Rheinmetall BAE Systems Land has been awarded an £800 million ($1.13 billion) contract to upgrade the British Army’s Challenger 2 main battle tank fleet.
The upgrade of 148 Cold War-era Challengers is part of the UK military’s restructuring plan to reduce the number of tanks from the current 227 to 148.
The plan also calls for shedding the number of soldiers in the army from the current 82,040 to 72,500 by 2025.
“The Integrated Review described a transformed Army that will be more lethal, better protected, and better connected than any of its comparators,” Lieutenant General Chris Tickell, Deputy Chief of the General Staff said in a statement from the UK Ministry of Defense (MoD).
“…Its (Challenger 3) digital open architecture will ensure that it is integrated across the battlefield, its main armament will overmatch its adversaries and the crew will be afforded a unique level of protection. It is a battle winner.”
In addition to being connected with other combat vehicles on the battlefield, the platform’s modular design will allow commanders “an enhanced survivability suite capable of taking on any battlefield threats,” the MoD statement added.
The Challenger 3 will be a “network-enabled, digital Main Battle Tank with state-of-the-art lethality, upgraded survivability, plus world-class surveillance and target acquisition capabilities,” the Telford, UK-headquartered defense manufacturer said in a statement.
New Gun, Protection Suit
The upgrade from 2021-2027 will see the tanks being equipped with a new L55 120mm smoothbore main gun that can fire more accurate and penetrative “kinetic anti-tank rounds and programmable multi-purpose ammunition,” another statement from Düsseldorf-based Rheinmetall revealed.
The tank’s new turret structure will provide better protection to the crew while its main optical sights will improve “the target acquisition and tracking capability of both the commander and gunner,” the statement added.
The upgrade will extend the platform’s retirement date to 2040. It will also provide 200 skilled jobs, including 130 engineers and 70 technicians, in the UK, along with a further 450 jobs in the supply chain “across the West Midlands, Glasgow, Newcastle upon Tyne and the Isle of Wight.”