Photo: Simon Q.
The Challenger 1 served as the British Army’s main battle tank or MBT between 1984 and the mid 1990s. Also called the British FV4030/4, the model was replaced by the Challenger 2 and was the second of three Challenger vehicles, the first being the A30 Challenger which was designed for the Second World War.
First named ‘Cheviot’, the tank was originally supposed to be an improvement to the Chieftain line of tanks and was preceded by the FV4030/1, FV4030/2 and FV4030/3. However, when the UK MBT80 project failed, the British Army bought the line and developed it to meet western European standards. The line then took on a life of its own.
The Challenger 1 was built by the ROF or Royal Ordnance Factories with production starting in 1983 but was acquired by Vickers Defence Systems (now BAE Systems Land and Armaments) in 1986 when it took over ROF Leeds.
The tank was a revolution in armored vehicles. It had a 300 kill record against Iraqi tanks without suffering any loss during its stint in the Persian Gulf War and is on record for destroying an Iraqi tank 5.1 km away. This is the military’s longest range for a tank-to-tank kill to date.
In performance tests it amassed more direct hits than any other MBT but ranked last among its rivals because of its slow fire rate. Its sight and fire control system was poor enough to make it the slowest. It was this dismal performance that prompted the Challenger 2. In 1999, 288 of the 420 models built were transferred to Royal Jordanian Army through an agreement signed by both governments. These have since been upgraded and now serve as MBTs in the Jordanian military
Despite this shortfall, the Challenger 1 was still a force to be reckoned with due to its cross-country capabilities. Being fitted with hydrogas or hydropneumatic suspensions, much like the Challenger 2, meant that it was a leader in off-road performance.
Weight: 62 tonnes
Length : 11.5 m with its gun forward.
Width: 3.51 m
Height: 2.95 m
Capacity: A crew of four consisting of a driver (to the front), commander (right of the turret), gunner (right of the turret as well) and a loader (to the left).
Ground clearance: 0.5m
The vehicle outclassed its predecessors by being outfitted with classified Chobham in a time when the standard material for tank armor was the Rolled Homogeneous Armour.
A Royal Ordnance L11A5 120 mm rifled gun holding 64 rounds and two types of machine guns carrying 4,000 to 6,000 rounds combines (the 7.62 mm L8A2 and the 7.62 mm L37A2) serve as its primary and secondary armaments respectively. It also carries 2 x 5 barrel smoke dischargers.
The Challenger 1 was designed with a Rolls-Royce CV12 26 liter diesel engine capable of delivering 1,200 hp (895 kW). It could cover up to 450 km on road at a maximum speed of 56 km/h (37 mph).