Challenger 2 Life Extension Project – Interim

The current Life Extension Programme (LEP) for the British Army’s 227 Challenger 2 Main Battle Tanks has been failing to deliver anything for some time. It started as an ambitious programme but as industrial capability and financial reality has dawned, the scope, ambition and timescales have shifted also.

Challenger 2 is a proven and effective design but is staring into an evolutionary dead end in terms of lethality, a withered industrial base to sustain and develop it, and to be blunt, a lack of interest from Army leadership, having spent all the money on transformational equipment like FRES/SV/Scout/AJAX (stop laughing at the back)

In May 2014, the MoD let a market survey for the Life Extension Programme (LEP) that would extend the out of service date from 2025 to 2035.

The inference of this is that between then and 2025, there would be work carried out on the existing fleet of vehicles. In October 2014 Caterpillar were awarded a £47.2 million contract to remanufacture CV8 and Cv12 engines, putting any notion that a new MTU powerpack would be included in the LEP. Since then, the focus has been on replacing only those components with spares availability or obsolescence issues, not including the main gun.

After failed attempts at teasing industry with CSP, CLIP and LEP, the Army seems to have developed an interim strategy, commonly known as ‘someone else will sort this out sometime in the future, maybe’

CR2 LEP has been reprofiled, with Defense News reporting that following the Concept Phase, the Assessment Phase would start in early 2016.

Obviously, this depends on SDSR, and the other programmes like Ajax, Warrior CSP, MIV and MRV-P.

So why post this now?

A market survey contract note published today provides details of a requirement for a pre LEP equipment project to maintain or replace Challenger 2 thermal imaging system.

The UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) Armoured Vehicles Programmes (AVP) has a possible future requirement to deliver an interim solution to maintain or replace the Challenger 2 Thermal Imaging (TI) System. The existing TI system is suffering from obsolescence in key components and is required to be supported until its replacement under the CR2 Life Extension Programme (LEP). In order to maintain the capability of the Platform AVP would like to gather information on the options available, including, but not limited to, maintain or replace the existing system, either in part or in full. This requirement is an interim solution until an enduring solution is provided by LEP and is anticipated that it will be required from 2017 with the interim solution sustained until 2025 on a fleet of 227 vehicles. The MOD AVP is conducting a Market Survey to inform the CR2 TI Procurement Strategy and the Business Case

Estimated cost, between £10 million and £20 million.

A couple of days after Cambrai Day it is particularly hard to swallow, but the sensible answer is to bin CR2 LEP and start a programme of replacing Challenger with new build Leopard 2’s, or provide some cash and one or two selected technical capabilities to whatever Leopard 3 will eventually look like for the longer term whilst trickle funding the pre LEP projects like that described above.

But that would require the British Army to admit a few harsh truths.

Challenger 2 in Iraq

And therefore, unlikely.

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mr.fred
mr.fred
November 22, 2015 12:06 am

sensible answer is to bin CR2 LEP and start a programme of replacing Challenger with Leopard 2’s

How is that the sensible answer? Replacing an obsolescing platform with a completely different one with only marginal advantages and a very slightly longer life? That would require massive logistical, training and infrastructure changes?

Martin
Martin
November 22, 2015 5:15 am

Buying a couple of hundred new leopards ain’t going to be cheap and I could never imagine us going for a second hand solution.

duker
duker
November 22, 2015 8:08 am
Reply to  Think Defence

I understand the Germans are starting funding a leopard 3. Doesnt that too make the L2 as not having much future ?

TrT
TrT
November 22, 2015 8:28 am

Yeah you kinda had me till the end as well.
The CR2 has issues, but in few years, the L2 will have those issues, and we wont own the IP, so will have far fewer options for solutions.

I’m not convinced that CR2 needs replacing in the long term.
When we pull out of Germany, there will be little reason to.

Peter Elliott
November 22, 2015 8:50 am

We should certainly buy in to Leopard 3. In the meantime Challenger will probably have to struggle on as best it can. Which is a shame but the reality we’re in. We prioritised the industrial base for ships and planes and that for armoured vehicles has suffered accordingly…

Marcase
November 22, 2015 8:54 am

Another (unlikely) option is to bin Challenger, and look at FRES as a semi-interim Armored Gun System. FRES is in production now with a growing industrial base so should be attractive from a domestic industrial point.
Added with an active defense system – technology that is still very much experimental even with battle tested Israeli systems available – and a 105mm/120mm automatic gun, and/or even with a long-range (indirect?) ATGW it could be a viable system, although ofcourse never a true replacement for the traditional heavy Main Battle Tank. Heavy armor is still very much in demand especially the type that can not just strike, but especially take a punch or two from threats ranging from enemy MBTs, RPGs and mines/IEDs – including suicide armored Humvees that ISIL-Daesh is using against the Iraqi army tanks.

If this FRES-AGS isn’t terrorized by weight limitations too much (forget C-130 & A400 but focus on C-17 transportability) there is room to add armor, ADS and all kinds of exotic kit that had to be cut from the original US FCS / UK FRES program light tank variants due to weight restrictions and that created such a mess of that program.

Barborossa
Barborossa
November 22, 2015 9:17 am

…..Errr no, we didn’t ‘prioritise’ the industrial base for planes.

Fact is we have the fourth biggest aviation industry in the world- we export billions-worth of equipment, engines, components (and some aircraft) etc yearly.

