The British Army’s Challenger 2 main battle tank programme continues its attempts to modernise and retrofit existing vehicles.

Forecast International is a major provider of ‘Market Intelligence and Consulting in the areas of aerospace, defence, power systems and military electronics’. They recently discussed the Challenger 2 upgrape programme.

“On October 19, 2010, the U.K.’s Conservative-led coalition government unveiled its Strategic Defence and Security Review, which mandated reducing the British Army’s active Challenger 2 main battle tank fleet by 40 percent.

The British Army’s Royal Armoured Corps no longer has any deployed Challenger tanks. Furthermore, the RAC has had to cut funding for Challenger activity (including participation in large scale exercises), Challenger upgrade efforts, and maintenance/logistics support.”

While the 2015 SDSR promised that the size of British the Army would be retained, the service was reconfigured as two armored infantry brigades and two new rapid reaction strike brigades. The SDSR offered no specific relief to the funding shortfalls imposed on the Challenger program by the 2010 SDSR, however.

According to Forecast International:

“In October 2012, the MoD launched a concept phase to determine the scope of a Challenger 2 Life Extension Program. The intent of the LEP is to upgrade the 227 remaining active Challenger 2 tanks, at a projected cost of GBP500 million ($802 million). The primary focus of the LEP is reportedly to address “obsolescence issues” concerning the Challenger 2’s fire control system and electronic architecture in order to keep the remaining active Challenger 2s in service through 2035.”

Like the FV4034 Challenger 1 during Operation Desert Storm, the Challenger 2 earned an enviable combat record during Operation Telic.

Indeed, the Forecast International Weapons Group regards the Challenger 2 as “one of the best combat-proven main battle tanks available today, after the M1A2 Abrams SEP and the Merkava Mk IV. With the desired retrofit of the NATO standard 120mm Rh 120/55 smoothbore main armament, the Challenger 2 will equal the M1A2 Abrams SEP by any measure”.

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Dern
Dern
1 month ago

Well it won’t equal the M1’s fuel consumption, but I’m thinking that’s a good thing XD

Nigel Collins
Nigel Collins
1 month ago

I wonder if we will join this programme going forward? Australia appears to be in the process of upgrading its fleet of tanks with Abrahams from the US.

https://www.defensenews.com/global/europe/2021/01/11/british-military-looks-to-the-eurotank-as-it-weighs-its-hardware-options/

Last edited 1 month ago by Nigel Collins
RobW
RobW
1 month ago
Reply to  Nigel Collins

I read that the Germans wanted us in this programme but the French were not so keen as they wanted it to be an EU only venture. That was just to give us observer status so you can imagine what would happen if we tried to join properly and gain work share.

Nigel Collins
Nigel Collins
1 month ago
Reply to  RobW

And in the meantime making good use of our Chinooks in Mali.

It’s good to have friends you can trust!

EURO MBT.jpg
Last edited 1 month ago by Nigel Collins
maurice10
maurice10
1 month ago
Reply to  Nigel Collins

An opportunity to join the all-new M1 would allow the UK to share in a programme that could result in thousands of vehicle being built. Having a percentage in such a programme would not only provide the UK Army with a brand-new MBT, but allow the exchequer to generate income? The American F35 is one such project which turned out to be favourable to the UK Government.

expat
expat
1 month ago
Reply to  maurice10

Yeah but we’re now backing out of our total F35 buy, so US will like want a firmer commitment up front or say no you can buy the finished article.

BB85
BB85
1 month ago
Reply to  expat

Our work share came from our initial investment of a couple of billion. Either way it was a good investment. The US eliminates a competitor and turns them into a customer. With Gdls investment more in its UK infrastructure there is no reason we could not win say 10 to 15% work share and benefit from economies of scale and continuous production for 20 plus years. If the French want to freeze the UK out its really our only option.

