Rheinmetall BAE Systems Land's advanced Challenger 2 technology demonstrator features a new turret from Rheinmetall armed with an L120 55mm smoothbore cannon
The British Army and its armored forces are currently undergoing significant organizational and equipment changes. According to the 1998 Strategic Defense and Security Review (SDR 98), the army was reorganized into two deployable divisions: the 1st Armored Division of three armored brigades stationed in Germany and the 3rd Mechanized Division of three mechanized brigades directly in the UK. The 2010 Strategic Defense and Security Review identified a new "Army 2020" structure, according to which heavy army units are grouped into five multipurpose brigades. Each such brigade consists of one armored regiment, one armored reconnaissance regiment, one motorized infantry battalion, one mechanized battalion and two light infantry battalions. This structure was designed to support long-term operations at the brigade level, for example, those carried out in Afghanistan.
The Challenger 2 tank from the Royal Hussars takes part in the Spring Storm exercise in Estonia in May 2020
The structure of the multipurpose brigade in the 2010 version was never implemented, since in June 2012 the army announced a new structure, "Army 2020", optimized for modern warfare. The 3rd mechanized division was simply renamed into the 3rd division, which included three (1st, 2nd and 12th) motorized infantry brigades, each of which included an armored regiment of Tour 56, an armored reconnaissance regiment, two a motorized infantry battalion and one infantry battalion equipped with “heavy armored vehicles”. The division and the 16th Airborne Brigade will include the so-called Reaction Force for rapid deployment and warfare. The Adaptable Force will consist of several regular and reserve units assigned to seven (later reduced to four) infantry brigades deployed in different regions. These units serve as bases for combat training and perform various logistical tasks. All of them are part of the 1st Division, which until 2014 was called the 1st Armored Division.
The British Army Challenger 2 tank in the Theater Entry Standard (CR2 TES) variant (shown in the top photo with a mobile camouflage system) is being evaluated by the Office of Armored Vehicle Development and Testing
According to SDR 98, the regular armored forces consisted of six regiments equipped with the main combat tanks Challenger 2, and five reconnaissance regiments equipped with obsolete tracked vehicles of the Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked) family. According to the new Army 2020 survey, the armored forces have been reduced to nine regular regiments, divided into three categories: three armored regiments, three armored reconnaissance regiments and three light reconnaissance regiments. The Light Reconnaissance Regiment is a new type of regiment equipped with Jackal 4x4 vehicles that were originally purchased for operation in Afghanistan to provide the British contingent with a "maneuverable, well-armed, light patrol vehicle."
In 2016, the army announced the "Army 2020 Refine" structure, according to which the number of motorized infantry brigades will be reduced from three to two and two medium Strike brigades will be formed, which will equip two new families of platforms - Ajax tracked reconnaissance armored vehicles and Mechanized Infantry Vehicle 8x8 wheeled vehicles. ... It is expected that by 2025-2026 the army will be able to create a combat-ready division consisting of two motorized infantry brigades and one Strike brigade, formed from two brigades.
The British Army's Challenger 2 tank is the only NATO vehicle armed with the 120mm L30A1 rifled cannon.
Towards Challenger 3
According to the Chief of General Staff, Challenger 2 "is currently on the verge of obsolescence." The Challenger 2 tank produced by BAE Systems has been in operation for over 20 years, but at one time the British army preferred a foreign manufacturer's platform to replace the Challenger 1 tanks. In 1990-1991, the army evaluated the Challenger 2 technology demo, ordered by the government in January 1989, against the American M1A2 Abrams, the French Leclerc and the German Leopard 2 (improved), after which it recommended the Leopard 2, noting the impressive capabilities of the platform and the advantages of unification. with NATO allies.
Unlike its contemporaries in NATO countries, which are armed with 120mm smoothbore cannons, the Challenger 2 is equipped with the 120mm / 55 clb L30A1 cannon. This gun is the successor to the L11 cannon, developed for the Chieftain and retained in the Challenger 1, which fires a unique single-charge ammunition consisting of a projectile and a combustible charge. Such a decision would require the Ministry of Defense and BAE Systems, the sole manufacturer of ammunition for the Challenger 2 tank, to finance their development for the British army. At the same time, the chances of reducing or compensating the development cost through export sales were very slim.
