Monday 15 July, 2024

Challenger 3 conducts live firings

The first live firings of the British Army’s future Challenger 3 main battle tank (MBT) have taken place in Germany this week.

Witnessed by UK Defence Procurement Minister, James Cartlidge, the live firing took place in northern Germany, following UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s visit to Berlin yesterday where he announced a joint endeavour to develop Remote-Controlled Howitzer 155mm Wheeled Artillery Systems (RCH 155), which will be fitted to Boxer vehicles.

The live qualification firings involved the first Challenger 3 MBT tank firing rounds at targets from varying distances to ensure accuracy. These firings were being led by Rheinmetall BAE Systems Land (RBSL) and Rheinmetall, who used the Rheinmetall ranges to maintain consistency with NATO Reference Standards for the new weapon and ammunition.

RBSL is delivering Challenger 3 MBT under a contract worth £800 million. This project will create numerous skilled job opportunities, with nearly 300 positions generated within RBSL itself, including 130 engineers and 70 technicians. In addition, there will be 450 jobs created across the UK.

Minister for Defence Procurement, James Cartlidge said: “Challenger 3 is a hugely impressive, cutting-edge tank. It will be crucial in the Army’s warfighting ability and the UK’s contribution to NATO, while acting as a deterrent to our adversaries.”

“The live firings and production progress are testament to the talent of our defence industry, helping equip our soldiers with one of the world’s most lethal tanks and creating hundreds of skilled jobs back home in the process.”

Described as the apex predator that will dominate the modern battlefield, the 66-tonne Challenger 3 MBT is powered by a 1,500-horsepower diesel engine and can reach speeds of up to 60kph. It is armed with a 120mm smoothbore gun with higher muzzle velocity and greater penetration capability than its predecessor, Challenger 2.

The Challenger 3 MBT also has a new suite of sights and sensors, which provide the tank commander and gunner with enhanced day and night vision, target acquisition, and situational awareness. The sights include a panoramic commander’s sight with thermal imaging and laser rangefinder, a gunner’s primary sight with thermal imaging and laser designator, and a driver’s night vision system. The sights are linked to a digital fire control system, which calculates the optimal firing solution for each target.

Another key improvement of the Challenger 3 MBT is its new modular armour system, which offers a higher level of protection against various threats, such as kinetic energy projectiles, shaped charges, mines, and improvised explosive devices. The armour system consists of composite armour plates that can be replaced or upgraded as needed, and an active protection system (APS) that can detect and neutralise incoming missiles and rockets. The APS is based on the Israeli Trophy system, which has proven its effectiveness in combat.

The Challenger 3 MBT also has a new engine and suspension system, which improve its mobility and agility on different terrains. The engine is a 1,500hp diesel engine from MTU, which provides more power and torque than the old 1,200hp engine. The suspension system is a hydrogas suspension from Horstman Defence Systems, which allows the tank to adjust its ride height and damping according to the terrain conditions. The new engine and suspension also reduce the weight and fuel consumption of the tank.

The Challenger 3 MBT is also designed to be more connected and interoperable with other platforms and systems on the battlefield. The tank has a digital open architecture that allows it to integrate with various communication, navigation, and data-sharing systems. The tank can also exchange information and coordinate actions with other tanks, vehicles, aircraft, drones, and soldiers through a secure network. The digital open architecture also enables the tank to receive software updates and enhancements remotely.

Neil Ritchie
Neil Ritchie
Neil Ritchie is the founder and editor of Neil is also the editor of other online publications covering military history, defence and security. He can be found on Twitter: @NeilRitchie86.

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