LONDON — The Challenger 3 program has reached another milestone on its way to provide the British Army with a new generation of main battle tanks, contractor RBSL has announced.

The Rheinmetall-BAE Systems joint venture says the 120-mm L55A1 smoothbore gun, known as the L55A1CR3 in its British configuration, has successfully completed a series of firing tests.

The tests were conducted in April, said the company in an announcement on the eve of the DSEI defense exhibition here, with guns tested and validated prior to delivery to RBSL for integration with the tanks’ new digital turret.

Earlier in the year, the main battle tank had its critical design review (CDR) approved ahead of schedule and to budget.

RBSL received a £800 million ($1 billion) contract by the Ministry of Defence in 2021 to deliver 148 substantially upgraded Challenger 2 tanks.

First deliveries to the British Army are scheduled for 2027, with full operating capability set for 2030.

The government shipped 14 Challenger 2s to Ukraine earlier this year to bolster Kyiv’s fight against Russia’s invasion.

Swapping out the British L30 rifled 120-mm gun for the smoothbore L55A1CR3 is a key element of an upgrade which will also include a fully digitized turret and survivability enhancements.

Israeli company Rafael Advanced Defense Systems announced earlier this month it had completed a second phase of integration of its Trophy active protection system destined for Challenger 3.

Structural elements of the Challenger 3 are already arriving at RBSL’s Telford factory to build the first prototype vehicle.

Last month, the first so-called citadel for Prototype 1 (P1) arrived, which is the steel structure that forms the basis of the first Challenger 3 turret.

While it will initially be used in the first trial vehicle, contractors will upgrade the P1 citadel itself to form part of a fully operational Challenger 3.

The citadels are built by Rafael-owned, British-based company Pearson Engineering.

Andrew Chuter is the United Kingdom correspondent for Defense News.

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