• The Challenger 3 turret demonstrator, seen here during trials in Germany.
    The Challenger 3 turret demonstrator, seen here during trials in Germany. UK MOD

The British Ministry of Defence has contracted with Rheinmetall to modernise the British Army’s main battle tank fleet.

In all, 148 Challenger 2 main battle tanks will be upgraded with the 120mm smoothbore main armament from Rheinmetall, together with a completely new turret structure, including a 'state of the art' digital system architecture.

Forming part of the British Army’s Challenger 2 Life Extension Project, or LEP, the modernisation program is poised to convert the tank into the new Challenger 3, keeping it in service 'for decades to come'

The program will take place during the 2021-2027 timeframe and is worth around £665 million (A$1.2 billion).

"The latest generation L55A1 smoothbore gun from Rheinmetall will place the modernised Challenger at the forefront of NATO tank technology," the company said. "The Challenger 3 will be a network-enabled, digital tank featuring unsurpassed lethality and greatly improved survivability on the battlefield.

"It will be able to fire current and future Rheinmetall 120mm kinetic energy rounds and programmable multipurpose ammunition. Combined with the latest fire control technology and sensor systems, this will significantly boost the vehicle’s combat effectiveness, resulting in remarkably accurate firepower."

Much of the upgrade work will be carried out in the UK at the Rheinmetall BAE Systems Land (RBSL) plant in Telford in the West Midlands. The company delivered the first Challenger 2 tanks to the British Army over 25 years ago and is a joint venture between Rheinmetall and BAE Systems, with Rheinmetall holding 55 per cent ownership.

“We’re proud to be taking charge of one the UK's most important army technology programs here in the cradle of the British tank industry," Armin Papperger, chief executive of Rheinmetall, said. "In technological terms, the upgrade will put the British Challenger tank on the cutting edge of NATO’s armed forces.

"To make this happen, we’ve amalgamated the longstanding expertise of RBSL with Rheinmetall of Germany’s unsurpassed know-how in large-calibre weapon systems, digitization and advanced turret solutions.”

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