…When was the last time we exported any military equipment (Disregarding dodgy Saxons of course and commercial sales from Landrover)

…Same question could be asked about ships of course…

Which should raise the question as to why one industry can still manage to be successful (despite various governments strenuous efforts to f**k it over in the 60s & 70s) and the others can’t- despite the success of Centurion, Ferret, CVRT & Saladin/Saracen and Leander & two Type 42s.

Hohum
Hohum
November 22, 2015 10:04 am

Stupid post. Challenger 2s problems are easily solved for considerably less than a fleet of Leopard 2s would cost. The vehicles only real problem has been a persistent lack of investment, with a little bit of investment it has plenty of future.

Chris
Editor
Chris
November 22, 2015 10:22 am

Yes I know the record’s cracked… We are where we are because for reasons more of political ideology than of evidenced need this nation abandoned its sovereign military design capability. Through to the 80s exactly the sorts of questions posed here, and engineering solutions to their underlying problems, were being considered and investigated and tested on a permanently ongoing basis by the Establishments, so that when someone in power decided ‘something must be done’ there was a pretty good idea what that ‘something’ needed to be. Bear in mind, on the Armour side of things, the initial design and prototyping for Challenger, Warrior, CVR(T), FV430 series, Humber Pig, FV600 series and Ferret all happened at the Establishments. Since the role was passed over to industry, we have bought Panther CLV, Mastiff/Ridgeback/Wolfhound armour-plated trucks, Husky, Pinzgauer Vector, Warthog and FRES/Ajax. Warthog/Bronco has been a bit of a success, but the Mastiff bunch have so-so mobility and will always be big trucks, there are questions rumbling over the real protection of Husky and Panther, and the unit costs of Panther and FRES – both cited at contract award as COTS – are more than would be expected for custom design to requirement. In my view the Establishment gave better value.

Not only that, but the Establishment would do its design thing whether there was a big juicy contract in place or not. The big industry players do not generally invest R&D effort unless there is a decent return likely. But there is no grand strategy where companies are brought in to run a design process over several years to get the product the User wants, instead there are competitions.

I hate them.

Let me refine that statement – if there are several companies each producing standard widgets then by all means run a competitive procurement. But if there is a unique UK requirement that needs a unique solution that is not the standard widget everyone else uses, then whichever supplier is picked will be providing a custom solution, which is where the system falls apart.

The process takes year, with PQQ and multiple ITT stages followed by Preferred Bidder selection and contract negotiations. But most of the bidders’ time and effort involved is spent on pricing runs, work breakdown structures, schedule invention, internal reviews, and presentation and documentation generation. Generally the timing for (as an example) ITT1 will give industry something like two months to respond before MOD spend three months assessing the bids. Week 1 everyone is reading the requirement. Week 2 the design team must make a solution. Weeks 3 – 7 take the solution and build all the PM stuff (WBS, schedule, costs) around them, then reviews pick holes and changes on the hoof are wrought kicking off the cycle again, and Week 8 is polishing documentation, tech pubs, exec go/no-go, and delivery. ITT2 might allow 50% longer to respond. So by the time the Preferred Bidder decision is made, there will have been something like 20 days of engineering design per bidder (assuming weekend working) over the two years or so. Is it any surprise the bids are all based on old products tarted up a bit?

I’m sure the MOD really believe industry fills the years between MOD competitions fervently designing brilliant new stuff on the off-chance its what MOD wants. It doesn’t. I worked in big organisations and know that as soon as the MOD switches attention from a project (OUVS for example), industry switches off the workpackage and all work stops. Work will not be restarted until the Contract Bulletin says there is a requirement about to be published. The years when industry would keep a design office rolling on just in case are long gone. Exception being the TOBA arrangement I guess.

You may have noted I have a few light/medium armour designs. I have been considering, refining, expanding, detailing the designs for five years and (blowing own trumpet) they are pretty damn good. The response from briefings would suggest potential Users think so too. There is no way, had I been working at one of the armoured vehicle companies, I would have been allowed as much time to develop the designs. The specialists within the Establishments would have been able to do as I have done, and that’s why for the most part their designs turned into good products.

Over the years I’ve heard a lot of guff, mostly it seems from the customer side of things, that its right that industry shows its commitment to MOD by investing effort in new designs, and that if they fail to invest then their lack of commitment to MOD will lose them business. This may be new news, but industry has a greater commitment to shareholders – burning profit designing brand new Gucci products on the off-chance of a small order from MOD is not good value. I might turn the argument on its head and suggest if MOD is serious about the defence of the realm it should show commitment in terms of paying for the designs it thinks it wants, whether by investing in recreated Establishments or by funding industry design is its own choice. Then, maybe, the User would get the sort of kit expected, rather than whatever’s left on the shelf after other nations have paid for development.

shark bait
November 22, 2015 10:27 am

I agree with peter.
What ever we do with challenger, a decade down the line we will still be left with a small number of a unique type, that we cannot afford to properly support.
May just have to suck up the pain on this one for a while, and hope we can make a eurotank work.

Chris
Editor
Chris
November 22, 2015 11:36 am

Shark bait – the same argument would apply to any UK design, whether ship or aircraft or comms kit or radar or body-armour. There is always a case thrown forward for buying cheaper from abroad as either COTS or shared development; reality says its rarely cheaper (MAN truck, Ajax and Typhoon as examples?) and takes longer, and for good measure removes (or at least really restricts) the option for exports.

