Tank Challenger 2: applications filed
Due to the lack of capacity in the UK for the production of armored vehicles, local applicants for the LEP project (Life Extension Project) to increase the life of the British main combat tank Challenger 2 are forced to rely on foreign experience when applying for this program.
The LEP project is currently gaining momentum, as part of the project performance evaluation phase, the British Ministry of Defense received applications from five teams.
London reduced the number of applicants to two, and although the decision was expected on 1 on September 2016, it has now been postponed to the end of that year.
BAE Systems and GDLS were the first to apply, while CMI Defense and Ricardo UK announced their interest at Eurosatory. Lockheed Martin UK and Elbit Systems publicly announced this on August 10, while Rheinmetall, along with RUAG Defense, announced their collaboration with Supacat, Thales UK and BMT immediately before the deadline for submitting 11 August.
The two applicants selected for the evaluation stage will receive contracts worth 19 million pounds each. This stage will last two years, until the end of 2018, when the winning team will receive a contract for preliminary tests, production and service.
The British Department of Defense plans to upgrade 227 tanks Challenger 2
The only company with at least some experience with the Challenger 2 tank is Babcock DSG, which received a contract from the Ministry of Defense for the maintenance and supply of tanks at the military base in Bovington; while the company will remain in the game for any outcome of the competition.
The invitation to negotiate a contract for the evaluation phase provides that applicants must submit options for supplying new equipment that they want to supply “together” with the main service provider and these applicants “must demonstrate the willingness and ability to work with Babcock DSG”.
The company BAE System at one time manufactured tanks Challenger 2, but lost the competence of this platform and in general to upgrade the main battle tanks. Not the fact that the company is an automatic winner in this competition; it needs to work together with the American GDLS, which has experience in the manufacture and modernization of M1 Abrams MBT.
BAE has a reference collection of machines that it once produced at its plant in Telford; Now they are used to study the modernization of new options and training. At the same time there they say that the modernization of the Challenger 2, which received the designation of the standard "Mark 2", will be carried out at the factory of the company GDUK in Wales.
The situation with the application of the companies Lockheed Martin UK and Elbit Systems is similar. LMUK had no experience in upgrading MBT and cooperation with Elbit. But much of the work on the LEP project is related to the tower and LMUK has an advantage here because it owns a tower manufacturing plant in Amphill, where work is underway to modernize the Warrior BMP and implement the Ajax program. The company could carry out work on the Challenger 2 LEP project here or in Bovington.
Towers on the assembly line at the plant in Amphill
According to Richard Muir, director of business development at LMUK, the evaluation stage of the LEP project "is very well synchronized with the WCSP projects (the program for extending the capabilities of the Warrior BMP) and Ajax." Since all these programs are already sufficiently developed, the “risk” of transferring resources from them to research and development under the Challenger 2 tank program is minimal. ”
The Ajax and Warrior programs will end in 2022-2023, so there are certain possibilities in the Amphill plant in the future and they are counting on the next big program.
Of some concern is Oman, which with its 38 tanks, the Challenger 2 has observer status in the LEP project. Will this country be satisfied with the team of participants, which includes the Israeli Elbit, as well as the modernization of its tanks, given the transfer of technology from Israel?
However, Muir insists that Lockheed Martin UK and Elbit Systems UK remain British firms, despite the fact that their parent companies are American and Israeli, respectively.
The LMUK application also draws on Elbit’s expertise in upgrading M60, T-72 and Merkava tanks (top to bottom)
Will the life extension be upgraded?
Research to increase firepower will be conducted as part of the assessment phase and the teams of applicants will be able to offer new technologies. But at the same time, Muir warned that "all this should be economically viable and meet the requirements of the customer."
The company LMUK is considering the inclusion of anti-tank guided weapons and target designator in order to obtain an integrated fire control network. Also in the 2017 year, the decision of the British Ministry of Defense on the complex of optical-electronic countermeasures is expected, which may also be included in the modernization program.
However, the plans of the Ministry of Defense for the purchase of an intermediate thermal imaging unit for the Challenger 2 tank were not to be realized. According to industry sources, the decision to purchase it will be made in the framework of the LEP project.
Replacing the gun could significantly increase the firepower, but it’s all about funding
Although the requirement for replacing the 120-mm rifled gun L30 was not put forward, the industry quite seriously rushed to decide the question: will it be able to offer a new gun within the budget in 642 million pounds?
Rheinmetall supplied the X / NUMX-mm L / 120 smoothbore cannon as part of its technology demonstration program as part of a proposal to upgrade the Challenger 55 tank held in the 2-2003 years, but there was no money for it. It is clear that the installation of a new gun entails a new optics, fire control system and rearrangement of ammunition storage places and, as a consequence, an increase in cost.
However, for Rheinmetall it makes sense to make another offer. If the British army reduces the number of its regiments with the Challenger 2 from three to two, this means that a smaller number of tanks will enter the LEP project, and this could free up certain funds (although still not enough to replace the gun).
The company has a vast experience in upgrading Leopard 2 tanks and therefore understands all the complexities of such a program better than other competitors.
Rheinmetall definitely needs this work, since its German partner and competitor KMW has taken on the modernization of the German tanks Leopard 2 and Rheinmetall there is nothing else to do but fight for export orders.
Options for increasing fire power are presented. Will industry be able to make a proposal to the British Ministry of Defense that it cannot refuse?
In addition to fire power, there are questions on mobility and protection. In the Challenger's tank working group prospectus, there is no mention of replacing a power unit or armor, but only a phrase about “the possibilities of future capacity enhancement” implying high costs, although the Department of Defense is considering the possibility of installing an active protection system on all armored vehicles in a separate project.
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