The British Army has adopted a new modular armour system for the Challenger 3 main battle tank (MBT) programme.

With integration trials conducted in 2023, the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has selected the original equipment manufacturer of the platform, RheinmetallBAE Systems Land (RBSL), to start the manufacture and integration of the armour onto the MBT.

Designed by specialists at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), an executive agency within the MoD, this new armour offers greater survivability through its active and layered protection.

According to the UK Government, this new contract is a key part of the Land Industrial Strategy, released in May 2022. The document made reference to the new modular, integrated protection system architecture:

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By GlobalData

“Following a successful technology demonstrator, the Army is exploring options to use an open architecture to integrate active protection systems into its core platforms – starting with Challenger 3.

“This will help mitigate the different integration challenges and create options for different sensors and effectors.

“Further research and experimentation in this area will also consider how such an architecture can incorporate a broader set of sensors and effectors to provide a more holistic system of protection against multiple ground and airborne threats.”

The tank underwent a full electromagnetic testing campaign to ensure its survivability in the most demanding battlefields saturated with sensors.

Lessons in armour from Ukraine

“The conflict in Ukraine has provided a timely reminder of the threat posed by Russia’s MBTs and other weapons systems,” stated Colonel Will Waugh, Senior Responsible Owner for the Army’s Armour (MBT) Programme. “This armour is a world-class sovereign capability that will provide a step change in protecting our soldiers and the survivability of the Challenger 3.”

In September, footage circulated of the destruction of a British Challenger 2 MBT destroyed by a mine and a Russian uncrewed aerial system.

The Challenger 2 turret is protected with second generation Chobham armour. A nuclear, biological and chemical protection system is located in the turret bustle.

This demonstrates the demand for reliable armoured systems at a time when even advanced protection, such as the Challenger 2’s armour, can be compromised in this way.