Challenger 2 – the British main battle tank for the Armed Forces of Ukraine

The ice was broken! AMX-10 RC, M2 Bradley, Marder… and the mass media of different countries are writing about options for supplying Ukraine with main battle tanks from Germany, Poland, Finland, Great Britain…

Here, for example, according to information of Sky News, Great Britain is considering the possibility of supplying Ukraine with MBT Challenger 2 tanks. To begin with, we are talking about 10 tanks, that is, a battalion. Britain, second only to Germany in terms of military aid to Ukraine, is set to catch up and encourage allies to follow suit. “Salami tactics” as it is.

And although from the very beginning of the active phase of hostilities, everyone mostly discussed the possibility of supplying the German Leopard 2 and the American M1A1 Abrams, one should not forget about other good vehicles of the third generation: the British Challenger 2, the French Leclerc, the South Korean K1, the Israeli Merkava (sorry , the latter, of course, is unlikely).

While Great Britain is deciding when and how many Challenger 2s to hand over to the Armed Forces of Ukraine, let’s see what kind of vehicle it is.

The FV4034 Challenger 2 main battle tank was developed as a successor to the Challenger 1 tank (which in turn is a development of the Chieftain tank line) since 1986. And this despite the fact that the Challenger 1 went into production only in 1983 and was in service with the British Army until 2001. This is the third British tank to bear this name after the Cruiser Mk VIII Challenger of the Second World War.

Challenger 2 is a deep redesign of Challenger 1, and although visually these tanks can even be confused in silhouette, only 3% of the components are interchangeable. Visually, tanks can be distinguished by the location of the TOGS thermal sight: in Challenger 2 it is directly above the gun, in Challenger 1 it is on the right side of the turret. Vickers Defense Systems (now BAE Systems Land & Armaments) was engaged in the development and production of the tank.

The Challenger 2’s main armament is a 120 mm rifled (rare) L30A1 gun with a barrel length of 55 calibers. The service life of the gun barrel is 400 rounds. The main assortment of projectiles is armor-piercing subcaliber, capable of penetrating three-layer armor at a distance of 6,300 m (NATO Triple Heavy Target). Challenger crew is 2 – 4 people.

The hull and turret are protected by second-generation Chobgem armor. The composition of the Chobgem armor is still a secret, it is only known that it consists of ceramic tiles embedded in a metal matrix and connected to a support plate, and several elastic layers. Due to the high hardness of the ceramics used, the armor is extremely resistant to the cumulative effect of projectiles. Similar armor is installed only on the M1 Abrams, Challenger 1 and Challenger 2.

The only incident in the history of the destruction of a Challenger 2 tank occurred on March 25, 2003 in Basra (Iraq), when another Challenger 2 accidentally hit a friendly vehicle.

The Challenger 2 has a computerized fire control system; panoramic gyro-stabilized commander’s sight SAGEM VS 580-10 with a laser rangefinder; TOGS II gunner’s thermal imaging sight (the one above the gun).

From 1993 to 2002 Vickers Defense Systems / BAE Systems Land & Armaments) produced about 450 Challenger 2 tanks. 386 of them are in the armed forces of Great Britain (227 combat and 22 training vehicles are in service, others are in storage). The Omani army has another 38 tanks. Ukraine can become another country in this list.

Great Britain is going to significantly upgrade the Challenger 2. The Life Extension Program (LEP) aims to extend the service life of these tanks until 2035. Among the important upgrades is the replacement of the rifled gun with a 120 mm smoothbore from Rheinmetall. This is done in order to be able to use standard NATO ammunition. In addition, it is planned to modernize the commander’s main sight and the gunner’s main sight, install third-generation thermal imagers, update the fire control computer; installation of the third generation hydrogas suspension; new air filters; new fuel injection system; updated transmission and cooling system; total digitalization of the tank and compatibility with digital systems of other combat units.

Such updated tanks will be called Challenger 3. The Ministry of Defense of Great Britain has ordered 148 Challenger 3, which will begin to enter the army in 2027. Completion of supply – 2030.

Well, the race for the right to be the first to provide Western-style main battle tanks has begun. Challenger 2, Leopard 2 or M1A1 Abrams? Place your bets!

Technical specifications
Weight – 64 t / 75 t (with additional combat armor modules)
Length – 8.3 m
Width – 3.5 m / 4.2 m (with additional armor installed)
Height – 2.49 m
Crew – 4 (commander, gunner, loader/operator, driver)
Armor – Chobham / Dorchester Level 2
Main armament – 120 mm L30A1 rifled gun with 47 rounds
Additional armament – paired 7.62-mm L94A1 EX-34 chain machine gun; 7.62-mm anti-aircraft L37A2 machine gun
Engine – Perkins CV12-6A V12 diesel
Power – 1,200 hp. (890 kW)
Fuel tank capacity – 1,592 liters
Operating range – 550 km (on road), 250 km (off-road)
Maximum speed – 59 km/h (highway), 40 km/h (off-road)