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"NATO's best tank": the British Challenger 3 prototype pictured. Due to enter service in 2027

"NATO's best tank": the British Challenger 3 prototype pictured. Due to enter service in 2027
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The joint German-British venture Rheinmetall BAE Systems Land (RBSL) has unveiled an image of the first prototype of the British army's main battle tank Challenger 3 after completing the construction of the new vehicle at the factory in Telford, England.

The first public images of the prototype were presented at the international IQPC armored vehicles conference in London, with trials expected to begin soon. A total of 18 months of testing is planned on the test ranges in the UK and Germany. Eight prototypes will be developed.

The Challenger 3 program aims to create the best tank in NATO... and will build the main digital combat tank with network support, providing soldiers with radically new capabilities and ensuring deterrence in the 21st century until decommissioning [planned for 2040]. The first prototype will begin testing in the coming weeks.

— Rory Breen, Director of Strategy and Future Business at RBSL.

The elements installed on the prototype are intended for integration into 148 serial tanks as part of the broader £800 million Challenger 3 program, including a 120mm smoothbore Rheinmetall gun, digital turret, day and night sighting systems, and armor. Improved mobility also includes the introduction of third-generation hydro-gas suspension and a more powerful engine.

RBSL can manufacture new vehicles from scratch if the UK Ministry of Defense provides the appropriate order. Currently, the company only has a contract to upgrade the Challenger 2, according to Breaking Defence.

The reliability and operational readiness of the Challenger 2 fleet of the British army has sparked debates in political circles in the UK, especially after the UK committed to transfer main battle tanks to Ukraine in 2023.

As Breaking Defense previously reported, Lieutenant General Robert Magowan, Chief of Defense Staff for Financial and Military Capability, denied that London's decision to transfer 14 used vehicles to Kiev reduced the British army's "operational assets" in terms of main battle tanks by almost a third.

The initial operational capability of the Challenger 3 is scheduled for 2027.

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