Hermes
Hermes
1 month ago
Reply to  Nigel Collins

It’s less against the brits than Rheinmetall. The workshare in the MGCS program is a mess since Rheinmetal is involved and the UK is a way too “pro rheinmetal” to being considered as a good thing for the french. Dont forget… The FCAS and the MGCS are an economical/strategic/politic european war between french and germans. I dont think it’s the best thing for UK to be involved in such mess for the moment… From the beg the french and germans have accepted a 50/50 workshare in the MGCS, then KNDS appear (French Nexter + German KMW). Everything was “fine” until… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Hermes
Peter S
Peter S
1 month ago

Has the contract been awarded yet? Rheinmetall jumped the gun with an announcement in March, but nothing since.
I still think spending nearly £9m per tank on the upgrade is a poor use of scarce funds. Tanks are most effective en masse and it would be better just to refurbish a larger number. If we really expect to use tanks in high end conflict, we need reserves. 148 are to be operational in the new structure, so we should aim for a total vehicle fleet of @300.
Still a low number by historic standards.

Quentin Drury
Quentin Drury
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter S

Hi Peter, I agree with you, 200-300 fully fitted out, whatever number is still combat worthy. If ever a conflict arises you can’t go in with small numbers, no reserves and half done at that. Supply lines, logistics, fuel, all will be targeted and a lot of our potential adversaries have an awful lot more of everything than what the UK and the West has. I hope the Army also recover something from the Warrior 40mm turret upgrade program. What a colossal waste of time and money. Why don’t they just get on with it and try and make it… Read more »

BB85
BB85
1 month ago
Reply to  Quentin Drury

Support and logistics cost the UK disproportionately much more than many of our European neigbours as they don’t need to ferry their armour thousands of miles to reach Eastern Europe. We should also expect a lot of that logistical support to be provided by Europe if we are deployed there. Numbers don’t count for much if the technology is completely out date. Sadam has over 1,000 MBTs and they where obliterated in a couple of weeks. Destroying enemy armour has been all about air dominance for decades now and armour is more for holding ground once the enemies armour is… Read more »

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
22 days ago
Reply to  BB85

We have the lift – HETs, rail flats and sea-lift – all bought and paid for. Its not a big deal – we have deployed tanks on overseas expeditionary ops since 1916, some very distant from these shores – Korea, Estonia, Kuwait, Suez, Balkans…

peter wait
peter wait
1 month ago
Reply to  Quentin Drury

CTA 40 ‘s 20,000 lbs of recoil would crack the hull welds, bushmaster 30 mm would have worked lol

Ian M.
Ian M.
1 month ago
Reply to  peter wait

Hi Peter, I have noticed that every time the CT40 is mentioned, regardless of context, you mention this “20,000lbs of recoil”. I’m curious as to your apparent bias against this weapon system? Might the engineers who developed this weapon have done some maths to determine whether or not this recoil force is damaging? Cheers

peter wait
peter wait
30 days ago
Reply to  Ian M.

Read the 1996 American defence dept report into CTA which the American Airforce lab worked on since the 1950’s, it failed to produce a usable weapon. This was despite spending over $200 million. Recoil , barrel life and jamming were problems and the round cost more than 105 mm ones. Since no buffers are used the barrel wobbles reducing accuracy in burst firing !

Ian M.
Ian M.
29 days ago
Reply to  peter wait

Hi Peter, if a 25 year old report is what you’re basing your statements on then I’m afraid that’s a major flaw in your argument. Admittedly, the rounds are currently pretty expensive per shot but the economies of scale are yet to appear. Barrel bend occurs in all weapons to some extent or another, often mitigated by a barrel sleeve. Even the 120mm CHARM on a Chally 2 has barrel bend. Recoil on the CT40 weapon is controlled by two buffer/recuperators that act to dissipate the recoil forces. Burst firing would only be used with the HE or Airburst rounds… Read more »

John Clark
John Clark
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter S

Quite Peter, to few to actually be of any real use anyway…. The Army tank mafia and its supporters in parliament ensured a corps of heavy armour was retained …. Hollowed out to the point of useless and draining funds that should be used for air deployable (and actually usable) assets. I fully expect them to get the chop in SDSR 2025/6, when the utter pointlessness of an island nation maintaining a paltry handful of MBT’s might finally hit home! the trouble is no-one quite had the balls to put a bullet in Challenger 2’s head this time round, just… Read more »

