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Challenger 2 Life Extension Project (LEP) Assessment Phase to end in 2018.

| 2018

The British Army is seeking to extend the service life of the Challenger 2 main battle tank through to 2035. The current competition opposes two candidates a competition in the framework of its Life Extension Programme (LEP) that opposes two candidates whose vehicles are currently submitted to a 24-month assessment phase due to end this year. A 227-tank market is at stake, with a decision expected for mid-2019.

Challenger 2 Life Extension Project LEP Assessment Phase to end in 2018
Challenger 2 Theatre Entry Standard (CR2 TES) fitted with a Mobile Camouflage System (MCS) (Picture source: British MoD)

Let’s remind first that a British Challenger 2 regiment operates a total of 56 MBTs: three 18-tank squadrons, plus two tanks attached to the respective regimental headquarters.

The winning bidder for the Challenger 2 Mark 2 main battle tank should be selected after the £23 million ($32.14 million) assessment phase is completed at the end of 2018. Two candidates – Rheinmetall and Team Challenger 2 (a BAE Systems-led team that includes mainly General Dynamics Land Systems UK) – are competing for the opportunity to update 227 tanks. Each competitor received two units for that purpose: one to be used as a fully operational vehicle, and one to be exploited as a demonstrator of the new solutions for all the obsolete components needing to be replaced.

BAE Systems launched Team Challenger 2, a major strategic partnership with other world-leading defense companies to bid for the LEP Assessment Phase contract. Upgrades to address the tank’s obsolescence by Team Challenger 2 are as follows: a new thermal imaging system allowing the Challenger 2 to acquire targets at night as quickly as it currently can in daylight would be provided by Leonardo-Finmeccanica (formerly Selex ES Ltd) of Italy; France’s Safran Eletronics & Defence (formerly Sagem) is set to provide a Paseo commander’s sight; General Dynamics Land Systems-UK would install the same digital architecture as the Ajax armoured reconnaissance vehicle that the United Kingdom has purchased as part of the Scout SV programme. K). Other partners in Team Challenger 2 are Moog, QinetiQ and General Dynamics Mission Systems-Canada.

At the beginning of the assessment phase, Simon Jackson, BAE Systems’ campaign lead explained: “We will be giving the Royal Armoured Corps a Challenger 2 Mark 2, customised for the British soldier with the latest and best sensors, weapons control systems and crewstations. When a crew climbs into the Challenger 2 Mk.2, the first thing they will see is a brand new, modern Commander’s crewstation designed specifically for the British Army. All systems - including lethality, sighting, situational awareness, battlefield management and survivability - will be run and managed from this integrated crewstation.”

“A modern electronic and video architecture backbone underpinning all vehicle systems will enable the Commander to transfer tasks to other crew members, such as the control and viewing of additional sensors and systems. Crew menus and displays will be more intuitive and have the same functionality as Ajax - making it much easier for commanders to move between Challenger 2 and Ajax and vice-versa.”

“New control panels, the latest hand controllers and intelligent flat panel displays will give an instant feel of a more modern vehicle with major improvements. We will provide improved survivability measures, a better hit probability, faster targeting and vastly improved sighting systems.”

Using an Open Architecture approach means that future upgrades will be incorporated more easily. Team Challenger 2 is ensuring that the tank is ready to receive further capability enhancements such as active protection systems, future electronic countermeasures, training systems and enhanced decision support systems.

There are also opportunities to make Challenger 2 forward-compatible with other emerging technologies. By following the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) Open Architecture approach, the newly updated tank will be capable of operating with unmanned ground and aerial vehicles, and potentially autonomous vehicles. This could mean sharing situational awareness and even coordinating attack or defense with multiple unmanned weapon systems

In addition, Team Challenger 2 offers option packages to enhance protection and lethality. These will include soft and hard kill defensive aids systems, modular armour and a choice of weapon upgrades.

To make it short, the upgrading process encompasses stabilised sighting systems for the commander and gunner, associated control handles, gun control equipment, elements of the fire-control system, and crew displays.

Team Challenger 2 uses turret elements that were developed for the Ajax reconnaissance vehicle destined for the British a, while Rheinmetall uses its turret development experience gathered mainly with the Leopard 2 MBT. The possibility of a firepower enhancement is also a target for both competitors.

August 2018 should see the invitation to tender (ITT) for the Demonstration, Manufacture and In Service (DMI). The industry’s reply must be submitted to the Ministry of Defence’s (UK MoD’s) Defence Equipment and Support organisation in December 2018. A contract award is expected by mid-2019.



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