The British Army has begun work on preparing its Challenger 2 main battle tank for the major upgrade to the next standard.
The work to be carried out will include a base overhaul and set of automotive upgrades, and will lay a foundation for the Challenger 3 upgrade program.
The Challenger 2 fleet is due to receive a base overhaul as part of its standard in-service maintenance schedule. This will be followed by a series of automotive upgrades under a ‘Heavy Armour Automotive Improvement Programme’ (HAAIP), which ensures the British Army’s Challenger 2 vehicles remain effective and capable until Challenger 3 enters service.
The HAAIP program is being led by DE&S, with engineering work completed by Rheinmetall BAE Systems Land (RBSL) and integration work by Babcock.
Under the program, a number of automotive upgrades will be made to existing in-service Challenger 2 tanks to increase their mobility and stability, both of which are critical to providing the foundation for the new turret and systems that will upgrade the vehicle to a Challenger 3.
Once upgraded, the vehicles will be delivered to RBSL who will deliver the Challenger 3 program under a £800M contract. A total of 148 of the army’s 227 Challenger 2 MBTs is set to be upgraded. RBSL will use the modified vehicles as the trial and demonstration platforms.
“This is an exciting moment for defense. We’ve been committed to keeping the Challenger 2 tanks in service over the past 23 years and we’re looking forward to using our expertise to manage the necessary upgrades to pave the way for the Challenger 3,” Brigadier Anna-Lee Reilly, head of the DE&S vehicle support team, said.
As part of the base overhaul process, each Challenger 2 will be stripped to bare hulls and subjected to ultrasonic inspection, weld repair and repainting. Every component is removed and inspected for serviceability to ensure that the vehicle is as close to new as possible when it is rebuilt.
The HAAIP upgrades will then introduce new components to the rebuild process to improve its suspension, engine and transmission.
To reduce waste and increase overall in-service platform availability, components that are replaced by the HAAIP upgrade pack are checked for serviceability, repaired where necessary, and returned to the supply chain to help the residual fleet of Challenger 2 tanks supported until 2025.