An £800 million upgrade of our main battle tank is to create 200 jobs for a defence engineering company, as part of a major contract which will boost the UK’s prosperity and employment in regional economies.
The contract awarded by the MOD to Rheinmetall BAE Systems and Land (RBSL) to upgrade 148 British Army Challenger 2 Main Battle Tanks (MBTs) was announced by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace during a visit to the company’s site in Telford, Shropshire, earlier this month.
Along with the creation of 200 jobs in Telford, a further 450 jobs will be established throughout the wider supply chain across the West-Midlands, Glasgow, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne and the Isle of Wight as part of the contract.
The programme upgrade will start in 2021 with an in-service date of 2027. The upgraded MBT, featuring extra firepower and cutting-edge protection systems will ensure the UK remains at the forefront of tank design, poised to respond to future global threats and challenges.
The 200 RBSL jobs will include 130 engineers and 70 technicians and RBSL will also provide work and training opportunities to 60 apprentices over the next five years.
Speaking at the announcement, Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace, said: “Our intention here is not only to equip our Army with the best, but to sell abroad to key allies and make sure we keep the skills here.
“It is time we recognise the engineering skill in the Midlands has always been there and we are going to tap into that and create opportunities for young men and women in Telford and further afield.”
“This represents a huge shift in the modernisation of our land forces through the increased lethality of Challenger 3.”
The programme will make significant enhancements to the vehicle and provide the British Army with a world-class capability, made in the UK.
The upgraded vehicle will be a network enabled, digital main battle tank with state-of-the-art lethality, upgraded survivability, plus world-class surveillance and target acquisition capabilities.
The programme protects the UK’s national skill base in both defence and engineering sectors and could enable exports worldwide.
John Abunassar, RBSL Board Chairman, said: “What a moment for RBSL, for our Armed Forces and for UK prosperity.
“We are delighted to make this announcement and solidify the return of armoured vehicle engineering to the UK.
“This announcement comes after years of hard work and collaboration with our customer, especially in the recent extraordinary circumstances brought about by COVID-19.”