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British Challenger 3: The Best Tank in All of Europe?

Challenger 3
Image: Creative Commons.

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The Challenger 2 Is Out of Date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.

Written By

Now serving as 1945s New Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, 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.



  1. Mark Alexander Smith

    October 16, 2021 at 10:45 am

    What struck me about the Challenger 3 and I do not think it was mentioned above, is the top speed which is a staggering 60 mph!

  2. Allan Desmond

    October 16, 2021 at 11:24 am

    This is a very lazy an in some cases a rather stupid article..Overlooking the utter lack of numbers being done to this tank an the fact the British in the infinite of “stupid Cheapness” have not put a Hunter killer thermal scope on it is beyond careless..

  3. Thad Berry

    October 16, 2021 at 2:29 pm

    This article does not mention the biggest problem with the Challenger which severely hampered it’s appeal and sales to other friendly militaries. The maintenance is a nightmare. While other tanks have modular or easy to reach power packs, the amount of work required to access the mechanicals of the Challenger are 50% of labor requirements. Has the Challenger 3 addresses that issue?

  4. Doug

    October 16, 2021 at 4:49 pm

    18 upgraded tanks in 2027?
    MAYBE 148 by 2030 ? This is a paper tiger. Absolutely meaningless on today’s battlefield.

  5. NorEastern

    October 17, 2021 at 8:36 am

    It is heartening to see that some modern armies now understand that there will never be another major tank operation in a war. The primacy of air power assures that any large force of tanks will be rapidly cut to pieces from above. Now if the US army would accept that fact we could save tens of billions of dollars a year.

  6. ZivBnd

    October 17, 2021 at 8:54 am

    NorEastern, I have found that it is usually unwise to use the words “always” or “never” without thinking about how often those types of statements have been proven wrong over the course of time. The other aspect of this is, do you buy a fire extinguisher because you know you will always need it? Or do you buy it in the hope that you never actually have to use it? A strong armored unit is much like a fire extinguisher, you buy it and hope you won’t need but do so knowing if you do need it, you will need it badly.
    And it is a fire extinguisher that actually reduces the chances that you will have a “fire”, because it is a disincentive for foreign powers to meddle with your allies.

  7. Michael Byrd=Hero,Babbit=DeadSlut

    October 17, 2021 at 9:02 am

    @NorEastern. Said like a true moron like the USAF during the 1950s. Your thinking is why America lost in Vietnam. They thought Airpower could win the war on its own, but their Century series pos’s sucked against Soviet aircraft and had to adopt the superior F-4 Phantom.
    You can’t kill tanks with bombs, drones and IR Manpads will takeout any plane that can’t fly low like the A-10. While China has no fixed wing CAS aircraft and Russia can’t keep their SU-25s in the air.

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