|This page is about the British medium tank Challenger Mk.3. For other uses, see Challenger (Disambiguation).|
The Tank, Combat, 120-mm Gun, Challenger Mk.3 (shortened as Challenger Mk.3) is a rank VI British medium tank with a battle rating of 10.0 (AB/RB/SB). It was introduced in Update 1.85 "Supersonic".
The Challenger Mk.3 retains most of the characteristics of the Challenger Mk.2. It has some unique differences; such as: "ROMOR-A ERA" which covers the lower glacis and sides, along with the addition of the ammunition storage being covered with rolled homogeneous armour. It retains the same engine (1200 hp) as the Mk.2, however with a minor increase in weight it suffers slightly reduced mobility and acceleration. Its iconic, legendary, and pin-point accurate gun stays the same as on the Challenger Mk.2.
Survivability and armour
The armour protection on the Challenger Mk.3 is excellent in some areas and bad in others. The upper half of the turret cheeks are capable of withstanding almost all kinetic penetrators and will stop most chemical penetrators with less than 800 mm, while the lower half won't protect against most top-rank rounds. Additionally, the breech weak spot is quite small. This means the turret has excellent protection and hulldown play is recommended. The hull composite is only good against lower penetrating APFSDS rounds such as T-55AM, and can also withstand some chemical munitions, but it is not advised to rely on this armour. The rest of the tank (turret and hull sides, lower front plate) has decent protection against chemical rounds due to the add on armour, ERA, and thick turret sides.
|Armour||Front (Slope angle)||Sides||Rear||Roof|
|Hull|| 38 mm (79-81°), 50* mm (60°) Upper glacis
70 mm (30°) Lower glacis
| 20 mm, 25 mm (74°) Top
38 mm (12°) Bottom
|25 mm (29-30°)|| 20 mm|
8 mm Engine grille
|Turret|| 50* mm (51-54°)
60 mm (55-56°), 200 mm Gun mantlet
| 80 mm + 15 mm Front right
80 + 25 mm + 4 mm Front
45 + 4 mm Rear
|44 + 4 mm|| 38 mm (82°) Front|
20 mm (80-90°) Rear
|Hull||200 mm NERA + 80 mm RHA + 50 mm RHA Upper glacis||150 mm NERA, 70 mm screens Side skirts|
|Turret||300 mm NERA + 50 mm RHA + 110 mm CHA||300 mm NERA + 25 mm RHA + 80 mm RHA|
|Hull|| 30 mm ROMOR-A ERA Lower glacis
30 mm Kinetic
300 mm Chemical
| 150 mm NERA Side skirts|
30 mm Kinetic
400 mm Chemical
- The propellant ammo racks are surrounded by 5 mm RHA
- Side skirts consist of 150 mm NERA composite, 70 mm composite screens, or 19 mm aluminium
- Tracks and wheels are 20 mm thick
|Game Mode||Max Speed (km/h)||Weight (tons)||Engine power (horsepower)||Power-to-weight ratio (hp/ton)|
The Challenger Mk.3 has an acceptable top speed, however, acceleration and mobility (primarily due to its weight) are lacklustre compared to other MBTs.
|Module rotation speed||90 Degrees||180 Degrees||360 Degrees|
|Tank Hull||5 Seconds||10 Seconds||20 Seconds|
|Tank Turret||3 Seconds||6 Seconds||12 Seconds|
|Test Conditions||*Tested with a spaded Challenger Mk.3, crew at maximum skill, with basic training qualification. Results can vary based on tank research state, crew levels & qualifications.|
Modifications and economy
The Challenger's main gun, while not the most powerful at its rank, is competitive, and more importantly, accurate. With a little over 400 mm of penetration at maximum, aim for weak spots (particularly when facing higher-ranked vehicles such as the T-80U, Leopard 2A5, etc) and make use of the Challenger's good reload speed.
|120 mm L11A5||Turret rotation speed (°/s)||Reloading rate (seconds)|
|Ammunition|| Type of
|Penetration @ 0° Angle of Attack (mm)|
|10 m||100 m||500 m||1,000 m||1,500 m||2,000 m|
|Ammunition|| Type of
| Fuse delay
| Fuse sensitivity
| Explosive Mass
(TNT equivalent) (g)
|Smoke shell characteristics|
| Screen radius
| Screen deploy time
| Screen hold time
| Explosive Mass|
(TNT equivalent) (g)
- The 8th propellants rack and the 14th projectile rack are the first-stage ammo stowages: they will deplete first when firing but will be refilled with other ammo stowages.
- All the ammo is placed below or to the left of the gunner and commander positions.
- All the propellants racks are surrounded by 5 mm of .
- The 7th projectile rack is stored in the hull, below the 2nd projectile rack.
- The 7th propellant rack is bugged as of version 2.70.141 and cannot be fully depleted.
- Similarly, the 13th projectile rack is also bugged and cannot be fully depleted.
The machine gun's calibre won't present any major advantage in armoured combat other than serving as target spotter to allies, ranging gun and obstacle clearer. But a major important role is against low flying aircrafts and especially, helicopters. As the highly adequate rate of fire is capable to bring down the biggest of the hovering birds, with enough well placed rounds that is.
|Tip: It is possible to switch to the machine gun as the main weapon and use thermals through the machine gun sight.|
|7.62 mm L37A2|
|Mount||Capacity (Belt)||Fire rate||Vertical||Horizontal|
|7.62 mm L8A2|
|Mount||Capacity (Belt)||Fire rate||Vertical||Horizontal|
Usage in battles
- Urban Environments
In urban environments, the Challenger will struggle relative to the T-80B, M1 Abrams and Leopard 2A4 - it's large, heavy and sluggish which proves costly in close quarters or when engagements occur in open streets. While the Challenger's gun still proves effective, often opposition vehicles will achieve valuable positioning before a Challenger can, forcing the Challenger tanker to play defensively. However, playing carefully and avoiding obvious routes, the Challenger can be comfortably put to use in urban environments.
- Rural Environments
The Mk.3 performs very well in rural areas, where defilades and ditches that can be used for cover are far more readily available. The Challenger is still best played in hull-down defensive positions, clearing areas of maps before moving up, but a patient playstyle will be rewarded. Make use of the vehicle's good gun depression and competitive reload, utilising off-angles and hull-down positions. If a situation begins to degrade, make use of the Challenger's reasonably good reverse speed and reposition.
Pros and cons
- Decent turret armour; efficiency increased even more with proper hull down in slopes
- Reasonably small breech protected by turret cheek's armour
- Good HEAT and ATGM resistance on front/sides thanks to ERA and NERA elements
- Good neutral steering and decent reverse speed provides a great boost from the slower Chieftains
- Reasonably good reload, particularly for a 120 mm gun; one of the most remarkable aspects of the latter British MBTs
- Brand-new TOGS system provides easy target acquisition in day or night
- Precise L11 gun with adequate penetration values; support rounds available
- Lacklustre sloped armour penetration, worst at high BR battles facing omni-present Leopard 2A6 or T-72B (1989); must aim for weak spots
- The lower half of the turret cheeks are vulnerable to some higher-tier FIN rounds
- Slower MBT than most of the vehicles it faces, albeit not by a huge margin
- Hull is large and tall, very vulnerable to kinetic rounds or aerial attacks
- Cannot shoot straight over its engine deck; a notable disadvantage on urban engagements
- Top-tier shells can easily penetrate Challenger's turret armour, even at range
Once the Challenger was established as the latest MBT for the British army following the decommissioning of the older Chieftain tank, it entered service with the British Army in 1983.
The British Army chose to test this newly designated tank in the Canadian Army Trophy (CAT) competition in West Germany, 1986. Once in the competition and despite having adequate scores, the Challengers were amongst the last in the score tables versus the equally powerful Abrams and Leopards. This proved to be discouraging results, as it was hoped the all-around better Challengers would provide excellent results this time unlike the older Chieftain - distinctly on the mobility and off-road abilities as the new Rolls-Royce CV12 provided almost twice the horsepower of the Chieftain's Leyland L60 Powerpack.
The apparent complete failure on the CAT went further to the British Army withdrawing from the competition in 1987, leaving statements like the following:
I do not believe that the performance of tanks in the artificial circumstances of a competition, such as the recent Canadian Army Trophy, is a proper indication of their capability in war. Challenger's gun gives the best penetrative performance against the tanks of a potential enemy. The tank itself is arguably the best protected in the world and has excellent mobility. It carries an advanced thermal imaging system which is much admired by our allies and ensures that Challenger can fight effectively by night and by day. Participation in international tank gunnery competitions is one useful option in the complete spectrum of training opportunities available in preparing our tank crews for war, but it is not on its own a basis for judgment of overall capability.
Before the Gulf War, the Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) updated the Challenger 1 Mk.2 into the Mk.3 with even more armour protection, increased operational range, desert filters amongst other internal refits. This was the first mass-production use of the Royal Ordnance-made ROMOR-A, of over 250 armour sets were going to be used in the imminent Desert storm - These packages were also included in the Centurion AVRE deploying along with the Challengers 1.
Numerous Challengers were up-armoured by to Mk.3 desert modification with packages of explosive reactive armour (ERA) ROMOR-A in the lower frontal plate and non-energetic reactive armour (NERA) in the sides - this NERA proved to be safer from accidental detonations for any possible friendly units adjacent to the tank. It was estimated the upgrades would increase the protection in these reinforced areas up to 95% against the performance of shaped charges or ATGMs of approximately 127 mm.
The armour requirements were exponentially increasing because new lethal weaponry as the infamously portable Soviet RPG-7 became the most widely used anti-tank weapon in the world. The revolutionary and yet classified to this day Chobham armour proved extremely reliable against most possible frontal engagements. However, areas like the side armour or the lower frontal plate remained a weak spot against the powerful anti-tank armaments been constantly developed.
