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UK orders $1.2bn battle tank upgrade

German-based prime Rheinmetall has been tasked with upgrading the British Army’s Challenger 2 main battle tanks.

German-based prime Rheinmetall has been tasked with upgrading the British Army’s Challenger 2 main battle tanks.

The British Ministry of Defence has awarded a £665 million ($1.2 billion) contract to Rheinmetall for the modernisation of the Armed Force’s Challenger 2 fleet.  

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Under the contract, approximately 148 Challenger 2 main battle tanks will be upgraded with the 120mm smoothbore main armament and a new turret structure, including a digital system architecture.

The contract, which forms part of the British Army’s Challenger 2 Life Extension Project (LEP), is expected to convert the current Challenger 2 fleet into new Challenger 3 models, extending its service life.

The upgrades are scheduled for delivery from 2021-2027, with most of the work to be undertaken in the UK at the Rheinmetall BAE Systems Land (RBSL) plant in Telford in the West Midlands.

According to Rheinmetall, the Challenger 3 will be a “network-enabled, digital tank” with enhanced lethality and survivability.  

The modernisation project is expected to enable the fleet of tanks to fire current and future Rheinmetall 120mm kinetic energy rounds and programmable multipurpose ammunition.

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“We’re proud to be taking charge of one the United Kingdom’s most important army technology program here in the cradle of the British tank industry,” Armin Papperger, chief executive of Rheinmetall AG, said.  

“In technological terms, the upgrade will put the British Challenger tank on the cutting edge of NATO’s armed forces.

“To make this happen, we’ve amalgamated the longstanding expertise of RBSL with Rheinmetall of Germany’s unsurpassed know-how in large-calibre weapon systems, digitization and advanced turret solutions.”

John Abunassar, head of Rheinmetall’s vehicle system’s division, added, “The British Army is getting a world-class capability.

“At the same time, we’re celebrating the return of top-notch tank technology to the British Isles, because the bulk of the work will take place in the UK and involve the inclusion of numerous local suppliers.

“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 program also aims to support jobs growth across Britain, by maintaining a 200-member staff, including 130 highly skilled engineers and 70 technicians.

Over the life of the contract, RBSL is expected to offer employment and training opportunities to more than 60 trainees.

[Related: Boxer MIV production hits new milestone]

UK orders $1.2bn battle tank upgrade
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