Challenger Main Battle Tank (UK)

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The development of the Challenger MBT was influenced by a number of factors. Firstly, by the mid-1970s, Chieftain had been in widespread service with British Army for almost ten years and the MoD had started to look at its replacement. Such a tank should come into service in the mid-1980s to counter the new Soviet tanks that were being fielded (such as the T-72 and T-64) and those that were in the pipeline (the T-80). Secondly, new advances in armour protection had been pioneered, particularly the invention of 'Chobham' armour by Dr Gilbert Harvey at the Fighting Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (FVRDE). This was later to be renamed the Military Vehicles and Engineering Establishment (MVEE) and eventually become part of the Royal Armament Research and Development Establishment (RADRE) at Chertsey, after almalgamating with the already existing facility at Fort Halstead. 'Chobham' armour (as it became known to the public) was made up of ceramic and metal composites and gave superior protection against both HEAT and AP tank rounds. Thirdly, the attempt by the governments of the UK and Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) to develop a single design in an attempt at standardisation within NATO failed (as had the joint US-FRG MBT-70 project). Fourthly, another major order from the Imperial Iranian Army had been received. It was for 125 Shir 1 tanks (an improved Chieftain FV4030/2) and for 1,225 Shir 2 (FV4030/3) tanks. Extensive development work went into these vehicles, but the fall of the Shah of Iran led to the cancellation of the contract in February 1979. Fortunately, the Royal Jordanian Army stepped in with an order for 274 FV4030/2, which it named the Khalid MBT.

Challenger Tank
Challenger Tank
These factors led to the consideration of acquiring the Shir 2 for the British Army as opposed to the procurement of the two other contenders, the XM1 (M1 Abrams) and the Leopard 2. Such an order was attractive for both political and economic reasons and it had the additional advantage of sharing significant commonality with the Chieftain. It did not meet the longer term operational requirement though, particularly in respect of its fire control systems, and thus a new project was started, the MBT-80, which was to draw on the advances and designs from the Anglo-German programme. The programme ran into delays however, and it became apparent that the British Army would not receive a Chobham protected tank until the start of the 1990s. It was therefore decided to cancel the MBT-80 project but leave a research programme in place to identify an eventual replacement for Chieftain and accept limited numbers of FV4030/3, now named Challenger, into service. Trials continued at the Military Vehicles and Engineering Establishment (MVEE, formerly RARDE) and the Armoured Trials and Development Unit (ADTU) at Bovington. The Challenger was accepted for service on 14 December 1982 with the proviso that solutions be found to a number of problem areas, including the main engine generator drive, Neodymium YAG tank laser sight, tools and test equipment, TN37 gearbox and the No 79 sight. Challenger entered service on 12 April 1983 with The Royal Hussars, and a total of 420 were built between 1983 and 1990. Challenger is of similar layout to the Chieftain with the commander and gunner on the right of the turret, the loader on the left and the driver to the front. The driver has a single piece hatch cover with a wide-angle periscope that can be replaced by a Pilkington Optronics Badger passive periscope for night driving. The commander has a modified No. 15 cupola (designated No. 32) with a No. 37 day sight, which again can be quickly replaced with a Rank Pullin image intensification swap sight. The Challenger and Chieftain tanks were eventually fitted with the Thermal Observation and Gunnery Sight (TOGS) from Barr & Stroud (now Pilkington Optronics). Challengers are equipped with a battery of five electrically fired smoke grenade dischargers. It is equipped with the L11A5 120mm rifled tank gun and can carry up to 42 charges and 64 projectiles.. A 7.62mm L8A2 machine gun is mounted coaxially with the main armament and a 7.62mm L37A2 machine gun is mounted on the commander's cupola. It has the GEC-Marconi Improved Fire Control System and No. 10 Mk. 1 laser sight. It is powered by a Perkins Engines Company Condor V-12 1200 diesel (1,200 bhp) and has a David Brown TN37 transmission. The Challenger has six aluminium road wheels on each side, with idler, drive sprocket and two return rollers and has side skirts for added protection. Under a government-to-government agreement signed in March 1999, the UK is transferring 288 Challengers to the Royal Jordanian Army to replace the Tariq fleet (improved 105mm armed Centurion tanks) where it will be known as the Al Hussein. The Challengers will help standardise the Jordanian tank fleet which also operates some 274 Khalid MBTs which were based on the Chieftain MBT.

Hull length: 8.33m. Hull width: 3.52m (with skirts). Height: 2.95m. Crew: 4. Ground Clearance: 0.5m. Weight: 62,000kg (combat). Ground pressure: 0.97kg/sq.cm. Max speed: 56km/h. Max range (internal fuel): up to 450km on road. Armament: 120mm rifled main gun, 1 x 7.62mm MG coaxial, 1 x 7.62mm MG on commander's cupola.

Challenger Main Battle Tank 1982 - 1997, Simon Dunstan, 1998, 1st Edition, Osprey Publishing, London, New Vanguard Series No. 23. cover cover cover

Foss, Christopher. 'Jordan to receive UK Challenger 1' in Jane's Defence Weekly, 22 September 1999, p. 21.
Foss, Christopher. 'More Challenger 1s sent to Jordan' in Jane's Defence Weekly, 27 September 2000, p. 21.
How to cite this article: Antill, P. (23 February 2001), Challenger Main Battle Tank (UK), http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_challenger.html
How to cite this article: Antill, P. (23 February 2001), Challenger Main Battle Tank (UK), http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_challenger.html

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