Pacman27
Pacman27
November 22, 2015 12:15 pm

Tanks… Can anyone answer me where in the UK we would use them please? As stated in another post by TD today the Challenger fleet in Germany is in a dire state and in my opinion we should buy more attack helicopters to support Ajax units – surely this would be a better option or is it just me.

I believe our European partners should provide the Tank fleet for NATO and that we should concentrate on assets that are flexible and can be in theatre quickly. It is my understanding that a request to use Challenger in Afghan was denied – so if we are not going to use it in a relatively flat country where it would add a capability then when will we use it. Given the only other plain we will use this equipment is the european theatre and that we are withdrawing our personnel from Germany then it seems appropriate to get rid of this capability.

During the same period we have run our Apache airframes into the ground with use, so doesn’t it make sense to have more of these (as we use them) than buy more equipment we will not use.

Just to be clear, I am not against tanks but given the limited budget and the fact we will not use these in the UK and don’t seem willing or able to use them elsewhere then I would spend my money on something else. It is is Germany’s interest to have a large tank fleet – not the uk’s. Where we would need tanks in the future I am sure we could discuss with the US or other Nato partners about their supplying units, but I wouldn’t bet on us needing them.

food for thought…

Observer
Observer
November 22, 2015 12:18 pm

I doubt the spare parts line for the Leo2 is going to dry up any time soon, too many users in the world willing to pay to keep the parts flowing and you know business, if there is money, anything is negotiable. Even if for some reason Germany decides to dump everything related to the Leo2, there is bound to be a country or two willing to take the IP rights and manufacturing off their hands and be the supplier for the Leo2s worldwide. There is a lot of money in that.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
November 22, 2015 12:26 pm

Hohum did not let us into the secret how it would become easy (I don’t profess to have the answer, either… a refreshing change?).

I think the requirement ” Out of Service Date extended from 2025 to 2035 in order to continue to provide precision direct fire manoeuvre capability” – even without the reference to the existing platform – pretty much leaves all the armoured gun varieties out.

I think some of Chris’s points merit repetition:
“. Since the role was passed over to industry, we have bought Panther CLV, Mastiff/Ridgeback/Wolfhound armour-plated trucks, Husky, Pinzgauer Vector, Warthog and FRES/Ajax. Warthog/Bronco has been a bit of a success, but the Mastiff bunch have so-so mobility and will always be big trucks, there are questions rumbling over the real protection of Husky and Panther, and the unit costs of Panther and FRES – both cited at contract award as COTS – are more than would be expected for custom design to requirement.”
– Ajax too early to judge, but otherwise kinetic protection might be suspect due to the priority given to blast protection… valid for some circumstances; and not so much for other circumstances (hence I have always attributed the label of mobile reserves to the Mastiff bns included in the RF bdes).

This ” This may be new news, but industry has a greater commitment to shareholders – burning profit designing brand new Gucci products on the off-chance of a small order from MOD is not good value.” is what happens when those who are firebrands for free competition and VFM actually have never worked in the industry… name one after M. Heseltine had to resign,

mr.fred
mr.fred
November 22, 2015 1:15 pm
Reply to  Think Defence

Because CR2 is unsupportable except at disproportionate cost and we are spending money on a vehicle that has no future

So spending, what, £1bn on new vehicles, plus whatever additional costs for training, spares, and facilities for less than twenty years use is not disproportionate?

It’ll be interesting to see which solutions are proposed for the TI upgrade, since there are rifle sights that offer better performance than the current sensor.

Rising-Falcon
Rising-Falcon
November 22, 2015 1:30 pm

Check out our Forum on UK military and defence issues:

https://www.americanmilitaryforum.com/forums/forums/uk-defence-forum.53/

Hohum
Hohum
November 22, 2015 1:51 pm

There are plenty of parts on older Leopard 2 variants that are just as unsupportable as parts on challenger. If you want to solve the problem just identify those parts and either replace them with something new or find a way of solving the supply issue- that’s not as hard as it sounds in a world of multi axis 3d CNC machines and 3d printing.

The lesson with challenger is to not just leave a type to fester but to maintain a constant level of investment.

PhilEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
PhilEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
November 22, 2015 2:03 pm

Can’t we leverage as much as possible from the AJAX supply chain as possible?

There’s primary/secondary sights, EA and LSA systems that can be dropped into a chally 2 hull.

mr.fred
mr.fred
November 22, 2015 2:12 pm

Rising-Falcon,
Why?
PhilEeeeee
You might be able to drop them into a hull easily enough, but can you fit them to the turret? Bearing in mind cables and power requirements, interface footprints (that panoramic sight on the Ajax looks large) and that sort of thing

shark bait
November 22, 2015 3:03 pm
Reply to  Chris

We don’t operate any unique aircraft and all out ships use shared systems.
Understandably procurement costs may not be cheaper in a joint venture, but through life costs usually are. An easy example is do you think we would have funded AESA for typhoon by our self?

Hannay
Hannay
November 22, 2015 3:50 pm

@shark bait

We are funding AESA on Typhoon by ourselves. The UK is getting a different radar than the other countries because we want a useful military capability rather than industrial sustainment.

Sentinel is definitely a unique aircraft…

MSR
MSR
November 22, 2015 5:10 pm

Hmm… ditch Challenger and buy a tank from the Germans.

And in another thread I got told off for suggesting that the lack of a pimped out plane for the personal use of our glorious leaders was a national embarrassment.

On a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is having a boat load of RN sailors nicked by the Iranians* where does buying Leopard 2 for the British Army rank?

