The Challenger 2 Life Extension Programme is designed to replace obsolete equipment, enhance protection, increase range and provide improved lethality of the tank until an out of service date of 2035 – extending its life from 2025.

Teams led by Rheinmetall Landsystem and BAE Systems had been chosen as preferred bidders for the assessment phase by the MoD. The Rheinmetall consortium includes BMT, Pearson Engineering, Supacat, and Thales UK and includes an option to retrofit Rheinmetall’s 120mm L55 smoothbore gun should additional funds be made available. The BAE team includes General Dynamics UK, Qinetiq, Leonardo, Moog and Safran.

Chris Stephens, Shadow SNP Spokesperson for Fair Work and Employment, asked via a written question.

“To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what recent progress he has made on procurement under the (a) MRVP, (b) MIV and (c) Challenger 2 Life Extension programmes; and if he will make a statement.”

James Heappey, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence Procurement, responded:

“The Multi-Role Vehicle – Protected (MRV-P) programme is being delivered in two packages. The Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) has been identified as the preferred option for Package 1, Command, Liaison and Logistic Vehicles, procured through a US Foreign Military Sales case. A decision on the procurement of JLTV is due this year. For Package 2, Troop Carrying Vehicles and Future Protected Battlefield Ambulances, the competition is ongoing. Subject to the conclusion of current negotiations and internal approvals, the competition winner is planned to be on contract later this year.

For the Mechanised Infantry Vehicle programme, a contract was signed on 4 November 2019 between OCCAR and ARTEC. The Ministry of Defence aims to have the first vehicles delivered in 2023.

On the Challenger 2 Life Extension Programme (CR2 LEP), further to the expanded Assessment Phase, work is ongoing and current plans are for an investment decision in late 2020.”

The full scope of the LEP is indicated (via a Royal Tank Regiment newsletter) as being broken down into four areas:

  • Surveillance and Target Acquisition: Updated Commanders Primary Sight, Updated Gunners Primary Sight, Replacement Thermal Observation and Gunnery Sights (TOGS) and, 3rd Generation Thermal Imaging (TI).
  • Weapon Control System: Fire Control Computer (FCC), Fire Control Panel (FCP) and, Gun Processing Unit (GPU)
  • Mobility (Through In-Service Efficiencies): 3rd Generation (Horstman) Hydrogas Suspension, Improved Air Filtration, CV-12 Common Rail Fuel Injection, Transmission and, Cooling.
  • Electronic Architecture (Modernised Electronics): Gunners Control Handles, Video Distribution Architecture, Generic Vehicle Architecture (GVA) Compliant Interfaces, Increased On-board Processing and, Improved Human Machine Interface (HMI).
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Nigel Collins
Nigel Collins
8 months ago

Not a subject I’m familiar with, but would it not have made sense to purchase the latest Leopard Tanks initially and added our armour to it, creating jobs here in the UK with some useable modernised tanks rather than still talking about it?

Rob
Rob
8 months ago
Reply to  Nigel Collins

I’m with you on this. So the MOD will spend lots of money extending the life of a now obsolete tank, then have to spend much more in 2035 to buy a new tank (probably from abroad because they’ve closed down the UK plant). Surely it would be cheaper just to bite the bullet and order the Leopards now? Anyhow we can’t go on being the only country in NATO with rifled main guns on our tanks and thus not using common ammunition stocks. False economy??

Nigel Collins
Nigel Collins
8 months ago
Reply to  Rob

Agreed with Rob, and I think your additional comment puts it into perspective.

I wonder if the armed forces next advertisement included “NEW KIT” and properly armed across the board with an increase in pay might just inspire our younger generation to join up, rather than “ALMOST KNACKERED, UNDERARMED” with pay scales to match?

DaveyB
DaveyB
8 months ago
Reply to  Rob

I would not buy the Leopards as they haven’t truly been battle tested. Yes there’s the 2A4s used by Turkey. Which is a really poor example due to the stupid way they were/are being used. Then there’s the 2A5/6s used by the Canadians and Dutch in Afghan. Both performed pretty well, especially after being up-armoured, but they were used for counter insurgency, not tank on tank warfare. However, unlike the Challengers damaged during Gulf War 2, they took ages to bring back into service. This was predominantly down to damage from mines and IEDs. The Leopard unlike the Challenger uses… Read more »

Nigel Collins
Nigel Collins
8 months ago
Reply to  DaveyB

Many thanks DaveyB, It does appear to be a waste of time somewhat if we are upgrading a tank to extend its service life for up to ten years? A fantastic asset, but as you quite rightly point out, time for a new one! We always appear to be behind the ballpark when there is a requirement for new equipment to defeat a future adversary due to defence cuts and lack of forward planning. Successive Governments no doubt would be getting an A+ for talking the talk when it comes to supplying our armed forces with the kit they actually… Read more »

Nigel Collins
Nigel Collins
8 months ago
Reply to  Nigel Collins

And down from 386 units to 227 and then, 150!

I wonder how long it will take to upgrade 150? 2035 when we can retire them lol.

Lee1
Lee1
8 months ago
Reply to  Rob

I disagree on the Leopard. I think we should be upgrading the Challengers and then looking to design a new tank to replace it. However I do agree on the Rifled Gun. Part of this Upgrade program should have been to replace the main gun with a smooth bore one.

ChariotRider
ChariotRider
8 months ago
Reply to  Nigel Collins

Hi Nigel,

Basically the armour is the tank, certainly the turret, so buying a Leopard tank and fitting our armour does really work unless you are talking of fitting additional bolt armour which is usually only done if your current armour is old and not up to current threats – which could suggest that you bought the wrong tank if fitting to a new vehicle…

As Helions states below the latest version of the US Abrams being deployed by the US Army are all remanufactured vehicles, so why don’t we just do the job properly for a change?