The Ajax family of reconnaissance platforms is at the heart of the British Army's Strike concept
However, in June 1991, the Department of Defense issued a £ 520 million order for 127 Challenger 2 tanks and 13 driver training vehicles, and three years later ordered another 259 tanks and 9 training vehicles. The Challenger 2 tank entered service with the army in June 1998, and the last 386 tanks were ordered in 2002. 38 Challenger 2 tanks were sold to Oman, which ended the export sales of this platform.
At the end of 2005, as part of the proposed Challenger Lethality Improvement Program, one of the Challenger 2 tanks was equipped with a Rheinmetall L55 smoothbore cannon for testing purposes. Despite the positive results, the army was forced to abandon the project with an estimated cost of over 330 million pounds, as these funds were directed to operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The British Army's Challenger 2 tanks are currently equipped with only three armored regiments.
Approximately 120 Challenger 2 tanks participated in the 2003 invasion of Iraq and a certain number remained there until April 2009 in support of the stabilization operation. They have received a number of enhancements as part of the Urgent Operational Requirements process to increase combat resilience and urban performance. An improved set of mounted armor was installed, which included Chobham passive armor on the sides of the hull and turret, lattice screens in the aft part of the turret and engine compartment, and a Selex Enforcer unmanned module armed with a 7,62 mm machine gun was installed in front of the loader's hatch. Other enhancements included the electronic warfare system, the Caracal driver's night vision device and the Barracuda mobile camouflage system.
In 2015, the Department of Military Equipment of the Ministry of Defense invited the industry to participate in the life extension program (LEP) in order to extend the service life of the Challenger 2 tank beyond 2035. After reviewing proposals from at least seven manufacturers, the Department of Defense awarded separate contracts to BAE Systems and Rheinmetall Landsysteme in December 2016 for the evaluation phase of the Challenger 2 LEP program.
The British Army has reduced the number of armored regiments equipped with Challenger 2 tanks from three to two
In January 2019, Rheinmetall announced its intention to buy a 55% stake in the ground systems business from BAE Systems for £ 28,6 million. The new Rheinmetall BAE Systems Land (RBSL) joint venture, headquartered at the BAE plant in Telford, was officially opened on July 1, 2019. The Telford plant will play a major role in the production of the Boxer 8x8 after the Department of Defense awarded the ARTEC consortium between Rheinmetall and Krauss-MafFei Wegmann (KMW) a 12,6 billion euro contract for the production of 528 machines under the Mechanized Infantry Vehicle program. (MIV).
When the Challenger 2 LEP project began, the army wanted up to 227 tanks to equip three regiments of the Tour 56 plus a batch for tank schools in the UK and Canada. However, the structure of "Army 2020 Refine" provides only two regiments, which thus frees up resources for a deeper modernization of the remaining fleet.
In Adaptive Forces, Jackal 2 machines are equipped with three light shelves
Although the Challenger 2 LEP program provides for the preservation of the L30 cannon, in 2019 the army decided to implement a more comprehensive CR2 LEP (Enhanced) modernization package, which aims to address aging problems, as well as significantly increase firepower and combat stability. At DSEI in September 2019, RBSL showed its advanced technology demonstrator Challenger 2, equipped with a new Rheinmetall turret with an L55A1 smoothbore cannon, computerized fire control system and electric gun drives. The tower is equipped with the same combination of sights from Thales, which is installed on the Ajax reconnaissance vehicle - the panoramic sight of the Orion commander and the stabilized day / night sight of the gunner-operator DNGS T3. The L55 installation will allow the tank to fire the latest ammunition from Rheinmetall, including the BOPS with the DM63A1 tracer and the DM11 programmable air blast projectile. Each unitary projectile is stored in a separate armored container in the turret aft niche, which is also equipped with ejection panels.
Protection can be improved by integrating Elbit Systems' Iron Fist Light Decoupled (IFLD) active protection system, with the Defense Science and Technology Laboratory spearheading a project to develop new modular armor for the Challenger 2 tank and other armored vehicles.
The Department of Defense is expected to issue RBSL this year with a one-year evaluation contract that should lead to a contract for the production of the Challenger 3 tank in 2021-2022.