*yes, I mentioned that.

Serious comment: I think Pacman27 has a good point. We’re not using Challenger and passed up recent opportunities to do so. We are not investing in Challenger and show no signs of doing so. So let us buy the things we do use (Apache airframes in serious numbers of three figures, for example, rather than the half hundred or so overworked mares we’re going to have, instead). And if we do really believe that there is a serious role in the British Orbat (note British) for an MBT then let’s buy in to Leopard 3. That is satisfactory both technologically and politically, because it’s a joint venture with a fellow European partner who’s got class in the MBT department, and buys British industrial involvelment with a brand that sells in serious numbers all over the world, and will continue to sell for the rest of the century. Image the receipts from that one! Way more than we’re going to get from a lift fan and a couple of horizontal stabilisers on the F-35.

Pacman27
Pacman27
November 22, 2015 6:25 pm
Reply to  MSR

It is a sad thing to say – but the gulf war was the last time we used tanks and if that happened again we could rely on our partners and put a much larger force of apaches into theatre. What I don’t think we should be doing now is filling in the gaps for Germany and other NATO “partners” who refuse to live up to the 2% commitment and who should in reality be providing the bulk of heavy armour for the european theatre. In my opinion it is a total waste of money to have tanks we will not use when we are in desperate need of more of the kit we are over using (Apache). Apache and Ajax would be a potent combination on the battlefield as will Ajax and F35b. Tanks are a nice to have at this point in time I am afraid.

mr.fred
mr.fred
November 22, 2015 6:41 pm

What’s Ajax other than a medium tank with a light gun?

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
November 22, 2015 6:49 pm

‘It is a sad thing to say – but the gulf war was the last time we used tanks’

Which one? We may not have used CR2 in Afghan but some of our allies did use MBT’s to great effect, in addition Trojan more than proved it’s worth during it’s use in Herrick. Do not mistake not used with not being useful.

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
November 22, 2015 7:03 pm

@ mr. fred – “What’s Ajax other than a medium tank with a light gun?”

I am at least sympathetic to the idea of building on Ajax to provide a medium tank.

We will never order enough tanks to justify a challenger 3, therefore heavy tanks have ceased to be a strategic industry.
We don’t appear to have use for all the armoured brigades we have now, they represent a lot of ‘capability’ tied up against a fornever hypothetical.

We are however making many hundreds of Ajax, a platform we will be using and investing for the next forty years. And it has growth margins.

Is a 40t ajax with a bigger gun totally ludicrous, because if it is the only other possibility is hanging on to 2030 when the Leclercopard 2.3 breaks cover.

mr.fred
mr.fred
November 22, 2015 7:47 pm

Jedibeedtrix,
The 40t Ajax with a bigger gun would be a self-propelled gun rather than a tank. (IMHO – the armour on an IFV chassis is never going to be particularly good for any given weight – there’s just too much space to protect.)

If we are to consider that the Armoured units are something we will not use, then we probably ought to take the same level of honesty to the rest of the armed forces. If our expeditionary aspirations are only ever going to be playing whack-a-mole on uppity natives, then we don’t need high capability strike aircraft, expensive ATGW, self-propelled artillery, brigade level comms, dedicated attack helicopters or any of that nonsense.

We’ll have a bunch of 8x8s, some with 120mm mortars, and that’ll do.

Marcase
November 22, 2015 7:58 pm

Holland had to cut all it’s updated 180 Leo 2A6s due to budget cuts and chose to focus on light/medium mechanized forces backed up by Apaches and PGM F-16s. But TACAIR, however nice, isn’t 24/7 due to weather, distance or ‘de-escalation measures’ dictated by politicians. This led to the embarrasing realisation that Holland is now forced to buy Leo2’s from Germany again (which includes turning in the ‘hidden’ Dutch tank company that was kept off the books for ‘training purposes’) and keeping them under direct German control (don’t get me started). Long story short, heavy tanks will always be needed. Question is in what quantity.

Also the question should’nt be that the UK hasn’t used tanks abroad, but which (NATO) countries did and their effect on the ground; Australia and Denmark used them with success in A’stan, and let’s not forget MBTs were deployed during the ginormous mess in the Balkans. ‘Show of force’ may not be sexy enough to warrant the money for a tank battalion, but outmatching a potential foe just by ‘presence’ certainly is, or should be.

Although exceedingly unlikely, there’s still Ivan rummaging around along East European borders and Ukraine and perhaps not so unlikely, a possible deployment of Western troops in Syria/Iraq (yes, I foresee ‘credible’ Western heavy troops returning to the ME eventually).

Challenger, LEP’d or not, should be kept in the UK inventory. As the Soviets would tell you; better to have an old tank than no tank.

Observer
Observer
November 22, 2015 8:28 pm

Just to point out, never use an AH-64 to do an MBT’s job. They don’t have the armour for it.

As for Leo3 or CR3, I’ve to ask “why”? Has there been a doctrine change in design or tactics or armament that renders the old obsolete but can be corrected with a totally new design? What is happening now is platform age, not design obsolescence, the Leo2 and the CR2 has not met with anything new that renders them obsolete which requires a massive redesign.

If you do not have the industrial capacity to refurbish the old MBTs, maybe you can try outsourcing the job. Recycle any parts that can be reused, especially the armour, replace the frame, basically SLEP the whole thing and it should be good for a few more decades, no need to reinvent the wheel.