Nigel Collins
Nigel Collins
8 months ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

Very good question ChariotRider,

In which case it needs to up to this kind of spec I assume?

https://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/americas-once-future-tank-the-us-new-m1a2-sep-v4-super-18422

ChariotRider
ChariotRider
8 months ago
Reply to  Nigel Collins

Yeh, Id say so. Three things I’d really like us to take on would be an advance FLIR, the programmable round and the active defence system. Longer term I think we should seriously look into developing a 3 man crew vehicle with auto-loader. The programmable round would significantly simplify the round selection issue and placing the crew lower in the hull with advanced situational awareness systems would improve crew survivability. Directed energy weapons, initially to jam / damage enemy sensors and air threats would be the next step. All of which I think would benefit from a continuous development and… Read more »

Rob
Rob
8 months ago

So a lot of work and cost to extend its life for another 10 years. I can’t help feeling the money would be better spent on the Boxer fleet and buying the artillery, mortar and fire support versions in numbers. Then replace the CH2 down the line, or even not at all.

Trevor
Trevor
8 months ago
Reply to  Rob

Agreed. It is absurd to spend money on Leopard which is also outdated… as are all current tanks.
Should leave well alone and look to see what the next FUTURE tank should be. What ever it is (and if) then we should use the American one since we will only need a few and they will want thousands. There is no reason for us not to develop a 2nd or 3rd rate tank for export.

George Royce
George Royce
8 months ago
Reply to  Trevor

Agreed. Why bother updating CH2 or buying ‘new’ Leapard? Both are old and severely aging. Far better to look at a brand new tank for the future. But that would require HMG to actually give funding. So, not likely to happen anytime soon.

Trevor
Trevor
8 months ago
Reply to  George Royce

A new tank is not on the horizon soon. What should the next tank be? The Merkeva is not perfect but it works for them… and underneath it’s based on a Centurion. We do not need to develop one, just buy off the shelf (if we need any).

Spyinthesky
Spyinthesky
8 months ago
Reply to  Trevor

Tend to agree, in all honesty a ten year lifespan is probably all you can plan for in any present makeshift option no matter how good simply because no one knows what sort of vehicle it should be or even if a tank is useful at all after that, other than used in a low level conflict anyway. Which means a new tank now unless cheaper doesn’t make sense for it equally possibly only have a ten year lifespan too. A very difficult decision to be made methinks.

SD67
SD67
8 months ago
Reply to  Rob

I tend to agree. The problem is once these programs have meandered on for a few years hey acquire a life of their own, you find a reluctance to bite the bullet. Unless like Nimrod MR4 it is physically unsafe to fly, but I doubt that applies to a tank. So we’ll end up with a bodge that will cost about the same as a fleet of new M1s, it will need replacing in a little over a decade but hey the government looks like its doing something.

peter
peter
8 months ago
Reply to  SD67

Nimrods were made from ex Saudi comets part ex in some defence deal, cut in half and extended. Hand built in nature the dimensions varied making fitting out one of the many problems along with corrosion. Heard that no one wanted to fly them, whoever came up with the idea should be publicly name shamed !

expat
expat
8 months ago
Reply to  peter

Complete agree if we’d based our MPA on an existing Airbus airframe we could have been competing with the P8 internationally.

maurice10
maurice10
8 months ago

Sounds good however, the British Army will have fewer MBT’s as a result. Why, because the MOD downgraded the role of the MBT as there were other critical assets needed at the time. Then the desk theorists began to question the role of the battle tank in the modern World, which lead to buying around 300 machines, then closing down the factory! The Army will lucky to get 200 upgraded tanks, which in terms of modern warfare terms could see a complete depletion within weeks against a forceful enemy. So, what would the options be then? A begging bowl either… Read more »

Trevor
Trevor
8 months ago
Reply to  maurice10

Forceful enemy …? France? Germany? Argentina? Japan? China,
Just who on our own are we to fight against with peer to peer MTBs?
“On our own” …?

maurice10
maurice10
8 months ago
Reply to  Trevor

I did not suggest we would be fighting alone. However, what if Iraq had met our forces with a true fully trained army? Even with the combined strength of the West, we could have been facing another Korea. With 200 CH2 LEP’s against a Russian or Chinese offensive, and in combination with NATO allies, such numbers would be quickly challenged, with little or no backup. Or are you also suggesting the MBT is dead?????? Maybe you consider a Boxer with a big gun as a possible alternative?

BB85
BB85
8 months ago
Reply to  maurice10

I’m with other posters regarding MBT not being a priority for UK defense. Germany, France and Poland should be supplying 90% of heavy European armour with the UK more medium weight, naval and air power.

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
8 months ago
Reply to  maurice10

Do we need super upgraded CH2 if our peer potential enemies only plan on building small numbers of more advanced vehicles?

Trevor
Trevor
8 months ago
Reply to  maurice10

We are not going to Korea. We are not going to attack Iraq… Or Iran. If we get involved it will be by light troops and aircraft. “IF”.

Our involment should be special forces. SAS, Marines, Paratroopers and similar. Our army needs to build and train to produce the best that can be created at the tip of our spear. The shaft of that spear is the regular army (and from them can come our special forces) and also the other army infrastructure, RE, RA etc.

