Chalenger-2 Main Battle Tank
The UK’s only MBT, the Challenger 2 has a solid reputation and reportedly performed very well during recent combat operations in Iraq. Receiving the last of its 386 vehicles in February 2002, the British Army intends to keep its Challenger 2s in service until at least 2025. Oman operates 38 Challenger 2s. Protection: There are no known accounts of any Challenger 2 being penetrated by enemy fire in Iraq, except for a blue-on-blue incident where a Challenger 2 crew mistook another Challenger 2 for enemy.
Based on photographs and footage of Challenger 2s operating in Iraq fitted with additional armour, the British
Army clearly feels the need to improve the protection levels of the vehicle’s baseline armour. This add-on armour consists of explosive reactive armour ‘bricks’ over the nose (known as ROMOR A) and ceramic/composite passive armour panels on the glacis plate and hull sides. It is the same armour kit installed on British Challenger 1 tanks during the 1990–91 Gulf War. Presumably this provides an even higher level of
protection on top of the Challenger 2’s still largely classified Dorchester baseline armour (a more advanced form of the composite Chobham armour) in those areas of the tank most susceptible to enemy fire. The weight penalty this extra armour incurs is estimated at several tonnes.
Firepower: The Challenger 2 is armed with a L11 120mm rifled gun. While a superbly lethal weapon in itself, the British Army now acknowledges the drawbacks of adopting rifled tank gun technology, an area where little or no research and development resources are being directed and ammunition is becoming increasingly expensive. In an effort to achieve better interoperability with its allies (particularly the US), the British Army seems certain to retrofit its Challenger 2 fleet with a 120mm smoothbore gun. However, those Challenger 2s to be made surplus under the current transformation plans will still have the 120mm rifled gun, leaving the new owners with an ordnance orphan. The total number of 120mm rounds stowed onboard the Challenger 2 is 50.
Mobility: From all accounts the Challenger 2 is a highly mobile tank, with no known deficiencies in this area. Its power-to-weight ratio is sufficient to enable all-up weight to be increased (due to the fitting of extra armour) without a significant degradation in performance. It must be said that like the M1 Abrams and Leopard 2, the modest maximum range of the Challenger 2 is a limiting factor in its operation as part of a fast moving and far-ranging armoured battlegroup. For the two former vehicles this is another leftover from the tank warfarecentric approaches taken to design of Western MBT during the 1970s and 1980s. But with a design history dating back only about 15 years, the Challenger 2 should possess better endurance than it does.