The Army is considering the advantages of moving from the current Touré 56 regiment, consisting of three tank battalions, each with 18 tanks and two at the regimental headquarters, to the Tour 58 regiment, with four battalions each with 14 tanks plus two headquarters tanks.
The NATO battle group in Estonia includes a battalion with the British Army Challenger 2 MBT
Armored Cavalry 2025
The Army has finally decided to replace the remaining number of its Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked) vehicles, after more than 45 years of service as primary reconnaissance vehicles.
Back in 1992, the Army launched the technologically ambitious TRACER (Tactical Reconnaissance Armored Combat Equipment Requirement) reconnaissance vehicle program to develop a replacement for the CVR (T). In 1997, this program was combined with the American Army's Future Scout Cavalry System project, within which it intended to replace its M3 Bradley armored vehicle. Two US-British industrial groups, SIKA International and Team Lancer, were awarded contracts in 1999 to develop prototypes with advanced technologies, including hybrid electric drives for near-silent machine travel, track belts to reduce vehicle weight and make travel quieter and longer operation, intelligent mast sensors and the more lethal 40-mm Cased Telescoped Armament System with telescopic ammunition from CTA International. Britain closed the TRACER project in 2002 after the US Army withdrew from it.
BAE Systems upgraded Scimitar 2 vehicles in 2010-2011 to improve their performance and combat resistance in Afghanistan
The shortcomings of the Scimitar CVR (T) reconnaissance variant with a 30mm cannon, especially its vulnerability to landmines and IEDs, posed big problems in Afghanistan. In order to improve survivability and characteristics, BAE Systems received a fixed-term contract in 2010, as a result of which the Scimitar 2 armored vehicle was developed, which is a combination of the new Spartan hull and the turret from the previous version. Survivability improvements for all variants included additional protection against explosions from mines and IEDs, ceramic armor to protect against kinetic attacks, lattice screens to protect against rocket-propelled grenades, and energy-absorbing seats for all crew members. The original Scimitar weighed 8 tons, while the Scimitar 2 weighs 12,25 tons - most of the increase comes from additional armor.
Approximately 60 CVR (T) armored vehicles, including the Sultan command variants, the Spartan armored personnel carrier, the Samson evacuation variant and the Samaritan ambulance variant, were modernized in 2010-2011, and the first Scimitar 2 vehicles were transferred to Afghanistan in August 2011. The Scimitar 2 platform is believed to be the last significant investment in the CVR (T) family, as it is slated to be replaced by General Dynamics UK's Ajax family machines between 2020 and 2025.
The Ajax platform originates in the FRES (Future Rapid Effect Systems, "Advanced Rapid Response Systems") program, which provided for the purchase of two families of armored vehicles - the FRES Utility Vehicle wheeled armored personnel carrier and the FRES Specialist Vehicle (SV) tracked reconnaissance vehicle. Although the FRES project was closed, the SV variant survived and in November 2008, the Ministry of Defense awarded BAE Systems and GDUK contracts to evaluate and develop solutions based on their CV90 and ASCOD 2 [ASCOD - Austrian Spanish Cooperative Development] infantry fighting vehicles. In July 2010, GDUK was awarded a £ 500 million contract to develop seven ASCOD S \ J prototypes for the demonstration phase.
Tank Challenger 2, modified for the demonstration "Streetfighter 2019"
In September 2014, the company was awarded a £ 3,5 billion contract for the supply of 589 armored vehicles of the Ajax family in six variants: 245 Ajax reconnaissance vehicles; 93 vehicles as an armored personnel carrier; 112 Athena control points; 51 engineering reconnaissance vehicles; 38 Atlas evacuation vehicles; and 50 Apollo repair vehicles.
Compared to the 12,5 tonnes of the Scimitar, the Ajax platform weighs 38 tonnes with the potential to grow to 42 tonnes. The main armament is a 40-mm weapon system with telescopic ammunition Cased Telescoped Armament System of the CTAI company and a remotely controlled weapon module mounted on the tower. The Ajax family vehicles will be equipped with four armored regiments, two in each Strike brigade, as well as reconnaissance companies in two armored regiments and reconnaissance platoons of four armored infantry battalions equipped with Warrior vehicles. The sensors installed on the Ajax platform will raise the situational awareness of the dispersed units of Strike brigades to an unprecedented level.