We can still offer a lot to NATO.

maurice10
maurice10
8 months ago
Reply to  Trevor

But we did go to Iraq and Korea and will probably be involved in any major Western conflict. Our history has been heavyweight and will most likely be again. The heavy clout of the MBT is still an invaluable asset, and 200 is not enough. Britain is now going to be an independent nation and can not necessarily depend on foreign forces in Europe anymore. NATO realise the UK and the US to be the main players, and therefore, we should be equipped to meet that status.

Trevor
Trevor
8 months ago
Reply to  maurice10

The main players in mainland Europe are France, Germany and Poland. Throw in the likes of Austria and Romania. Ukraine. They might need a new tank… but how defensible will a tank be in 10 years time?
As I have hinted elsewhere, Israel have specific requirements long term for armour in built up areas.

Ian M
Ian M
8 months ago

As Rheinmetall now own BAE Land Systems, realistically, there is only one bidder.

BB85
BB85
8 months ago
Reply to  Ian M

I’m not sure if these two bids have merged though as they have different sub contractors. I think the BAE bid is more conservative so probably more realistic. I don’t see the point in spending a fortune on a new turret if we can update the electronics and optics on more tanks while keeping the rifled gun until the tank is replaced in 2035. APS would be a better enhancement in my opinions and using the same digital architecture as Ajax

Paul
Paul
8 months ago

Given the two primes for each of the two bids are now effectively one in the same, I’m not convinced the makeup of the bids is as clear cut as laid out above any more.

Helions
Helions
8 months ago

The U.S. Army’s latest M1 version are all based on remanufactured tanks as I recall.

https://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/inside-the-us-armys-lethal-new-m1a2-sep-v3-abrams-main-16445

Why can’t the Challenger come out in the same class even though they’re being redone?

Cheers

The Artist Formerly known as Los Pollos Chicken
The Artist Formerly known as Los Pollos Chicken
8 months ago
Reply to  Helions

Absolutely no reason why they can’t thats why they are doing it. Despite the naysayers and bandied about “obsolete” it’s a bloody good tank and one that has never been defeated on the battlefield by enemy action unlike the leopard or Abraham’s or T series. So hopefully the mod will put the money into this to do it right but I won’t hold my breath no doubt another half assed fix like always .

Trevor
Trevor
8 months ago

I agree. But I argue that if we are serious about Strike Brigades then it’s a waste of time upgrading Challenger. Just wait untill the next best thing comes along from America… always assumi g we need them. Leave MBTs to France and Germany and Poland. They are the ones who need to defend their borders. We can help Norway, the Baltics and the North Sea.

Ron5
Ron5
8 months ago
Reply to  Helions

The new Challenger won’t be in the same class, it will be better.

Helions
Helions
8 months ago
Reply to  Ron5

I don’t agree on that point Ron. The newest M1s are pretty potent and by the time the new Challengers come out in numbers (250?) the M1 could be very much closer to this. Remember, we have ~ 5000 total both active and stockpiled awaiting upgrade. I have no doubt the Challenger (III?) will be excellent but I doubt HMG is willing to go to the same lengths the U.S. is. Particularly since the consensus (unfortunately) among the U.S. armed forces is a major war to fight within 20 years… https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bolo_(tank) Most of the tanks making up an armored unit… Read more »

Ron5
Ron5
8 months ago
Reply to  Helions

Having more M1’s doesn’t make them individually better.

Helions
Helions
8 months ago
Reply to  Ron5

Absolutely correct Ron, but the economies of scale when revamping on that scale makes it much cheaper per unit to install all the desired upgrades as opposed to the extremely high costs to redo a couple of hundred…

Cheers

Ron5
Ron5
8 months ago
Reply to  Helions

So you really do agree that the new Challenger will be better. Good.

Helions
Helions
8 months ago
Reply to  Ron5

Heheh.. With HMGs already well documented propensity to nickel and dime fine designs to “death by a thousand (budget) cuts”… No, I believe I’ll stick with my stated position…

Cheers!

Grubbie
Grubbie
8 months ago

How does the bid process work now? Are we really going to choose inferior components just because they are part of the winning bid? Despite the fact that the same company is doing the work and could choose the best of both bids? The time scale is excessive.

Gavin Gordon
Gavin Gordon
8 months ago

Challenger 2 has been a first class MBT to the extent that, on such a baseline, there is still worthwhile potential to be gained from the LEP. However, I’d think that the closer we approach the OSD the less likely the smoothbore installation would become, specifically. Of course, there could be a longer term programme going on in parallel with this to clarify what a future replacement will end up like. To that end, you’d get both a medium term competent MBT with Challenger to be getting on with, whilst de-risking and thus hopefully de-costing its replacement, together with hastening… Read more »

Trevor
Trevor
8 months ago

I read that the RAF are to create a swarming drone squadron. How do these things affect tanks in the future.

Gavin Gordon
Gavin Gordon
8 months ago
Reply to  Trevor

That touches on how the allies comprehensively broke out of Normandy during WWII, so to that extent nothing’s new. The RAF/USAAF finally managed to effectively coordinate joint operations when the allied tanks/infantry mounted an assault.
In fact, I’m somewhat bemused why more focus is not paid to the Army Air Corps and RAF assets when discussing modern land warfare. No peer assault is likely to be successful without significant losses, regardless of the relative merits of MTBs, without all three in harmony: tanks, infantry and close air.
Regards

Trevor
Trevor
8 months ago
Reply to  Gavin Gordon

True. But who are we going to “assault”. We are not going to assault Russia. If Russia assault us then they would incur massive losses and any such assault would require 3x superiority to even think of a likely victory. It is an absurd scenario. The key area is Norway Sweden Finland and Baltics. This is quite another quite different operation for us to be involved in. I’m sure even the snowflakes will defend to their death the right to have hen nights in Riga. A balanced NATO – Europe response does not need us to have 200 upgraded tanks.… Read more »

