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Nine months into the Challenger 2 Life Extension Project (LEP) Assessment Phase, Team Challenger 2 has set out some of the improvements it will provide British Army tank crews.

Simon Jackson, BAE Systems’ campaign lead explained:

“We will be giving the Royal Armoured Corps a Challenger 2 Mark 2, customised for the British soldier with the latest and best sensors, weapons control systems and crewstations. When a crew climbs into the Challenger 2 Mark 2, the first thing they will see is a brand new, modern Commander’s crewstation designed specifically for the British Army. All systems – including lethality, sighting, situational awareness, battlefield management and survivability – will be run and managed from this integrated crewstation.

A modern electronic and video architecture backbone underpinning all vehicle systems will enable the Commander to transfer tasks to other crew members, such as the control and viewing of additional sensors and systems. Crew menus and displays will be more intuitive and have the same functionality as AJAX – making it much easier for Commanders to move between Challenger 2 and AJAX and vice versa.

New control panels, the latest hand controllers and intelligent flat panel displays will give an instant feel of a more modern vehicle with major improvements. We will provide improved survivability measures, a better hit probability, faster targeting and vastly improved sighting systems.”

Using an Open Architecture approach means that future upgrades will be incorporated more easily. Team Challenger 2 is ensuring that the tank is ready to receive further capability enhancements such as active protection systems, future electronic countermeasures, training systems and enhanced decision support systems.

There are also opportunities to make Challenger 2 forward-compatible with other emerging technologies say BAE.

“By following the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) Open Architecture approach, the newly updated tank will be capable of operating with unmanned ground and aerial vehicles, and potentially autonomous vehicles. This could mean sharing situational awareness and even coordinating attack or defence with multiple unmanned weapon systems.”

Simon explained: “Our focus is to offer a solution that meets exactly what the British Army needs and what the MOD has asked for – keeping the tank in service until 2035 in the most effective and efficient way possible.

But we also want to customise what is already a great tank to give soldiers a significantly better vehicle; one that can easily receive further updates as the battlefield demands, all delivered within the available budget.”

In addition, Team Challenger 2 will offer option packages to ‘enhance protection and lethality’. These will include soft and hard kill defensive aids systems, modular armour and a choice of weapon upgrades.

Partners in Team Challenger 2 include

  • Design Authority – BAE SystemsSystems
  • Integration and Engineering
    • BAE Systems
    • General Dynamics Land Systems-UK
    • QinetiQ
  • ​Specialist technologies
    • General Dynamics Mission Systems International
    • Leonardo-Finmeccanica (formerly Selex ES Ltd)
    • Moog
    • Safran Electronics (formerly Sagem)

47 COMMENTS

  1. I consider that Challenger 2 the finest armoured vehicle ever produced by the the UK.

    Shame it failed in the export markets, as it was unable to compete with Leopard 2 and Abram’s main battle tanks in those markets.

    Upgrade yes, but how much given the limited number to be upgraded?

    • Yeah, I think the Leopard 2 was so successful in the export market because Germany was effectively selling off its own slightly used stock at a reduced price so the C2 could not compete.
      Given their operational histories over the last 20 years the C2 is the superior tank.

      • For the record over 3500 leopard 2 tanks have been built, with just over 2100 of them for Bundeswehr, the rest of the new builds went for export.

        Many of German leopard 2s were taken out of service, kept in storage and resold. Over 20 countries use the vehicle.

        One potential large order was from KSA who wanted up to 800, however FGR declined the accept the order on human rights concerns.

        Whatever the positives and negatives of the leopard 2 it was certainly a commercial success where as C2 was a commercial failure.

  2. Is this going to be a an open competition or a BAE Systems cash cow?

    I wonder what the cost of this upgrade will be, also how much additional combat survivability and capability will it deliver compared to the cost of a fleet of 250 new Leopards?

    • It was an open competition initially between BAE, Rheinmetall, Lockheed Martin, RUAG and GDUK (until it joined BAEs team).

      BAE and Rheinmetall progressed to the 2nd round and the rest were removed from the competition. Both companies are maturing their respective designs in preparation for the D&M phase, scheduled to begin in 2019. Obviously only one design will be taken forward by the MOD.

    • Five team bid for the initially:BAE, Rheinmetall, LM, RUAG and GDUK. BAE and Rheinmetall advanced to the Assessment Phase to mature their designs to bid for the Design & Manufacture Phase. Then only one companies design will be selected for the final solution. It’s safe to say no one is ever going to get a free run at the cash cow in the land domain.