MSR
MSR
November 22, 2015 8:34 pm

Although exceedingly unlikely, there’s still Ivan rummaging around along East European borders and Ukraine

There’s nothing at all unlikely about that. Ukraine is currently fighting elements of the Russian army (sans uniforms and insignia) and ‘rebels’ who are equipped with Russian armour. The UK might never openly fight Russia, but that doesn’t mean a Challenger won’t be faced with a T-72 or T-80 commanded by someone else, who chooses to take exception to a UK detachment of peacekeepers/monitors/training mission.

So, yes, I agree with your assertion that such capabilities should be kept on tap, despite my earlier comment about ditching the lot and focusing on attack helicopters. I view the latter as more likely rather than sensible.

The problem is that we’re likely to retain MBTs as a cadre only, (much like the ‘hidden’ Dutch tank company already mentioned). This is similar to the situation with the Type 45s: the RN now only has a cadre of AAW destroyers and their crews (certainly in comparison to the T42 days). This force is barely sufficient to maintain an operational capability and a training pipeline on the assumption that we could expand it in the future if needed. And this, of course, requires the kind of 20:20 foresight that the MoD is universally renowned for!

Jed
Jed
November 22, 2015 8:46 pm

Just another example of how hollow are forces really are, all fur coat and no nickers as TD might have said once or twice before…….

If we think about it logically:

1. what threats might require heavy armour to counter ?
2. What does recent experience tell us about heavy armour’s utility (used in Urban ops in Iraq, rural counter insurgency in Afghanistan, all out proxy war in Ukraine….. Etc etc…..)
3. How does that apply to force design ?
4. What are the potential alternatives: Ajax derivative, Apaches, Leopard 2, second hand M1, doing without…..
5. How the alternatives stack up,against the potential threats, through life costs, force design etc ?

All of the above requires money. Fitting sensors from Ajax and MTU power pack as a constrained SLEP would require investment, as would any of the alternatives….. Investments we don’t seem to want to make.

Peter Elliott
November 22, 2015 8:46 pm

Observer – I would point to the cost of in-theatre fuel, which is ruinously high in both financial and force protection terms, especially if you have any kind of hostile insurgent or special forces activity on your supply lines.

Tanks are gas guzzlers and anything that makes a significant dent in the fuel bill is well worth looking at . Diesel electric transmission could do this: BAES sells the technology to bus companies. But the changes in layout would make it a new design, and one with significant opportunities to improve the interior layout.

Brian Black
Brian Black
November 22, 2015 9:55 pm

That we didn’t deploy British tanks to Afghanistan is fairly irrelevant as it was a multinational force with others contributing tanks, and the enemy was largely militia and light forces rarely massing at greater than company strength.

What Afghanistan should show us is that even in that type of conflict tanks are a useful addition. In an army our size, I think that even if it transitioned to an overall lighter force, it would still be worthwhile to keep an armoured brigade’s worth of heavy stuff to support lighter infantry units.

And attack helicopters are phenomenally expensive to operate, so probably not the best place to look for a cheap alternative to tanks, even before considering the operational practicality.

I don’t think that tanks are so important to the UK anymore that it warrants a new British tank after C2 though. Whenever it becomes more expensive to tinker with Challenger than to replace, maybe buy into the Franco-german thing (when is that due?) or just buy American.

The only circumstance in which I would say dump the tanks altogether would be if the Army lost about a third or more of its frontline units tomorrow. At that point, I think it would be worthwhile to pick a single type of combat brigade for the Army and run with that.

Brian Black
Brian Black
November 22, 2015 10:09 pm

Peter, tanks are gas guzzlers because we designed ours to run headlong into the Soviets. Any new euro tank would probably have an efficient auxiliary power unit to keep all the electronics powered without running the main engine, and that could lend itself to a stop/start engine mode to make patrolling a bit easier on the pocket.

The often cited alternative to a tank, the attack helicopter loaded with a couple thousand pounds of weapons, is also a gas guzzler.

MSR
MSR
November 22, 2015 10:23 pm
The often cited alternative to a tank, the attack helicopter loaded with a couple thousand pounds of weapons, is also a gas guzzler.

I didn’t interpret the idea of buying more Apache as an economical alternative: the context was spending money on things we’re likely to use, have been using and have proven themselves efficacious. No one said Apache was a budget option, but if it gets used it’s money well spent.

PhillEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
PhillEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
November 22, 2015 10:44 pm
Reply to  mr.fred

@mr.fred – The gunners sight on the Ajax is shared with the Warrior WCSP turret, you’d lose the independent rotation but you a RWS you’d still maintain some degree of sighting independent of turret rotation and sights and RWS commonality across 3 platforms?

Lord Jim
Lord Jim
November 22, 2015 11:20 pm

As long as it can move around the battlefield, see the target, hit it and kill it, the Challenger 2 will suffice until its OSD. So the engine needs to be sorted out, the optics need updating and we need a supply of modern rounds for the gun. The first and second were mentions in the post and the third I believe is in hand, though only a APFSDS round at present with HESH stocks reaching the end of their shelf life.

If the money was available the Leopard 2 would be a good choice, especially with the support package the manufacturer provides. They provide full maintenance for the life of the platform including a warranty if something goes wrong. In addition through life costs are known so few surprises and there would be no issue with spares availability or obsolescence as the manufacturer is responsible for correcting this. This is what happens when you have a large successful programme with 1000s of platforms built and still in service worldwide. And by the way the Leo 2 is going to be in service and properly supported, way beyond the OSD of the Challenger 2, just look how many Leo 1s are still in service. But this is all fantasy armies as there is no money for such a purchase so the Challenger 2 will soldier on and do what it says on the tin. I cannot help the seeing the new Russian armour on parade in may got the Cavalry types all hot and bothered and wanting new horses to ride into battle on.