DaveyB
DaveyB
8 months ago
Reply to  Trevor

As you’ve alluded to the Baltics and Scandinavia should be our focus. This would put us at a severe disadvantage as our key enabler the Strike Brigade, (sounds a bit like the Light Brigade!!!!) will be mostly based on the Boxer and other wheeled vehicles, with some Ajax thrown in. Having worked in Scandinavia, I can quite categorically state that in winter, wheeled vehicles are hopeless when you want to go off-piste. Tracks are the answer, both Ajax and Warrior should be able to cope, but also Challenger to an extent. However, any BV style vehicle or tracked vehicles with… Read more »

Trevor
Trevor
8 months ago
Reply to  DaveyB

I am just an old bloke sitting on a sofa, but I would have thought the strike concept would work in the Baltics. Norway Sweden and Finland are willing to spend money on defending themselves (unlike an SNP govt) and have specific issues. I would have thought mountain type troops would be the appropriate force to work with them , plus an offshore carrier (?). A carrier with Apachies ought to concentrate the enemies mind. But the important thing is deterence, we train regularly with these countries. Our greatest force multiplier is our special forces, not “just” the SAS, but… Read more »

Gavin Gordon
Gavin Gordon
8 months ago
Reply to  Trevor

Finally I think we’re approaching an accord, Trevor. We’re all just old blokes sitting on a sofa; though we still have to discuss the relative merits of investing in the sofa as opposed to an armchair.

ChariotRider
ChariotRider
8 months ago
Reply to  Trevor

Hi Trevor, Just a word of caution, there are areas around the Baltic including in Finland and Sweden that are pretty flat and in the summer months would make pretty good tank country. Light forces would get slaughtered if Russian heavies came at them in these areas – think Arnhem and ‘a bridge too far’. A balanced force is the only sensible approach if you want to avoid future tragedy, so yes I think a heavy division is vital to the British Army. As for the Strike Brigades – great idea but they are being equipped with a mix of… Read more »

Ron5
Ron5
8 months ago

Don’t get hung up on the 2035 OSD, nobody has said that. The requirement was that the LEP would take the tank out to at least 2035. Several reliable sources have stated that the upgraded tank being displayed by the new joint venture between Rheinmetall & Bae (RBSL)has been chosen, and the current work is to mature the design to the point that it is production ready and costs can be finalized so that the total bill can be calculated. About 150 tanks are expected to be upgraded in the UK. That tank has a brand new turret designed by… Read more »

Ron5
Ron5
8 months ago
Reply to  Ron5

For photo’s of Challenger 3, google: RBSL Challenger, and select images. To me, it looks the business.

DaveyB
DaveyB
8 months ago
Reply to  Ron5

JCB are supposed to doing the engine modification. They are converting it to a common rail diesel, so should boost power from 1200bhp to 1500bhp. JCB have said the engine could easily go to 1800bhp, but it would shorten the life of the engine. I believe some of the gearbox is being modified to cope with the increase in power. The US M829A4 APFSDS round was developed to counter Relikt ERA fitted to T90s and T14s. It has a new propellent that ups the muzzle velocity again to put it on par with the German DM53 round even fire from… Read more »

SD67
SD67
8 months ago
Reply to  DaveyB

That’s really interesting, thanks. I’ve often thought why don’t JCB get into AFV production in someway – they are one of the worlds largest manufacturers of tracked vehicles. I believe theyve even supplied the US army with armoured diggers. You could see a consortium approach where they supply a tracked chassis / powerpack to RBSL who add the turret and do the systems integration. Noone 10 years ago though Babcock would be getting into Frigates…

Ron5
Ron5
8 months ago
Reply to  DaveyB

I wouldn’t count on your JCB modification if I were you, very little money available for engine upgrades. Think tuning not replacement. If they did want to spend for a big power increase, the current Challenger engine & drive train is available today on the commercial market, upgraded to 1500 bhp. Also not clear Challenger needs a major power upgrade. Might not have track speed but over open country, hard to beat. As for advanced US ammo, I believe the new L55 gun to be fitted to CR3 can accept all of them. Hopefully, being US manufactured they’d be reasonably… Read more »

DaveyB
DaveyB
8 months ago
Reply to  Ron5

I agree cross country Challenger is up there with the best. The issue is the lack of acceleration due to the additional in-theatre up-armouring. About 5 years ago JCB were contracted by the MoD to investigate the feasibility of increasing the power output of the current engine, as it was felt there wasn’t enough money for a replacement. The engine modification comes under a different programme and budget to the life extension programme. It is literally a bolt on upgrade for the existing Perkins V12. The engine’s internals are staying the same, JCB are chucking on the common rail injection… Read more »

BV Buster
BV Buster
8 months ago
Reply to  DaveyB

Davey, Just to answer you question on M1 L-55 compatibility, from what I learned in my Chinese school for 15 year olds. The M1 originally was designed to be fitted with a 105mm rifled gun to make it compatible with the M-60, the threat at the time was easily defeated buy its newest generation of ammunition. When the M1A1 received the smoothbore it needed modifying to shoehorn it into the turret as it was much lager, trying to fit a 55 cal gun in is a no go for that reason. I can also confirm CR2 LEP will have the… Read more »

DaveyB
DaveyB
8 months ago
Reply to  BV Buster

Yeah, I heard the engine and gearbox were being upgraded from a REME mate. He said the upgrade was being done by JCB. However, I have now heard Caterpillar who own the rights to Perkins engines may be doing the upgrade. He also said that the gearbox wears out quicker than expected when fitted with the up-armour package, especially the clutch, primary drive and final drives and this is before the engine has been tuned.

