The superb Challenger 2 (CR2) is the British Army’s Main Battle Tank. CR2 is based on the Challenger 1 that served with distinction on operations in the Gulf War and the Balkans.
Only 5 per cent of Challenger 2 components are interchangeable with its predecessor; over 150 major modifications include a completely new turret, L30 CHARM 120mm gun and second generation Chobham armour.
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Challenger 2’s Thermal Observation and Gunnery (TOGS) displays a magnified image for the commander and gunner. The commander has a gyro-stabilised fully panoramic sight with laser range finder and thermal imager. The gunner is equipped with a gyro-stabilised primary sight with a laser range finder and coaxially mounted auxiliary sight. The driver’s position has an image-intensifying day and night periscope, and the loader has a day sight.
Challenger 2 is an extensive redesign from Challenger 1, the MBT from which it was developed. It uses the basic hull and automotive parts of its predecessor but all other components are new. Fewer than 5% of components are interchangeable. Challenger 2 has now replaced Challenger 1 in service with the British Army and is also used by the Royal Army of Oman. It has seen operational service in Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq (2003–present). During the 2003 invasion of Iraq the Challenger 2 tanks operating in the Gulf suffered no total losses to enemy fire. In one engagement a Challenger survived 14 hits from rocket-propelled grenades and one MILAN anti tank missile.
Challenger 2 is the third vehicle of this name, the first being the A30 Challenger, a Second World War design using the Cromwell tank chassis with a 17 pdr gun. The second was the Persian Gulf War era Challenger 1, which was the British army’s main battle tank (MBT) from the early 1980s to the mid-1990s.
Vickers Defence Systems (later Alvis Vickers, now BAE Systems Land Systems) began to develop a successor to Challenger 1 as a private venture in 1986. Following the issue of a Staff Requirement for a next-generation tank, Vickers formally submitted its plans for Challenger 2 to the Ministry of Defence (MoD). Secretary of State for Defence George Younger announced to the House of Commons that Vickers would receive £90 million contract for a demonstrator vehicle, a deal that was consummated in January 1989. The demonstration phase contained three milestones for progress, with dates of September 1989, March 1990, and September 1990. At the last of these milestones, Vickers was to have met 11 key criteria for the tank’s design.
In June 1991, after competition with other tank manufacturers’ designs, the MoD placed a £520 million order for 127 MBTs and 13 driver training vehicles. An order for a further 259 tanks and 9 driver trainers was placed in 1994. Oman ordered 18 Challenger 2s in 1993 and a further 20 tanks in November 1997.
Production began in 1993 at two primary sites: Elswick, Tyne and Wear and Barnbow, Leeds, although over 250 subcontractors were involved. The first tanks were delivered in July 1994.
The Challenger 2 successfully completed its Reliability Growth Trial in 1994. Three vehicles were tested for 285 simulated battlefield days. Each day is known to have consisted of:
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An equally important milestone was the In-Service Reliability Demonstration (ISRD) in 1999. 12 fully crewed tanks were tested at the Bovington test tracks and at Lulworth Bindon ranges. The tank exceeded all staff requirements.
Challenger 2 entered service with the British Army in 1998 (with the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards in Germany), with the last delivered in 2002. It is expected to remain in service until 2035. It serves with the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, the Royal Dragoon Guards, the Queen’s Royal Hussars, the King’s Royal Hussars and the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment, each of which is the tank unit of an armoured or a mechanised brigade. One squadron of the 1st Royal Tank Regiment uses Challenger 2 in a training / demonstration role.
Deliveries of Challenger 2 to Oman were completed in 2001.
The Trojan minefield breaching vehicle and the Titan bridge-laying vehicle based on the chassis of the Challenger 2 were shown in November 2006; 66 are to be supplied by BAE Systems to the Royal Engineers, at a cost of £250M.
The design of Challenger 2 has given emphasis to crew safety and tank survivability. The turret is protected with second generation Chobham armour which provides increased resistance to penetration by anti-tank weapons. The tank is protected against nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) warfare by an NBC protection system (with full overpressure filtered air) located in the turret bustle. The electronics systems are protected against nuclear electromagnetic pulse (EMP).
The movement of the turret and gun is by a solid state electric drive rather than by high pressure hydraulic drive. The electric drive removes the risk associated with rupturing of high pressure hydraulic hoses in the crew compartment. The stowage for explosives is below the turret ring which provides a less vulnerable position than in the turret bustle.
The turret and the hull designs incorporate stealth technology to minimize the radar signature.