General Dynamics UK will produce 245 Ajax reconnaissance vehicles armed with a 40mm cannon by 2025-2026
In December 2015, GDUK announced that tank schools and the first company would be equipped by mid-2019, and the first brigade would be ready for deployment by the end of 2020. But in fact, this process is going slower than planned. The first six Ares vehicles were delivered to the armored center in Bovington in February 2019, where they are used for initial driver training in parallel with tabletop equipment and comprehensive simulators. In January 2020, at the training ground in Wales, for the first time, firing tests were carried out by the crew of the Ajax platform armament complex - the CT40 cannon and the 7,62 mm machine gun - in order to check the safety of the corresponding systems.
Since 2017, the Royal Cavalry Regiment, which will be the first armored regiment to be equipped with Ajax vehicles, has used its Scimitar vehicles to develop tactics, techniques and methods of warfare with Ajax platforms. The first Ajax battle group is expected to be fully operational by the end of 2023, and the entire Strike brigade, with two Ajax regiments, by 2025.
The British Army began firing tests of armored vehicles of the Ajax family in January 2020
During the transition period, before equipping two Strike brigades, the 3rd Division will consist of a motorized infantry brigade, a 16th air assault brigade and a light brigade.
The decision of the army to include three light reconnaissance regiments in the regular battle formation was made after the successful operation of Jackal 4x4 armored vehicles during Operation Herrick in Afghanistan in 2008-2015. For each rotation of troops during this period, special reconnaissance units were formed in the deployed brigade to conduct reconnaissance, observation, target designation and information collection, as well as fire support. The Jackal platform, originally developed by Supacat under the designation HMT 400 for special forces, was well suited for these tasks and more than 2007 Jackal 2010/500 / 1A machines were ordered in 2-2. Serviced by a crew of 3-5, the Jackal platform was typically armed with a 12,7mm machine gun or 40mm Heckler & Koch automatic grenade launcher and a 7,62mm universal machine gun.
General Dynamics Land Systems UK manufactures Ajax family vehicles at its plant in Merthyr Tydville, Wales
The light reconnaissance regiment consists of three battalions, each with three companies, equipped with four Jackal vehicles, and a fire support group with four Coyote vehicles (army model designation Supacat 6x6 HMT 600), which can carry heavier weapons. Light reconnaissance regiments, for example, are special reconnaissance and armored regiments, include military personnel trained in sniper, crews with Javelin ATGMs, forward observation officers, mortar fire spotters and forward aviation gunners.
The Jackal 2 reconnaissance vehicle of the Light Reconnaissance Regiment takes part in NATO exercises in Poland in May 2020
In preparing a light reconnaissance battalion for a mission in Mali, the Armored Vehicle Development and Testing Authority has recently actively collaborated with several companies to develop sensors, communications and a fuel system for Jackal 2 vehicles.
Exsel Electronics, Exsel Engineering Petards Group, Qioptiq, RolaTube, Safran and Thales took part in the project. Implemented improvements include a mast thermal imaging system, a telescopic radio mast, a modernization of night vision devices and a heater. Some of these improvements could be part of the Thundercat project. This conceptual study examines available technologies that can improve the "eyes" (optics), "ears" (communication) and "teeth" (mortality) of light reconnaissance regiments.
Scimitar CVR (T) vehicles currently equipped with three armored reconnaissance regiments will be decommissioned in the next five years.
Coronavirus and defense
Less than two months after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the launch of the Integrated Security, Defense, Development and Foreign Policy Review, on April 15, 2020, the Department of Defense confirmed that the review was paused so that the government could focus on coronavirus.
The military high command was ready to cut defense spending. As the National Audit Office said in February, "The Defense Department's budget is large, but does not cover the projected spending for 2019-2029." In the plan for the procurement of equipment for the period 2019-2029, it is noted that the Ministry of Defense considers the allocation of 180,7 billion pounds sterling for military equipment to be the best solution for 10 years, which is 2,9 billion less than necessary, while in the worst case events are projected to allocate only 13 billion pounds. In this regard, there are persistent rumors that some projects will be canceled or delayed.
Defense funding is now being complicated by the worst financial crisis since 1945, which has hit the British government.