BV Buster
BV Buster
8 months ago
Reply to  DaveyB

The biggest issue I had with it was the gearbox filters, an absolute pain in the ass to change and is the go to quick fix suggested by REME. I think we also need to remember its underpowered, its only a 36 litre engine compare to what? 42 litre in Leo2? you need to rev its nuts off to get anywhere so put a lot of strain on the engine.

Didn’t Caterpillar do the engine in the Mastiff?

BV

Trevor
Trevor
8 months ago
Reply to  DaveyB

Gearbox modified? Hmmm.

peter
peter
8 months ago
Reply to  DaveyB

Catapillar have bought Perkins so now own the design and have a test CV 12 engine with the common rail injection fitted, it can produce in excess of 1500 and less noise and smoke. Final drives and gearbox will need upgrading to cope with power increase

ChariotRider
ChariotRider
8 months ago
Reply to  DaveyB

Cannister rounds – there’s mature concept. Muzzle loaders anyone 🙂

DaveyB
DaveyB
8 months ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

Look up 120mm M1028 Canister Round. This was an urgent requirement put in by the US Army for the Abrams operating in Iraq. The round contains 1100 10mm tungsten balls and is lethal up to 600m. It was also found to be an effective breech round for mud brick and concrete walls. This round and three others are being replaced with the Advanced Multi-purpose round. It has a one way data-link, so the gunner can program the fusing in the breech depending on the target requirement, without the loader setting the fuse.

ChariotRider
ChariotRider
8 months ago
Reply to  DaveyB

Hi DaveyB,

I was reading a link above somewhere that gave a detailed description of the upgrade to the Abrams including the Canister Round – hence my quippy post.

It appears to have popped up completely out of place … 🙂

peter
peter
8 months ago
Reply to  Ron5

Doubtful if the smooth bore turret will have the same number of rounds as the one piece are about 98 cm long, auto loader magazine would prob’have about a dozen, common rail cat engine upgrade would require up-rated final drives due to power increase.

Ron5
Ron5
8 months ago
Reply to  peter

The new turret does not have an autoloader. Ammo capacity is the same as legacy challengers.

peter
peter
8 months ago
Reply to  Ron5

Should be fun loading them at 41 lbs while bouncing around off road, hard to see where you could fit them all, think you would get about 24 behind loader as space needed for com’s?

Ron5
Ron5
8 months ago
Reply to  peter

Character building.

Glass Half Full
Glass Half Full
8 months ago

As others have stated, the European land powers should be providing the heavy armour for Europe’s defence. They are already there and can get assets to the frontline far faster, in greater numbers, than can the UK; with the possible exception of countering Russia in Norway, although the latter doesn’t strike me as being a country particularly conducive to tank warfare. If we want heavy armour for elsewhere then we really should be able to articulate why and under what circumstances based on sound need, rather than a nice-to-have capability, especially when in budget constrained times. It seems highly unlikely… Read more »

Trevor
Trevor
8 months ago

All fair points, but… The army want tanks, but withdraw tank transporters and then say they want an expeditionary army as well on wheels. And on both cases do not provide the artillery for either. Pointedly they they are providing ambulances. Make their mind up. The RAF are dropping a hint… drone swarms.

Ron5
Ron5
8 months ago
Reply to  Trevor

Nonsense, the Army has some fairly new tank transporters. Go check them out.

peter
peter
8 months ago
Reply to  Ron5

Financed on one of Blair’s PFI contracts!

Airborne
Airborne
8 months ago
Reply to  Ron5

But only about 80 I believe and they will be required (and planned to be) used by the abortion of an organization we like to call the strike Brigades. We are lacking in all areas and need a serious re-think with funding to go with it.

Ron5
Ron5
8 months ago
Reply to  Airborne

Only if the Strike Brigades have Challenger tanks which they won’t. Please keep up.

Glass Half Full
Glass Half Full
8 months ago
Reply to  Ron5

So what will the Strike Brigades use to transport Ajax? I think that is the point Airborne is making. The HETs can’t be transporting both Ajax and Challenger in significant numbers at the same time, assuming you plan to deploy both strike brigades and heavy armour to theater.

Airborne
Airborne
8 months ago
Reply to  Ron5

Not at all, the strike Brigades will use Ahax, to move long distances Ajax will need HET! Ajax is tracks, and to move Ajax long distance the plan is to use HET. Oh dear you need to keep up with the currency concept of operations.

Airborne
Airborne
8 months ago
Reply to  Airborne

Current….oh dear finger error!

Ron5
Ron5
8 months ago
Reply to  Airborne

Try pulling it out of your sit upon. This thread is about Challenger LEP not Ajax. But seeing you dragged in the red herring, Ajax is less than half the weight of Challenger and can go to war via ship, air, rail, or leased low loader lorry, if HET’s are unavailable.

Airborne
Airborne
8 months ago
Reply to  Ron5

I see military knowledge and subject matter experience is limited mate! Keep trying!

Airborne
Airborne
8 months ago
Reply to  Ron5

And you mentionird HET and I am letting you know there’s not enough. And there is so many things wrong with your reply I will let you know exactly when I sit down and have the time. But start to think about Political, logistical,strategic and tactical considerations and then take a deep breath.

peter
peter
8 months ago
Reply to  Airborne

Think some transporters got leased back to the yanks lol

Ron5
Ron5
8 months ago

What’s rational about giving up tanks when every potential enemy except terrorists have them in spades? Your logic is absurd. You might as well argue that the UK should give up rifles or machine guns because the US has more of them.

