Rheinmetall BAE Systems Land
(RBSL) has been awarded a contract by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) to upgrade 148 British Army Challenger 3 main battle tanks.
Against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic this £800 million contract award marks a significant boost for UK prosperity and economic recovery. The programme will make significant enhancements to the vehicle and provide the British Army with a world-class capability — made in the UK.
The upgraded vehicle, to be called Challenger 3, will be a network-enabled, digital main battle tank with ‘state of the art’ lethality, upgraded survivability, plus world-class surveillance and target acquisition capabilities.
As a result of the contract award, 450 jobs will be created and sustained within the UK supply chain, and a further 200 jobs will be created and sustained within RBSL, including 130 engineers and 70 technicians. RBSL will also provide work and training opportunities to 60 apprentices over the next five years.
The work will be led out of RBSL’s Telford manufacturing facility with engineering support from Heavy Armour specialists based at Telford and other RBSL sites in Washington (North East) and Bristol. The programme will commence this year, with an expected in-service date of 2027.
RBSL will work with suppliers across the UK, further contributing to the levelling-up of regional economies. The programme has also prompted a £20 million inward investment to RBSL’s Telford facility, ensuring world-class manufacturing equipment and training for employees and apprentices.
The Challenger 3 contract will facilitate the UK staying at the forefront of armoured fighting vehicle development and provides the UK with the opportunity to explore new technologies for integration in future capabilities.
The programme protects the UK’s national skill base in both defence and engineering sectors, and could lead to world-wide exports.
John Abunassar, RBSL board chairman, said: “What a moment for RBSL, for our armed forces, and for UK prosperity. We are delighted to make this announcement and solidify the return of armoured vehicle engineering to the UK. This announcement comes after years of hard work and collaboration with our customer, especially in the recent extraordinary circumstances brought about by Covid-19.
“The British Army will receive a world-class capability. RBSL, Vickers Defence Systems at the time, handed over the first Challenger 2s to the British Army over 25 years ago, and it is a great deal of pride for our engineers to take this next step together too.”
The new vehicle will be equipped with the latest 120mm High Pressure L55A1 main gun, firing the latest kinetic energy anti-tank rounds and programmable multi-purpose ammunition. The gun is also complete with increased first-hit capability and the latest fire-support technology.
Furthermore, the new turret structure and improved survivability systems are designed to provide the highest standard of protection for the crew. The long-range commander and gunner primary sights will also be improved with automatic target detection and acquisition.
This solution also provides significant growth potential in all main battle tank key capability areas with the new physical, electronic, and electrical architecture.