Challenger 3 to be a real smooth operator

Since it entered service in 1998 the British Army’s Main Battle Tank (MBT), the Challenger, has been a stalwart of operations, and from Bosnia to the Gulf the platform it has been integral to UK and NATO operations.

As announced in May 2021, Rheinmetall BAE Systems Land (RBSL) will be transforming 148 Challenger 2 (CR2) MBTs into the new Challenger 3 (CR3) configuration and a major part of that upgrade programme will be the development of the new smoothbore barrel.

“This is another and early step forward on the path to delivering a genuinely world-class MBT for the British Army" Colonel Waugh, Armour Main Battle Tank Programme Director for the British Army

Most barrels have rifling cut inside. This puts a spin on the projectile improving the flight and consequently the accuracy, which is massively important if you are trying to hit your target and minimise collateral damage. 

However as guided munitions have developed, the rifling has become less important. In a major leap forward in capability, two Rheinmetall 120mm smoothbore L55A1 weapons for testing and trialling, have entered production ahead of schedule at Rheinmetall’s Unterluss facility.

Following production, the smoothbore guns will be integrated, tested and validated before delivery to Rheinmetall BAE Systems Land (RBSL) in the UK, for integration with the new digital turret. 

Along with the development of the new smoothbore barrel, upgrades to the Challenger’s armour, improvements to the long-range primary sights and the use of state-of the-art tank rounds will ensure that future soldiers will continue to have the most accurate and devastating firepower available to them, and maintain the Challenger as the UK and NATOs most capable battle tank.

Colonel Will Waugh, Armour Main Battle Tank Programme Director, said:

“This is another and early step forward on the path to delivering a genuinely world-class MBT for the British Army. Pairing the tried and tested L55A1 smoothbore gun with the latest kinetic energy ammunition and programmable secondary natures will give CR3 a step change in the lethality over CR2. 

“The move to a smoothbore gun brings the UK in line with its principal NATO allies increasing our interoperability and ensuring access to the latest ammunition natures. This will future-proof CR3’s lethality against the full range of threats until its OSD.”