The Challenger 3 main battle tank (MBT) will serve the British Army. Credit: G&H Group.
Rheinmetall BAE Systems Land (RBSL) is the prime contractor for the Challenger 3 MBT. Credit: Rheinmetall AG.
The Challenger 3 MBT is expected to achieve initial operating capability in 2027. Credit: Ministry of Defence.

Challenger 3 is a new main battle tank (MBT) being developed by Rheinmetall BAE Systems Land (RBSL), a joint venture between UK-based BAE Systems and Germany-based Rheinmetall.

The new tank will be an upgrade of the Challenger 2 MBT, which has been in service with the British Army since 1998. Equipped with the latest digital enhancements and weaponry, the new tank will be at the forefront of the army’s ground force deterrent.

Challenger 3 MBT will modernise the UK land forces through its lethality. The new technology to be incorporated within the tank will deliver immense warfighting capabilities in battlespaces filled with a range of threats.

The UK Ministry of Defence placed an £800m ($1.11bn) contract with RBSL for the conversion of 148 Challenger 2 tanks into Challenger 3 configuration in May 2021. Initial operating capability is expected in 2027, while full operating capability is scheduled in 2030.

The Defence Equipment and Support and Combat Vehicles team is overseeing the delivery of the Challenger 3 (CR3) programme.

The new and improved main battle tank will be the British Army’s only 24-hour, all-weather, protected tank with accuracy, direct fire and anti-armour manoeuvre capabilities, playing a critical role in the UK’s ability to deliver hard power.

Challenger 3 MBT’s design and features

The Challenger 3 MBT features a generic vehicle architecture and new digital crew stations. It will have a gross vehicle weight of 66t, which is 1t more than its predecessor. The tank will be manned by a crew of four including a commander, a gunner, a loader and a driver.

The fully digitised tank will enable interoperability with other combat vehicles in combined arms battalions while enabling multi-domain integration for data sharing across domains.

Designed to handle multi-domain warfare, the tank retains its ability to operate in coastal environments to support the future commander force of the Royal Marines.

Observation and targeting systems

The main battle tank will be fitted with improved long-range commander and gunner primary sights with automatic target tracking, wide-area search and detection (WASAD) capability and day and thermal modes for operations during day and night.

The electronic and electrical architectures of the MBT will further support future upgrades to provide significant growth potential over the coming decades.

RBSL placed a £90m subcontract with Thales Group, an aerospace and defence services provider based in France, for panoramic and fixed azimuth weapon aiming sights for both the commander and gunner of the Challenger 3 tank.

Thales will also supply a signal processing system which will provide state-of-the-art video tracking and WASAD capabilities to the tank.


Challenger 3 will be installed with Rheinmetall’s latest generation L55A1 120mm smoothbore gun. The high-pressure cannon can fire temperature-independent kinetic energy rounds, and new-generation programmable multipurpose ammunition including high-velocity ammunition such as high-explosive projectiles. The latest gun and fire control technology will further optimise the tank’s firepower.

The Rheinmetall 120mm smoothbore is considered to be a key upgrade to Challenger 3 as it will increase accuracy, penetrating power and lethality while placing the tank at the forefront of other tanks deployed by Nato member states.

Challenger 3 self-protection

The new turret structure and armour of the tank are expected to offer superior protection to the crew. Challenger 3 will also be equipped with a laser warning system, an active protection system and a layered protection that will allow it to identify incoming threats and neutralise them.

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

The turret subsystems are being manufactured by Pearson Engineering, a defence manufacturing services provider based in the UK. The work is being performed as part of a £25m supplier contract signed by RBSL and Pearson.

Engine and mobility

Challenger 3 will be equipped with an upgraded and more powerful engine and an improved engine cooling system. It will feature a third-generation hydro-gas suspension system, which will increase its firing accuracy on the move.

The new battle tank will be able to attain a maximum speed of 60km/h.

Other contractors and suppliers involved

G&H, an industrial machinery manufacturing company based in the UK, will supply an embedded image periscope for the Challenger 3 MBT under a £4.1m ($4.8m) contract awarded in October 2022.

Rugged electronics provider MilDef received a subcontract worth £2.5m from RBSL in March 2023 to provide generic vehicle architecture compliant processors and Ethernet switches.

Olsen Actuators, an actuator and motion control specialist based in the UK, was contracted to provide customised actuator assemblies for integration onto the tank in February 2023.

Rafael Advanced Defense Systems was selected to supply its combat-proven Trophy active protection system for integration with the Challenger 3 MBT in June 2021.

Rheinmetall Electronics UK is the supplier of the driver vision system for Challenger 3.