Samuel Cranny-Evans, Telford - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly
On 11 September, Jane’s was given an exclusive tour of Black Night, BAE Systems’ Challenger 2 Life Extension Project (LEP) technology demonstrator.
The LEP is intended to address mission system obsolescence and ensure that the vehicle remains supportable until 2035. However, BAE Systems’ proposal demonstrated in Black Night not only addresses obsolescence but also improves capability.
Simon Jackson, campaign leader of BAE Systems’ Team Challenger 2, told Jane’s , “BAE Systems is nearing the completion of the Challenger 2 LEP assessment phase contract with the MoD [Ministry of Defence]. We have submitted documentation to support the MoD’s preliminary design review and Black Night has been developed to both inform the development of our Challenger 2 Mk 2 solution, and to demonstrate the maturity of our design.”
He went on to say, “The new capabilities of the upgraded vehicle will ensure that it is effective out to 2035, with growth potential to proceed beyond this date if the MoD so requires.”
Furthermore, the design process has provided commonality with the Ajax, the UK’s future reconnaissance vehicle currently under production by General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) UK, to the extent that an Ajax commander could operate in a Challenger 2 Mk 2 with relatively little adjustment. This will reduce the training and support burden, an issue that many countries have encountered when deploying a mixed fleet of vehicles.
According to Jackson, Black Night “is a demonstrator designed to show what Team Challenger 2 has achieved during the assessment phase. It includes the core offering of advanced mission systems as well as options such as active protective measures.”
The improvements include a Safran Paseo commander’s independent sight, Leonardo thermal imager for the gunner, and Leonardo night sight DNVS 4. The enhancements are designed to provide a 24-hour hunter-killer capability through the provision of thermal imagers for the gunner, commander, and driver.