Challenger 2 is a third generation British main battle tank. This 75 tonne machine has been in service since 1996 and currently serves with the armies of the United Kingdom and Oman. It is a great military machine with quite some combat experience. And it is quite versatile – it has three ways of deploying a smoke screen.
Smoke screens are very useful. They can hide units from enemy’s fire, allow for quick withdrawal or offence and be used as means of strategic advance. Modern smoke screens are able to provide protection from IR-guided ammunition as well as from human eyes. This is why ability to deploy smoke is very important for modern military machines. Challenger 2 does possess this ability in both conventional and unconventional ways.
First of all, it is capable of firing L34 white phosphorus smoke rounds from its 120 mm main gun. This allows creating a thick smoke screen away from the machine. Not only it can hide the tank, it can also hide surrounding machines and infantry. Most importantly, it can make enemy’s forces drown in smoke, become disoriented and unable to launch successful advances.
Second way of creating a smoke screen are five L8 smoke grenade dischargers on each side of the turret. Those a great traditional screening devices, covering a major portion of native forces. L8 grenades work exceptionally well in retreat, but like other smoke screening devices can be used rather universally.
This is where the list would be completed for most modern tanks, but not for Challenger 2 – it has yet another way of creating a smoke screen. It is able to inject diesel fuel into its exhaust manifolds. Hot exhaust gasses burn diesel and create a thick smoke, pouring out of tank’s exhaust pipes. This ability, of course, is especially useful when tank is retreating. A lot of smoke can be created this way and it is thick enough to cover a significant portion of native forces.
Challenger 2 has fuel capacity of 1592 liters. This provides it with a ferry range of 550 km on road or 250 km off road. Creating a diesel smoke screen does not actually require a lot of fuel – a small splash goes a long way.
Challenger 2 has other unusual features as well. For example, its 120 mm gun is rifled, while American Abrams and German Leopard 2 both have smoothbore guns. This is actually a bit of a problem for the Challenger, because its choice of ammunition is more limited. Whatever is going to replace Challenger 2 is most likely going to have a smoothbore gun.
Challenger 2 also has a special kind of composite armour. Interesting thing about it is that its construction and materials used are classified. All we know is that it is very tough and relatively light. However, with 75 tonnes of combat weight Challenger 2 is definitely not a light machine. Its 26.1 liter Perkins V12 diesel engine, pushing 1200 bhp (890 kW) is only allowing the tank to reach 59 km/h maximum speed – Challenger 2 is slower than its main counterparts.