Power unleashed: Challenger 2’s specifications, evolutionary variants and battlefield operations

With its 120mm rifled cannon and classified Chobham/Dorchester Level 2 armour, the FV4034 Challenger 2 is a powerful British main battle tank. It has a diesel engine with 1,200 horsepower and can weigh up to 75 tonnes.

Currently active in the armed forces of the United Kingdom, Oman, and Ukraine, the FV4034 Challenger 2, also known as “CR2” by the Ministry of Defence, is a powerful third-generation British main battle tank. Starting as a private project in 1986, Vickers Defence Systems (now BAE Systems Land & Armaments) completely redesigned the tank, departing greatly from the Challenger 1.

After the Ministry of Defence ordered a prototype in December 1988, it was discovered that although the Challenger 1 and the XR had certain external similarities, only about 3% of the components could be swapped between the two vehicles due to advances in design and technology. This demonstrates the Challenger 2’s competence as a powerful weapon on the contemporary battlefield and emphasises its position as a unique and technologically sophisticated version.

 

Specifications:

The Challenger 2 is an extremely powerful fighting machine, weighing 64 tonnes (63 long tonnes; 71 short tonnes). With combat armour modules installed, its mass increases to 75 tonnes (74 long tonnes; 83 short tonnes). After adding appliqué armour, its dimensions increase to 8.3 metres (27 feet 3 inches) in length, 13.5 metres (44 feet 3 inches) in gun-forward length, 3.5 metres (11 feet 6 inches) in width, and 4.2 metres (13 feet 9 inches) in width. With four people operating it—a commander, gunner, loader operator, and driver—the vehicle has a height of 2.49 metres (8 feet 2 inches). The combat vehicle is equipped with a powerful 120 mm rifled gun, a coaxial 7.62 mm chain gun, and a loader-operator hatch-mounted 7.62 mm L37A2 machine gun.

It is shielded by classified Chobham/Dorchester Level 2 armour. With 1,200 horsepower (890 kW), a Perkins CV12-6A V12 diesel engine powers this armoured beast. With a power-to-weight ratio of 18.7 hp/ton (13.9 kW/ton) at 64 tonnes and 16 hp/ton (11.9 kW/ton) at 75 tonnes, it is fitted with a David Brown TN54E epicyclic gearbox delivering 6 forward and 2 reverse gears. With 0.5 metres (1 foot 8 inches) of ground clearance, the vehicle’s hydropneumatic suspension guarantees mobility. With an astounding 1,592 litres (350 imperial gallons; 421 US gallons) of petrol, it can go 550 km (340 miles) on the road and 250 km (160 miles) off-road using internal fuel. With a maximum speed of 37 mph (59 km/h) on the road and 25 mph (40 km/h) off the road, the vehicle is an extremely powerful weapon in combat.

 

Variants:

There are numerous specialised variations of the Challenger 2 vehicle family designed for various combat and support duties. The Challenger 2 Driver Training Tank (DTT) serves as a training platform, incorporating a permanent weighted superstructure in place of the turret to seat an instructor and up to four trainees, simulating the weight and driving characteristics of the operational tank. The Challenger 2 running gear-based armoured bridge layer, known as the Titan, was first introduced in 2006. It can carry a bulldozer blade in addition to one or more bridges. Trojan, which replaced the Chieftain AVRE, was built using the Challenger 2 chassis and went into service in 2007. It has an articulated excavator arm, a dozer blade, and fascine attachment rails.

With a new integrated weapon control system, redesigned optics, and a potent 1,500 hp EuroPowerPack for better performance and durability, the Challenger 2E is an export variant with increased capabilities. The Challenger Armoured Repair and Recovery Vehicle (CRARRV) is a recovery vehicle with armour built on the Challenger 1 hull that was later modified with a Challenger 2 motor. Its job on the battlefield is to collect and repair destroyed tanks. Deployed in different conflicts, CRARRVs played key roles in operations such as the First Gulf War and the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

 

Operations:

The Challenger 2 tank has been operationally deployed in multiple areas, demonstrating its efficacy in a range of combat situations. The tank proved to be versatile in many terrains during its initial use in peacekeeping operations in Kosovo and Bosnia & Herzegovina. 120 tanks from the 7th Armoured Brigade were crucial to the siege of Basra during its first combat action, which took place in March 2003 during the invasion of Iraq. By neutralising Iraqi tanks, mostly T-54/55s, the Challenger 2 demonstrated tenacity and firepower, which helped the British forces achieve victory. Additionally, the tanks that were sent to Iraq were modified to fix problems found in the Oman exercises, which improved their operational availability.

Despite difficulties like an RPG attack in 2006 and a friendly fire incident in Basra, the Challenger 2 demonstrated its operational efficacy and survivability. Later enhancements have improved its powers even more, such as the Chobham Armour and a new passive armour package. Post-2017, the UK frequently deployed Challenger 2 tanks to Estonia as part of Operation Cabrit, contributing to NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence in the Baltics. Following the transfer of Polish T-72 tanks to Ukraine, a squadron of Challenger 2 tanks was dispatched to Poland in July 2022 and organised into a wargroup there. A crew member commended the tank’s protection and precision during its deployment in 2023, and a video of the tank in action was made public to emphasise its significance in the war. Its first combat loss, however, occurred in the same year near Robotyne, Ukraine, when the Challenger 2 was struck by a 9M133 Kornet anti-tank missile, exposing weaknesses in its ammunition storage despite safety precautions. These diverse operational experiences show the Challenger 2’s flexibility across different landscapes, ranging from urban areas in Basra to the rugged terrains of Estonia and Ukraine.