UK Defence Update: Black Night Battle Tanks

Defence
Image Credit: BAE Systems

Over the years advances in technology and engineering have accounted for many innovations within the defence sector. Last week we looked at naval vessels and today, we focus on the Challenger 2 MK2 Black Night Battle Tanks.

The original Challenger 2 served with distinction in Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq and now, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has extended its service to 2035. BAE Systems have introduced the first working prototype of the Black Night upgrade to the UK’s main battle tank, Challenger 2. It features a state-of-the-art thermal imaging system and many improved defensive systems capable of challenging anything standing in its way.

Brief History Of The Challenger 2 Battle Tank

BAE Systems originally designed and built the Challenger 2 and has since proved itself time and time again. First conceived in the 1980s toward the end of the Cold War, the Challenger 2 officially entered service in 1998. In addition to seeing active service in Iraq, Bosnia and Kosovo, they were also used for several NATO operations.

Although the Challenger 2 only first saw combat in 2003 during the Iraq Invasion, it gained a fierce reputation. It was exceptionally strong and durable with next-level survivability as none were lost in battle. To give you some indication of its prowess, some survived up to 70 rocket grenade attacks in a single engagement and were back in business within hours.

Next Steps For The Armoured Defence Force

Keeping up with the global defence industry can be challenging (and expensive) but the British Army had to decide what would come next. Around 2015, the Russian T-14 Armata main battle tank was a real threat and while the Challenger 2 was still highly effective, the UK needed a plan for the future.

BAE Systems put in a bid along with seven other partners to conceptualise the next UK battle tank to ramp up their defence. Since the Challenger 2 already had top tier armour and powertrain, BAE turned their focus onto advanced armament solutions. The initial plans also included turret-based technologies with a 360-degree view of the surroundings and a thermal imaging system.

With new weapon systems being developed across the world, the British Army had to make a tough choice. Considering that they had over 400 tanks, each costing around £4.2 million, replacing them with a light-armour alternative was not ideal. Instead, they decided to extend the service of the Challenger 2 until 2035 and implement an upgrade which brings about Black Night.

Black Night Challenger 2 Future Battle Tank

With the Challenger 2’s L30A1 120mm rifled guns deemed obsolete, it was time for an upgrade. As stated by BAE, Black Night lives up to its name as it features an enhanced night vision system. Under the banner, Team Challenger 2, BAE and their partners designed the upgrade to include a dual infrared imaging system.

It uses front and rear cameras which are effective in day and night conditions but with an added advantage. For the first time ever, the Commander and Gunner can use the system to look at different targets simultaneously and can also hand off images to one another on-the-fly.

Other advancements include the Active Protection System capable of detecting incoming anti-tank projectiles. The system has countermeasures in place in the form of neutralising explosive round launchers and a Laser Warning System that detects enemy laser lock-on. From there, they automatically aim the gun at the threat for much faster and more accurate counter firing.

The tank comes with new computerised equipment that speeds up the tank’s weapons allowing for more streamlined identification, targeting and shooting. Black Night also has a regenerative braking system that recycles the power used to slow down the turret.

UK Defence Engineering Leading From The Front

Even with all the Brexit shambles and growing global economies, the UK is still at the forefront of defence and aerospace.

According to Simon Jackson, Campaign leader for Team Challenger 2 at BAE Systems: “The UK is home to some of the world’s finest engineering companies, who have pushed the boundaries of combat vehicle design with Black Night. The British Army has our commitment that we will deliver the most capable upgrade possible, and the best value for money”.

While the UK is home to most of the upgrade, they are collaborating with some of the best defence companies from around the world. Some of the companies are in Canada, France and Germany who all bring unique skills and proven technology.

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