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Challenger 2 Life Extension Project (LEP)

In his speech at the latest London-based Defense Security and Equipment International (DSEI) exhibition in September 2015, Chief of the General Staff of the British Army General Nicholas Carter announced that the UK Army was mulling the modernization of its current multi-role Challenger 2 MBT.

The initiative is a part of a program aimed at upgrading the British fleet of armored vehicles. The program which was kicked off almost a decade ago has seemingly found its second wind.

The BAE Systems Challenger 2 entered service in 1998 and has long been considered one of the best protected tanks in the world. Equipped with a L30A1 120 mm rifled tank gun and a 7.62 mm anti-aircraft machine gun, the four-man-crew tank can reach a speed of 36.7 mph.

However, it seems that the Challenger 2 has had its day and now needs upgrading or replacing. Reportedly, the development of a new main battle tank for the UK Army was still under discussion. Meanwhile, British military designers are planning to replace the tank's obsolete parts and ammunition.

The UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) Armoured Vehicles Programmes (The Authority) announced on 23 December 2015 a possible future requirement [2015/S 240-436189] to deliver a Challenger 2 Life Extension Project (CR2 LEP). The user requires the CR2 Main Battle Tank (MBT) Out of Service Date to be extended from 2025 to 2035, in order to continue to provide precision direct fire manoeuvre capability across a broad spectrum of operations. CR2 LEP seeks to address obsolescence issues to maintain main battle tank capability until 2035. This is a Category A Military Project (up to 700 000 000 GBP inclusive of VAT, including initial logistic support).

Subject to internal approvals, the Authority intends to conduct a Competitive Negotiated Competition under the Defence Security and Public Contracts Regulations 2011 with the intention of inviting a minimum of 3 tenderers. From these tenders the Authority intends to utilise Most Economically Advantageous Tender (MEAT) principles to down select to two Prime Contractors, with each being invited to independently undertake a 2-year Assessment Phase (AP) under contracts not to exceed the Authoritys total AP budget of 42M inclusive of UK VAT.

The ultimate aim of the competition will be to award a Demonstration, Manufacture and In-service Support (DMI) contract to the bidder which at the conclusion of the AP provides the most economically advantageous tender for the DMI contract.

During the AP the Authority will negotiate with the AP contractors under the Competitive Negotiated Procedure to refine their specific DMI proposals which will be evaluated at the conclusion of the AP. The Authority will then select a winner who, subject to a Main Gate investment decision, will deliver their proposed DMI solution in accordance with the terms included in the ITN and resolved during the AP. The ultimately successful DMI contractor will be required to formally undertake the role of Design Authority (DA) for the whole Platform. The timing for establishing formal DA status would be co-incident with the successful achievement of Critical Design Review during the D&M Phase.

It is likely that the negotiations during the AP leading towards the award of the DMI contract will require the two AP Contractors to provide prices (on a cost per vehicle basis) as above for banded option quantities, plus or minus the 227 quantity of MBTs, to take account of any changes to the Fleet size as a consequence of the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review. An additional option may be sought to supply and/or embody the selected solution into a fleet of up to 38 MBTs operated by an overseas Government.

The Authority further advises that the CR2 MBT will have a minimum gross vehicle weight of 62.5 tonnes but, up to 12 vehicles could weigh up to 65 tonnes, and a further 22 could weigh up to 75 tonnes if certain items were to remain embodied on these particular vehicles. This weight will be an important consideration in respect of storage during the AP and the subsequent DM phase of the project.

In the absence of an active armored vehicle manufacturing capability in the UK, domestic contenders for the British Challenger 2 MBT Life Extension Project (LEP) drew on overseas experience to bid on the program. By mid-2016 the LEP was gathering pace, with five team bids for the assessment phase having been received by the UK MoD, which would narrow the contenders down to two. While a decision was initially expected on 01 September 2016, by august 2016 it was expected towards the end of the year.

BAE Systems and GDLS were first to bid, with CMI Defence and Ricardo UK announcing their interest at Eurosatory. Lockheed Martin UK and Elbit Systems went public on 10 August while Rheinmetall announced its partnership with Supacat, Thales UK and BMT just before the 11 August deadline along with RUAG Defence. With German rival KMW taking the domestic Leopard 2 upgrade work, Rheinmetall was fighting for export projects. The two that were selected for the assessment phase would each get contracts worth 19 million.

Although Leopard 2 and Abrams main battle tanks have been subject to several iterative upgrades, they entered service in the late 1980s. The Challenger 2 Life Extension Project will be the first significant upgrade since it entered service in 1998; once in service it will be comparable and in certain areas superior to the latest version of Leopard 2 and Abrams. It will have the same level of lethality, better survivability, similar levels of mobility and more capable surveillance and target acquisition systems. Enhanced lethality is vital given the proliferation of reactive protection systems that are unable to defeat high velocity ammunition that can currently only be fired from a main battle tank. The upgrade to Challenger 2 will make it world leading while the provision of an open electronic architecture and the potential for lethality upgrades will promote NATO interoperability.

The new modular armour systems designed in Porton Down have already been tested and proven to be state of the art and competitive with other Nations. The turret is brand new, with a fully digitised architecture, with enhancements to the powertrain and suspension. The enhancements within the hull will also be shared across the heavy armour fleet (CRARRV, TITAN, TROJAN) including a common engine and improved suspension. This will result in a reduction in heavy armour automotive through-life costs.

Challenger 2 will also benefit from the same Land Environment Tactical Communication and Information Systems Programme and advances in technology as Warrior CSP. Not only will these upgrades create new capabilities, but they will provide the critical steppingstone to develop future technologies including autonomy, human and machine teaming, electric drive propulsion and advanced protection and weapon systems.

A detailed comparison of costs, both unit price and through life, will be made in the Full Business Case that will be presented to the Investment Approval Committee in November 2020. Challenger 2 LEP will provide a step change in capability for the Army, especially in conjunction with Warrior CSP, and will enable the Army to operate and fight differently in order to gain advantage and win. The investment also represents good value for money and will support UK prosperity and the levelling up agenda.

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Page last modified: 07-05-2021 18:09:58 ZULU