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Challenger 3 - the British Army's new main battle tank is coming

A major upgrade of the British Army’s main battle tank 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.

A contract with Rheinmetall BAE Systems Land (RBSL) to deliver 148 Challenger 3 tanks will extend the platform’s out of service date to 2040. It will provide 200 skilled jobs at RBSL, including 130 engineers and 70 technicians. 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.

It will offer export opportunities and will support the case for the UK participation in any future international tank programmes.

The overhaul will include:

  • a new 120mm smoothbore gun which uses the most advanced globally available ammunition
  • a new suite of sights providing tank commanders with enhanced day and night targeting abilities
  • new modular armour
  • an active protection system
  • a turret that can be fitted to the tanks of allies and global partners

Deputy Chief of the General Staff, Lieutenant General Chris Tickell CBE said: “The Integrated Review described a transformed Army that will be more lethal, better protected and better connected than any of its comparators. Challenger 3 is a manifestation of exactly that change and will sit at the heart of our warfighting capability. Its digital open architecture will ensure that it is integrated across the battlefield, its main armament will overmatch its adversaries and the crew will be afforded a unique level of protection. It is a battle winner.”

The UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) James McGeary said: “Key design changes on the Challenger 3 provide a growth path to further increase the already enhanced lethality offered. These growth options will ensure that the UK remains at the forefront of Main Battle Tank design and can adapt and respond to future threats and challenges.”     

Today’s main battle tank is threatened by more systems than ever before, and this has led the UK to develop a new, modular armour that will defeat even the most demanding of threats.

As part of the Challenger 3's layered protection, the fleet will also be the first to receive the best active protection system (APS) allowing it to recognise incoming threats and neutralise them. The tank will undergo full electromagnetic testing to ensure it is survivable in the most demanding of sensor saturated battlefields.  

The world leading new modular armour has been developed through advances in armour technology provided by the in-house Chief Scientific Advisor (CSA) funded armour expertise held within Dstl. This Dstl owned Intellectual Property (IP) has generated significant interest and is being exploited through the close links Dstl has with MOD and Industry. 

Challenger 3 will lead NATO armoured forces with the highest levels of lethality and survivability on the battlefields of today and out to 2040. It achieves this not only by using the new gun, but also by making use of the most advanced ammunition available globally from our allies.

The new suite of sights gives the tank commander an independent day / night all weather hunter killer capability, which allows them to acquire and engage targets quicker than potential adversaries.  

The tank has also been designed to play its part in multi-domain warfare whilst retaining the ability to operate in the littoral environment (between the land and sea) in support of the Future Commando Force.

Challenger 3 will be fitted with a digitised backbone connecting it to the other combat vehicles that make up the fighting Brigade, enabling data sharing across domains to deliver information advantage and enable multi domain Integration and an edge over adversaries.

With its modular design, it offers operational commanders an enhanced survivability suite capable of taking on any battlefield threats that it is likely to encounter across the world.

All in all, the British Army’s new and improved Main Battle Tank will pack a real punch and represents a major generational upgrade in capability. It will be Defence’s only 24 hour, all-weather, mobile, protected, precision, direct fire, anti-armour manoeuvre capability – and will be critical to Defence’s ability to deliver hard power, underpinning our credibility in the land domain and underwriting our commitments to our allies.