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Upgrading Challenger 2 means lot of trade-offs; a limited budget means prioritisation will have to take place so in a crowded equipment programme the ‘let’s do it all’ option is off the table. As most of the Think Defence readers will know, Challenger 2 uses the 55 calibre L30A1 rifled 120mm main gun, which more or less, the UK is the only user of.
This means we are unable to take advantage of research and development of the much more common smoothbore ammunition by the USA, Israel and Germany, especially for non depleted uranium kinetic energy rounds like the General Dynamics KE-W A3 or Rheinmetall DM63 These new rounds are not cheap at about £3-5k each It uses a two piece ammunition design, unlike the 120mm smoothbore designs that use a single piece with combustible cartridge.
The L27A1 Armour Piercing Fin Stabilised Discarding Sabot (APFSDS), commonly called (CHallenger main ARMament gun) CHARM3 Nick Harvey (Minister of State (Armed Forces), Defence; North Devon, Liberal Democrat) I informed the House on 31 October 2011 that I had commissioned officials to undertake a legal weapons review of our depleted uranium (DU) anti-armour tank rounds, known as Charm-3.
Although Charm-3 was introduced before the Government were obliged to undertake such reviews, I ordered this review, as a special case, to address concerns that have been raised in Parliament and by civil society.
Article 36 states: “In the study, development, acquisition or adoption of a new weapon, means or method of warfare, a high contracting party is under an obligation to determine whether its employment would, in some or all circumstances, be prohibited by this protocol or by any other rule of international law applicable to the high contracting party”.
£5.5 billion might sound like a lot but that jam is spread pretty thinly.
It also has to address the rapidly approaching obsolescence of the Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank and possibly its derivatives, the repair and recovery vehicle and the two combat engineering variants, Titan and Trojan, although these are much newer than the main battle tank.
Click herefor a few images of the ammunition stowage issue.
Challenger 2 uses two basic forms of ammunition, kinetic and chemical.
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The concept phase of CR2 LEP has recently been launched; the ultimate plan is to upgrade all 227 vehicles to extend their service lives beyond 2035 at an estimated cost of £500m, which is less than £2.5m each.