Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank (UK)

Design work on the Challenger 2 started as a private venture by Vickers Defence Systems in November 1986 and in March 1987 it made its first presentation to the UK MoD. In February 1988, Vickers had refined the design to a point where it submitted a formal proposal to the MoD following the issuing of Staff Requirement 4026, which called for a tank to replace the remaining Chieftains still in service at that time. Both Vickers and General Dynamics Land Systems put in firm production proposals to the UK MoD in mid-1988. In December it was announced that Vickers would be awarded a £90 million fixed-price contract to undertake a demonstration phase (also known as a proof-of-principle phase) which was to last until the end of September 1990. A vital part of this contract was in showing that both a depleted uranium projectile and a new charge system could be developed for the Royal Ordnance 120mm CHARM gun within the timescale required.
Challenger 2 Tank
Challenger 2 on active service in Bosnia

Challenger 2 Tank
Challenger 2 on a training exercise in Poland

Work progressed on the design, which was more-or-less completed by August 1989 with work starting on building the nine prototypes. This had been virtually completed by August 1990 with Vickers completing the demonstration phase on time at the end of September 1990. In June 1991, the Challenger 2 was selected over US (M1 Abrams), German (Leopard 2) and French (Leclerc) rivals and a contract worth £520 million was placed to produce 140 tanks (including 13 driver training tanks). Full production started in 1993 and the Challenger 2 was formerly accepted for service with the British Army on 16 May 1994. Challenger 2 is the first British tank since the Second World War to have been exclusively designed, developed and produced by a contractor with set reliability goals set down in the fixed-price contract. Vickers was awarded a second contract in July 1994 to build an additional 259 Challenger 2 tanks and nine driver training tanks. With the downsizing of the British Army after the end of the Cold War this will mean that all British Army tank regiments will be equipped with Challenger 2, not a mixture of Challenger 1 and 2 as originally intended. Around 288 of the surplus Challenger 1s are being exported to Jordan. The only export customer so far has been Oman who placed a contract worth £140 million in July 1993, and a second contract in November 1997 worth £100 million to buy a total of 38 Challenger 2s, four Challenger Armoured Repair and Recovery Vehicles, two driver training tanks and four Alvis Stormer command post vehicles. The turret is of a new design and both it and the hull incorporate second generation Chobham armour. The layout is similar to the Challenger 1 with the commander and gunner seated on the right and loader on the left. The NBC system is in the turret bustle and fully meets all known threats. The crew environmental control system provides both warm and cold air, the first time such a system has been installed on a British MBT. The main gun is a 120mm L30A1 55 calibre rifled weapon, made of ESR steel, autofrettaged, chrome lined (the first British tank gun to have such a lining to lengthen barrel life and greater consistency in accuracy) and fires all current 120mm ammunition with the exception of the old APDS round. It also fires a new depleted uranium round (L27A1) with a new charge (L17A1). Coaxially mounted is a 7.62mm Boeing Company chain gun (designated L94A1) which is also used on the Warrior MICV and the loader has an externally mounted 7.62mm L37A2 machine gun. The fire control system has the latest generation digital computer from Computing Devices Canada and is an improved version of what is mounted on the M1A1 Abrams. The commander has a roof-mounted SFIM stabilised sight which is similar to the device mounted on the French Leclerc MBT and gives 360 degree vision without moving the head. The gunner's sight is a roof-mounted stabilised device developed by Pilkington Optronics and SAGEM of France and includes day optics, thermal image input and a laser rangefinder and is capable of x3 and x10 magnification in day mode. The Challenger 2 is powered by a Perkins Engine Company 12-cylinder diesel developing 1,200 hp and is coupled with a David Brown TN54 transmission. The Omani Challenger 2s have a number of modifications to suit operations in the Middle East such as a modified water cooling system and airflow, larger radiators, and the replacement of the 7.62mm machine gun with a 12.7mm one. The Challenger 2E has been developed by Vickers for the export market and includes minor modifications as well as the MTU diesel Europower pack (1,500 hp).

Hull length: 8.33m. Hull width: 3.52m (with skirts). Height: 2.49m. Crew: 4. Ground Clearance: 0.5m. Weight: 62,500kg (combat). Ground pressure: 0.9kg/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 loader's cupola.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Foss, Christopher. 'Challenger 2E keeps alive Vickers tank export hopes' in Jane's Defence Weekly, 9 February 2000, p. 28.
Foss, Christopher. 'Oman to get final Challenger 2s this year' in Jane's Defence Weekly, 16 August 2000, p. 12.
Kemp, Ian. 'Challenger 2: the UK's tank choice' in Jane's Defence Weekly, 29 June 1991, p. 1162.
Pictures granted for use by the MoD Picture Library. They remain Crown Copyright
How to cite this article: Antill, P. (23 February 2001), Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank (UK), http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_challenger2.html

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