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United Kingdom starts Challenger 2 tank Heavy Armour Automotive Improvement Program.

| 2021

According to information released by the British Ministry of Defence on July 28, 2021, the British Army’s Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank (MBT) fleet is due to receive a base overhaul as part of its standard in-service maintenance schedule. This will be followed by a series of automotive upgrades under a ‘Heavy Armour Automotive Improvement Programme’ (HAAIP) which ensures the British Army’s Challenger 2 vehicles remain highly effective and capable until Challenger 3 enters service.
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The United Kingdom starts Challenger 2 main battle tank upgrade with the Heavy Armour Automotive Improvement Program in collaboration with RH BAE Systems Land and Babcock. (Picture source British MoD)

The HAAIP program is being led by DE&S (Defence Equipment and Support), with engineering work completed by Rheinmetall BAE Systems Land (RBSL) and integration work by Babcock. Under the program, a number of automotive upgrades will be made to existing in-service Challenger 2 tanks to increase their mobility and stability, both of which are critical to providing the foundation for the new turret and systems that will upgrade the vehicle to a Challenger 3. The upgrades will also ensure the tanks remain mobile and agile in the battlespace.

Once upgraded, the vehicles will be delivered to RBSL who will deliver the Challenger 3 program under the £800-million contract secured by DE&S. They will use the modified vehicles as the trial and demonstration platforms.

As part of the base overhaul process, each Challenger 2 will be stripped to bare hulls and subjected to ultrasonic inspection, weld repair, and repainting. Every component is removed and inspected for serviceability to ensure that the vehicle is as close to new as possible when it is rebuilt.

The HAAIP upgrades will then introduce new components to the rebuild process to improve its suspension, engine, and transmission.

To reduce waste and increase overall in-service platform availability, components that are replaced by the HAAIP upgrade pack are checked for serviceability, repaired where necessary, and returned to the supply chain to help the residual fleet of Challenger 2 tanks supported until 2025.

The Challenger 2 MBTs (Main Battle Tanks) are currently the backbone of the British Army. The Challenger 2 MBT entered service with the British army in 1998. According to the military balance 2020, a total of 227 Challenger are already in service with the British army. 

The Challenger 2 is armed with one 120-millimeter (4.7 in) 55-caliber long L30A1 tank gun, the successor to the L11 gun used on the Chieftain and Challenger 1. The second armament includes one L94A1 EX-34 7.62 mm chain gun and a 7.62 mm L37A2 (GPMG) machine gun. It has a crew of four. The turret and hull are protected with second generation Chobham armor (also known as Dorchester). 

In May 2021, British Defence Secretary has announced a contract for the acquisition of 148 Challenger 3 Main Battle Tanks (MBTs) as part of an £800 million contract with Rheinmetall BAE Systems Land (RBSL).

The new Challenger 3 MBT (Main Battle Tank) will carry additional high-velocity ammunition able to travel at faster speeds with an increased range. Ammunition will also be programmed digitally from a new turret with a 120-millimeter smoothbore gun. This cutting-edge tank will also feature an upgraded engine with a new cooling system and suspension to improve accuracy when firing in transit. The new British tank is being developed to replace the current Challenger 2 tank which has been in service since 1998. Full Operating Capability for the tank is planned for 2030, with initial operating capability expected by 2027.

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