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Challenger 2

United Kingdom (1998)
Picture of Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank (MBT) Tracked Combat Vehicle
Picture of Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank (MBT) Tracked Combat Vehicle Picture of Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank (MBT) Tracked Combat Vehicle
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The lethal Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank system currently forms the backbone of modern British Army tank groups.

Detailing the development and operational history of the Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank (MBT) Tracked Combat Vehicle.  Entry last updated on 6/3/2018. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©

The Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank represents the current standard MBT of the British Army. The type represents the pinnacle of British armor development for its perfect combination of mobility, firepower and protection - key qualities of any fighting machine. However, to understand its reach, one much understand its deep lineage to the battlefield systems encountered during the closing years of World War 2 when the British unveiled their Centurion MBT. Developed during the war, the type arrived too late to see combat actions but would go on to be a staple of the Cold War and achieve post-war success through foreign sales - serving in many capacities from 1945 to the 1990s.

The Centurion was eventually beginning to show its age and limitations so the a new MBT was on order. This turned out to be the excellent Chieftain of 1966 which introduced the powerful 120mm L11A5 series rifled main gun. Later in its life, the Chieftain was upgraded for the better and foreign interest with British ties grew in the form of Iran who procured some 700 examples for their armored corps. A requirement for a new MBT was on order as the "Shir 2" and, while work was being handled, an improved form of the Chieftain would be made available as the "Shir 1". However, the Islamic Revolution in Iran of 1979 formally cancelled the expected orders. The Shir 1 was therefore rerouted to Jordan to be used as the "Khalid". The Shir 2, however, was then further developed for the British Army as the "Challenger" after a British-German initiative and the indigenous "MBT-80" programs both fell through. The Challenger introduced the revolutionary "Chobham" composite armor while retaining a powerful 120mm main gun. This tank replaced the Chieftain in the British Army inventory resulting in the latter's retirement in 1995 but further improvements could be made (particularly to the slow rate-of-fire of the fire control system). The Challenger then operated in a front-line capacity from 1983 to the middle of the 1990s and 420 examples were delivered. It saw action in the 1991 ground war in Iraq with excellent results (300 enemy armored vehicles destroyed to no losses for itself). Improvements made to the Challenger design in the 1980s brought about the new "Challenger 2" line to which the original Challenger became the "Challenger 1". The Challenger 2 entered service in June of 1998 with a total of 446 systems delivered. Initially intended to complement the Challenger 1 series, it was later formally decided to replace the type with the newer breed of vehicle.

While evolved from the Challenger 1, the Challenger 2 represents a heavily modified version of the earlier tank, all related back to the World War 2-era Centurion to some extent. The overall design configuration has remained faithful to the original Challenger with the driver seated front-center, the turret at the center of the hull and the engine to the rear. The running gear consists of six double-tired road wheels to a track side with the drive sprocket at the rear and the track idler at the front. The glacis plate is well sloped as are the front facings of the turret. The upper regions of the running gear and hull are protected in thin skirt armor. The Challenger 2 maintains a shallow hull and turret which afford it an excellent low profile. The tank is crewed by four personnel with the driver in the hull and the commander, loader and gunner in the turret. The Challenger 2 was given an all-new turret design and retained the use of Chobham armor (though a more evolved form of the original) and the 120mm main gun (rifled). Only the Challenger 1, Challenger 2 and M1 Abrams are known users of the highly secretive Chobham armor formula. Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA) blocks can also be added for improved protection at the cost of weight gain. A Nuclear-Biological-Chemical (NBC) protection system is standard.

A new, high-pressure 120mm main gun was developed as this appeared as the L30A1. Do undo the wrongs of the original Challenger 1 fire control system, a more technologically sound and advanced digital fire control system was integrated into the Challenger 2 series. The main gun was stabilized across both axis to allow for accurized fire at range and firing on-the-move with equally deadly results. The Challenger 2 could now engage multiple targets at distance with very good results from its main gun. Both the gunner and commander were given individual stabilized optical/thermal vision equipment as well as an advanced sighting system to boot. Ergonomics were incorporated throughout the interior to provide for a relatively healthy operating environment. As standard, a 7.62mm L94A1 machine gun is fitted in a coaxial mount alongside the main gun (both operated by the gunner). The commander's cupola retains a 7.62mm L37A2 machine gun for engaging infantry and low flying aerial threats. There are 52 x 120mm projectiles stored in the hull and this includes a mix of High-Explosive Squash Head (HESH) and Armor-Piercing Fin-Stabilized Discarding Sabot (APFSDS) rounds. Smoke rounds are also available. 4,200 x 7.62mm rounds of machine gun ammunition are carried. The Challenger 2 crew also manages ten electrically-operated smoke grenade dischargers fitted as two banks of five at each front side turret panel.

