The U.K Army’s main battle tank (the Challenger 2) is yet to receive any significant capability upgrades, leaving it outmatched by potential adversaries such as the Russian ‘Armata’ tank, the House of Commons Committee on Defence has commented.
The committee commented last week while announcing the launch of a new inquiry into the procurement and use of Armoured Fighting Vehicles in the British Army.
The British Army’s current fleet of Armoured Fighting Vehicles (AFVs) is characterised by increasing age and creeping obsolescence. Vehicles such as the FV430 series armoured personnel carrier have been in service since the 1960s (albeit with a number of life extension upgrades). The main armoured infantry vehicle (Warrior) was introduced in the late 1980s, while the Army’s main battle tank (the Challenger 2) has been in service for around 20 years.
“The Army also needs to procure lightly armoured vehicles (the Multi-Role Vehicle Protected - MRVP) to replace light vehicles which were proven to be lethally inadequate in Afghanistan and to consider the replacement of the AS-90 self-propelled gun. With the exception of protected vehicles required for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and a small number of specialist engineering vehicles the Army has not received a new armoured vehicle since the turn of the century,” the committee noted.
Over £3 billion was spent on these vehicles via the Urgent Operational Requirements process. The majority are now being disposed of via the Land Environment Fleet Optimisation Plan.
To address these issues, the Ministry of Defence has in place a series of programmes which have encountered a number of difficulties:
The programs contribute to the fulfilment of the Army’s current vision for its future and the ability to deploy an armoured division as part of the MOD’s Joint Force 2025 objective.
The committee has set September 4, 2020, as deadline for written submissions to check progress in delivering the British Army’s armoured vehicle capability.
Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank
The tank is designed for use in the direct fire zone. Its primary role is to destroy or neutralise armour. However it has the ability to engage both hard and soft targets and can operate across a spectrum of high intensity conflict, counter insurgency and peace keeping roles.
The vehicle is equipped with an L30 120mm rifled tank gun, firing both long rod penetrator and High Explosive Squash Head (HESH) ammunition natures. Secondary armaments are provided with a 7.62mm co-axial chain gun and a 7.62mm pintle mounted General Purpose Machine Gun.
Optical and thermal imager sights are provided for both the Commander and Gunner, including an independent 360 degree panoramic sight for the Commander. The sighting systems, turret and gun are fully stabilised enabling rapid target engagement when static and on the move.
Mobility is provided through a 12-cylinder, 1,200hp Perkins CV12 diesel engine with a David Brown TN54 gearbox, providing six forward and two reverse gears. A double pin track with Hydrogas suspension and a Hydraulic Track Tensioner provide platform stability covering flat road surfaces through to rough cross country terrain.
Challenger 2 has successfully supported British Army operations in Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq, as part of which, various survivability, lethality and situational awareness improvements were incorporated under Urgent Operational Requirement projects.
The Challenger 2 Life Extension Project (LEP) is a UK MOD contract to remove obsolescence from Challenger 2 and extend its out-of-service date by ten years to 2035. As well as removing obsolescence, there will be the opportunity to make further capability enhancements. The upgraded tank will be referred to as Challenger 2 Mark 2.