BobA
BobA
1 month ago
Reply to  John Clark

I’m sorry @John Clark, but your notion of how Land power should and could be used is just non-sensical. Heavy Armour is still pivotal to success in major power conflict – there is no amount of air assets alone that can genuinely blunt an armoured thrust. The game of major combat is combined arms manoeuvre (in all domains). Air mobility has never been a viable option for any massed force; it’s not that you can’t move armoured assets by air, it’s that you can’t move them by air fast enough, you can’t move the bulk of the fuel and ammunition… Read more »

John Clark
John Clark
1 month ago
Reply to  BobA

Hi Bob, I respect your position, but with 150 tanks,we have effectively written ourselves out of the play. The argument for retaining 150 simply ins’t valid. I would be agreeing with you if we had kept 225 units, but with 150, we would be barely able to deploy 40 (that would be a stretch), that’s no good to man nor beast. If we wanted to deploy alongside uncle Sam, with a small armoured Brigade of bespoke tanks that cant utilise the US support system then our Uncle Sam will simply say, don’t bother…. On a wider note, modern and emerging… Read more »

Tim
Tim
1 month ago
Reply to  John Clark

In Kosovo the coalition bombed the hell out of the Serbs apparels destroying there armoured formations with air superiority yet when the Serbs left Kosovo there was convoys of tanks leaving air superiority doesn’t mean you will destroy all the tanks

John Clark
John Clark
1 month ago
Reply to  Tim

The technology has moved on ‘a lot’ since 1999 Tim.

Spear3 is just one of the new generation of stand off intelligent munitions that really do make tanks little more than mobile death traps for their crews, especially against a country like the UK in the next 5 years .

Last edited 1 month ago by John Clark
Tim
Tim
1 month ago
Reply to  John Clark

It’s not moved on so much that u can’t reverse a tank into a house to hide it which is what they did

John Clark
John Clark
22 days ago
Reply to  Tim

Good luck hiding an entire armoured Brigade, that’s a lot of houses!

Peter S
Peter S
1 month ago
Reply to  John Clark

If MBTs are really as vulnerable to Brimstone type missiles as you suggest, then less well protected vehicles ( everything else in fact) have no chance at all. Logically, this would imply abandoning mechanised forces entirely and relying on dispersal and concealment. But no-one is following this approach. The answer is to enhance mobile air defence of land forces, whether countering drones or strike aircraft. There is an interesting article on this on the UK Land power website. I do agree that having just 148 MBTs may be pointless. Even worse, although the announced combat brigade structure looks reasonable, the… Read more »

John Clark
John Clark
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter S

We can only hope Peter….

148 is a pointless number, just a drain on the defence budget, ‘so’ far below critical mass, as to be practically worthless.

If I was Germany and Poland, I would be heavily investing in Spear3 type weapons in very large numbers.

Enough weapons in stock and you could stop a Russian armoured offensive in its tracks.

Rogbob
Rogbob
1 month ago
Reply to  John Clark

Show your working for “critical mass”. Please let it be something other than “what we have plus more because more must be better”…

You realise we have 2 operational Regiments with c.50 tanks each? So 148 is a near 50% reserve.

I can’t think of anything else we have such a healthy reserve of tbh.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
22 days ago
Reply to  Peter S

If all those Boxers that will replace Warriors have a stabilised 35-40mm cannon, protection levels similar to that of Warrior Modular Protection System (WMPS) and vetronics as good as Warrior Enhanced Electronic Architecture (WEEA), then maybe we could muddle through and deliver acceptable combined arms warfare.
[Need other stuff too, though – mobile mortars, armoured ambulances, upgraded AS90 or a replacement (Mobile Fires Programme?) etc etc].

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
1 month ago
Reply to  John Clark

I don’t see that we could only deploy 40 tanks out of a 148-strong fleet. I was in REME for 34 years – we had to keep availability at 70% at all times, increasing to 90% after 24 hrs concerted work.