Observer
Observer
November 23, 2015 12:15 am

@PE

Petrol-electric engines in tanks have been around since 1917, it just didn’t catch on. Something about the torque generated I think.

The problem with no MBT is that when you really need one, you pay in lives for the lack.

Obsvr
Obsvr
November 23, 2015 7:35 am

The first question you have to ask about any tank for UK service is “Does it have an aux gene”. If the answer in “No” then it is not fit for purpose. Simples!

Same applies to SP guns.

I vaguely remember a close inspection of Leo 1 at the Panzer Truppen Schule, no aux gene, thumbs down.

Obsvr
Obsvr
November 23, 2015 7:41 am

An AVRE would have been far more general use in Afg than an MBT. That 165mm shell is a real gobsmacker. Re-turreting some CHA 2 with a 165mm would be a good move, of course ammo would also have to be produced.

Hohum
Hohum
November 23, 2015 7:44 am

There was an MBT requirement in Afghanistan. Both the USMC and the Canadians took them. The British Army reportedly asked to take some Challengers but were told they couldn’t by Downing Street as it would have looked like an escalation- so the story goes.

Phil
November 23, 2015 7:58 am

They were unsuitable for use in the green zone. They’d have made more enemies than they could possibly have killed in a day by churning up irrigation ditches and farm land for only a marginal (if that) increase in fire-power available.

The Danes used them because their AO had large tracts of desert where they could be used and higher ground around the green zone where their optics could peer in. A 120mm cannon is also often not the best weapon to fire into the green zone.

We were fighting blokes in sandals with RPGs and PKMs – the other AFVs we had were simply more flexible and mobile whilst having a lower logistics footprint and plenty of fire-power when used as part of a combined arms force.

IOW it simply wasn’t worth sending them.

When one of the Danish MBTs broke down it was a major operation to recover the bloody thing. Yes when they were used to escort convoys or as over-watch they were intimidating but no more than an Apache or a Cobra.

The fact we did use the Danish MBTs in British planned operations also gives lie to the “escalation” argument.

mr.fred
mr.fred
November 23, 2015 8:04 am
An AVRE would have been far more general use in Afg than an MBT. That 165mm shell is a real gobsmacker. Re-turreting some CHA 2 with a 165mm would be a good move, of course ammo would also have to be produced.

We did take Trojan out there – Can’t recall off-hand if Titan was there too. But the 165mm demolition gun (L9?) is long out of service. IIRC, part of the reason that the 165mm was discontinued was that the 120mm HESH on Chieftain was capable of reducing almost any battlefield target that the 165mm could, to longer ranges, with less danger to friendly infantry, while also having capability in other roles.
Returreting CR2 with a demo gun would be a waste of time, effort and money, that could be better spent elsewhere, to create a niche, specialised vehicle that can’t take on other roles. Especially when you consider that guided weapons from air and artillery would allow you to place large quantities of HE on fixed targets from any platform in less time than it would take to whistle up the dedicated demo gun.
If you really wanted a high capacity, tank-launched, HE nature, it might be better to investigate a long, drag-stabilised, heavy-weight projectile to be fired from the existing 120mm.

Hohum
Hohum
November 23, 2015 8:11 am

phil,

Escalation argument was political, as far as British newspapers were concerned if there were no British MBTs there there were no MBTs there- send British MBTs and it would look like escalation- was the theory.

Both the Canadians and the USMC loved having MBTs there (never heard what the Danes thought) and basically used them as mobile pill-boxes with very powerful sensors and effectors attached.

Phil
November 23, 2015 8:20 am

The Canadians and USMC had much wider and open AOs by 2009. We had some open desert along Highway 1 (Yakhchal) but that was patrolled by the Warrior Coy.

Presumably the Danes were happy with the MBTs since they kept a troop for several years as part of CF NES(N).

With the Danes their optics were more useful than their weapons. The escalation theory doesn’t hold at the tactical or operational level at least.

Hohum
Hohum
November 23, 2015 8:28 am

The escalation theory, as relayed to me by multiple people, had nothing to do with tactical or operational reality. it was instead a political perception.

NoelsNose
NoelsNose
November 23, 2015 11:49 am

I’d be very surprised if this requirement doesn’t end with more business for Thales UK.

The current Challenger 2 thermal site (manufactured by Thales) is obsolete and also light-years in terms of performance behind the thermal imagers going on SV/AJAX (also manufactured by Thales).

So…

It would be silly not to have our main battle tanks with the same capabilities as our other AFVs. That and the added bonus of continuity between platforms and if mechanical constraints allow it all adds up to one thing…

https://www.thalesgroup.com/sites/default/files/asset/document/Catherine_MP_LW_Datasheet.pdf

Hohum
Hohum
November 23, 2015 12:00 pm

NN,

Indeed, obsolescence management can bring capability uplift by default.

Observer
Observer
November 23, 2015 8:40 pm

Is a “better” thermal sight needed?

