British Army Gets New Tanks: New Equipment Part Of ‘Future Soldier’ Program

The British Army is due a hefty upgrade thanks to the Future Soldier program.

It is fair to say that soldiers on the battlefield are only as good as the equipment with which they are supplied. No matter how committed soldiers may be to their cause, if they do not have enough artillery and ammunition to fight, it is unlikely they can win.

The British Army has not enhanced its equipment significantly since the end of the Cold War.  Consequently, soldiers have not been armed with the most modern, 21st century gear. But that is all about to change.

Future Soldier Program

The “Future Soldier” (FS) program intends to see fighting forces get the equipment they need to fight and win, should the need arise. The program includes main battle tanks (MBTs) too.

Now underway is the updating of the Challenger 2 tank, which became part of the British Armed Forces in 1994. The tanks were used in combat in Iraq, and before that in what was once called Yugoslavia. In only five years, the new tanks will be part of the series, known as Challenger 3, and older models will be retired.

The Future Soldier Program will see the Challenger 2 be upgraded.
Existing Challenger 2s will be updated to the Challenger 3 standard. Crown copyright.

These advancements represent the “next steps in the modernization of the British Army,” said Lieutenant General Ralph Woodisse when the announcement was made earlier this month. These steps will made the Army more modern, but also “more lethal,” General Woodisse added.

The FS program was initially made public in 2021. In addition to updating equipment, the program includes changes to the Army’s organization and structure.

“Future Soldier is fundamentally about ensuring the British Army is a competitive and resilient organization,” the general continued, “able to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow, wherever they may be.”

Challenger 3

The upgrades began at Armstrong Works in Newcastle, in northeast England. The chief contractor on the project is Rheinmetall BAE Systems Land (RBSL). Pearson Engineering is a British firm that is handling parts of the subcontracting responsibilities, including the design of new turrets. The program is expected to add approximately 1.2 billion pounds to the overall Department of Defense budget of 3.35 billion pounds each year.

Not all that long ago, tanks were viewed as warfare equipment that were becoming, if not obsolete, certainly less of a mainstay of modern armies. In the U.K., some were predicting that Challenger 3 tank series may not have been a crucial competent of the army’s gear.

A Challenger 3
The Challenger 3 will bring much needed updates to the Challenger 2. The most notable difference is a new turret and a 120 mm smoothbore gun. Crown copyright.

Now, however, that opinion has changed; the upgrades are expected to keep the tanks useful until about 2040.

Changes to the Challenger tanks is not the first big announcement the U.K. Government has made recently. Only a few short weeks ago, officials announced that 100 new Boxer wheeled armored vehicles will be made soon and added to the British Army’s inventory. They are the result of a deal with an arms manufacturer in Germany.

Future Soldier program Boxer
The Boxer is a modular wheeled armored fighting vehicle designed by a consortium of nations. Crown copyright.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine in the third week of February seems to have startled many countries out of the post-Cold War lull they were in. Military forces, including America and Great Britain, are investing billions into testing the equipment they have, and spending more on buying new hardware from defense companies.

RBSL will deliver the new tanks in the series sometime in 2027. The tank will be a “network enabled, main battle tank” said a recent press release – the ultimate in modern tanks, meant for a modernized army.

The description of the Future Soldier program describes the coming changes as making the army a “lethal, agile and lean force.”  The ranks consist of approximately 27,000 personnel.

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And like all military forces, it no doubt hopes that all the changes, all the modernization and new tech, will never be put to the test in an actual war.