Challenger 2 on Exercise Saif Sareea 3 in Oman
Land vehicles

British Army Vehicles: What's Their Future?

Challenger 2 on Exercise Saif Sareea 3 in Oman

The future of the British Army's tanks and land vehicles was set out in the recently-published Integrated Review and Defence Command Paper.

Some of the service's Challenger 2 fleet is being upgraded to a 'Challenger 3' as part of an £800m contract, with the remaining vehicles being retired, while decisions have also been made on the futures of the Ajax, Boxer and Warrior capabilities.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace promised £23bn in funding, after admitting that land forces have been "deprived of investment" for "too long".

Mr Wallace said: "Some colleagues would rather play top trumps with our force numbers," but added there is "no point… simply counting the number of tanks when our adversaries are developing ways to defeat them".

"That is why we have put at the heart of the Defence Command Paper the mission to seek out and to understand future threats, and to invest in the capabilities needed so that we can defeat them," he continued.

The number of Army personnel, however, will be reduced from 76,500 regulars to 72,500 by 2025.

But what does this mean for the service's land vehicles?

Watch: A closer look at a Boxer, filmed in 2019.

The Boxer

The Boxer is an 8x8 wheeled, all-terrain, armoured transport vehicle expected to become the new British mechanised infantry vehicle (MIV).

Its "mission module" can be configured in multiple formats and changed in less than an hour. 

There are currently 15 different mission modules available, ranging from group transportation to a fully automatic, heavy artillery platform.

A Ministry of Defence (MOD) report outlining the changes to the Armed Forces following the review said: "Some legacy platforms that have already been extended beyond their planned life will be retired."

Boxer armoured fighting vehicle
The Boxer vehicle is expected to replace the Warrior by the middle of the decade (Picture: MOD.

According to the MOD, this will allow the Army to channel funds into "accelerating the in-service date of the Boxer armoured vehicle", as well as improving its capabilities.

In February, the Army awarded a £180m sub-contract to Thales Defence to provide a remote weapon system for the Boxer.

Warrior's Retirement

The Warrior vehicle will no longer be upgraded, with the capability set to be replaced by the Boxer.

It had been thought the armoured fighting vehicle would undergo a £1.3bn upgrade, with the changes focusing on the turret, an increase in the size of the cannon and improved stability and digitisation.

Having served in the British Army since the 1980s, the Warrior vehicle has seen service in both Iraq wars, Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan.

Watch: In 2019, we looked at upgrades being trialled for a new Warrior turret.

The MOD has now said any proposed upgrades, hailed at the time as an "absolute game-changer", will not go ahead, with the Boxer expected to replace the Warrior by the middle of the decade.

The Warrior will now stay in service until it is replaced by the Boxer.

Challenger 2: Upgrades And Retirement

The Army also plans to invest about £1.3bn in upgrading 148 of its main battle tanks.

The Challenger 2 has completed more than 22 years of service, having been deployed in Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq.

Watch: The Challenger 2 in Oman on exercise in 2018.

As well as being able to engage enemy targets swiftly, intelligently, and precisely, the Challenger 2 has a full 360-degree rotating turret and its own nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) protection system, boasting the ability to withstand a nuclear blast.

The MOD said the future iteration of the Challenger tanks will be "one of the most protected and most lethal in Europe", with plans for the remaining fleet being retired.

The British Army will get a 148-strong fleet of Challenger 3 tanks which are expected to be fully operational by 2030.

The vehicles will be fully digitised, with a top speed of 60mph.

The fleet will have high-velocity ammunition that can travel at faster speeds, as well as an increased range.

New technology will be used to programme ammunition from a new turret with a 120mm smoothbore gun.

The Challenger 3 tank will also feature a new automatic target detection and tracking system, thermal long-range cameras and an upgraded engine with a new cooling system and suspension.

Thermal long-range cameras will be also fitted as part of a day/night image system for the vehicle.

One avenue which was explored in 2018 regarding an upgrade was a prototype nicknamed the 'Black Night', which focused on enhancing sensor systems.

The concept of an active protection system was suggested, able to detect incoming missiles and destroy them before they hit the target.

AJAX Armoured Reconnaissance Vehicles

The Defence Secretary said the 3rd Division will "remain the heart" of the UK's warfighting capability, leading NATO with two modernised heavy brigades.

This will be built around "a modern armoured nucleus" of 148 upgraded vehicles, including the AJAX armoured reconnaissance vehicles.

Formerly known as the Scout SV (Specialist Vehicle), the AJAX is part of a family of Armoured Fighting Vehicles (AFVs).

It will be a fully digitised, tracked, medium-weight core of the British Army's deployable intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and recognition (ISTAR) capability.

There are six variants of the AJAX vehicle and they fulfil various roles:

  • Ajax (turreted, reconnaissance and strike)
  • Ares (reconnaissance and Armoured Personnel Carrier)
  • Argus (engineer reconnaissance)
  • Athena (command and control)
  • Atlas (equipment support recovery)
  • Apollo (equipment repair)

Cover image: Challenger 2 on Exercise Saif Sareea 3 in Oman (Picture: MOD).

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