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Germany and the UK have signed an agreement to work together on the next phase developing advanced armour-piercing ammunition for the Challenger 3 main battle tank (MBT) programme, the UK Ministry of Defence’s (MoD’s) Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S) organisation announced on 27 April 2023.

DE&S CEO Andy Start, in his role as UK National Armament Director, met his German counterpart, Vice Admiral Carsten Stawitzki, at the Honourable Artillery Company in London, where they signed a Statement of Intent to collaborate on the Enhanced Kinetic Energy (EKE) round, which will provide a step change in the British Army’s ability to defeat evolving enemy armour threats.

This next phase of qualification for the EKE round, which must demonstrate that the new munition passes all legal and regulatory standards, marks a significant milestone in the ammunition’s programme, DE&S noted in a press release.

Ongoing discussions will seek a joint programme to be stood up this year, with the aim of producing EKE ammunition for use by the Challenger 3.

As well as being fired by the Challenger 3 from its 120 mm smoothbore L55A1 main gun, the EKE rounds would also be fired by the 120-mm-gun-armed Leopard 2 MBTs operated by Germany and other nations, supporting interoperability with NATO allies.

The Challenger 3’s L55A1 main gun replaces the Challenger 2’s L30A1 120 mm rifled tank gun, thus providing ammunition commonality with NATO allies that never existed previously.

“The UK will continue to drive stronger collaboration between partner nations to address current and future procurement needs,” said Start. “This approach maximises our collective strength to drive standardisation across NATO and provides the opportunity for nations to improve availability and realise efficiencies.”

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace added, “We’re very pleased to work with Germany on this programme, helping equip our respective armed forces with a crucial battle-winning capability. The standardised ammunition will not only benefit battlefield collaboration with many of our NATO allies, but has important export potential for UK and German defence industry partners.”

The British Army’s Challenger 3 MBT will have ammunition commonality with the MBTs of NATO allies that never existed with its predecessor. (Photo: Crown Copyright)

The agreement follows both Germany and the UK announcing the gifting of a squadron of their respective MBTs to support Ukraine in its ongoing fight to counter Russia’s illegal invasion.

Under the terms of the new agreement, Germany and the UK will also remain open to the idea of other nations joining the programme or being export recipients of the new rounds, with Vice Adm Stawitzki, stating that the two countries “will consider the request to allow for additional partners to join the programme as soon as possible. A request from another partner to join is also on the table.”

Germany and the UK will also continue discussions on potential collaboration in relation to other types of 120 mm tank ammunition.

In February this year the UK MoD announced the approved the critical design review for the Challenger 3 programme ahead of schedule. “The progression of this programme at pace has been made possible by the collaborative working between DE&S, the British Army and our industry partners Rheinmetall BAE Systems Land (RBSL),” stated DE&S.

Peter Felstead