The other day, the British army spoke about the success of its new project to modernize existing armored vehicles. In the interests of the ground forces, a new update kit has been developed for the Challenger 2 MBT. A set of measures called Streetfighter II is intended to improve the combat qualities of the tank in urban environments. To this end, it is proposed to install several new units, devices and systems on the MBT, while maintaining other devices.
The previous set of additional equipment "Challenger-2" for work in urban environments called Streetfighter was developed in 2007-2008. taking into account the experience of the war in Iraq. Further advances in technology allowed the continued creation of systems for urban combat, resulting in a new set of Streetfighter II.
The development of a new project started in December 2018 and was carried out by several organizations. The design was carried out by specialists from the Royal Tank Corps and the Ministry of Defense Research and Technology Laboratory (DSTL). Commercial organizations are also involved in the project as suppliers of units.
On December 5, 2019, the presentation of the first prototype Challenger 2 MBT with the Streetfighter II kit took place at the Copehill Down training ground. The car was shown to the command of the army and ground forces. After these events, tests began on the updated vehicle in order to determine its real combat qualities.
A few days ago, the Ministry of Defense published some information about the project and the course of tests, and also showed footage of the work of an experienced MBT along with the infantry. Due to this, some new details have become known, but the overall development prospects remain unclear.
The Streetfighter II project provides for the retrofitting of the Challenger-2 serial tank with several new units and systems that ensure more efficient operation in urban environments. Measures have been taken to increase maneuverability in the city, incl. among destroyed buildings, as well as to improve situational awareness and firepower.
Perhaps the most notable innovation of the project is the dozer blade mounted on the nose of the hull. With the help of this device, the MBT must overcome blockages or barricades. Also, a video published by the British Department of Defense demonstrates the use of a blade to evacuate the wounded.
The external boxes for the transportation of property, placed on the fenders, have undergone revision. A characteristic armored casing for a guided missile launcher is installed on the rear of the tower.
For the timely detection of threats in the Streetfighter II project, a "transparent armor" system developed by the Israeli company Elbit Systems is provided. The IronVision complex includes a set of video and infrared cameras for mounting on the outer surface of the tank, as well as video signal processing devices and helmet-mounted screens for the crew. Due to this, tankers are able to conduct surveillance in any direction without leaving the protected space.
It is curious that the IronVision complex is being tested for the first time on a main tank. The Israeli development company has already tested it on various armored vehicles, but the British Challenger 2 became the first MBT carrier.
The main armament of the tank remains the same, while the additional complex is being reworked. Nominally, the Challenger 2 has only an L94A1 machine gun paired with a cannon and an L37A2 machine gun on the loader's hatch - both 7.62 mm. The Streetfighter II project provides for the strengthening of additional weapons. The MBT additionally receives a remotely controlled weapon station with an M2 heavy machine gun and a 60-mm mortar on the forehead of the turret. A separate roof cover houses a launcher for two Brimstone II guided missiles.
The fire control system as a whole remains the same, however, devices appear in it that are responsible for using the DBM. Also, new communication equipment is installed on the upgraded MBT.
As an experiment, a small tracked unmanned vehicle interacts with an experienced MBT. This product is intended for conducting reconnaissance in difficult conditions, incl. in areas inaccessible to the tank. With its help, it is planned to further increase the situational awareness of the crew.
Experienced tank Challenger 2 Streetfighter II received only new equipment provided for by a promising project. It is not clear whether it is possible to use additional equipment from the two sets of Streetfighter at the same time. Probably, some of these units can be used simultaneously, and they do not interfere with the installation of each other.
Recall that the main elements of the Streetfighter kit are overhead armor blocks for installation on the bottom and sides of the hull. This increases the resistance to explosive devices and anti-tank weapons that hit the side projection.
Advantages and disadvantages
At the moment, the British Army has only one Challenger 2 tank equipped with the Streetfighter II kit. Over the past few weeks, this machine has been tested and demonstrated its capabilities. Based on the results of ongoing activities, conclusions will be drawn about the prospects of the project. What they will be is unknown.
As presented, the Streetfighter II project has both strengths and weaknesses. A definite plus is the availability of situational awareness tools in the form of an IronVision complex and an unmanned vehicle. An important advantage is the strengthening of additional weapons - the crew gets the opportunity to simultaneously attack a larger number of targets in different directions. The proposal to install Brimstone II missiles can also positively affect the combat qualities of the tank, increasing the range and the likelihood of hitting protected targets.
However, the modernization project does not provide for any new measures in the context of increasing protection, and therefore the experienced Challenger 2 has only standard booking. Perhaps the Streetfighter II kit can be combined with the elements of the previous kit, but such features are not directly mentioned or demonstrated.
In general, it should be assumed that the installation of additional equipment of the Streetfighter II type can really positively affect the combat qualities of the Challenger 2 MBT. However, there is a need for other means as well. Only in this case, the tank will be able to work efficiently and with minimal risks in urban environments.
The prospects for the Streetfighter II project have not yet been specified. They will probably be determined only after the end of the current tests. Based on their results, a decision can be made on the introduction of a new set, on revision for the purpose of improvement, or on the closure of the project.
The already known plans of the military department may affect the fate of the new project. Now, on a competitive basis, a deep modernization of Challenger-2 is being developed, aimed at maintaining and improving the main indicators. Two developments from different companies apply for the contract, and there is no clear favorite yet. In the near future, the army will choose the most successful project and launch a serial upgrade of equipment.
How these plans relate to the development of an urban kit is not specified. Perhaps some of the solutions of the two Streetfighter projects will be used in larger upgrades. A scenario is also possible in which the Streetfighter II will remain a set of additional equipment without a clear reference to the modification of the base tank.
However, a negative development of events cannot be ruled out so far. During the tests of a number of prototypes, it may turn out that the Challenger 2 with the Streetfighter II kit does not have decisive advantages over other modernized MBTs. In this case, the project may be closed for lack of prospects.
Thus, in the context of the development of the armored forces of Great Britain, a very interesting situation is observed. The command is not going to abandon the Challenger 2 MBT - incl. due to the objective impossibility of creating a completely new sample. At the same time, the plans provide for a deep modernization of this technique, and there are already several projects of this kind. One or more of these developments will have to ensure the combat effectiveness of tank units in the future.