The British Army will upgrade of its main battle tanks to ‘Challenger III’ standard, the rest will be retired.

The Defence Command Paper released today, titled ‘Defence in a Competitive Age‘, states:

“Modernising the Army will mean some legacy platforms that have already been extended beyond their planned life will be retired.

In doing so, the Army will be able to invest new funds into accelerating the in service date of the Boxer armoured vehicle and enhancing its capability.

Boxer will allow the Army to respond at pace to deliver soldiers around the battlefield, travelling long distances quickly, cross country, and in the most austere and hostile environments.

As planned, the Army will invest around £1.3bn in our armoured capability by upgrading 148 of our main battle tanks to ensure the Challenger III will become one of the most protected and most lethal in Europe. The remaining fleet will be retired.”

The current fleet size is 227.

It is understood that Challenger 3 specification features new turrets and a Rheinmetall 120mm smoothbore gun used by other Western forces.

This defence review was previously described by Boris Johnson as the largest review of its kind since the Cold War.

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A good outcome.

Order of the Ditch

I have mixed feelings about this. On the hand we are an island nation so our tank force is quite far down our list of priorities.
However what is the point in keeping any when the new force will be so small? We definitely will not be able to deploy it.
Sweden currently has 240 tanks meaning a country with 10 million people has more than us.


Sweden has a great big bear not to far away! I do agree though 200 to me would have been the minimum required.

Graham Moore

We are an island nation but we fight all wars overseas – its called expeditionary warfare.
Our biggest threat is from Russia and they have thousands of tanks – we cannot have zero tanks. We are in NATO and are required to deploy on NATO operations – we don’t just defend our very small island.
Our tanks have deployed on ops a great deal in the last 30 years – they actually get used.
I quite agree that it is ridiculous that we have fewer tanks than little Sweden – we should have at least 250-300.

Last edited 9 days ago by Graham Moore
John Hartley

If they were going to order 100 Boxer with the Cockerill C3105 turret with 105mm autoloader, I could understand the C2 cut. Without replacement firepower, deployed UK Army units will be exposed.


Why? They’re going to be in battlegroups with 120mm armed CRs and 40mm armed Ajaxs.

Why on earth would you want to add another gun platform to that? At cost?


148 C3’s is a small number but they are thankfully at least ‘beefed’ by Ajax added as organic recon in a sudden attack of common sense (as they should be) so we will have a ‘proper’ armoured front end in 2 Regiments of ?56 MBT’s each + Ajax. As a spear point equipped with (soon?) one of the best upgraded, up-gunned MBT’s in the field it gives us options – combined with a vision of air mobile, maritime mobile, highly flexible and (hopefully) fully Fires supported, comms integrated Infantry, Elite forces and SF to deal with anything they face until… Read more »


Yeah it makes a fk ton more sense. Why do I feel the “deep strike BCT” is really a “no really strike is a real thing and wasnt just complete BS” pending being a 3rd heavy bde, given we’ll have 2 light BCTs and an air asslt one – which if they’re all with supports will oresumably be very similar so a 3 heavy / 3 light force emerges. If you look at unit basing I think the Army has been prepping this for a while, 2x AI and strike all SPTA with all CR2/Ajax units and Catrerick with a… Read more »


Just hope unmodernised Warriors, then Boxers, hopefully with a stab cannon, keep up with and work well with CR3s.

John Hartley

The C3 upgrade may come in on time & budget, but that is a gamble. The 40mm CT gun is much hyped, but unproven. We are buying Boxer anyway, so an upgunned version can be part of it. Given the large guns & missiles now going on Russian & Chinese armoured vehicles, we need parity.


I worked for Rheinmetall in 2016 when they were bidding; they were working up a new turret with their smoothbore cannon then. There is a fair chance that CR3 will be ready on time. However WCSP and its component sub-programmes were a terrible example of slow design, development, testing.


Basically, this review is cutting huge chunks from the UK defence material. Much more than I believed….in fact, this is more akin to what Corbin would have done!
A handful of MBTs, no British built APCs to survive and the Hawk fleet reduced to a few planes. It’s difficult to see any real boost apart from the new frigates, which we already knew about. Not a good day for the UK forces.

Nigel Collins

We will be training to fight a synthetic war in the future, so no doubt a large order will be placed for more Xbox and PlayStations. I’m not sure if we can afford the games at the moment!


You joke, but there will not be much fight left in the U.K if we suffered and failed to defend against a catastrophic cyber attack. It’s likely an future war between nation states may just begin and potentially end virtually with massive casualties not caused by bombs and bullets but by failed infrastructure, as all the lights go out, safety systems and petrol pumps stop working.


Thats what that great military strategist Dominic Cummings was warning us all about!


There will be a massive problem if we face hybrid warfare ie cyber plus one or more very strong physical threats, and we have downsized the manpower and AFVs too much.


Cap badges, not everyone’s cup of tea but…

Rifles, R Scots, D Lancs & PWRR all losing a Btn to the Ranger Regt (why they can’t keep their cap badges and just be army commandos is beyond me – do we really need another Regt?), Mercians losing a Btn too. 3 Gurkhas probably going to 16 Bde.

RAC. So we will have 2 active Challenger 3 Regts and maybe 1 Trg Regt. What happens to the rest? All armoured recce? I reckon they will be putting a couple of Regts into the ISTAR role permanently.


Have to agree with you. I see no reason why these battalions can’t become part of an “army commando” regiment. In fact I’ve hoped for this for a while. Calling them a Ranger regiment is a bit unnecessary and sounds way too Americanised for me. I’m sure they’ll be great but should be commandos not rangers.


This could have been a lot worse (wholesale retirement, or no upgrade)


At the rate the tories have cut the armed forces since 2010, I do have to wonder how long it will be before neutral Ireland has a more powerful military

Nigel Collins

It’s all smoke and mirrors as usual with no real firm commitment other than a promise of things to come, in small quantities!


Better to have 148 fully refitted and reliable vehicles that 227 clapped out unreliable ones.


I was reading the reviews from US sites yesterday and whilst they’re peeved about troop cuts they feel cutting old kit that cannot be integrated into the modern battle space is a good thing if it makes way for modern kit that will integrate along with increase spending on AI and cyber to ensure those integrations are robust. I agree with your comment going to war with equipment that is out gunned, can’t acquire targets quickly, outdated data links etc is folly.

Andy L

I know the reported lethality problems of the rifled 120mm but around the world there are thousands of MBTs with worse main guns. Wouldn’t it be better to concentrate on the digital connectivity, sights, new power plants and active defence aids?? That way being able to afford to upgrade all 227 and keep 3 regiments? Given how difficult it has proved to knock out a Challenger and its OSD of 2040 wouldn’t it be wiser to keep the 3 Challenger regiments? Or can someone tell me how the army’s plan to use Ajax instead of a Challenger regiments is going… Read more »


So about 1 nuke / tank then?

Rob N

Shame we are loosing so many tanks but it is better then having more out of date ones… The new gun and turret will be a vast improvement. Plus tge auto-loadder.. it sounds like it will get new armour and protection too. Hopefully a new power pack.

Role on Challenger 3.


As far as I know UK only has around 90 HET so can only move a limit number of the fleet at any one time.


Each HET just makes several trips to move more than 90 AFVs.


Don’t think cutting tank numbers is the right thing to do really .All should have had an up grade .A Tank in some ways is what an Army is all about.


Another stupid decision cutting the MTBs once again when considering the potential threat countries (plural) capabilities in this key land weapon system.