This week, the UK and Germany agreed to the joint launch of a new main battle tank munition with the signing of an agreement taking the project into the next development phase.
The two sides signed a declaration of intent to advance the development of a 120mm Enhanced Kinetic Energy (EKE) projectile on Thursday during a meeting in London between UK National Arms Director Andy Start and his counterpart. German, Vice Admiral Carsten Stawitzki.
In a statement issued by the British after the signing, defense officials hope that ongoing talks will lead to a joint program by the end of the year to install the new armor-piercing round on the British Army’s Challenger 3 and Leopard 2 main battle tanks from German.
However, a binational program could soon be expanded to include other partners and types of 120mm tank ammunition.
“Under the terms of the new agreement, Germany and the UK will also remain open to other nations joining the cooperation or being recipients of exports, as well as continuing discussions on possible collaboration for other types of tank ammunition from 120mm,” the British statement said.
Stawitzki noted that expanding the program to include other nations would be welcome sooner rather than later.
“By signing the declaration of intent, the United Kingdom and Germany will explore the possibility of other partners joining the program as soon as possible,” he declared.
The two nations are already in talks with a possible additional partner, but no one says exactly who at the moment.
Meanwhile, the British and German authorities are preparing the ground for the joint program. Proof of principle has passed live fire tests, and the qualification phase has started.
According to the statement, the nations “will demonstrate that the new ammunition exceeds all legal and regulatory standards in the next qualification phase.”
The British Army is the sole operator of the Challenger main battle tank in Europe. The Leopard 2, meanwhile, is widely used by NATO countries and others, which could lead to significant export opportunities for an advanced EKE munition.
Rheinmetall Waffe Munition has design authority for the new tank ammunition project, and the company is in talks with its UK suppliers to win a part of the program.
On April 28, Rheinmetall announced it had secured an order for tank ammunition worth 200 million euros ($221 million) from an unnamed European customer to be delivered between this year and 2025.
The British Army’s outdated Challenger 2 is the only NATO main battle tank to fire 120mm rifled ammunition, but an £800m ($1bn) program is underway led by Rheinmetall-RBSL joint venture. BAE Systems to extensively modernize 148 of the vehicles to Challenger 3 standard.
“Standardized munitions will not only benefit battlefield collaboration with many of our NATO allies but have the significant export potential for defense industry partners in the UK and Germany,” stated the secretary for British defense, Ben Wallace.
The most prominent element of the modernization is the installation of a new turret with the latest generation L55A1 smoothbore gun from Rheinmetall.
Firing a smoothbore gun will finally bring the Challenger 3’s configuration on par with all other NATO main battle tanks, thus improving interoperability.
Challenger 3 is scheduled for initial operational capability in 2027 and full operational capability in 2030.