  3. Turkey lost at least 10 leopard 2 in one engagement with ISIS earlier this year.

    The leopard 2 is overrated in my opinion, challenger 2, merkava and Abrams are better main battle tanks.

    UK should refrain from buying equipment that fails the test of combat.

    • According to Wikipedia: “Turkey incursion into Syria”
      Turkey operates 354 Leopard 2A4 tanks. Initially using other tank types including upgraded M60s, in December 2016 Turkey deployed a number of Leopard 2A4s to the Syrian Civil War against ISIS (Daesh) as part of Operation Euphrates Shield.[74] Initially, three of the Turkish Leopard 2A4s operating in Syria were destroyed or damaged by Daesh using anti-tank missile systems (possibly Fagot or Konkurs anti-tank guided missiles obtained from Syrian or Iraqi Army captured stocks).[75][74] In mid-December 2016, two 2A4 tanks were captured by IS near al-Bab city in Syria during Euphrates Shield operations; Amaq News Agency posted video of the captured vehicles.[76][77] By late December 2016, Islamic State had captured or incapacitated 10 Leopard 2A4s. Some of the 10 were damaged by IEDs, while the rest were damaged by anti-tank weapons.[78] This is the largest number of Leopard 2A4 tanks to have been incapacitated in any one conflict.[78][79] Additional ISIS propaganda images and video depicting several completely destroyed Leopards, some with their turrets blown off, were published in January 2017.[80] Tanks which suffered the worst damage may have been destroyed by air strikes in order to prevent capture but sources generally state that the damage was caused solely with anti-tank missiles or car bombs driven by a suicide bomber (also known as suicide vehicle borne improvised explosive devices or SVBIED).

    • Thats why when I see people venrating the Leopard it annoys me. The tank has barely seen combat and the little it has has seen huge losses. Yet people still gush obsessively over it just because it’s built by the Germans. Definitely an overrated tank.

      • The Leopard has seen extensive combat service and is an excellent tank – we used to use them as door knockers in TFH (Thank you Denmark!).

        The 2A4’s in use with Turkish units are baseline and marginally outdated export models – ill-prepared and ill-equipped to meet the kind of threats seen on the Syrian battlefield, including modern and first-rate ATGMs principally designed to defeat current MBTs (including the M1 series and Ch2). The posture and training of the Turkish crews is also in question.

  4. It was an open competition initially between BAE, Rheinmetall, Lockheed Martin, RUAG and GDUK (until it joined BAEs team).

    BAE and Rheinmetall progressed to the 2nd round and the rest were removed from the competition. Both companies are maturing their respective designs in preparation for the D&M phase, scheduled to begin in 2019. Obviously only one design will be taken forward by the MOD.

  5. I didn’t know that Mike, interesting, how were they lost, IAD’s or direct weapons action?

    My main interest here is the Army get the best equipment at the best value to the tax payer (new or upgrade) and not let BAE have a another free run at the defence piggy bank.

  6. The Challenger and Abrams are undoubtedly the world’s finest main battle tanks.
    Then you have the leopards and following that the expensive and unreliable French Leclerc tanks.

    • What about the Russian Armata?

      This worries me. The turret is segregated from the crew compartment, giving it superior survivability as are the autoloader and armoury. It has all new armour: reactive and active systems and is reported to be fast.

      Challenger 2 will not go up against the Abrams (which is starting to get dated itself) but something totally other – perhaps the Armata, which I think will be too greater match even for this updated platform.

      • Personally the way i see it is that the Armada is similar to what the F35 was in the early 2000. A great futuristic ideas, with fully functional protypyes, but nothing more. It will be at least a decade until the Armata will become an actual threat. The Russians simply don’t have the money.

        • Indeed the Armata may have crew survivabilty but a tank with no tracks or turret is just a big paperweight.
          Russia big failing in any of its armed forces is it’s personnel and support set up. It is being addressed but is still a long way behind the west.

      • I’m dubious about the active protections systems generally, they may take out a ATGM or low velocity HEAT/HESH but not a kinetic penetrator (although the Russians claim there’s can). However, any swarm attack completely overloads the system in terms of limited numbers of the hard kill projectiles available, I think the Trophy on has a couple of rounds before requiring manual reload. A new ATGM with a warhead like the Starstreak for example, which has 3 kinetic penetrators would generally overload most current hard kill active protection systems. Good artice here : http://below-the-turret-ring.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/hardkill-aps-overview.html

  7. Various media outlets reported the incident.

    Variety of reasons given, some of which maybe wrong.

