Challenger Mk.1 - "Built for combat, not competitions"

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FV4030/4 Challenger Mk.1
Fig.1 A Challenger Mk.1 of the Royal Hussars (Prince of Wales’s Own), pictured at Rhein-Main Air Base Open Day in June 1984.

Originating in an Iranian order for a replacement for the Chieftain tank, Challenger was a British Main Battle Tank of the late Cold War. Entering British Army service on the 12th April 1983 with the Royal Hussars, a total of 420 Challengers were built between 1983 and 1990. After service with the British Army of the Rhine during the 1980s, the tank would finally secure its reputation through successful deployment to the First Gulf War in its later Mk2 and Mk3 models.

In War Thunder, the Challenger Mk.1 would appear identical to the current Challenger Mk.2 except with a lower rate of fire and no thermal imager.

History and Development
Disclaimer: The History of Challenger 1 is very convoluted and easy to get lost in. In fact, you could read multiple books on the tank and very likely each one would still give a completely different account of the events and decisions that would finally lead to the development of the tank.

So where to start?
Well, we start with this:

Fig.2 FV4211, the “Aluminium Chieftain”, was a composite armour demonstrator vehicle.

In 1976 a study was performed to look into a future tank as a replacement to the FV4201 Chieftain. One of the proposed designs was based on the Chieftain Mk 5 and incorporated a new invention (well several but we will focus on one): Chobham armour. FV4211 itself was already finished in 1971 and was used as a sales platform for Chobham afterwards without ever going into production or securing a contract.

FMBT, or the Anglo-German Future Main Battle Tank
At the same time the UK and Germany agreed to a joint development to replace both Chieftain and Leopard 1. Germany already went through the failed MBT70 program with the USA and had the design of the Leopard 2 already drawn up as a back up. Many aspects of this program still remain secret, and only one prototype was built: the CTR or Concept Test Rig, also known to us as the “Jagdchieftain”. Ultimately the program was cancelled in 1977 without settling on a new tank, and the only thing that came out of the program was the decision that Britain’s future MBT would continue to use an conventional turret and a 4-man crew.

While the FMBT project was ongoing, FV4211 was shown to the Imperial Iranian Army who were quite interested into the new tank. As a stopgap the Iranians ordered 1200 more chieftains of a modified design replacing the L60 power pack and using an elongated hull to accommodate the new one based on the CV12. This specification would become known as the FV4030. 150 Chieftains would be produced to a slightly different specification (without the new engine) while the power pack was made ready, these would be designated FV4030/1. Finally in 1977, the first 3 prototypes with the new engine were presented to the Iranian government and the tank became known as FV4030/2 or Shir 1. But the program would run into further delays which would delay the procurement of the Shir 1 and the new FV4030/3 Shir 2, which was intended to be the first production tank to be fitted with Chobham armour.

But before we come to Shir 2 we will have to look at another tank program (didn’t I say this would be fun?)

After the cancellation of the FMBT project, the UK desperately needed a replacement for Chieftain. This development became known as General Staff Requirement 3572 Replacement of Chieftain Tank or under the more concise name: MBT-80. This project established some basic ground rules which the new tank should have;
Armament was to be either the current 120mm L11A5, the experimental 110mm or a new 120mm rifled gun. Power would be provided by either a Rolls Royce CV12 or a CV16 gas turbine engine, and it should weigh 70 tons with removable Chobham armour arrays to get it down to 60t. It also should be fitted with a panoramic thermal sight and a laser stabilised panoramic sight for the gunner. The first prototype was to be ready by 1983 but in order to test the new technologies incorporated into the new tank, two Mobile Test Rig vehicles (MTR) were completed. MTR 1 was based on Chieftain while MTR 2 used partsfrom the Shir program. MTR 2 currently resides in Bovington and is known to many falsely as a MBT 80 prototype.

Fig.3 05SP52, also known as Mobile Test Rig 2, now resides at The Tank Museum, Bovington.

