The transfer of Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine is the beginning of a change in the way British military support for Ukraine.

After announcing that it would send 14 Challenger 2 main battle tanks (MBTs) to Ukraine, the British Government confirmed that it would send 30 more AS90 Braveheart 155mm self-propelled artillery systems to increase the combat capabilities of the Ukrainian armed forces. The war in Ukraine is taking a new turn before Russian attacks.

The transfer of Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine is the beginning of a change in the way British military support for Ukraine. 14 tanks will be in Ukraine in the next few weeks, while 30 AS90 Braveheart self-propelled howitzers are expected to follow. With all these deliveries of new military equipment, London is making a clear position in increasing support for Kiev in response to the Russian invasion.

The AS90 is a British 155 mm tracked self-propelled howitzer, produced between 1992 and 1995, with about 179 built in total, and still in service with the British Army to this day. The AS-90 was first deployed by the British Army in 1993. The AS-90 replaced the Abbot and M109 self-propelled guns in British Army service, as well as the FH-70 towed guns.

Basically, the AS-90 is classified as an armored self-propelled artillery, known officially as Gun Equipment 155 mm L131. The AS-90 is operated by a crew of 5, including: the driver, the commander, the gunner, and the ammunition personnel. The vehicle is 9.07 meters long, 3.3 meters wide, 3 meters high, and 45 tons in weight, with a thickest steel armor of 17 mm.

The AS-90 features a distinctive design of modern self-propelled guns, with a hull arranged in a traditional layout. The track is supported by six rubber-tired road wheels on each side, with the track idler at the rear and three track return rollers across the top. The sides of the hull are reinforced by vertical steel plates, while very sloping forward. The turret is placed behind the hull, while the engine is positioned in the front to balance the vehicle’s weight. A large rear door allows crew members access, resupply of the 155mm projectiles from another logistic vehicle.

The AS-90 is powered by a Cummins VTA903T engine, with 660 hp. Maximum speed the vehicle can reach up to 55 km/h, a range of 370 km. The vehicle can cross a trench 2.8m, and wade in 1.5m deep. The AS90 is also fitted with auxiliary power unit, that powers all systems when the main engine is shut down. The AS90 has a number of automotive components from the Challenger 1 main battle tank.

The AS-90’s main weapon is a 155 mm / L39 howitzer, inherited from the FH70 towed howitzer. It is equipped with an auto-loading system, compatible with all standard NATO 155 mm ammunition types. Maximum range is 24.7 km with standard HE-FRAG projectile, and 32 km with a rocket assisted projectile. A total of 48 shells is carried. It can fire 3 rounds in 10 seconds, and up to 6 rounds per minute. The sustained rate of fire is 2 rounds per minute. Secondary weapons include a 7.62 mm machine gun, and smoke grenade launchers.

The UK was among the first countries in Europe to send military aid to Ukraine, with thousands of NLAW anti-tank missiles as of early 2022. In total, the UK has provided £2.3 billion in military aid to Ukraine by 2022 – more than any other country except the US – and the government has committed to sustaining the same level of funding in 2023.

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