By Staff Correspondent
LONDON – The United Kingdom’s bid to arm its military with next-gen battle tanks under the Challenger 3 initiative is advancing steadily, as defence contractor RBSL unveiled the successful testing of a key component.
The joint endeavour by Rheinmetall and BAE Systems, prominent players in the global defence sector, confirmed that the 120-mm L55A1 smoothbore gun – designated L55A1CR3 for its UK-specific version – passed firing assessments. The announcement, made just ahead of the notable DSEI defence trade show in the capital, revealed that the gun’s performance evaluations took place in April. The tested guns are now awaiting delivery to RBSL to be incorporated into the digital turrets of the tanks.
Earlier this fiscal year, the Challenger 3 tank’s critical design audit met approval, both within budgetary constraints and ahead of the anticipated timeline. The Defence Ministry in 2021 commissioned RBSL with an £800 million ($1 billion) contract, aiming to revamp 148 Challenger 2 tanks.
The first set of these newly upgraded tanks is slated for the British Army’s reception by 2027, with expectations of them being fully operational by 2030.
In an international manoeuvre, the UK government supplied 14 of its Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine earlier in 2023, aiming to support Kyiv amidst the Russian incursion.
A pivotal segment of this mammoth upgrade involves replacing the UK’s L30 rifled 120-mm gun with the L55A1CR3 smoothbore variant. The tanks will also be enhanced with a modernised digital turret and features to boost its sustainability in battlefronts.
Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, a name synonymous with advanced defence tech, revealed recently the successful second-phase integration of its Trophy protection system, designed exclusively for the Challenger 3.
In the manufacturing trajectory, the structural foundations for the Challenger 3 are being assembled at RBSL’s facility in Telford. Just last month, the inaugural citadel – the steel core for the tank’s turret – for the Prototype 1 (P1) was received. This structure, while first earmarked for trial, will later be retrofitted to be part of the operational Challenger 3 tank. These essential citadels are the craftsmanship of Pearson Engineering, a UK enterprise under Rafael’s ownership.