Technology

Build Your Dream Tank: Meet The Soldiers Enhancing The Challenger 2

What features would you add to a tank to improve it? That is what soldiers in the Royal Tank Regiment were asked.

Autonomous Warrior on Salisbury Plain is an exercise about getting soldiers to try out bits of kit provided by industry.

A lot of the equipment is forward-looking, focusing on remote controlled vehicles like drones.

But one piece of technology, the Challenger 2 tank has been enhanced using the input of the soldiers who will be using it.

Lieutenant Tom Quant is a Challenger 2 Troop Leader and talked Forces News through some of the new features they have added: "So here we’ve got barrel mounted cameras that enable the tank to look around corners without exposing it."

Lieutenant Tom Quant and camera 131218 CREDIT BFBS.jpg
Lieutenant Tom Quant shows off his tank's new cameras.

Lieutenant Tom Quant added: “We’ve also got hole mounted cameras which feed into a screen at the back, enabling infantry dismounted behind us to see everything that we can see up front.

"On the roof we’ve got a 360 degree HD camera, that eliminates all blind spots and provided total all round situational awareness to the turret crew inside."

There is also a place to tie ladders and more space for troops to store their gear – whether that is ammunition, radios or medical supplies.

Extra space for ammunition, supplies, medical equipment in a tank 131218 CREDIT BFBS.
Troops felt they could do with a little bit more storage space in a tank.

“Unlike a lot of the other bits of equipment here, this isn’t sort of new technology,” said Lieutenant Colonel Jim Howard, Commanding Officer of the Royal Tank Regiment.

He added: “This is an existing platform but what we’ve put down to the soldiers is to get their ideas, so it’s top funded ideas from the bottom.

"A lot of the ideas are extremely simple ideas, but ideas that have a massive effect on the way we can do business."

One soldier who pitched an idea was Trooper Connor Jones: "My suggestion for the tank is the beamer.

"I thought of this because [my] experience is coming through an urban area you come across roadblocks all the time.

"So we’d use this to help the infantry move a roadblock that’s sat in front of them.

"So it can move cars, rubble. And if needs be, you could dig a hole for your tank to sit in."

Could these crew-designed changes also aid the infantry supporting them?

Inside a display hall in Copehill Down is an integrated optical display location system.

An integrated optical display location 131218 CREDIT BFBS
An integrated optical display location system could help troops find each other on the battlefield.

Other technology being developed means commanders and their positions can be plotted automatically.

That information is then fed back to the soldiers’ smartphone, so the days of not knowing where your comrades are in the battlespace could be over.

Drones are also being developed, with their capabilities and resilience are growing all the time.

Serving troops have been given the chance to test many of the available models.

"On a personal level, I believe the equipment was very well put together,” said Sergeant Paul Drysdale of 32 Regiment Royal Artillery.

"It flew well and also it worked in weather conditions that we don’t usually fly within."

Developer Samuel Webb says military personnel were impressed by the firm’s equipment:

"The UK Army were actually quite blown away by how advanced some of the technology actually was and what we could actually do because some of… the kit that they currently have to date is so out of date."