John Clark
John Clark
1 month ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

Basically Graham, the plan is for two active Brigades, one in training and one active = 50 MBT’s deployable at any one time..

That’s the plan I believe, I suppose at full stretch, with enough warning, they could deploy both Brigades…..

Can’t see that happening though….

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
22 days ago
Reply to  John Clark

Hi Bob, I agreefully that 148 tanks is a fraction of the force we had but don’t see that we could only deploy 40 of those at most – where do you get that from? When I was in the army we had to have 70% of Field Force equipment ready to go as soon as they were bombed up, rising to 90% after 24hrs of REME work on them. We deployed 221 tanks to Theatre in GW1, enabling the fielding of a 2-brigade armoured division – sad that we could not do that again. But we should be able… Read more »

John Clark
John Clark
22 days ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

The point being Graham, is that with only two Challenger equipped Brigades of 50 tanks, then one will be training, one will be deployed / deployable … That’s apparently the plan. So if we borrowed fully combat ready tanks and crew from the other Brigade, ‘maybe’ we could scratch together 80 total, at an absolute push…. The larger issue you will have, will be the lack of combat ready, deployable crews with only two Brigades. They are clearly only planning on deploying a single one. My thoughts on this are, a typically US led armoured ‘Gulf war type’ deployment, the… Read more »

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
1 month ago
Reply to  John Clark

This island nation invented the tank and has always deployed it abroad in expeditionary warfare. What does it matter that we are an island nation? We need tanks to play a part in alliance operations overseas which involve heavy metal. We are a global military power.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
22 days ago
Reply to  John Clark

We have used tanks many times since WW2. Chalk and cheese I know but how many actual shooting wars has the Navy been in recently? When did the RAF last do dogfighting? Yet no-one wants to consider naval platforms or manned fighters as ‘not useful’.
This anti-tank sentiment is most baffling. Ask the Russians, Chinese, North Koreans or Iranins if they are going to scrap their tanks anytime soon.

peter wait
peter wait
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter S

Thought ajax was coming in at 7 million lol

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
22 days ago
Reply to  Peter S

Its not £9m per tank. Its £500m for 148 tanks, so £3.37m a pop. Still big money and we have to wait 9 years for FOC (2030). Tanks will need an upgrade then!
We fielded 221 tanks in GW1 and still had others in BATUS, Trg Org, Germany, Depot stock etc – we can’t do that again.

John N
John N
1 month ago

Here’s the full details of the US DSCA announcement for the upgraded tank fleet for the Australian Army:

https://www.dsca.mil/press-media/major-arms-sales/australia-heavy-armored-combat-systems

Cheers,

Sean the real Sean
Sean the real Sean
1 month ago
Reply to  John N

Do you know why were buying so many ? 160 hulls and assault breaches versions , where are we going to find the men when the navy is looking at another 6 frigates on top of what is already ordered .

Moksha
Moksha
1 month ago

As per the press release “…The M1A2 SEPv3 Main Battle Tanks will upgrade the current Australian fleet of M1A1 SA tanks with no changes to Royal Australian Armoured Corps force structure. …”

Please see – https://dtrmagazine.com
It’s a strange way to provide a blog but it is informative.
Download the May edition and see page 6 onwards to understand the hull numbers.

In “Back Issues” various past editions carry articles on LAND 907 phases 1, 2 and 3.

Gavin Gordon
Gavin Gordon
1 month ago

RUSI rep on Forces Net 5th saying Chally 2 chassis OK but gun, electronics, communications and protection levels not up to snuff i.e. the tank. Well, yes, I suppose that’s why the MOD/GS has been pondering a Chally 3 concept for a decade or two. So surely the good news to take away from the article is that they’re hot on the delivery of the replacement, sort of like how C1 morphed in C2. Err, no. ‘Design is still in the it’s Early Stages(!) and unlikely to be seen for half a decade’. Nowadays I interpret the last as ‘this… Read more »

AlexS
AlexS
1 month ago

“Forecast International Weapons Group regards the Challenger 2 as “one of the best combat-proven main battle tanks available today, after the M1A2 Abrams SEP and the Merkava Mk IV. ”

Uh! I will put Leclerc, last Leopards, last Russian tank, Merkava III, last Chinese, Korean and Japanese tanks above current Challenger.