    Most likely reasons are that ISIS or others where using ATGW (TOW or kornet) as well as RPG and ieds, poor tactics by the Turkish army and the vulnerability of leopard 2 side and rear armour. I understand the Turks were using the A4 variant so not the latest version.

    That’s my humble view.

  8. The reason the Leopard 2 has been having issues in combat is while it is a good tank it’s also as far as modern MBTs go cheap. Both the Chally2 and M1A2 are vastly more expensive both to purchase and operate. The L2 was designed to be operated from the outset to be operated by a minimally trained conscript crew. So it had to be made simple and cheap. Simple was easy cheap required sacrificing the much thicker armor found on Abrams and Chally. The targeting system is often incorrectly said to be the same as on the Abrams but that hasn’t been true since the A1 went full service. All they share is a gun.
    The reason the Chally2 failed commercially is that it was expensive and unlike the Abrams it didn’t have the US Army acting as it’s sales rep around the world. So the Leopard just priced out of the market.

  9. Rheinmetall are offering a much better upgrade package as the BAE solution does not address the main issue, the gun. Swapping the rifled gun out for a smoothbore would solve a lot of problems with ammunition and lethality. However, I’ve heard this would lead to a major redesign of how the smoothbore ammo would have to be stored in the tank.

    This is obviously going to more expensive option but hopefully the MoD will realise in the long run with this upgrade the Challenger 2 will still be relevant for a few more decades.

    • I was informed that if a smooth bore gun was introduced into C2 a completely new turret would be required. That would be very expensive.

      It seems that the rifled gun is here to stay until the tank is replaced in the 2030s.

      • While a CR2 armed with a smoothbore would have been nice I just don’t see it happening on cost grounds. I think that we should just push on with the Mark 2 upgrade minus the gun to address the obsolescence of the rest of the turret systems to prolong the CR2’s life into the mid 2030s.

        As the program for a potential Challenger successor begins I think we should look at collaborating with France and Germany on the Main Ground Combat System.

        I know that it is unlikely that we would adopt it as our program, as seen by the reaction to the offer to sell us second hand leopards from Krauss-Maffei Wegmann. The need to have a “British” tank is a matter of pride. That being said it would be wise to have commonality in mind with MGCS, possibly sharing FCS, power pack, possibly even the Rheinmetall 130mm?

  10. Would not want to command a tank today,seems it has to do too much,why all the senors,they have forgotten what a tank is for,destroy enemy tanks in defence and advance and support infantry in both, the crew have enough to do without all this video and what not. The smooth bore gun and a better commanders position are what is needed and also get rid of that stupid GPMG near the loaders hatch it has killed one commander already.

  11. Leopard 2 Has significant rear and side armour vulnerabilities. It’s not surprising that it’s struggling to resist modern Russian ATGWs.

  12. Mac i am sorry that is horse poo. The Germans did not have unbeatable tanks in WW2 otherwise they would have won. Simple really.
    the Panther, Tiger and Royal tiger all the late war heavy German tanks were overly heavy, under powered overly complicated and prone to mechanical failure. Hence why Russian KV, IS and T34 (85) series tanks were superior in all accounts. Far simpler to mass build 36,000 T34 (85) in 1944 alone vs 3600 equivalent panthers for the entire war! The Russians simply out manufactured the Germans who could not match the sheer weight of numbers. The IS 2 heavy tank was probably the best tank of WW2 and even now would be a respectable MBT in terms of gun vs armour vs weight balancing act.
    I am not anti germannut they are not the best engineers in the world at all. They just like to make out they are. Leopard 2A4 and 2A6 are frankly crap. They have little to no combat survivability. A challenger 2 would not have been destroyed by the type of ATGW the Turkish A24s were defeated by. Much better armour! In Irag one Chally 2 was hit by 17 RPG rounds +3x Milan rounds and its armour was not penetrated and none of its crew were injured. It was towed back to base by armoured recovery, repaired and back in service 48 hours later.

    • It would be fair to say the later German WW2 tanks had the best crews, best optics, best guns and superior tactics.

      What they didn’t have was a reliable mechanical platform and the quantities to match the USA and USSR.

      Of the 57000 T34 produced, 45000 were destroyed by the Germans.