The 2nd half of your comment makes more sense, it’s basically what is happening.

Glass Half Full
Glass Half Full
8 months ago
Reply to  Ron5

Are we expecting every other European naval power build two carriers because we have them? Of course not. The value of NATO is not only the aggregation of similar assets from multiple countries but also the contributions by different countries of different assets to address and counter threats. Specifically, Germany and Poland are always likely to have relatively modest sea power, especially for countering Russia, thus they should focus their resources on over-weighting land power including heavy armour. The logic that because a potential adversary has something “in spades” so should the UK on a like-for-like basis is ridiculous, that’s… Read more »

Ron5
Ron5
8 months ago

So the UK should give up rifles then? A cunning plan indeed.

Suggest you work on your “logic”.

Glass Half Full
Glass Half Full
8 months ago
Reply to  Ron5

Want to try again with better quality of response?

Ron5
Ron5
8 months ago

Your “logic” of countries just keeping defined sets of military capabilities and leaving other countries to fill in the gaps is effing stupid and discards hundreds of years of lessons from history.

How’s that? Clear enough?

ChariotRider
ChariotRider
8 months ago

Hi Glass Half Full, Your basic point is spot on, but to give up a such a significant capability as MBT’s completely is I belief deaply flawed. Our European allies have been overrun in the past and whilst this is extremely unlike anytime soon it should be something we keep in mind when planning for the future. Remember how much long term support we have had from the USN in maintaining some level of carrier experience? That support extended to pilots, deck crew, command, etc. without which we would be seriously struggling to bring the QEC into service. Now if… Read more »

Glass Half Full
Glass Half Full
8 months ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

Thank you for the considered reply. The second paragraph in my original post is actually an acknowledgment that the Army isn’t ready to give up heavy armour and part of that is the loss of institutional memory on how to use it if it were ever required again. Hence why if LEP proceeds then it should go full bore and generate a re-manufactured solution with a 20-25 year life. However, regarding your other point, something is seriously wrong with NATO if the European members alone cannot prevail long term over Russia in a conventional conflict, we aren’t facing the Warsaw… Read more »

Pacman27
Pacman27
8 months ago

I would do away with our heavy armour capability fully and move to an all boxer army (moving away from light infantry as well). Whilst this may seem strange I believe a fully loaded Boxer MRV-P force with 155mm howitzers, MLRS, HIMARS and Area Air Defence and ATGW assets backed up by a much large apache force has more utility than a heavy armour capability we are not keen to deploy due to cost reasons. Warrior and Challenger LEP’s should be canned, with the assets assigned to the reserve and investments in Boxer should be directed. Ajax should also be… Read more »

Rod Flint
Rod Flint
8 months ago
Reply to  Pacman27

I agree. We need strategic and tactical mobility to have an effective expeditionary force. We are no longer holding the north German plain or retaking NW Europe.

Ron5
Ron5
8 months ago
Reply to  Pacman27

All works well until the day you run into a bunch of bad guys that have real tanks, then you be screwed.

In peace time the cry is for speed & mobility, in war it’s for protection & weight of fire.

Glass Half Full
Glass Half Full
8 months ago
Reply to  Ron5

Or maybe you call in air assets instead of doing a re-run on the Battle of Kursk.

Ron5
Ron5
8 months ago

Sorry we gave them up because that was France’s job (to supply air support).

SD67
SD67
8 months ago
Reply to  Ron5

Ok, let’s say we do run into a bunch of bad guys with heavy tanks – right now what would we do? Retrieve the 70 CR2s stored in the Rhineland and the 55 CR2s in the training school in Canada then laboriously transport them plus their logistical train to wherever the conflict is? For an island nation this is all clearly in the nice to have category, which if we’re honest is the reason that after almost a decade of study we’re still not on contract. There’s a reason LEP keeps getting pushed to the right. I’d suggest either we… Read more »

Ron5
Ron5
8 months ago
Reply to  SD67

I do not think any British tanks are kept in Germany any more.

peter
peter
8 months ago
Reply to  Ron5

Think there are still some stored in Germany due to lack of space at Aschurch and asbestos roof contamination causing a shutdown.

Dern
Dern
7 months ago
Reply to  Ron5

Last I heard there was a plant to maintain some in Germany in order to allow for training exercises without having to transport tanks from the UK

Pacman27
Pacman27
8 months ago
Reply to  Ron5

You’re right. But technology has moved on and boxer is a game changer that can have a 155mm howitzer or a whole bank of ATGW Add in a load more apaches and you have that weight of fire Ultimately Ajax and warrior arent any better than a boxer force and like a lot of things we need to spend money on what we will use We can have a an all boxer mobile force backed up by mass fires that are lean manned. My understanding is challenger was requested for Afghanistan but denied on cost grounds. So if we are… Read more »

Ron5
Ron5
8 months ago
Reply to  Pacman27

Combined arms work. Just lots of one or other do not. See GW2 for failure of massed use of Apache without ground support.

Pacman27
Pacman27
8 months ago
Reply to  Ron5

I don’t disagree with you Ron5, sadly my position is one taken in context of usage and budget. I agree the capability is needed, but it is now so niche can we afford to invest in it at the expense of other items? I have chosen a path that puts every British infantry person into a Boxer and that those boxers are armed to the teeth and have loads (and I mean loads) of supporting fires. I also would go for an operating model where apaches are embedded and have their own Boxer/MRV-P unit that creates a perimeter for the… Read more »

OldSchool
OldSchool
8 months ago

Reading this thread its amazing how interested blokes become when discussing mbt’s😂.
We’ve all talked about Chally upgrade before. Me too. We won’t be getting a new tank but if we were I would go with latest Merkerva. Top tank and is ( I was once told by an Aussie armoured officer – easy to maintain and build on a limited industrial base). Mind you Aus went for M1 – good tank but horribly gas guzzling and big thermal plume.