If something does the job, why not keep using it? It’s not like you need to see the pimple on your opponent, just the target and its ID. There is a big difference between “old” and “obsolete”.

mr.fred
mr.fred
November 23, 2015 9:09 pm
Reply to  Observer

Observer,
Given its age, the TOGS 2 on the Challenger is probably a mechanically scanned array. Compared to this, modern staring arrays have fewer moving parts and greater reliability. The higher resolution is just a bonus.
If some of the specialised parts needed for the scanning array system are obsolete and therefore not available (or only available at high cost), you need to change anyway, so why not upgrade if it isn’t going to cost much more. A modern thermal rifle sight will have a sensor that knocks the capabilities of the Challenger’s thermal sight into a cocked hat – it just needs better lenses (rifle sights tend to be quite low magnification)

The only CR2 destroyed by direct fire was the result of a misidentification through thermal sights.

NoelsNose
NoelsNose
November 24, 2015 9:50 am
Reply to  Observer

@Observer

Having spent a great deal of time playing around with the TOGS 2 and thermal sites that are going on SV, I can 100% wholeheartedly tell you that the performance isn’t even comparable, it is genuinely night and day.

Far greater sensitivity (range), resolution, reliability and newer signal processing techniques are making these cameras far more prettier on the eye. Double all that up with the optical fields of view that are available and yes, upgrading the TI on Challenger would make a massive difference for the operators.

vince
vince
November 24, 2015 9:34 pm

Just tossing the idea out there, but the Jordanian Falcon turret is designed to fit the Challenger 1.

A version of this built to British standards version of this would give the Challenger an 120mm smooth-bore with an auto loader, ammunition storage in a separate compartment and superior armor with the crew entirely in the hull.

mr.fred
mr.fred
November 24, 2015 10:16 pm

Vince,
A version of the Jordanian turret built to British (Defence) Standards would most likely cost a small fortune. The armour on the turret would be weaker due to there not being as much room for an array, the situational awareness would be worse as the crew cannot see over the opposite side of the turret and the crew would be unable to serve the guns as the crew and weapon feeds are remote from each other.
If you make the autoloader big enough to carry a decent number of shells, the profile of the turret isn’t much different of a manned turret.
The Falcon might make a nice Self-propelled gun, but a poor tank. It would be lighter. If you are going to make a new turret, something more akin to the Leclerc might be in order.

Observer
Observer
November 25, 2015 12:06 am

TY Noel, was wondering about that. Often you get people wanting to change things simply because the alternative is newer. If the difference is that drastic, then it really might be wise to scrape out a few pounds for the upgrade.

vince
vince
November 25, 2015 1:00 am

I don’t know about that. I can’t speak to the cost, but I think the limiting factor to protection is more likely to be weight, not volume. A turret with smaller frontal area and enclosed volume is certainly going to have lighter weight for the same protection or a greater level of protection for the same weight.

mr.fred
mr.fred
November 25, 2015 7:45 am

Vince,
Volume does tend to have an effect on protection levels, because it allows you to include air, which weighs very little but goes a long way towards disrupting armour piercing projectiles.
Reduced frontal area will reduce weight, but you have to take account of the width of the autoloader. The Falcon turret is narrower than a standard turret but only carries 17 rounds – if you want more the turret will be wider and the total silhouette is what counts, not just the bit up front. You also have to consider the silhouette over the frontal arc, up to 30 degrees to the left and right. If the sides are vulnerable (and they are just as big as a regular turret) then all the frontal armour doesn’t help as hostile fire can go around it.

Observer
Observer
November 25, 2015 7:55 am

Not sure how relevant this is but our old French AMX-13s had a revolver magazine of 2×6 rounds for the gun, 12 rounds in gun, 30 rounds +/- in total counting stored rounds. Might be viable in place of an all up autoloader?

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
November 25, 2015 10:39 am

mr. fred, surely if you can make the turret wedge shaped, you can improve protection and increase space for the autoloader (at the back) at the same time?

Leos have their turret design problems as well; only the latest 50 or so in the Bundeswehr can handle the best penetrator round. Here
http://www.moddb.com/groups/tanks/images/challenger-2-prototype-autoloader-falcon-2#imagebox
is an improved Falcon turret for the Chally2. As it uses the same gun as Leo, the reference to handling bigger ammo is not a change from 120mm but the long penetrator aspect… the text does not say that explicitly, but that’s how I interpret it.
– kill ability seems to have been the primary target, so no wedge shape on this version, but you could do that simply to increase the number of store rounds

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
November 25, 2015 11:00 am

And why not use any Ch2s freed up in the 3 AI bdes going down to 2 as a basis for an overwatch vehicle for the Ajax rgmnts in those bdes?
http://www.israeldefense.co.il/sites/default/files/styles/full_article_image/public/_Uploads/dbsArticles/53317064.png?itok=ffk9V6LB
– all components needed are already in service (though for some the guardian of the assets is the RA)
– would restrict the deployability of the Strike bdes, so they would need something else (10 years to come up with an Ajax overwatch version)

Chris
Editor
Chris
November 25, 2015 11:14 am

ACC – ref wedge shaped turrets – you describe the form used on Mk1 Merkava; very wedge shaped, with the ring extending beyond the flank plates of the turret. Later variants had loads more stuff added to the turret and the narrow form of the armour is either hidden or revised into a broader structure.
comment image

TrT
TrT
November 25, 2015 6:22 pm
Reply to  DavidNiven

“‘It is a sad thing to say – but the gulf war was the last time we used tanks’
Which one? We may not have used CR2 in Afghan but some of our allies did use MBT’s to great effect, in addition Trojan more than proved it’s worth during it’s use in Herrick. Do not mistake not used with not being useful.”