DaveC267
DaveC267
1 month ago

It’s like everything this country does when challenger 2 first came out and for a few years it was the best tank for defence of its crew and one of the best for offence with its rifled barrel, smooth bore you fired and hoped it hit its target, but advances in shell/missile rifled barrel got left behind. But as with this country we’ve something good instead of making small advancements its left to become obsolete. Its the same as the Harrier instead of building on that we’ve ended up with a expensive white elephant that has loads of problems f35.… Read more »

AlexS
AlexS
1 month ago
Reply to  DaveC267

Agreed.

Meirion X
Meirion X
1 month ago
Reply to  DaveC267

The F-35 is flying Successfully! A white elephant, does Not fly! All newly developed aircraft have lots problems in the begin with, so was the Harrier, a laughing stock in the 1970’s! And a high rate of crashes as well!

Last edited 1 month ago by Meirion X
DaveC267
DaveC267
1 month ago
Reply to  Meirion X

You’ve missed the point harriers are still flying today with the US marines. I’m saying this country doesn’t build on things we invent as for the f35 it has flying costs twice as dear as other fighters this country can’t afford to fly it. It will end up sitting on the flight deck of our carriers looking pretty a white elephant, this is because this country did not fit cat and traps to the carriers.

grizzler
grizzler
1 month ago
Reply to  DaveC267

Yep I agree very shortsighted in continuous development and too easily influenced by our friends across the pond.in everything from aircraft to computers to satalites & rockets – its painful when you look back at our demise .
As for the carrier I have never understood that decision to end up totally tied to one aircraft with reduced capability.Still EMALS seems a bag of crap so not sure what the answer was- apart from nuclear & a steam catobar of course- but thats another oft repeated argument.

Last edited 1 month ago by grizzler
McZ
McZ
1 month ago
Reply to  DaveC267

I think, you’re missing the point. First, the operating cost of the F-35 has gone down from 43k to 35k $ in barely four years. It’s targeted to reach 25k $ by 2025. Those are USAF numbers. A F-35B can deliver two times the weapons over two times the combat range, optionally supersonic with supercruise. It can guide a group of loyal wingman drones, which will lower the cost of the overall combat system. It can break into highly contested airspace. It can do all what is required in a 21st century battle space. The Harrier cannot. If the US… Read more »

peter wait
peter wait
30 days ago
Reply to  Meirion X

The Americans have reported that engine life is shorter than expected and one us version with built in cannon is on limited use due to it causing cracks !

DaveyB
DaveyB
1 month ago

My two pennies worth. I have a cousin who was in the REME and attached to the Scots during Gulf War 2 and subsequently in the follow on police actions in and around Basra. He was part of the team that were maintaining and repairing the Challenger 2s. He was in charge of the team that rebuilt the two Challengers that had been hit by multiple RPGs and Milans. He stated quite clearly, no other tank could take that punishment and be back out on the streets in 48 hours. This is one of the things people forget about Challenger.… Read more »

DaveC267
DaveC267
1 month ago
Reply to  DaveyB

I’m glad to see someone else appreciate the challenger 2 if it was upgraded on a regular basis it would be a world leader instead of us playing catch up. We’ll have to see if they implement a full upgrade or just give it a paint job. This and past governments big on words small on actions.

Ian M.
Ian M.
1 month ago
Reply to  DaveyB

Well said Mr Davey B.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
22 days ago

This article does not reference the Defence Command Paper published in March ’21 but references the 2010 and 2015 Reviews instead.There is far more of an update to be had about CR2 LEP (or CR3) in the Command Paper. Has the CR2 squadron been withdrawn from Estonia now as the article says none are deployed.