The contender for the British Army's key Challenger 2 Life Extension Programme (LEP) is being shown by Rheinmetall BAE Systems Land (RBSL, Stand S7-200) for the first time.
This features a brand-new turret designed and built by Rheinmetall Defence armed with its 120mm L55A1 high-pressure smoothbore gun coupled to a computerised fire control system, new Thales commander's and gunner's stabilised day/night sights, new displays and new all-electric gun control equipment.
Originally, the Challenger 2 LEP only aimed to replace obsolete turret subsystems, but this offering goes well beyond.
Its capabilities have also been enhanced, especially firepower. The key capability enhancement is the replacement of the BAE Systems (originally Royal Ordnance) 120mm L30A1 rifled gun, for which there has been no significant ammunition development in recent years.
When compared with the 120mm L44 smoothbore gun installed in the original Leopard 2 through to the A5 version, the L55A1 provides an increase in target engagement capability of up to 1,500m when firing armour-piercing fin-stabilised discarding sabot − tracer (APFSDS-T) ammunition. In addition to firing the latest Rheinmetall DM63A1 APFSDS-T ammunition, and future developments with enhanced penetration characteristics, the 120mm L55A1 gun can fire the latest 120mm DM11 programmable air burst ammunition, which is already in production and service with a number of users, including Germany and the US Marine Corps.
The first successful firings of the new Challenger 2 LEP turret took place at the Rheinmetall range in Germany in December 2018 and were unmanned.
It is understood that development work continues, which will lead to the submission of bids for the demonstration and manufacture phase in the first quarter of 2020.
The British Army took delivery of 386 Challenger 2 MBTs from Vickers Defence Systems but the fleet has already been reduced to 227 units, which is sufficient for three regiments plus vehicles for training in Canada and the UK.
In future, the Royal Armoured Corps will only have two Challenger 2 MBT regiments, each of 58 tanks, so the number to be upgraded is expected to fall to around 150 units − a fleet that is much smaller than those of France and Germany.
RBSL was formed on 1 July 2019 and is a joint venture between Rheinmetall of Germany (55 per cent) and BAE Systems Land UK (45 per cent).
Its headquarters is in Telford, Shropshire, UK, and it is the design authority for almost all of the tracked armoured fighting vehicles used by the British Army.