Again this is not MBT 80 but only a MTR build from Shir components, the MBT 80 program did not settle on a finalised hull and turret design before it was cancelled.

In 1979 the Shah of Iran was deposed and the new government immediately cancelled the procurement of FV4030, while the production for Shir 1 was already in full swing. The Shir 1 tanks could not be assimilated into the British Army, which now faced a number of companies with a financial crisis, but luckily the Jordanian Army bought the 274 produced Shir 1, which would enter service as the Khalid.

MBT-80 was still in development with the in-service date of 1989 quickly becoming unreachable, while cost overruns and the deployment of large quantities of T-72s and T-64s by the USSR ultimately led to the decision to procure a limited number of FV4030/3 in 1979 to augment the Chieftain fleet.
This decision would be the final nail in the coffin for the MBT-80 program. Initially only 243 of the FV4030/3 based tanks would be ordered to add to the british tank force which would then be made up of Chieftain Mk.12 (a version which ultimatley never was). In 1982 the new tank finally was accepted into service after rigorous testing of 11 protypes and was designated as FV4030/4 Challenger.

Fig.4 An FV4030/4 prototype undergoes automotive trials at Bovington.

Note that the protypes were not fitted with the TOGS barbette cutaway found on the right side of the turret on production models.

Fig.5 33KA95, the first production Challenger 1 Mk.1, pictured at ROF Leeds after being handed over to the British Army on 16th March 1983. The empty TOGS barbette can be seen on the right side of the turret.

The first production Challenger Mk1 was officially handed over in March 1983, since the Barr & Stroud Thermal Observation & Gunnery System (TOGS) wasn’t ready the first 120 vehicles only had the barbette fitted but not the actual sight. They would be upgraded later to the Mk2 standard when TOGS entered production.

Crew: 4 (CMDR, GNR, LDR, DVR)
Combat Weight: 62,000kg
Length (Gun Front): 11.56m
Length (Gun Rear): 9.80m
Length (Hull): 8.39m
Width (Hull): 3.51m
Height (Total): 2.95m
Height (Roof): 2.50m
Ground Clearance: 0.5m
Max. Road Speed: 56km/h
Main Engine: Rolls-Royce CV12 TCA 1200 12-cylinder diesel, water cooled, dev. 1200bhp@2300rpm
Auxiliary Engine: Coventry Climax H30 3-cylinder diesel, dev. 37bhp@3000rpm
Transmission: David Brown Gear Industries TN37, Borg-Warner torque converter, 4 forward and 3 reverse gears
Suspension: 12x MVEE Challenger MBT Hydrogas Units, hydropneumatic suspension

Main Armament: 1x Royal Ordnance L11A5 120mm Rifled Gun
Elevation/Depression: +20/-10 degrees
Coaxial Armament: 1x L8A2 7.62mm MG
AA Armament: 1x L37A2 7.62mm MG
Smoke: 2x L8 5-round 66mm Smoke Grenade Discharger

Main Armament: 64 rounds 120mm, of the following natures;
Shot, 120 mm TK APDS, L15A5
Shot, 120 mm TK APFSDS, L23
Shot, 120 mm TK APFSDS, L23A1
Shell, 120mm TK HESH L31A7
Shell, 120 mm TK Anti-Personnel, L35A1
Shell, 120 mm TK Smoke, WP, L34A2
Secondary Armament: 4,000 rounds 7.62x51mm L13A1
Smoke Grenades: 10 rounds 66mm Grenade, Discharger, Smoke Screening, L8A3

Turret Front Chobham, composite @ 470 KE, 600 CE
Turret Side: Chobham, composite @ 140 KE, 300 CE
Upper Hull: Chobham, composite @ 220 KE, 600 CE
Lower Hull: 70mm RHA @ ~80-90mm RHAe
Other: <50mm RHA/CHA