Picture of the Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank (MBT) Tracked Combat Vehicle
Picture of the Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank (MBT) Tracked Combat Vehicle

Power for the new Challenger 2 is from a Perkins Engines CV-12 diesel-fueled engine developing 1,200 horsepower. The engine is mated to a David Brown TN54 series epicyclic transmission system with six forward and two reverse gears. The vehicle is suspended atop a hydropneumatic suspension system (2nd Generation Hydrogas development). All told, these inclusions allow for a top road speed of 35 miles per hour with an operational range of 280 miles. Jettisonable external fuel drums can be added to the rear hull for extended ranges. Overall weight of the vehicle is 69 tons.

The Challenger 2 was actually born as a private venture attempt undertaken by Vickers Defence Systems. When the British Army came down with a requirement for a new combat tank, the Vickers design was submitted alongside the American M1 Abrams and German Leopard 2 series. The Vickers submission was eventually selected for further development and serial production. Though the tank is currently branded under the "BAe Systems Land Systems" name, none of the type were ever produced under the BAe name - only modernization programs were enacted through BAe. The Challenger 2 shifted original production from "Vickers Defence" to "Alvis Vickers Ltd" before the business was sold to BAe. Production began through an initial batch of 127 tanks ordered in 1991 and this was then augmented by an order of 259 more vehicles in 1994. First deliveries came to the British Army in 1994 and the first operational unit became the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards in 1998. Manufacture spanned across two facilities - one at Tyne and Wear and the other at Leeds.

The Challenger 2 has been used operationally in peace-keeping efforts during the Bosnia and Kosovo interventions and went on to see first combat actions in the 2003 invasion of Iraq where it acquitted itself in excellent fashion - again no battlefield losses incurred. In several instances, individual Challenger 2s were hit repeatedly by Soviet-era Rocket Propelled Grenades with little to know damage to the armor. IED protection has also been proven well in the subsequent fighting. The Challenger 2 has proven a worthy successor to the Challenger 1 line and then some, given the British Army one of the most - if not the most - powerful main battle tanks in service today. The type is expected to fulfill its frontline role until 2035 with no indications of a successor planned for the near future. Considering the monetary costs of designing, developing and producing main battle tanks in today's world, this is not surprising. Regardless, the Challenger 2 has very few threats on the modern battlefield so the delay in acquiring a new vehicle for the British Army is acceptable.

Oman became the only foreign operator of the Challenger 2 and this began with a first-order placed in 1993 for 18 vehicles. This was followed up by 20 additional Challenger 2s in 1997.

Like other British Army tanks before it, the Challenger 2 chassis will be used for various other battlefield armored vehicles including a mine roller, armored engineering vehicle (TROJAN), armored repair and recovery vehicle (ARRV) and bridgelayer (TITAN).

At one point, BAe offered the Challenger 2E for interested export buyers. This version incorporated several new additions and improvements and is powered by a EuroPowerPack 1,500 horsepower diesel engine with a Renk transmission system. Interest waned and the project was eventually scrapped.

The British Army has taken delivery of 408 total Challenger 2 tanks. Oman operates 38.

Supported Mission Types:
Troop Transport
Infantry Support
High Mobility
Tank Destroyer
Special Forces
Towed Artillery
Self-Propelled Artillery
Rocket Artillery
Airspace Denial
Special Purpose
National Flag Graphic
Origin: United Kingdom
Year: 1998
Type: Main Battle Tank (MBT) Tracked Combat Vehicle
Manufacturer(s): Vickers Defence Systems / Alvis Vickers Ltd / BAe Systems Land Systems - UK
Production: 446
Global Operators:
Oman; United Kingdom
Measurements and Weights icon
Structural - Crew, Dimensions, and Operating Weights:
Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the Challenger 2 model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.




37.89 ft

11.55 m


11.55 ft

3.52 m


8.17 ft

2.49 m


Tons (US Short)
69 t

62,500 kg

137,789 lb

Engine icon
Installed Power - Standard Day Performance:
1 x Perkins Engines Condor CV12 12-cylinder diesel engine developing 1,200 horsepower at 2,300rpm.


37 mph

59 kph

Maximum Road

280 mi

450 km

Armament and Ammunition:

1 x 120mm L30 CHARM main gun (CHallenger main ARMament).
1 x 7.62mm coaxial machine gun
1 x 7.62mm anti-aircraft machine gun
2 x 5 smoke grenade dischargers

52 x 120mm APFSDS, HESH, or Smoke projectiles
4,000 x 7.62mm ammunition
10 x Smoke grenades
Optional Systems / Capabilities:

Nuclear-Biological-Chemical (NBC) Protection: Yes.
Nightvision (NV) Equipment: Yes (Passive Only).
Smoke: This vehicle has an inherent or optional self-screening capability.
Aircraft Defense: This vehicle can protect itself from low-flying aerial threats.
Variants: Series Model Variants
• Challenger 2 - Base Model Series Designation
• Challenger 2E - Export Model with improved cooling system; 1,500hp engine; since cancelled
• Challenger 2 Trainer - Driver Trainer Vehicle
• Challenger 2 TITAN - Bridgelayer vehicle
• Challenger 2 TROJAN - Battlefield Engineering Vehicle.