Here is the gist of the story:- During the late 1990s the Sultanate of Oman placed an order with Vickers Defence Systems VDS for Challenger 2 main battle tanks to equip a single armoured Regiment. The First Main Battle Tank Regiment 1MBTR was chosen to receive the new equipment. 1MBTR, at the time was equipped with 29 Chieftain Tanks that had been supplied in the eighties. The new reformed Regiment was to be a type 43 with three tank Squadrons and a Head Quarters squadron. Each tank Squadron was to have 14 tanks and the HQ Squadron would have had 1 for the Commanding officer. However this was not to be; the order was reduced by five. The 38 Challengers that were eventually delivered formed three Squadrons of twelve and two vehicles in Headquarters Squadron.
Ordered at the same time were 2 Driver Training Tanks DTT and 4 Challenger Armoured Repair and Recovery Vehicles CrARRV. The 2 DTT were to be used by the Armour School to train divers and the CrARRVs would be split; two to 1 MBTR and 2 to the Command workshop. The DTT and CrARRV would have the same cooling system, fuel system and track as the MBT. Training equipment supplied included Three Turret Gunnery Trainers TGT, six Part Task Trainers PTT, one Loaders Drill Trainers LDT and a Secondary Armament Drill Trainer SADT. A full training package was also supplied by VDS which consisted of a full Training Needs Analysis TNA and all the courseware that was required to teach all the pilot courses. An additional LDT was supplied during 2008. All training systems, courseware and publications were provided in duel language, Arabic and English.
The intention was that the Oman vehicles would be delivered after all relevant modifications coming out of the UK Reliability Growth Trial RGT had been incorporated into the Oman build. However the UK RGT was delayed and the Oman vehicles were produced and partly delivered before the UK RGT was concluded. It was subsequently agreed that all the relevant modifications coming from the UK RGT would now be incorporated when the vehicles were delivered to Oman. These modifications along with other Oman specific changes were implemented in Oman by a team from Vickers Defence Systems and took several years to complete, ending in 2003.
The differences between the Oman vehicle and the UK Challenger 2 were largely dictated by the high ambient temperatures experienced in the Sultanate; temperatures exceeding 50 deg Celsius are not uncommon. The Oman vehicle is very rarely driven on metalled roads.
The differences between the UK and Oman vehicles can be outlined as follows:
• The vehicle uses the same single pin track as used on CrARRV and the older Challenger vehicle of the British Army. The new double pin “live” track was not adopted for Oman.
• Large full height skirting plates similar to Chieftain and Challenger are used to help mitigate the dust problem.
• A larger Air Conditioning AC unit is fitted. This is in the space taken up by fuel tank R/H 3 which resulted in the loss of some fuel capacity. This means 1321 litres can be carried internally as opposed to 1592 litres in the UK vehicle. Two extra fuel fillers were fitted onto tanks 2 on both sides to enable faster refuelling.
• Two external approach march fuel containers can be carried, as on the UK vehicle, giving an additional 360 litres. Because of the different airflow for engine cooling these are stowed on top of the transmission decking rather than at the rear of the tank as in the UK build; they can then be discarded after use.
• The main engine, a Perkins CV12, and Generating Unit Engine GUE, although basically the same as the UK vehicle have better cooling by diverting the airflow through larger radiators then through the rear of the vehicle. The main fans are powered by a hydraulic pump driven from a power take off on the gearbox. The transmission has a larger heat exchanger fitted. The GUE has a high capacity 5 bladed fan and a thermal switch to cut off the fuel should the drive to the GUE fan fail. Of course, the main engine cooling will cool the GUE if the main engine is running. The modified airflow reduces the problem of dust being drawn up onto the engine and transmission decks when the vehicle is at speed.
• The fuel bag tanks were replaced by a sealed compartment system similar to that used in aircraft; this system has subsequently been adopted for the Titan and Trojan Engineer vehicles for the British Army.
• The Loader’s machine gun is a Browning M2HB QCB .50” MG on a pintle mount. Ammunition stowage was changed internally to allow for the larger half inch ammunition boxes.
• Two RACAL Jaguar VRQ 316 secure radios were fitted.
• More water stowage was required so two water Jerry can stowage positions were placed on the turret front.
• A Garmin satellite navigation system was installed at the Commanders station.
• The only vehicle, still in the UK, that is close to the Oman build is Challenger 2 prototype V9 registration number 06 SP 95. This is a gate guardian outside the BAE Systems site at Newcastle and has been modified to resemble a UK build Challenger 2.
The Soldiers of the Royal Army of Oman were at first sceptical of the Challenger 2 but over the ensuing years they have used the vehicle in a very aggressive and confident way. Most shooting on the ranges is done whilst on the move with very little from a static firing point. Omani drivers seem to be completely fearless when at speed so make the best use of Challenger 2’s excellent mobility. Bearing in mind that they went from aged Chieftains, with an early laser and no computerised sighting system, to Challenger 2 with a state of the art modern fire control system with a thermal capability they have done remarkably well.
The Oman vehicle is often seen in articles identified as Challenger 2E, this is not the case, Challenger 2E is a fundamentally different vehicle and only exists as a single prototype that is still held by BAE Systems. This vehicle, much modified, is the very first Challenger 2 built, V1 Registration number 06 SP 87. No orders have yet been placed for Challenger 2E.