    • You miss the point, The PERCEPTION is that the Germans had the best tanks in ww2 , that is to the uninitiated. It was the early War reports that gave the reputation of invincibility to German armour. I know its all academic now but the it lingers on

  13. Since Cameron binned a third of our MBT’s to appease the Lib Dems we are down to 4 armoured regiments any way. Upgrading just the pathetic total of 224 tanks should not even be beyond even this useless govt. A new smooth bore gun and improved drive train to 45mph on road with a comparable off road upgrade essential.
    I am sick and tired of cost considerations being thrown around. With a third of the apache gone as well as just 3 AS90 regiments in use our offensive capability is down to two thirds of what is was and still, cost is an issue on improving the reduced front line! I give up. Let’s just keep a 100,000 civvies in in the MOD churning out the paper while the armed forces especially the now fatally discredited RN grind to a humiliating and disgraceful halt.

  14. Incidentally to all, superior numbers do not make for a better tank. Tand for tank, the T34 would have been obliterated. The Germans could never adapt their tactics against the swarms of Soviet armour. They were out thought initially at kursk where superb Russian defences bled them white and then destroyed them. The German tactical response deteriorated understandably as the war went on. The German answer was to just throw in heavier and heavier punches which as we know the Russians could take all day.
    Getting back to the C2, this is just a superb looking tank and a full upgrade should see another 15 years service for this battle worthy and proven tank.

  15. Some interesting comments. I’m still trying to learn about our military and have concentrated mostly on the RN and to a slightly lesser extent the RAF. I’ve not really looked much at the army but from vague things I’ve seen and read but not really challenged (no pun intended!) I’d picked up the distinct and totally uninformed impression that Challenger 2 was well past its sell-by date and pretty hopelessly outmatched by pretty much all other MBTs. It’s very heartening to hear views that this is far from the truth.

    My knowledge in this area is almost zero so I don’t know what is correct but isn’t there a lot of concern about the gun being pretty non-standard now with fewer ammo choices and also the rifled barrel being less optimal for some applications? (Not knocking, criticising or claiming anything, just regurgitating what I have read elsewhere and trying to understand the veracity or lack of it of the comments that I’ve read.)

    • Julian it is widely promulgated that smooth bore ammuntion is superior to rifled.

      I think if the UK could fit a smooth bore gun into C2 it would, but this would be very expensive due to the way C2 stores ammuntion. The L30A1 rifled gun uses three-piece ammunition: the projectile, propellant charge and primer are separate parts, a design decision that affects both lethality and storage options. The ammunition stowage of the Challenger 2 is designed to accept only certain types of ammunition parts (propellant charges, primer magazines and projectiles) at certain places (for example all propellant charges are stored within the hull below the turret ring). It is not possible to fit longer or wider ammunition into a CR2, which prevents the upgunning of the Challenger 2 with the German 120 mm L55 smoothbore gun which uses a single piece round. It was only possible to create storage for six rounds of unitary 120 x 570 mm NATO ammunition without deeper modifications of the Challenger 2’s interior layout.

      That said it remains is an excellent battle tank

  16. 17 RPG hits who commanded that tank,and if as I suspect it had been left behind the advance because it was u/s,someone should have provide some protection.

  17. A new main armament is required primarily.

    Should have retrofitted the 120mm Rheinmetal gun first and foremost. The outdated gun statustics are the main problem

  18. Just don’t write off the rifled gun just yet. When all tanks have active defence systems to stop smoothbore hollow charge rounds and Atgws they won’t be able to stop a high velocity lump of iron so easily. We may end up going back to kinetic energy rounds as the future.

  19. Whatever the positives and negatives of the leopard 2 it was certainly a commercial success where as C2 was a commercial failure.

    That it was, however that L2 purchase didn’t fare well for the Turks inside Syria. Where its much weaker side and rear armour became a liability.

  20. An upgrade is a fine but when all is said and done this is a stop-gap measure. A replacement for the Challenger will be needed and as it stands that replacement must be designed from the outset to defeat the Armata. It must utilise a smoothbore cannon of at least 120 mm possibly being upgunned to 155 mm, incorporate an active defence system, possible ‘stealth’ characteristics and fully embrace the digital battlefield. I would suggest a joint venture with the US to develop a joint replacement for the Abrahams and Challenger.

  21. The country that invented train cant build a train
    The country that invented tanks cant build a new tank scratch up .
    No more planes too
    Christ what is this country becoming .
    Plenty money for foreign aid, or underground rail tracks or indeed 50 billion to save half an hour on a journey to London.
    What a mess.
    This government has the money it just chooses not to spend it .
    Where did the 1.2 trillion gis a job Gideon placed onto national debt go .?

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