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British Army cut above at ceremony marking upgrade of Challenger 2

A major boost to military capability and delivering Future Soldier took place at a steel cutting ceremony marking a critical upgrade to the British Army’s Main Battle Tank, Challenger 2.

The move came after RBSL awarded a £25m supplier contract to Pearson Engineering to fabricate the turret structures for the British Army’s new Challenger 3.

The two companies marked the announcement with a steel cutting ceremony at Pearson Engineering’s facility, Armstrong Works, in Newcastle, yesterday.

The ceremony was attended by Major General Simon Hamilton plus colleagues from DE&S, Army HQ, RBSL and Pearson Engineering.

Brigadier Nick Cowey, Senior Responsible Officer (SRO) for the programme, said: “I’m really excited at this key milestone in the Challenger 3 programme being achieved on schedule.

“The turret fabrication being conducted here by Pearson Engineering is crucial for the delivery of a fully digitised turret, ensuring that our modernised Main Battle Tank is the most lethal in Europe.”

The 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.

The group received an update on the Challenger 3 programme and addressed members of the Pearson Engineering workforce at the historic Newcastle site, before cutting the first piece of steel for the Challenger 3 turret structures using a water-jet cutter.

The steel structures will house the turret subsystems which will ensure Challenger 3 is a network-enabled, digital Main Battle Tank with state-of-the-art lethality, upgraded survivability, plus world-class surveillance and target acquisition capabilities. It will sit at the heart of the British Army’s modernised warfighting capability, as set out in Future Soldier.

As part of the Challenger 3's layered protection, the fleet will also be the first British Army platform 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, with automatic target detection and acquisition allowing them to acquire and engage targets quicker than potential adversaries. 

The Challenger 3 subcontract, alongside other current land programmes, is a valuable investment in the north east of England and will sustain 285 skilled roles at Armstrong Works as well as prompt a £4m investment in its machining capability.