Next phase: British Challenger 2 tanks begin their transformation

The UK is entering the next phase of converting its 148 Challenger tanks to the Challenger 3 standard. The 3rd version of Britain’s land pride will use shells harmonized with the NATO standard. I.e. previous projectiles, which contained a charge of depleted uranium, will be decommissioned.

British Challenger 3 MBT to get US-made next-gen turret servo system
Photo: Reddit

However, London will not be able to meet the requirements alone, so Germany will cooperate in developing the latest lethal munitions for the Challenger 3. Germany’s choice of Rheinmetall is by no means accidental. This company is tasked with putting the L55A1 120mm gun turret on the 3rd version.

However, this is still only an intention. London and Berlin will need to cooperate so that new armor-piercing munitions are developed with enhanced kinetic energy [EKE]. It also marks a new phase in British understanding of the combat capability of their main battle tank, with what the Department of Defense Equipment and Maintenance [DE&S] to the British MoD is calling a “step change”.

What about ‘uranium’ ammunition?

What will happen to the available supply of depleted uranium ammunition remains unknown. Britain has already announced its intentions to provide Ukraine with a portion of these munitions. They will be used in the war against Russia when Britain’s Challenger 2s begin their battle there.

London has officially confirmed that it has sent depleted uranium projectiles to Kyiv. This became clear after James Hippie, the British Deputy Defense Secretary of Great Britain, responded in writing to the MP Kenny MacAskill from the Scottish Alba party.

According to Hippy, Britain does not monitor how and in what way Kyiv uses depleted uranium projectiles. Hippy did not answer whether it would help Ukraine in the after-war to neutralize these munitions. Whether Britain will send more such munitions to Ukraine is not known. There is a possibility that London will either destroy the quantity not sent to Kyiv, or send the remaining quantity to Kyiv.

The new ammunition

What will happen to depleted uranium munitions seems to be on the back burner for Britain. The island is working with Germany to develop new munitions, which will be part of the Challenger 2 to Challenger 3 upgrade.

Under the War sign: Ukrainian farmer trains to work with Leopard
Photo by Krister Sørbø

The EKE projectiles will be compatible not only with the Challenger 3 but also with the Leopard 2. London says that their development is carried out according to legal and regulatory standards. However, the British Ministry of Defense will need to develop a joint program for the new ammunition this year, so that they can be used by the Challenger 3. It is also known that the new 120mm EKE ammunition will be “open for sale” to other foreign customers.

However, certainly, the 3rd version of the main battle tank of the British army will not be able to use depleted uranium shells in the future. The Challenger 2’s 120mm L30A1 rifled gun will be removed and replaced by the L55A1 smoothbore gun. It, as part of the NATO standard, does not allow the use of depleted uranium.

Challenger 2 and Challenger 3

“According to documents” Great Britain has 227 Challenger 2 tanks. However, this is not the case. Part over the years has been cannibalized for spare parts of the operationally ready tanks. Britain actually has 157 Challenger 2 tanks.

British Gulf War tanks may be modernized and sent to Ukraine - Challenger 1 tank
Photo credit: YouTube

Plans are for London to upgrade 148 Challenger 2 tanks. In 2027, these 148 tanks will need to have achieved initial operational capability. In 2030, the same 148 British Challenger 3 tanks should already have reached full operational readiness. recalls that in 2002 main production of the Challenger 2 tank was officially discontinued. For the entire history of production, the British produced 447 Challenger 2 tanks.

What is the status of Challenger 2?

According to Mrs. Penny Mordaunt, British Defense Minister in 2019 Challenger 2 is in good technical condition. However, the former defense minister said in a statement that since 1998, these tanks have not had a major upgrade.

British Challenger 2 tanks crossed the border and entered Ukraine
Photo credit: MoD

It seems that in the last few years, London has been concentrating its efforts and paying more attention to the Challenger 3. However, the public will be watching with interest how the 14 tanks sent to Ukraine perform. There are conflicting opinions that London sacrificed these tanks knowing they would be lost, but it was their participation in a combat environment that would show their operational capability. What’s more, such participation will provide an assessment and perhaps new solutions for improvements in Challenger 3.


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