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MILITARY TECHNOLOGY (MILTECH) is the world's leading international tri-service defence monthly magazine in the English language. MILITARY TECHNOLOGY is "Required Reading for Defence Professionals". Follow us on Twitter: MILTECH1

12 August 2016

News in the CHALLENGER 2 Challenge

An effort by the British Army to extend the life of its CHALLENGER 2 MBT aims to keep 227 of the MBTs in service until 2035 and will see the replacement of most of the tanks electronics, including its sighting systems. The life extension programme (LEP), however, does not envisage a major upgrade of the vehicle's drive systems or replacement of the MBT's 120mm L30A1 rifled gun. Studies into upgrading lethality, survivability, power pack, and other systems will also  be part of the upcoming assessment phase contracts .

Rheinmetall has submitted a comprehensive offer to extend the life and substantially upgrade the capabilities of the British Army fleet of CHALLENGER 2 MBTs in response to the CHALLENGER 2 Life Extension Project (LEP) Request for Tender. (Graphic: Rheinmetall)

Some of the world’s top armoured vehicle suppliers have submitted bids to secure work under the programme’s assessment phase, which is valued at around £624 million. The MoD hopes to name two winning assessment phase teams around October 2016 to undertake a competitive two-year assessment phase ahead of awarding a development and manufacturing contract by around mid-2019. The contenders are:

  • BAE Systems and General Dynamics UK (GDUK) partnering in an industry consortium, which also includes Leonardo-Finmeccanica (formerly Selex ES), Moog, Safran Electronics, and GD Mission Systems
  • CMI Defence partnering with Ricardo UK
  • Krauss Maffei Wegmann (KMW), having submitted an earlier pre-qualification questionnaire to the UK MoD; 
  • Lockheed Martin UK teaming with with <Elbit Systems;
  • Rheinmetall,incorporating UK suppliers, including Supacat, Thales UK, and BMT, has put together an innovative proposal to enhance the capabilities of the MBT, e.g. by integrating either the existing 120mm L30 rifled gun or Rheinmetall’s 120mm L55 smooth bore system that is in service with the German Army and can fire the latest generation kinetic energy rounds and 120mm air-burst ammunition; and 
  • RUAG, bidding as a prime contractor, supported by a group of UK-based industrial partners, carrying out the work in the North of England.

The CHALLENGER 2 LEP is one of several armoured vehicle programmes the British Army has in its sights, budgets permitting, while the purchase of an 8x8 wheeled mechanized infantry vehicle (MIV) is expected to formally get underway after the summer and is the army’s top new programme priority.

GDUK is already producing 589 tracked AJAX family scout vehicles, and Lockheed Martin UK is developing a WARRIOR IFV sustainment programme ahead of an expected production contract. A protected-mobility vehicle programme is also in the works. With all this happening, the British Army’s existing plans suggest that in terms of armoured vehicle modernisation, the CHALLENGER is their lowest priority.

The British Chief of General Staff, Gen. Nick Carter, appointed Maj.Gen. Mark Gaunt as the senior responsible owner of the CHALLENGER LEP, officially known as the Armour (MBT) 2025 programme. It is understood that by April 2018 a decision will be made on whether to field a soft-kill, defensive-aids system.

In early July, the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) contracted Qinetiq to evaluate active-protection equipment for armoured vehicles for £7.6 million, including integrating the MUSS self protection system by Airbus Defence & Space (DS) Optronics on the CHALLENGER 2.

The British Army is also said to look at a series of projects, to examine value-for-money options to deliver MBT capability 2025-2035, including looking at a replacement for the CHALLENGER 2, i.e. choices for what might provide the capability beyond 2035.