British Main Battle Tank Challenger 2 (Desertised)
Tamiya 1/48 scale
Reviewed by Brett Green
The FV4034 Challenger 2 (MOD designation "CR2") is a third generation British main battle tank (MBT) in service with the armies of the United Kingdom and Oman. It was designed and built by the British company Vickers Defence Systems (now known as BAE Systems Land & Armaments).
Vickers Defence Systems began to develop a successor to the Challenger 1 as a private venture in 1986. The Ministry of Defence ordered a prototype in December 1988. In June 1991, the MoD placed an order for 140 vehicles, with a further 268 ordered in 1994. Production began in 1993 and the unit's tanks were delivered in July 1994, replacing the Challenger 1. After a production delay, the tank entered service with the British Army in 1998, with the last delivered in 2002. The Challenger 2 was also exported to Oman.
The Challenger 2 is an extensive redesign of the Challenger 1. Although the hull and automotive components seem similar, they are of a newer design than for the Challenger 1 and only around 3% of components are interchangeable. A visual recognition feature is the armoured housing for the TOGS thermal gunsight: the Challenger 2 has this above the gun barrel, the Challenger 1 has it at the right hand side of the turret. The tank has a 550 km (340 mile) range and maximum road speed of 59 km/h (37mph).
The Challenger 2 is equipped with a 120-millimetre (4.7 in) 55-calibre long L30A1 tank gun, the successor to the L11 gun used on the Chieftain and Challenger 1. Uniquely among NATO main battle tank guns, the L30A1 is rifled, because the British Army continues to place a premium on the use of high-explosive squash head (HESH) rounds in addition to armour-piercing fin-stabilised discarding-sabot rounds. The Challenger 2 is also armed with a L94A1 EX-34 7.62 mm chain gun and a 7.62 mm L37A2 (GPMG) machine gun. Fifty main armament rounds and 4,200 rounds of 7.62 mm ammunition are carried.
The Challenger 2 has a four-man crew. The turret and hull are protected with second generation Chobham armour (also known as Dorchester). To date, the only time the tank has been destroyed during operations was by another Challenger 2 in a "blue on blue" (friendly fire) incident at Basra in 2003 when the destroyed tank had its hatch open at the time of the incident.
It has seen operational service in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Iraq.
Since entering service, various upgrades have sought to improve the Challenger 2's protection, mobility and lethality, the most recent of which was the Life Extension Programme (LEP). In March 2021, the British Army announced plans to upgrade 148 Challenger 2s under LEP with the aim to extend its service life out to at least 2035; these upgraded models will be known as Challenger 3. It is not planned to upgrade all Challenger 2s; those not upgraded will be retired.*
F i r s t L o o k
Although Academy released a motorised and somewhat simplified 1/48 scale Challenger 1 earlier this century, this is the first time that we have seen the current and significantly redesigned Challenger 2 in this scale.
Tamiya's 1/48 scale Challenger 2 comprises 157 parts in dark yellow plastic, one steel ingot, four small polythene caps, a length of black-coloured string plus markings for a single vehicle.
The sleek lines of the Abrams are accurately portrayed, and the surface textures are just gorgeous. The engine deck grilles are particularly well done.
Hatches, hinges and other features, are also crisply done.
The lower hull, upper hull and turret are all made up from separate panels for the top, bottom and sides as applicable.
The side armour and skirts are supplied as one full length for each side. Fabric folds and textures look really good.
One flat rectangular ingot are included for fitting in the lower hull. This is intended to deliver "scale weight", but it is entirely optional. I'll fit mine.
All the unique attributes of the Challenger 2 are present, including the armoured external gunner’s sight.
The swing arms are moulded to the bottom hull part. The road wheels are simply glued to the swing arm axles, while the drive sprockets remain workable thanks to polythene caps. This is really helpful when fitting the link and length tracks.
The tracks are injection moulded plastic lengths and links. Detail looks excellent and assembly should be fast and straightforward. The track pads feature subtle pitting.
Tamiya has not bothered to supply a top run of the tracks as you will never see it on the finished model. This seems eminently sensible to me.
The inner surface of the track links have visible ejector pin circles.
You can choose to fill and sand these before assembly, although you won't see much on the assembled model.
The gun barrel is also fitted via poly caps, allowing it to be moveable after assembly. The main gun barrel is a single piece with a separate muzzle.
The Commander’s hatch is a separate parts and may be posed open to fit the included (and very nicely sculpted) Commander figure.
The single-piece GPMG looks great too.
Clear parts are not included, but the rangefiner, Thermal Viewer and vision block lenses are all represented with decals. This is a nice easy solution that should look good in this scale.
Markings are supplied for a single vehicle.
They should snuggle down nicely under a coat of setting solution.
C o n c l u s i o n
Tamiya has delivered another state-of-the-art kit with its 1:48 scale Challenger 2. The subject is very welcome indeed.
Purchased by the reviewer
Tamiya products are distributed in the UK by The Hobby Company Limited
Text and Images by Brett Green