The Challenger 2 is the current main battle tank of the British Army, and is also used by the Royal Army of Oman. The Challenger 2 is the latest of three tanks to use the name 'Challenger', after the A30 Challenger, which served in World War Two and after the Challenger 1, the immediate predecessor of the challenger 2, which entered service in 1983.
Challenger 2 Tank Development and Production
The tank was designed by BAE Systems (previously known as Vickers Defence Systems) after calls for new technology from the Ministry of Defence. Design began in 1986, and in December, 1988, the MOD paid $90 million for development of demonstration vehicles. BAE Systems began full-scale production of the tanks in 1993.
The MoD ordered a total of 386 battle tanks and 22 driver training tanks between 1991 and 1994. Between 1993 and 1997, 38 battle tanks were ordered by the Royal Army of Oman, together with 4 armoured repair and recovery vehicles, 2 driver training tanks and 4 command post vehicles.
Challenger 2 Variants
The Challenger 2E is a modified model of the Challenger 2, which was exported to Oman. The Challenger 2E carries a compact but powerful EuroPowerPack, which allows for more fuel to be stored in the tank, and therefore offers an extended vehicle range of 550 kilometres.
The 2E features a battlefield management device and weapon control system, as well as gyrostabilised sights with laser rangefinders. An independent weapons platform can also be installed, which is controlled from the Commander's sight and acts independently from the turret.
Challenger Armoured Repair and Recovery Vehicle
The Challenger Armoured Repair and Recovery Vehicle is a specialised model of the Challenger 2 used to recover and repair other tanks. This carries a primary winch and a separate 'pilot' winch. It also features an Atlas Crane for extended reach, a Dozer blade designed to remove obstacles and stabilise the vehicle, and a collection of repair tools.
Further Challenger 2 Models
One Challenger 2 tank has been fitted with a 120mm Rheinmetall L55 smoothbore gun (also used in the Leopard 2006), which uses more powerful 120 mm DM53 APFSDS ammunition. Firing trials commenced in 2006.
Other models based on elements of the Challenger design include the Titan armoured bridge layer (designed for rapid deployment of bridges), and the Trojan (which is used for battlefield construction and engineering).
Challenger 2 Armaments
The main armament of the Challenger 2 is a 120 millimetre L30A1 rifled tank gun with an electric control system, and stabiliser and a fume extraction system. A choice of ammunition can be used, ranging from depleted uranium APFSDS (Armer Piercing Fin-Stabilised Discarding Sabot) penetrators to HESH (High Explosive Squash-Head) ammunition, and smoke rounds.
Also, the tank carries an L37A2 general purpose machine gun for air defence, and an L94A1 chain gun beside the primary armament. Both of these fire 7.62 millimetre NATO cartridges.
The Challenger 2 uses Dorchester armour - a type of Chobham armour, which is also used by the M1 Abrams main battle tank. The armour was first developed at the Fighting Vehicles Research and Development Establishment in Chertsey. The precise make-up of Chobham armour is undisclosed, but it is a composite armour thought to contain a mixture of tough ceramic tiles in a titanium alloy matrix, reinforced by metal plating. Chobham armour is particularly effective against high explosive anti-tank rounds.
Sometimes, Challengers are also fitted with explosive reactive armour, which contains sheets of explosives sandwiched between metal plates. This armour is effective against rod penetrators and shaped charges. On impact, the explosive blows up, forcing the plates apart, deflecting and damaging the projectile.
The Challenger 2 also features an NBC defence system and five L8 dischargers for smoke grenades.
Challenger 2 Specifications
The challenger features a diesel-powered Perkins CV12 engine. It has a maximum road speed of 59 kilometres per hour, 40 kilometres per hour on uneven terrain, with ranges of 450 kilometres and 250 kilometres respectively. The challenger 2 features a hydro-pneumatic suspension and an environmental control system producing warm and cold air. The tanks are now fitted with sand filters to increase their reliability in desert environments.
Military Deployment History
The Challenger 2 was accepted for service in 1994. It took part in numerous peacekeeping and training missions, but it was not used in combat until Operation Telic, (the British name for the invasion of Iraq), in 2003. 120 Challenger 2s were used during the battle for control of Basra and the tanks proved highly effective.