True, enough, but, nothing a FRES direct or indirect gun varient wouldnt offer, or a FRES Engineering Varient.

mr.fred
mr.fred
November 25, 2015 7:15 pm

ACC,
If you made the Falcon turret wedge-shaped you would impinge on the crew hatches. You’d rapidly end up with a Leclerc-style solution which would allow access to the guns, better situational awareness and the ability to reload the autoloader under armour.
Make the wedge sloped in the vertical plane rather than the horizontal and it’s effective across a wider arc.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
November 25, 2015 8:24 pm

mr. fred,

I am sure you are right… we will get a Merkava-style backdoor by going over to the H-drive (something I posted about on the Open Thread in the morning re: BAE/ Iveco success using that design, be it for a lighter AFV).

Around this one
http://i19.servimg.com/u/f19/19/11/62/89/52zlr10.jpg
you could wrap a wedge turret sloped both vertically and horizontally?
– it is somebody’s view of the inner workings of Armata… no idea if it is close to the truth.

mr.fred
mr.fred
November 25, 2015 11:21 pm

While you could add slope in both planes, the slope in the horizontal plane only really achieves the effect of flattening your side armour against shots from slightly off your frontal axis. That said, many tanks have a slight “spread” of the frontal armour slope to each side. In either case you have room to put crew in the turret which improves the fightability and lowers the hull profile.

Observer
Observer
November 26, 2015 6:02 am

Of course that also depends on your armour philosophy. Most modern tank add on ceramic armour facings are now flat planed instead of slanted the old 60 degrees because the way the armour works is now a bit different, some tank makers no longer try to deflect the rounds but use the flat surface to generate lots of micro-fractures/cracks when the round hits. It’s counter-intuitive but you have to think in terms of “energy”, the energy used to make these cracks over a larger area = less energy to penetrate into the vehicle. This is also where a broad mass of armour has better effect, more “fracture area”, the more energy absorbed. Mind you, this is for composite/ceramic armour only, other armour types do not rely on fracture energy. Steel used this way for example would totally fail.

Peter Elliott
November 26, 2015 8:19 am

Has anyone considered that with the changes to force structure we can now afford to pre position a regiment of TES Challengers on a training area in Poland? Somewhere nice and close to an airfield ;) Just a thought…

Chris
Editor
Chris
November 26, 2015 8:22 am

Obs, mr.fred, ACC – strikes me (pun!) that armour is a highly complex matrix of optimisations that have to be resolved to a best compromise? Just like all other aspects of engineering in that regard. I prefix the following with the proviso I am not an armour solution expert so apologies if there is naivety… Taking your example of ceramic obliquity Obs, while the effect on projectile disruption might be best with absolute no-messing 90-degree obliquity, the shape would take far more impact from a prox fused blast event than would sloped armour. To turn the example into vehicle shape, you might decide to protect a vehicle from projectile based IEDs by making the underside a flat slab of ceramic, but by best protecting against the rare special case IED you make the vehicle far easier to topple over when any sort of mine is encountered. No blast front deflection effect.

One of the aspects I do think stands as a sound philosophy is to minimise size where possible. Smaller size means smaller surface area to cover which translates to less weight for a given protection level. This can result in either a lighter vehicle or an increase in protection level while getting no heavier than the bigger version. And it means the vehicle is a smaller target. And lots of advantages from being small that I’ve listed many times before. I have briefed this in the past as “A ‘Small’ Advantage”…

Observer
Observer
November 26, 2015 9:42 am

And one disadvantage I mentioned above. Less armour mass and volume to absorb impact from KE rounds, but I do get your point, you are right in saying it is a series of compromises, it all depends on how you want to play it and what you optimise for.

Brian Black
Brian Black
November 26, 2015 9:56 am

Peter, the Drawsko Pomorski training area has been used for armoured units since the late ’90s, and up till at least last year. Spent quite a few months in that place. There is also an airfield (unused by the Poles during my time) which has been used for air assault training.

The Army could maybe find cheaper hosting in Poland than in Germany, and cut out the travel between western Germany and Poland, while placing forces closer to the new NATO border.

It would be relevant to our overall defence posture to keep some hardware in Poland. Not a permanent overseas posting, but rotating troops through for exercises.

Training at less than brigade scale. I think the disappearance of one of the 2020 armoured brigades, and their relegation from the Reaction Force, indicates that it is envisaged that the armoured forces will more likely provide heavy support to infantry battalion and brigade groups rather than deploying as armoured brigades. State on state war that might require an armoured brigade deployment was already on a ten year cycle, and we’ve had a distinct shift at this latest review towards confronting stateless enemies and unconventional forces. Battlegroup exercises and prepositioned equipment would be suitable and contribute to the mainly American and German rotating training presence in eastern Europe; but also not an excessive overcommitment to what is still a low threat from Russia.

stephen duckworth
November 26, 2015 7:48 pm

After a problematic start due to trying to develop a domestic powerpack the South Korean Panther K2 is in LRIP using a MTU powerpack . It is designed to accept the 140mm Rhinemettal gun if required whist coming along at the moment with the ubiquetious 120mm smoothbore version at the moment (so no ammo problems ) . At $8.5m US a pop not cheap but brand new and we could buy a fleet of 225 for a smidge over £1.2bn https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/K2_Black_Panther

Observer
Observer
November 27, 2015 1:46 am

@stephan

Add in the logistics and maintenance, that would be 2.4bn in total.