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GMK

Challenger 2 Mark 2

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Looks like the prototype for the CR2-2 is being unveiled. Iron Fist Active Protection System, Leonardo panoramic sight, not much else new. Missed opportunity to replace the main armament with something supportable and who’s ammunition is still in production, but interesting nonetheless. 

 

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That's not a prototype as such.  It's most likely the BAES trials vehicle, to be pitted against the Rheinmetall-fronted pitch for final selection next year some time.

 

Rheinmetall are also building a trials vehicle and their proposal involves fitting the complete pre-integrated Leopard A6/7 turret complete with the smoothbore 120 gun, among other things.

 

Ammunition for the current rifled gun is still in production, and MOD has invested significantly in facilities at BAES RO Glascoed for its continued production.  What we don't make any more in this country since RO Bridgwater closed is propellant.  For anything.

 

Keeping the rifled gun firing kinetic penetrators and HESH is not as daft as you perhaps make out.  What have recent armour developments all been aimed at defeating?  HEAT rounds.  And what is the smooth-bore's primary AT round?  HEAT.  The APFSDS is relatively modest velocity compared to the rifled round as the smoothbore gun doesn't need high chamber pressures or velocities for HEAT rounds, whose function is not velocity-dependent.  In fact if the HEAT round impacts too fast it risks demolishing itself before it properly initiates.  None of the latest armour developments are much better at keeping out kinetic penetrators arriving at 1,500m/s compared to solid steel armour.  You need something really hard like the DU inserts used on the M1.

 

It will be interesting to see how ammunition stowage is solved with the smoothbore one-piece rounds, which are too long for the turret bustle and the current hull stowage.  A smoothbore gun was fitted into a CR2 over a decade ago for trials under the Challenger Lethality Improvement Programme (CLIP) and cleared for manned firing, but the hull ammunition stowage proved to be too big a problem.  A dozen rounds would fit in the bustle crossways.  It was proposed to be solved by installing a smaller but equally powerful MTU powerpack to make more hull space.  But re-gunning had then become gutting and rebuilding, which was not at that time the plan.  That tank was at ATDU for a while, but I don't know what became of it.  Possibly one of those converted to driver training tanks.

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You’re right - “prototype” should’ve been “prototype of the BAE proposal”. The Rheinmetall offering will be interesting to see. 

 

Whilst projectiles are being made in the UK for the 120mm rifled gun, ammunition is not. A projectile without propellant isn’t ammunition, it’s a paperweight.

 

Can’t really agree with you that a smoothbore’s “primary AT round is HEAT.” The prime tank-killing round is a APFSDS round, the penetrator of which is considerably longer in a one-piece round of ammunition, improving the L/D ratio. Modern, US APFSDS ammunition (M829A4: which is available in non-DU variants) is as effective out of a L/44 gun as German 120mm APFSDS is out of a L/55. It also has an Ammunition Data Link. The ADL enables the Abrams’ fire control system to send information to the M829A4. (http://www.dote.osd.mil/pub/reports/fy2015/pdf/army/2015m829a4.pdf)

 

An example of a modern HEAT round is the M830A1, which travelling at 1,400 m/s seems to be moving at a fair clip. It also has a discarding sabot, as well as a variable fused air burst and some other tricks enabled by its ammunition data link that enables the gun to “talk” to the round. (https://www.northropgrumman.com/Capabilities/LargeCalAmmunition/Documents/M830A1HEATMPT.pdf)

 

My view on solving CR2’s lethality problems would be to replace the turret with one from a M1A2D. It comes with compartmentalised ammunition stowage for 36 rounds, a data-linked gun, has comms installed, modern sights, and excellent armour. (https://www.armyrecognition.com/september_2018_global_defense_security_army_news_industry/new_designations_for_upgraded_m1a2_sepv3_and_sepv4_abrams_main_battle_tanks.html)

 

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Yes, but none of the industrial contenders is offering the M1 turret.  I might have expected GD to pitch that idea, but it seems they didn't.  The Leo turret offers a broadly comparable pre-integrated solution.  And no-one in UK defence wants anything from the other side of the ITAR fence any more unless there is absolutely no other option because of the strings attached.  We had no end of trouble compartmentalising ITAR-controlled information on FRES (now morphed into Scout and MIV).  A turret swap would still fall under ITAR rather than the lesser and newer EAR because of the classified systems.  Dealing with ITAR, TAAs and IPR was one of my more difficult responsibilities on that project.

 

Yes, the charges would come under "propellant", which we no longer make in the UK.  RO is, however, contracted to provide the complete ammunition.  Whether they buy in complete charges from a 3rd party or buy in propellant to fill casings they make I don't know.  I imagine the latter as no-one else would be interested in making unique complete charges for a single customer.  I don't imagine MOD would be comfortable with foreign-sourcing critical ammunition as we've been caught out before.  Yes we do still buy some in complete, like 12.7mm API and 60mm mortar bombs.  The idea behind the current RO deal and the money given to RO under it for facilities investment and modernisation was to preserve a sovereign source of supply.  But I wonder how readily BAES would be able to secure licences for 120mm smooth-bore ammunition (and 5" ammunition for the new US naval gun for Type 26 for that matter).  RO is a private enterprise, not a state arsenal.  Purchase of unclassified munitions from the US would now come under EAR as a straight export sale.

 

IMHO, allowing propellant and gun barrel manufacture facilities to be closed down was very short-sighted and flies in the face of sovereign supply security.  I imagine the muddled thinking was that there are very many sources of both.  Lord Drayson had some very strange - borderline idiotic - ideas in his Defence Industrial Strategy about what defence industries the UK did and did not need.  That will live with us for generations because of the capital cost of re-creating what has been lost. 

 

I bow to your knowledge of ammunition characteristics.  I understood that smooth-bore velocities were lower than the figures quoted.  I imagine the HEATFS round bleeds velocity quickly for a lesser accurate range, having the aerodynamic shape of a fin-stabilised brick.

 

But there is undoubtedly a reason we stuck with the rifled gun and being out of step, and it wasn't just to be different, bloody-minded or "British".  And, having invented and refined composite armour we still stuck with a rifled gun on CR.  We had the choice with CR2 to change the gun and didn't.  Without knowing any better as a fact, it seems to me that this is too much of a coincidence.  Or maybe it is just oldthink and time to change.  We've never been fans of HEAT for tank guns, nor APHE for that matter.  KE and latterly HESH have been very much our "thing".

Edited by Das Abteilung
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