Sight, Periscopic, AV, No 37 Mk 6 (Day, x1-x10)
Sight. Periscopic. AV, II, L5A1 (Night, x1-x5, NV1)

Sight, Laser Rangefinder, Periscopic, AV, No 10 Mk 1 (Day, x1-x10)
Sight Unit, AV, No 87 Mk 1 (Day, x7)

Periscope, Driver’s, AV, No 36, Mk 1 (Day, x1)
Armoured Vehicle Image Intensified (AVII) L14A1 (Night, x1, NV1)

Suggested Battle Rating: BR 9.7-10.0

Intended to represent a Mk.1 of the BAOR in the period 1983-1987, Challenger Mk.1 would provide Great Britain with a mobile and survivable MBT in the Late Cold War 9.0-10.0 bracket, to compete with vehicles such as the T-64A, T-72A, T-72M1, AMX-30, and Leopard 1A5. While very capable in defensive play thanks to its turret armour and good gun, the Mk.1 suffers from the lack of gunner’s night vision and vulnerable hull when on flat terrain.

As the Mk.1 lacks the “Chase Modification”, an automatic breech-closing mechanism added to Challenger tanks after the CAT87 competition, its rate of fire is fractionally lower than the Challenger Mk.2. This can be represented in-game by keeping the Rate of Fire at 6.0 seconds, in line with the Chieftain Mk 10.

Military Vehicles & Engineering Establishment, 1983

Tank Chats #82 Challenger 1
The Tank Museum, 2019

Tank Chats Reloaded | Challenger 1 | The Tank Museum
The Tank Museum, 2022

High Speed Off-Road Vehicles: Suspensions, Tracks, Wheels and Dynamics, Bruce Maclaurin, 2018
Europa Militaria No 29, CHALLENGER SQUADRON, Simon Dunstan, 1999
Challenger Main Battle Tank 1982-97, Simon Dunstan, 1998
Jane’s Main Battle Tanks Second Edition, 1986
Challenger I, Tank Encyclopedia Archives
CHALLENGER 1 MBT, Army Recognition
Challenger Main Battle Tank (UK), HistoryOfWar
Challenger 1 - opis konstrukcji oraz jego zastosowanie praktyczne, MILMAG, 2022

Special Thanks
@warhead_beast, for his invaluable assistance.


id love to see the very early challenger prototype ATR 1 (aka MBT 80) in the game with the chobham blocks bolted to a poorly cast turret, it looks so awful but intriguing at the same time


Great you got it out lovely suggestion


Normally I’d say that such an unfinished vehicle shouldn’t be in the game, but then the 292 is driving around with armour-simulating RHA blocks so precedent is there. Personally I’d love to see one of the 7 smooth-turreted CR1 prototypes, Shir 2, or the little-known FV4030/3s which were actually issued to the Army between the two projects (I name these “Shah”, as it’s what an old 17th/21st soldier told me they called them).

Please note, this is neither a Shir 2 nor a Challenger!



maus, fv4004, fv4005 conway and mbt 70 are in game so it would be cool to see the tanks of mbt 80 heritage here too

I accidently clicked no now I feel bad it’s a great tank.

You can change your vote ya know?

I did not know

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Well now ya do :D

yeah thanks

Seems like a cool addition, out of curiosity do you know if the chase system was added to final chieftain variants like TOGS was?

I can’t find anything right now that suggests the Chase mod was applied to the Mk11, I’ll have to do some research. Good point as if we ever get the Mk11 then that would be important.

Looks like an awesome tank for 9.7.

You mention prototypes didn’t have the TOGS cutout, so would this tank not have the cutout? Because I love the clean look of the tank without the cutout and it would make it look cooler IMO.

Yes seven Challenger prototypes (06SP36 to 06SP42) were produced and they have a really sleek look to them, while I think the Shir 2 or Shah would be more characterful, it would make a decent Premium.

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Cheers, damn does it look pretty.

I love chally 1 so this is a +1 from me

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