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Rheinmetall Unveils CHALLENGER 2 Demonstrator

British Army’s Life Extension Programme (LEP)

Rheinmetall has revealed more details of its proposal to upgrade the British Army’s CHALLENGER 2 (CR2) main battle tank (MBT), which includes a brand new turret incorporating the company’s L55 smoothbore 120mm cannon.

The German company is proposing the solution as part of plans to extend the life of the CR2 through the British Army’s Life Extension Programme (LEP). While the main push for LEP has been obsolescence management – not lethality upgrades – it is understood from several sources that the British Army is now keen to pursue a gun replacement programme for the MBT’s existing L30 120mm rifled cannon.

To incorporate the smoothbore cannon, Rheinmetall has developed a new welded turret (compared with the existing cast turret). This incorporates the Thales ORION sighting systems for both commander and gunner – the same as those integrated on the new AJAX reconnaissance vehicle – and removes the traditional CR2 sighting system above the gun.

New crew stations, digital architecture and fire control system are also fitted. The turret bustle has also been re-designed to accommodate the one-piece 120mm ammunition fired by the L55.

Unmanned firing trials took place at the end of last year in Germany, demonstrating that the new turret met Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 6, according to Andrew Simpson, Rheinmetall’s project manager for CR2 LEP.

Speaking at the International Armoured Vehicle event in Twickenham, London, Mr Simpson added that the turret would also include a new armour fit, although details are not publicly disclosable.

Two contracts were awarded in 2016 to Rheinmetall and BAE Systems for a 24-month assessment phase, which is now finished. Rheinmetall’s announcement on 21 January that it would purchase a 55% stake in BAE Systems’ land business in the UK and has all but guaranteed work for both companies in the programme.

Grant Turnbull

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