The British are spending over a billion dollars to upgrade their existing Challenger 2 main battle tank. The updated Challenger 3 will have a better turret and gun, an improved fire-control system, a new day/night and all-weather sight, front and rear thermal cameras, and new modular armor for the turret.
This is good news for the British military because overall personnel in the Army have fallen markedly since 2010. The number of UK soldiers has been reduced at least 25 percent from 2010 to 2021.
The Challenger 2 Is Out of Date
The Challenger 2 main battle tank was state-of-the-art 25 years ago, but it definitely needed a new lease on life.
There were even grumblings at the British Ministry of Defence that the entire fleet of Challenger 2 tanks would be retired, but the MoD decided to cut the number of Challenger 2s by 35 percent and upgrade the rest.
To put this in perspective, the British Army used to have over 900 tanks during the latter part of the Cold War before Operation Desert Storm. There will now be 148 new Challenger 3s by 2030. The first delivery of 18 tanks will be handed over to the military in 2027.
The biggest problem of the Challenger 2 was that it used a rifled gun barrel. Rifled barrels produce more friction for the munitions and reduce the power of the round fired. Britain was the last country in NATO to have rifled-gun barrels. The Challenger 3 will now have a new 120mm smoothbore gun that will allow it to use all modern ordnance. The smoothbore gun has a longer barrel and a higher chamber pressure so the round fired will leave the barrel with more speed. That added punch will make it more deadly on the battlefield.
Challenger 3 Has Better Situational Awareness
Situational awareness is everything in armored warfare and the Challenger 3 does not disappoint. It will have updated, long-range, thermal panoramic sights and optics. Plus, it features a new fire-control system and additional thermal cameras for the driver. A new digital data link will help it communicate better with other tanks. The Ministry of Defence is being mum on the armor but it does say the tank will have modular armor and thus make it more survivable with its layers of composite protective material.
The Challenger 3 has a crew of four and it supposedly can go a surprising 60 miles per hour with its improved engine. It has an automatic targeting and tracking system. The new gun will allow it to fire better on the move.
The British Military Should Be Stoked With the Challenger 3
The Challenger 3 is great news for the British military. Since the war in Iraq, the British Army has endured many pointed questions and lived through numerous debates about the future of its overall defense strategy. There have been cuts to personnel and failed armored vehicles, so the Challenger 3 will be a welcome edition. British strategy recently spoke of focusing more on space, cyber, and artificial intelligence. But military planners have realized the country still needs conventional armored firepower to keep up with what competitors such as Russia are fielding – namely the T-14 Armata Main Battle Tank.
1945’s new Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, Ph.D., is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer.