Rheinmetall unveiled MBT Challenger 2 Advanced Technologies for the British Army’s Challenger 2 Life Extension Project (LEP). It is expected to award Rheinmetall a 12-month Assessment Phase 2 contract which is planned to lead to a production contract in the first half of 2021. When the Challenger 2 LEP was first launched, the the British Army’s Challenger 2 fleet numbered 227 tanks sufficient to equip three Type 56 armoured regiments, one in each of the three armoured infantry brigades, plus tanks for training in the UK and at the British Army Training Unit Suffield, Alberta, Canada.
The Challenger 2 demonstrator unveiled features a new Rheinmetall turret armed with the L55 gun, a new Thales commander’s and gunner’s stabilised day/night sights, a computerised fire control system, and all-electric gun control equipment. Installation of the L55 will enable the tank to fire the latest Rheinmetall ammunition including the DM63A1 APFSDS-T and the DM11 programmable air burst round. In 2006, a single Challenger 2 was fitted with the L55 for trials under the Challenger Lethality Improvement Programme and although the army was impressed the project proceeded no further as funding was prioritised to meet immediate operational requirements in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The UK Ministry of Defence awarded separate £23 million contracts on 22 December 2016 to BAE Systems and Rheinmetall Land Systeme for the assessment phase of the Challenger 2 LEP originally intended to address obsolescence issues to extend the service life of the main battle tank beyond 2035. BAE Systems unveiled its upgraded Challenger 2 in October 2018 which adhered to the MOD’s request and retained the tank’s L30A1 120m rifled gun. On 1 July 2019, Rheinmetall BAE Systems Land (RBSL) was formed between Rheinmetall Defence UK (55%) and BAE Systems Land UK (45%) combat vehicle business. The joint venture also intends to play a major role in other British Army combat vehicle projects including the manufacture of the Boxer 8×8 vehicle .