BAE Systems Unveils Black Night, First Fully-Upgraded Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank

BAE Systems has unveiled Black Night, a working example for the proposed upgrade of the British Army’s Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank (MBT).

BAE Systems is leading a major strategic partnership of world-leading defence firms – Team Challenger 2 – to bid for the tank’s Life Extension Project (LEP). The Challenger 2 LEP is a UK MOD contract to remove obsolescence from Challenger 2 and extend its out-of-service date by ten years to 2035.

‘Team Challenger 2’ consists of BAE Systems Land (UK), General Dynamics Land Systems-UK, Leonardo, Safran Electronics & Defence, Moog, QinetiQ and General Dynamics Mission Systems-Canada.

The upgraded tank – dubbed “Black Night” due to its enhanced night-fighting ability – would bring for the first time to Challenger 2 two independent night vision systems, allowing the gunner to focus on one target while the commander identifies other targets simultaneously. The other proposed upgrades includes laser and missile-based protection systems, thermal imaging technology and regenerative power sourcing.

Created at BAE Systems’ combat vehicles hub in the West Midlands, Black Night comprises the following cutting-edge technologies and capabilities, which are being offered by BAE Systems to the Ministry of Defence as part of Challenger 2’s LEP:

Active Protection System (APS): Systems allow the tank to detect incoming anti-tank missiles or armour penetrating rounds and automatically launches a counter-explosive to neutralise the threat.

Laser Warning System (LWS): When targeted by enemy weapon systems, the tank can identify the source of the threat then automatically slew the gun to point at that source, making it quicker for the crew to counter-fire.

Regenerative braking: The tank has been made more energy efficient by using less energy-hungry kit and installing regenerative braking in the turret, which generates power when the gun slows down into position.

Thermal Imaging Technology: Front and rear infrared cameras (similar to those used in television programmes such as Planet Earth II) provide extremely sharp night imagery, helping troops identify potential threats and move undetected in hostile situations, while also shaving valuable seconds off reaction times.

Accelerated fightability: New equipment controlling tank’s weaponry is faster, meaning the crew can identify an enemy, target and engage more quickly.

“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. We are providing the bulk of this upgrade from home soil, however, we have chosen the best defence companies from around the world to collaborate with also, including names from Canada, France and Germany who bring unique skills and proven technology”, said Simon Jackson, Campaign leader for Team Challenger 2 at BAE Systems.

“The British Army has our commitment that we will deliver the most capable upgrade possible, and the best value for money.”

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