DaveyB
DaveyB
8 months ago
Reply to  OldSchool

The new M1A3 has the option of replacing the gas turbine with a diesel engine. One is to reduce its thermal signature and two to double its un-refuelled range. There has been a lot of contradictory press saying the diesel will replace the gas turbine. They are definitely fitting a small auxiliary engine to replace the large lead acid battery pack as part of the upgrade. The Merkava 4 has yet to face an enemy tank unlike the earlier Merkava models, it did however, suffer quite a few losses due to ATGMs when it was first deployed in the West… Read more »

Ron5
Ron5
8 months ago
Reply to  DaveyB

Not everyone shares your high opinion of Merkava. Many see it as a “system” tank, designed and built for Israel’s specific needs that do not travel well. Like the tank itself!

Expect the CH3 to be FFBNW an APS like Iron Fist.

DaveyB
DaveyB
8 months ago
Reply to  Ron5

I do agree that the Merkava series was specifically designed for the environment and tactics employed by the Israelis, where the majority of the recent conflicts has been around urban fighting. I believe it was back in the 90’s that Israel sent over a Merkava 1 or 2 that was tested at Bovington. It performed ok and was compared to the Challenger 1 performance wise, I think it only had the 105 at the time. Apart from being a Merkava fanboy, I just like the novel concept, which I think is better than the T14’s unmanned turret. All other main… Read more »

Ron5
Ron5
8 months ago
Reply to  DaveyB

I don’t share your enthusiasm for the T14 and neither does Russia by all appearances.

Geoffrey Roach
Geoffrey Roach
8 months ago

The “plan” then is to have two armoured brigades with half the tanks run by the U.S. equivalent, made up of old tanks refurbished, with or without a smooth bore gun; two strike brigades with a mix of tracked and wheeled armour; an air assault brigade with how many helicopters (?) all supported by no where near enough artillery. All works a treat,assuming we can recruit enough people to run it all..I think we have a problem.

John Clark
John Clark
8 months ago
Reply to  Geoffrey Roach

Absolutely, I’m not convinced of the need for MBT’s today, especially if we end up with 150, it’s just not money well spent. The only time we have used heavy armour in quantity since WW2 is during both Gulf wars. Both required division strength deployments with Armour deployed at brigade level 125 – 150 MBT’s. 150 in total would mean we would struggle to deploy an armoured brigade of 30 to 40. That’s not enough to be any more than a token force, thus a pointless waste of money that could be better employed. The SDSR will hopefully give some… Read more »

DaveyB
DaveyB
8 months ago
Reply to  John Clark

Not true, We have used tanks in battalion and regimental strength on two other occasions, The Korean War of 1950 to 1953 and Operation Musketeer in 1956 (Suez Crisis). During the Korean War we had both the late WW2 Churchill, Cromwell and Comet tanks as well as the newer Centurion facing off against T34-85s and IS2s. During Musketeer, the Cemturion faced off against a plethora of tanks such as Shermans and Chaffees, T34/85s, Su100s and T54s, also against the fearsome IS-3, which the Centurion’s 20 pounder made mincemeat of.

John Clark
John Clark
8 months ago
Reply to  DaveyB

Fair point Davey, but if we use a modern context, we have been requested to provide an armoured brigade of 100 plus MBT’s on two occasions in the last 30 years. We managed this and the assembled division was a very capable asset, on both occasions. If the number drops to 150 in total, we can no longer deploy armour in a meaningful way. Deploying 40 would be a ‘huge’ stretch, that would make us little more than a token side show in a US led military operation. 150 is simply way below critical mass and hard to justify keeping… Read more »

Ron5
Ron5
8 months ago
Reply to  John Clark

“Critical mass” is defined by the task.

ChariotRider
ChariotRider
8 months ago
Reply to  John Clark

The Uk’s airborne anti-tank capability is pretty impressive at the moment and SPEAR 3 will carry that forward, but like any airborne system it is not a persistent capability, especially in the presence of a capable air defence network such that the Russians have had in the past (and I believe still do have a significant if reduced capability). When the air cover is back at base refueling and re-arming enemy armour (complete with its own version of Iron Fist) can come out and give our lightly armoured forces a hard time. As for cost – the current Brimstone weapon… Read more »

Glass Half Full
Glass Half Full
8 months ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

I do think we fall into the trap of just thinking about what the UK brings to the party though. In an Article 5 response everyone’s invited. But let’s leave out the US for the moment because its too easy just to rely on their capabilities. Do we think that NATO air attack/cover couldn’t be persistent? And we shouldn’t lose sight of what that capability would look like with F-35’s from the UK, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Netherlands, Italy and in future Poland, directing attacks from Gen4/4.5 Eurofighter and Rafale, initially primarily focused on degrading A2AD and then anti-armour, using weapons… Read more »

rfn_weston
rfn_weston
8 months ago
Reply to  Geoffrey Roach

The Amy is in a laughable (or cryable) state.

rfn_weston
rfn_weston
8 months ago
Reply to  rfn_weston

Sorry *Army*… Amy is doing just fine

BV Buster
BV Buster
8 months ago
Reply to  rfn_weston

You were correct the first time round, Amey (Ex CarillionAmey) is laughable.

peter
peter
8 months ago
Reply to  rfn_weston

Spare parts plentiful now then?

