Challenger 2 Tanks To Ukraine

Twenty years ago, the Challenger 2 proved to be the finest tank in the world against its contemporaries in the Middle East, but unfortunately, the British Army did not look after them as well as they might.

The recovery of one tank that was destroyed in a “blue on blue”, which killed two crew members in 2003 was a particular problem. We moved the remains (of the tank) to Kirkcudbright where they were pieced together to discover what went wrong. The jigsaw puzzle took more than a year to solve. Unfortunately, despite having the best armour protection, Iraqi insurgents also found a weak spot in the front of the tank a couple of years later and it has since become vulnerable to top attack missiles from unmanned air vehicles, which are prevalent in the Ukraine war.

I remember having to respond to a letter to the Prime Minister from the Chief Executive of the local borough council, who was angry about the effect of budget cuts on the Ministry of Defence, resulting in the cannibalisation of equipment. The fact is that 190 Challenger 2 tanks were cannibalised to sustain the operational fleet and this reflected a much wider problem of hollowing out vital equipment from ships, aircraft and land vehicles due to a shortage of money. This partly led to the mothballing of many vehicles at Ashchurch and the subsequent decimation of tank regiments in the last decade.

It will be very interesting to see how the 16 Challenger 2 tanks perform in Ukraine in 2023. I suspect it will not be easy for them because the war is relatively static and they are better suited to battles of manoeuvre. It is also difficult to master the rifle barrelled 120 mm gun; the electronics and engines are in poor condition and the weight is a problem in muddy ground off the beaten tracks. Nevertheless, I wish the Ukrainian Army every success with their new capability.

Challenger 2 Twenty-two Years Ago


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