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MMP Books- Challenger 1 Britain's Orphan Tank

ISBN Number: 978-83-66549-93-7 Publisher: MMP
Published: Tuesday, May 28, 2024 Retail Price: $35.00
Reviewed By: Michael Reeves

MMP Books- Challenger 1 Britain's Orphan Tank

Book Specifics

Author: Richard Kent

Green Series # 4129

Price: $ 35.00

ISBN: 978-83-66549-93-7

Paperback, 200 Pages, 8.2 x 11.8 in, with over 300 color (mostly) and black and white photos, 7 scale plans, and 12 color profiles.

What's Inside

It is rare that a book can get me to order a new kit these days with my stash already overflowing past what I might actually be able to build in this lifetime, but this one had me picking up a Challenger kit before I finished reading it. It is thorough in covering everything from the conceptual work to design and production phases. It includes all of the thorns of determining and attempted fixing of design issues as they came about. The author intersperses the text with loads of humor-- be sure to read the footnotes as half of the humor is contained in them. He is a former tanker- joining 1 RTR in the 1980s when it was equipped with the Mk 11 Chieftain. He wrote a prior book on the Chieftain which had me searching for it- but it is out of print and pretty pricey for used copies so I will have to go without. 

After a brief Introduction and Acknowledgements page, we get to chapter 1 which focuses on the Road to Challenger 1. We get an overview of how Chobham armor came to be, and some early versions of the topic tank- before focusing on how England was actually commissioned by the Shah of Iran to develop a new tank featuring the Chobham armor and improvements to the Chieftain. The story itself is interesting in that the Shah and more importantly his fat checkbook were highly relished by British higher-ups, so we see the creation of the Shir 1 and Shir 2 tanks which sadly came too late for the Shah who died- leaving the contract cancelled, but not before Britain having received payment in full. The chapter has photos and some walk around images of these tanks.

Chapter 2 focuses on the work turning the Shir 2 into the Challenger that we have come to know. Highlighted here is the TOGS (thermal observation and gunnery system), as well as improvements to try to fix the warts that came about in the process.

Chapter 3 focuses on the trials and tribulations in details- the TN-37 gearbox, hydrogas suspension issues with the cold, and the like. The chapter concludes with a brief section on entry into service, and a rather dismal performance at CAT 87- the Canadian Army Trophy exercises.

Chapter 4 looks at Living with Challenger- with loads of photos and great little tidbits of stories and insights into life on these tanks. The worst jobs- changing hull batteries, ammo bashing, and track bashing. Stowage issues (or lack thereof), fuel consumption, and dozers. We also hear about food- some good and some bad. The BV which kept the crew in their cups (of tea!), and Wolfgang's Grill Shop which was a welcomed sight. We get rundowns of crew positions and loads of other great stuff here. Loading and unloading onto specialized carriers, guns and specialized ammunition, and BATUS (British Army Training Unit Suffield) complete the chapter.

Chapter 5 gives us a bit on some of the Specialised Variants and "What Ifs" including CTTs (Challenger Training Tanks), repair and recovery vehicles, the Marksman which was an Anti-Aircraft variant, and a 155mm howitzer equipped variant.

Chapter 6 is all about the Challenger in Action- and looks in depth at combat actions in Kuwait in 1991, Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1995, and Kosovo in 1999 where it was soon after replaced by the Challenger 2.

Chapter 7- Retirement of Challenger 1 and Disposal sees the end of Challenger 1's story- with the sale of the bulk (nearly all) of the fleet to Jordan and photos of a gate guardian as Ashchurch Vehicle Storage Depot, as well as samples for the Tank Museum.

Chapter 8 is all photos- this is a dedicated Walkround section with loads of photos of exterior detail which then carries into the scale drawings in 1/35 scale of Mk 3 and Desertized versions. This is followed by two Annexes- Annex A is centered on Camouflage and Markings notes for Modellers, including number and callsign information, standard color schemes for BATUS, OPFOR, the Gulf War, and Iran. There are a few references to Humbrol, Vallejo, Tamiya, and AMMO by Mig paints. Annex B gives brief comparison texts for three matchups- Challenger 1 versus Leopard 2A4, Challenger 1 versus T-80 B/BV, and Challenger 1 versus M1A1 Abrams. The book concludes with 6 color plates each with a pair of featured paint schemes through Challenger 1's operational history.


I thought this was going to be a pretty heady read- having to slug through all sorts of statistics and technical jargon. I couldn't have been more wrong-- Kent's injections of humor and his thorough knowledge of armor and its accompanying operations is evident in the text and I sat down and read this over the weekend with no trouble whatsoever. There are photos galore and great references to color and camouflage. Looking forward to the kit coming in the mail so I can put this book to good use!

Highly Recommended for anyone interested in this mid to late Cold War MBT.

Thanks goes out to Casemate Publishing for this review sample.

Reviewed by Michael Reeves


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