, but it is doable.

  10. I dug out my 1990 Monch Defence Almanac to see how many tanks the UK is allowed under CFE rules (895). At that time, the UK had 900 Chieftain + 460 Challenger. The official pre CFE MBT total for the UK was 1257.
    Of course that number needed a big cut at the end of the Cold War, but I think we went too far. It is sad that we struggle (not even there yet) to keep only 227 C2 updated & ready to fight. Many would cut even that to protect their other pet projects.
    I do not think Putin wants all out war, but he is happy to nibble little bits of Eastern Europe if he thinks he can get away with it.
    So we need this C2 update fast.
    If we had any money (we don’t), I would copy Spain & buy 84 Centauro, though the new Centauro 2 with 120mm gun. These are A400M deployable & we could get them to a trouble spot fast.

    • The issue with the Centauro line of vehicles is what almost every Tank Destroyer runs into. That would be they are essentially a defensive weapon meant to operate from concealment. Offensive action means coming out in the open and risking destruction by any other AFV or a infantryman with a RPG and HEAT rocket.
      Should the UK acquire the Centauro 2? No. It would be better to simply buy the Cockerill 120mm XC-8 turret which can amongst other vehicles fit Ajax. This would be a better decision because Ajax is already in the supply chain. Also the Cockerill turret is unmanned and can provide indirect fire if necessary at up to 10km, in addition to to the ability to fire the Falarick guided missile in either HE or AT variants.

      • Yes, but would an Ajax+Cockerill 120 turret end up being too heavy to deploy by A400M?
        We need mobile firepower to protect our infantry, that can be deployed as quickly as they can, hence Centauro 2, despite its flaws.

        • You’d be better going with a Boxer and 120mm rather than purchasing yet another platform. Not least because the Boxer platform and turret can be shipped separately and assembled relatively quickly at the destination if you run into weight/range issues on the A400M.

          However, perhaps the larger issue seems to be that if you think you’d need 120mm capability air deployed then that suggests a far more serious and larger scale engagement and that in turn would stretch European air logistics to support in addition to everything else they’d have to be supporting.

          • My reasoning for Ajax with Cockerill 120 turret is that it would give some real teeth to the Strike Brigades. Also not the XC-8 can supposedly fit Boxer as well as Ajax, they were designed to simplify the logistics of armies on a budget. Hence the ability to fit multiple vehicles to attract customers.
            Also Ajax with any turret is a hair to heavy for the A400. For a C-17 though you can conceivably shoehorn two of them into it.
            As for Airborne needing a dedicated tank hunter? When things have gotten to that point that is drop that should not have happened. As you will more likely be praying for a relief force to break through in time. Ex (Arnhem, Dien Bien Phu).

          • My worry is that Putin starts an exercise near the Baltic States. Britain rushes out a light force for solidarity. Putin & his tanks pisses through it, leaving our guys dead, wounded and/or captured. The price for getting them released, is for the UK to retreat in shame.
            That is why you need a serious bit of armoured firepower that fits inside an A400M.
            Anything heavier than that, will probably arrive too late.

          • If that were to happen the calculus dictates that the Baltic States be abandoned until a counterattack from better positioned forces could be assembled.
            Likely from both Poland and Romania as the US already has equipment stockpiles there and both are already or soon will be in the case of Romania under a modern air defense grid and ABM system.

            Rushing a force to the Baltics in the name of solidarity would be suicide in the name of politics.

  11. ‘Lipstick and Pig’ How about calling the upgrade Dignitas instead of Black Night ? Getting MBT’s out of the hands of the cavalry is almost as hard as getting rid of their horses. Just a thought how many Apaches could we buy with the money ?

    • Apaches are nice. But remember they don’t get along very well with MANPADs, SAMs, and Radar controllable 20-40mm cannons.
      Balance is necessary.

  12. I agree that the rapid deployment units of the British Army does require armoured support. Looking at the arguments here for Ajax or Boxer and a big 120 mm gun seems to me to be mixing up two concepts.
    A rapid deployment unit is nothing more than a fancy name for a reconnaissance unit in force, strong enough for hit and run raids, or to hold you up but not strong enough to take you on.
    A big 120 mm gun on a Boxer or Ajax chassis will give you the fire power to take you on but not have the protection to survive. Generals will want to put these vehicles in the firing line and politicians will see a way to call such vehicles tanks, and save money on the MBT. Its the battlecruiser-battleship all over again, and we know what happened to the battlecruiser.
    What I agree to is the need for a small fast air transportable fleet of fighting vehicles to work with the rapid deployment forces and the Royal Marines.
    I will show my age here but when I was younger I remember that we used to have such a fighting vehicle, the Alvis FV 101 Scorpion, small ,fast and in the upgraded version a 90mm gun. Its armoured protection was minimal but possibly we should look at that design again, brush it off, modernise it with composite armour. Although these light tanks would not be able to take on enemy MBTs directly, they would cause havoc if they got in range of enemy infantry vehicles or supply columns. Possibly three variants could be built, one with a 76mm or 90mm even up to 105mm gun, the second variant with SPIKE NLOS and the third with Starstreak II. However never give a light armoured vehicle the same gun as an MBT as the politicians will find a way to mean that it is the same.
    Two such vehicles could fit easily into a C130J

  13. Greetings all.

    Iron fist is a top class system and would be my first choice for an army wide APS. It’s a game changer when it comes to tank combat where those who shoot first live the longest.

    Rifled tank guns are not more accurate then smoothbore guns, in fact there is not that much difference in accuracy between British, German, French and Russian guns when firing modern ammunition. The biggest contributing factor in regards to accuracy is the fire control system, the gun has little to do with it in a modern context.

    We need to address the British armys armored vehicle problem, we have cut the amount of CR2 and WR units to a point where we have an armoured capability in name only and the vehicles we have are completely out dated and would be out classed on a modern battlefield.

    We should make the decision to properly fund an armoured vehicle upgrade program or get out of the high intensity game all together, to sit on the fence risks the lives of many fine people.

    In regards to air deployability, we tried that route to death and found it’s a no go for many reasons, mainly lack of aircraft. The Americans can pull it off in a limited fashion as their transport fleet is insanely huge but we would struggle to deploy the smallest of armoured forces.

    I would scrap CR2, warrior, ASnasty and replace them with Ajax and Boxer platforms, strategic mobility is the name of the game and we are terrible at it.

    I will apologise in advance for any spelling and grammar mistakes, I’m typing this out on a tiny phone in a windswept and desolate part of the world.


  14. A new turret wouldn’t be a bad idea and not as costly to integrate as it seems, a quick change to the rotary base junction box, change a few plugs over, passibly a turret ring insert, nothing as complex as building the back of the turret. The question is, what turret? Do you go French 2 man? German A7+, American SEP, South Korean 2 man? Oh the possibilities.



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