The UK has completed assessment phase trials of the Trophy active protection system (APS) due to be installed on the upcoming Challenger 3 main battle tanks, awarding a £20m ($26.1m) to procure long-lead items as the programme moves to the demonstration phase.
Awarded by UK Defence Equipment and Support, an arm of the Ministry of Defence (MoD), the contract will see the Trophy APS, which is being supplied by Israel’s Rafael, further tested with the acquisition of a number of systems and countermeasures required for qualification and integration activity planned for the demonstration phase.
To date, the Trophy APS has completed three weeks of assessment phase trials on a Challenger 3 representative platform, with a total of 25 shots, including live intercept firing. Installed on a number of international operators, the Trophy system provides crews with an active location of incoming threat, such as a rocket or missile, which is then neutralised through kinetic countermeasures.
The Challenger 3 is being manufactured by Rheinmetall BAE Systems Land (RBSL), and the tank is expected to enter service in 2027, according to a 13 July UK MoD release.
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The procurement of the Trophy APS long-lead items is intended to enable the demonstration phase to start in 2024. The demonstration phase will be delivered by Rafael Defence Systems and RBSL as the Design Authority for the Challenger 3 tanks, and conducted at Rafael’s facility in Israel, and in UK test ranges.
Challenger 3 MBT – active protection
The UK has committed to the upgrade of the Challenger 2 MBTs to the Challenger 3 variant, which will see the integration of improved power generation, sensors and optics, as well as a new turret with the Rheinmetall L55A1 120mm smoothbore gun. The main gun is the same as used on the Leopard 2 MBTs, operated across Europe.
Also planned to be integrated is the Trophy APS, which, unlike ‘passive’ armour, actively searches for threats and discharges a blast to neutralise missiles and rockets before they are able to impact the host vehicle.
Although the current programme of record calls for the upgrade of 148 Challenger 2s to the Challenger 3 variant, it was hoped that the coming refresh of the MoD’s Defence Command Paper, due to be published before the UK parliamentary recess, would increase this number.
However, with the fleet already at around 150-160 useable vehicles, and few platforms available in the international market (the Sultanate of Oman being the only export customer) any UK increase from the planned 148 Challenger 3s will likely be minimal at best.