Challenger 2

The FV4034 Challenger 2 is a British main battle tank (MBT) in service with the armies of the United Kingdom and Oman. It was designed and built by the British company Vickers Defence Systems (now known as BAE Systems Land & Armaments).

The Challenger 2 replaced the Challenger 1 in service with the British Army and is also used by the Royal Army of Oman. Vickers Defence Systems began to develop a successor to Challenger 1 as a private venture in 1986. A £90 million deal for a demonstrator vehicle was finalised in January 1989. In June 1991, the Ministry of Defense placed a £520 million order for 140 vehicles, with a further 268 ordered in 1994. Production began in 1993 and the unit's tanks were delivered in July 1994. The tank entered service with the British Army in 1998, with the last delivered in 2002. It is expected to remain in service until 2035. Oman ordered 18 Challenger 2s in 1993 and a further 20 tanks in November 1997.

The Challenger 2 is an extensive redesign of the Challenger 1. Although the hull and automotive components seem similar, they are of a newer design and build than those of the Challenger 1 and fewer than 5% of components are interchangeable. The tank's drive system provides a 550 km range, with a maximum road speed of 59 km/h. It has a four-man crew.

The Challenger 2 is equipped with a 120-millimetre (4.7 in) 55-calibre long L30A1 tank gun, the successor to the L11 gun used on the Chieftain and Challenger 1. Uniquely among NATO main battle tank armament, the L30A1 is rifled, because the British Army continues to place a premium on the use of high explosive squash head (HESH) rounds in addition to armour-piercing fin-stabilized discarding-sabot armour-piercing rounds. The Challenger 2 is also armed with a L94A1 EX-34 7.62 mm chain gun and a 7.62 mm L37A2 (GPMG) machine gun. Forty nine main armament rounds and 4,200 rounds of 7.62 mm ammunition are carried.

In 2006, the Challenger 2 was considered to be one of the best protected tanks in the world. The turret and hull are protected with second generation Chobham armour (also known as Dorchester). However, in Iraq that year, the front underside hull armour of a Challenger 2 was defeated by an RPG-29 despite being augmented with an ERA package.

It has seen operational service in Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq.

Challenger 2
Class Vehicle
Type Armoured Fighting Vehicle
Manufacturer BAE Systems Land & Armaments
Production Period 1993 - 2002
Origin United Kingdom - UK (Great Britain)
Country Name Origin Year
United Kingdom - UK (Great Britain) 1993
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
Oman (Muscat) View
United Kingdom - UK (Great Britain) 1998 View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Alvis plc 1993 2002 View
BAE Systems Land & Armaments 1993 2002 446 View

The 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-pounder 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 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 a £90 million contract for a demonstrator vehicle, a deal that was finalised 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 (including the M1A2 Abrams and the Leopard 2 (Improved)), 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 (worth £800 million) 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 consisted of:

  • 27 km (17 mi) of on-road travel
  • 33 km (21 mi) of off-road travel
  • 34 main armament rounds fired
  • 1,000 7.62 MG rounds fired
  • 16 hours weapon system operation
  • 10 hours main engine idling
  • 3.5 hours main engine running

Challenger 2 Tank of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards (Squadron D) during live fire training exercises on Bergen-Hohne Training Area (Germany)

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.

The Challenger 2 entered service with the British Army in 1998 (with the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment in Germany), with the last delivered in 2002. It is expected to remain in service until 2035. It serves with the Queen's Royal Hussars, the King's Royal Hussars and the Royal Tank Regiment, each of which is the tank Regiment of an Armoured Infantry Brigade. Under Army 2020, only three Challenger 2 Tank Regiments will remain: the Queen's Royal Hussars, the King's Royal Hussars and the Royal Tank Regiment; in addition, a single Army Reserve regiment, The Royal Wessex Yeomanry, will provide Armoured Resilience.

Deliveries of the 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 £250 million.

A British military document from 2001 indicated that the British Army would not procure a replacement for the Challenger 2 because of a lack of foreseeable conventional threats in the future.

The Challenger 2 had been used in peacekeeping missions and exercises before, but its first combat use came in March 2003 during the invasion of Iraq. 7th Armoured Brigade, part of 1st Armoured Division, was in action with 120 Challenger 2s around Basra. The tanks saw extensive use during the siege of Basra, providing fire support to the British forces and knocking out multiple enemy tanks, mainly T-54/55s. The tank's availability was excellent and the problems that were identified during the large Saif Sareea II exercise, which took place 18 months earlier, were solved by the issuing of Urgent Operational Requirements for equipment such as sand filters.

