newspaper reported on 19 April that the British Army is set to reduce its operational Challenger 2 main battle tank (MBT) fleet from 227 to 148 vehicles during their Life Extension Project (LEP) upgrade.
A Challenger 2 during the night firing of kinetic energy rounds down range. (Crown Copyright)
Citing a “senior defence insider”, the newspaper reported that 148 Challenger 2s will be upgraded under the LEP and the remaining 79 vehicles in the UK inventory will be mothballed and used for spares.
The UK Ministry of Defence responded to the report by stating, “No final decision on the number of tanks to be upgraded has been made.” The ministry added, “We are committed to significantly upgrading our Challenger 2 tanks, ensuring we have the best weaponry and armour.”
The UK originally procured 386 Challenger 2 MBTs between 1991 and 1995. The vehicles were used to standardise the UK’s tank fleet around the Challenger 1 and 2 and replace the Cold War-era Chieftain.
The British Army’s tank fleet was cut by 40% in 2010 as part of the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), which was intended to divert much needed funding and resources to the war effort in Afghanistan.
The UK now operates three tank regiments with 56 Challenger 2s each. The remaining 59 are understood to be used for training and as a war maintenance reserve.