peter
peter
8 months ago
Reply to  Geoffrey Roach

They have raised the re-enlistment age to 57 yrs so should be no problem lol

BV Buster
BV Buster
8 months ago

Well isn’t this an interesting and fun discussion, so much more interesting than floaty of flying things. The Challenger 2 is 100% getting a RM L-55 smoothbore in a newly manufactured turret with new sights and turret architecture and sights, its armour will be in a class of its own and will have the same mobility as most other tanks. The upgrade was forced due to the limited performance of the rifled gun that had reached the end of its development life. These upgrades have mostly been budgeted for (ish). Having worked with most of the tanks in service round… Read more »

DaveyB
DaveyB
8 months ago
Reply to  BV Buster

Mate, you got my vote! The one thing we needed in Afghan was a piece of ordnance that was mobile and could blow holes in the metre thick mud brick walls. Having watched a Scimitar drill perfect 30mm holes in one, followed up by numerous breech charge frames, the surprise was kind of over by the time we got in and the people we were after had buggered off down a escape tunnel. On a number of occasions when working with the Canadians we used their Leopards for door knocking and were a lot more successful. Granted the tank was… Read more »

BV Buster
BV Buster
8 months ago
Reply to  DaveyB

I worked with the Danish Leo2s in Afghan and it absolutely dominated wherever it went, most contacts stopped once they turned up. CR2 not going to Afghan was based purely on cost and later on not admitting they were wrong in the first place, the line from the MOD of not destroying infrastructure was just made up. You will be surprised to here that I have plenty of operational experience on CR2, which is odd for a 15 year old Chinese kid, and although it wasn’t designed to fight in a city it really does excel at it. I’m not… Read more »

Ron5
Ron5
8 months ago
Reply to  BV Buster

150 is a figure that’s often quoted as being the minimum required for two AI brigades plus training. Forward basing is usually dismissed as being too expensive and rather lacks flexibility. Keeping unmodded Ch2’s at least gives the opportunity for future upgrades so I personally wouldn’t be so quick in disposing of them.

BV Buster
BV Buster
8 months ago
Reply to  Ron5

The issue with that we can no longer use the tanks because no one is trained to use them and will take months to modify, the only thing that is the same is the hull, most other kit is new. I suppose if you strip them down and disposed of the turret and other kit, putting the needed kit on storage, hopefully one day more cash could be made available for more waggons. Bare minimum numbers based on current plans of just 2 MBT regiments (hopefully that will change) will be dependant on the regimental structure, so anything from 74… Read more »

Ron5
Ron5
8 months ago
Reply to  BV Buster

We’ll see, the contract won’t be ready for a few months.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
8 months ago
Reply to  BV Buster

Good analysis as always.

Thank you.

peter
peter
8 months ago
Reply to  BV Buster

With a longer breach and larger calibre a rifled gun would be better, however this is too expensive to develop for a limited number of tanks. Your logic would make artillery smooth-bore ?

BV Buster
BV Buster
8 months ago
Reply to  peter

A gun is designed around is primary service ammunition, so in the case of an MBT the APFSDS round and in the case of Arty, it would be the HE round. APFSDS performs way better when fired from a smoothbore, a spinning projectile penetrates less armour than a none spinning projectile and has a higher velocity for a given charge. APFSDS round fired from a rifled gun have slipping rings to reduce the rotation much the same as French HEAT rounds had for its guns. A HE round is all about volume, how much high explosive can you cram into… Read more »

Jon
Jon
8 months ago

These proposal are minimalist upgrades at best (replacing 2nd gen thermal optics with 3rd gen, when 4th gen is now available!). Without replacing the rifled 120mm main armament with the Rheinmetall 120mm there will be zero increase of amour penetration capability. A much more significant upgrade and future proofing would be to replace the main 120mm with the new Rheinmetall 130mm. The new next gen Russian T-14 Armata cannot be penetrated by current NATO MBT’s at 3000+ meters. This is why Rheinmetall developed the new 130mm (very likely to be used on the new German, French co-op next gen MBT).… Read more »

Adrian
Adrian
8 months ago

A lot of people are talking about acquiring foreign tanks – Leapord 2A4-6s, Merkarvas etc. I think part of the rational of the Challenger is the pride & prestige of a British designed and built mbt. Since Britain is no longer a world dominating imperial power – the importance of this pride and prestige in decision making could be reduced. There are however additional advantages to home-grown products, as it enhances local industry and creates a precedent – as seen in WW2 – you can’t always rely on imported products, some things have to be built locally. Large MBTs as… Read more »

BV Buster
BV Buster
8 months ago
Reply to  Adrian

We should 100% be making our own kit, people complain about buying expensive British military equipment. When the money is flowing back into the economy, not just directly in tax receipts but in the wages of everyone remotely linked to the product it works out cheaper in the long run. I don’t agree with you about MBTs being on the decline, the Americans have just invested a huge sum of money into the M1 to keep it in service for the next few decades, also the M109 has had a massive and expensive upgrade, this is in fact the Americans… Read more »

Adrian
Adrian
8 months ago
Reply to  BV Buster

Yeah what you’re saying makes sense, although I think there’s a distinction between upgrading/modernising current systems & replacing them altogether. This can be best seen with attitudes to aircraft by comparison – as the US was looking to the future of air warfare beyond the F35 even before those jets were in mass production. Tanks however – I’m only seeing upgrades – no long term replacement plans. Sure countries like Russia are still actively developing tanks but that’s likely an attempt to keep pace with modern MBTs since the majority of their armour is 1970s era. Although the Russian strategic… Read more »