United Kingdom

Royal Navy unveils two deadly new tanks with X-Ray vision

Dubbed “Streetfighter” and “Megatron”, the upgraded Challenger 2 will feel more like a computer simulation for the drivers, with 360-degree views and X-ray vision. But they are far more deadly than playing the Hell Let Loose battle simulator at home.

Both will be fitted with anti-tank Brimstone missile systems, and crews will be able to maintain full visibility even with hatches closed, thanks to special helmets kitted out with Israeli-made IronVision See-Through’ Head-Mounted Display technology.

In order for this system to work, an array of electro-optical and infrared cameras are positioned around the hull of each tank.

This is similar in many respects to the Distributed Aperture System (DAS) fitted to the F-35 joint strike fighter jet.

The system then “stitches’ those feeds together, giving the individual wearing the helmet the ability to “see” right through the hull of the tank in any direction, day or night.

In addition, an iPad -type tablet will be mounted on the rear to allow infantry to communicate with the tank’s crew if radio communications fail.

Though the idea is not new, ’Streetfighter’ is being developed in expanded form as the UK and its Nato allies learn lessons from Ukraine regarding the use of tanks in built-up areas.

Last month it was announced that around 60 unmodified Challenger 2 tanks are being readied by British troops for exercises and operations in Europe at a Nato Forward Holding Base in Sennelager, Germany, as tensions with Russia mount.

The second variant, ‘Megatron’, is being given various appliqué armour systems and a soft camouflage system that reduces its infrared signature

Under the £800m Heavy Armour Automotive Improvement Programme (HAAIP), existing Challengers will be stripped to bare hulls and subjected to ultrasonic inspection, weld repair and repainting. Every component will be removed and inspected for serviceability to ensure that the vehicle is as close to new as possible when it is rebuilt.

Then both variants will be given new barrels, new modular armour and an enhanced active protection system – which will change the tank’s profile on the radar.

Around 148 tanks are being modified in the overhaul, in which Rheinmetall and BAE Systems will deliver the first tanks to the British Army in the next two years.

Brigadier Anna-Lee Reilly, Head of the DE&S Vehicle Support Team, said: “This is an exciting moment for Defence. We’ve been committed to keeping the Challenger 2 tanks in service over the past 23 years and we’re looking forward to using our expertise to manage the necessary upgrades to pave the way for the Challenger 3.”

Justin Crump, of Sibylline strategic risk group, who is also a reservist tank commander, said: “It’s important to note that none of this is Challenger 3 – this is simply a Challenger 2 upgrade.

“We don’t know what the mix will be, but it is likely that the Streetfighter is being prepared for somewhere like Estonia, while the Megatron will be held back for operations in other theatres. The point is we just don’t know what will be asked of us.”

He added: “On paper, these are good developments if they work efficiently. The addition of Brimstone would allow tanks to fire over the ridge of a hill, for instance.

“I do worry about information overload inside the turret, however, and whether one platform is being asked to perform too many tasks. – but we do trials for a reason.”

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