Trial of fire
3 days after of the US-designated Desert storm operation started, the vast miles of desert defended by Iraqi forces were damaged by French and American aerial and ground attacks but fiercely resisting. It was then the only UK armoured division, the 1st Armoured Division headed to combat under the British code name of Operation Grandby. They were equipped with Warriors acting as the mechanized infantry and Challengers leading the spearhead of the assault.
Charging along with the US' 1st Calvary division, the Challengers Mk.2 and Mk.3 advanced with low visibility conditions and sand storm, during day and night. This advantage is granted to the technologically superior Thermal Observation Gunnery Sight (TOGS) system, that enabled the tank commanders to designate targets in complete darkness. The developing GPS technology also proved vital to increase the mobility of the tanks squadrons in the desert.
On February 27, 1991, Battle of Norfolk part of the Battle of 73 Easting. One of the major battles for the Challenger 1 MBT took part. It allowed the British tanks to achieved over 200 Iraqi tank kills and other various vehicles kill with no losses. This ardent engagements at long and very close distances versus the sand-dug Iraqi T-55s and T-62s allowed the Challenger to prove its true combat capabilities.
|A Challenger 1 got the longest tank kill of all time, at a range of over 4.6 km, when it knocked out an Iraqi tank with an APFSDS round!|
Lt Col Tim Purbrick, Queen's Royal Irish Hussars Battlegroup for the Liberation of Kuwait recollects
First, Gus's 4,700 m first round FIN kill. It was a supreme technical achievement for man and machine. 4,700m, a shade under 3 miles, is more than three times the 1,200 m battle range of the Challenger. The shot is written up in books, sometimes incorrectly, with one book saying it was a Depleted Uranium (DU) round, it wasn't, it was a normal service FIN round while another book said it was at longer range, it wasn't, it was 4,700 m. I believe that it is the longest range direct fire kinetic round kill ever achieved by a tank on the battlefield.
The Challenger regiments were given several of the specially conceived depleted Uranium APFSDS L26A1 rounds also known as "Jericho". In case of facing the ultimate adversary, the Iraqi Republican's guard T-72M; these engagements never occurred but the round was applied years later in the intended user, the Challenger 2.
Despite the early perceived poor fidelity of the tank, the Challenger 1 fought till the end of the war without major losses but minor external damages. They travelled approximately 350 km in the desert till the final Gulf war objective; the Basra Highway north of Multa Ridge on February 27, 1991.
Challenger is a tank built for war and not for competitions.
The Challengers 1 continued their British service until the 99's as part of the KFOR, a NATO-led international peacekeeping force in Kosovo.
Eventually with most of the 400 tanks being sold or gifted in the 2000s to Jordan, in which the King Abdullah II Design and Development Bureau innovated with newer technologies, a rebirth tank, known locally as Al-Hussein. The Jordanians developed an upgrade package prototype unveiled in 2003, adding a crew-less turret fitted with a powerful Swiss RUAG Defense Systems 120 mm/L50 smoothbore with auto-loader, hunter-killer system, laser warning system, thermal imaging and Soft-Kill Active Protection; this variant is known as the Falcon turret.
The Challenger 1 Mk.2 and Mk.3 were replaced by the Challenger 2 in the UK service but is still in service until this day in Jordan where the large fleet is being gradually replaced by the more modern French MBT, the Leclerc.
Shared operational History - Gulf War
Analogues on other nations
- [Devblog] Challenger Mk 3 - A Royal Upgrade
- Lt Col Tim Purbrick's UK Army blogs - Desert Storm Experience
- Military Factory.com - Challenger 1 MBT
- Dunstan, Simon (1998). Challenger Main Battle Tank 1982-97. Osprey Publishing, p. 18. ISBN 1-85532-485-7.
- Challenger 2 Owners' Tank Manual, Haynes Manuals, 1998 to Present - An Insight Into the Design, Construction, Operation and Maintenance of the British Army's Main Battle Tank of the 21st Century, 2018
|Britain medium tanks|
|Cromwell||Cromwell I · Cromwell V · Cromwell V (RP-3)|
|Based on Cromwell||Challenger · Avenger · Comet I · Comet I "Iron Duke IV" · Charioteer Mk VII|
|Centurion||Centurion Mk 1 · Centurion Mk 3 · Centurion Mk.5 AVRE · Centurion Mk 10 · Centurion Action X · FV4202|
|Chieftain||Chieftain Mk 3 · Chieftain Mk 5 · Chieftain Mk 10|
|Challenger||Challenger Mk.2 · Challenger Mk.3 · Challenger 2 · Challenger 2 (2F)|
|Valentine||Valentine I · Valentine IX · Valentine XI|
|Vickers||Vickers Mk.1 · Vickers Mk.3 · Vickers Mk.7|
|Foreign||Grant I (USA) · Sherman IC "Trzyniec" (USA) · Sherman Firefly (USA) · Sherman II (USA)|
|A.C.IV (Australia) · ▄Strv 81 (RB 52) (Sweden) · Centurion Mk.5/1 (Australia) · Sho't Kal Dalet (Israel)|
|Olifant Mk.1A (South Africa) · Olifant Mk.2 (South Africa) · TTD (South Africa)|