During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Challenger 2 tanks suffered no tank losses to enemy fire, although one was penetrated by an IED. This was, at the time, unprotected by Dorchester armour. The driver was injured. In one encounter within an urban area, a Challenger 2 came under attack from irregular forces with machine guns and rocket propelled grenades. The driver's sight was damaged and, while attempting to back away under the commander's directions, the other sights were damaged and the tank threw its tracks entering a ditch. It was hit directly by 14 rocket propelled grenades from close range and a MILAN anti-tank missile. The crew survived, remaining safe within the tank until it was recovered for repairs, the worst damage being to the sighting system. It was back in operation six hours later, after repairs had been done. One Challenger 2 operating near Basra survived being hit by 70 RPGs in another incident.

In August 2006 in al-Amarah, an RPG-29 capable of firing a tandem-charge damaged the underside of a Challenger 2, detonating ERA in the area of the driver's cabin. The driver lost part of his foot and two more of the crew were also injured, but the driver was able to reverse 1.5 mi (2.4 km) to an aid post. The incident was not made public until May 2007; in response to accusations, the MoD said "We have never claimed that the Challenger 2 is impenetrable."[10][9] Since then, the ERA has been replaced with a Dorchester block and the steel underbelly lined with armour as part of the 'Streetfighter' upgrade as a direct response to this incident.

Two Challenger 2s have been damaged in combat, but only one has been destroyed:

25 March 2003: A friendly fire ("blue-on-blue") incident in Basra in which one Challenger 2 of the Black Watch Battlegroup (2nd Royal Tank Regiment) mistakenly engaged another Challenger 2 of the Queen's Royal Lancers after detecting what was believed to be an enemy flanking manoeuvre on thermal equipment. The attacking tank's second HESH round hit the open commander's hatch lid of the QRL tank sending hot fragments into the turret, killing two crew members. The strike caused a fire that eventually led to an explosion of the stowed ammunition, destroying the tank. It remains the only Challenger 2 to be destroyed on operations.

6 April 2007: in Basra, Iraq, a shaped charge from an IED penetrated the underside of a tank resulting in the driver losing three of his toes and causing minor injuries to another soldier.

An upgraded Challenger II with added explosive reactive armour panels, manufactured by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems

To help prevent incidents of this nature happening again, Challenger 2s have been upgraded with a new passive armour package, including the use of add-on armour manufactured by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems of Israel. When deployed on operations the Challenger 2 is now normally upgraded to TES (Theatre Entry Standard), which includes a number of modifications including armour and weapon system upgrades.

Type Main battle tank
Place of origin United Kingdom
Service history
In service 1998–present
Used by British Army, Oman Army
Wars Iraq War
Production history
Manufacturer Alvis plc, BAE Systems Land & Armaments
Unit cost £4,217,000
Produced 1993–2002
Number built ˜ 446
Specifications
Weight 62.5 tonnes (61.5 long tons; 68.9short tons)
Length 8.3 m (27 ft 3 in), 13.50 m (44 ft 3 in) with gun forward
Width 3.5 m (11 ft 6 in), 4.2 m (13 ft 9 in) with appliqué armour
Height 2.49 m (8 ft 2 in)
Crew 4 (commander, gunner, loader/operator, driver)
Armour Chobham / Dorchester Level 2 (classified)
Main
armament
L30A1 120 mm rifled gun with 52 rounds
Secondary
armament
Coaxial 7.62 mm L94A1 chain gun EX-34 (chain gun), 7.62 mmL37A2 Commander's cupola machine gun
Engine Perkins CV-12 V12 diesel 26 litre
1,200 hp (890 kW)
Power/weight 19.2 hp/t (14.3 kW/t)
Transmission David Brown TN54 epicyclic transmission (6 fwd, 2 rev.)
Suspension Hydropneumatic
Ground clearance 0.5 m (1 ft 8 in)
Fuel capacity 1,592 litres (350 imp gal; 421 US gal)
Operational
range
550 km (340 mi) on road, 250 km (160 mi) off road on internal fuel
Speed 59 km/h (37 mph) on road,[4]40 km/h (25 mph) off road

End notes