It is possible that up to 10 Challenger 2 MBTs will be considered by the UK for supply to Ukraine.
This will be the first time Western tanks have entered the war in Ukraine. The move will likely spur other allies to do the same, Sky News reported on January 9. The British Army, due to financial constraints, could only afford to upgrade only 148 of its 227 Challenger 2 tanks, According to a report in The Times. One-third of the Challenger 2 main battle tank fleet will be cut. This makes the prospect of transferring Challenger 2s to the Ukrainian battlefield possible.
If this aid package is approved, this will be the first time Ukraine receives modern Western-made main battle tanks. Ukraine in recent times has pushed its allies to provide more heavy combat vehicles, but has not achieved the desired results. The British move will spur and will also put more pressure on NATO members such as Germany and the US to send heavy tanks to Ukraine, and to push Germany to approve requests by other NATO countries like Denmark and Poland, as well as NATO candidate Finland to transfer some of their Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.
The Challenger 2 is the British Army’s main battle tanks was in service between 1998 and 2002. They are manufactured by BAE Systems Land Systems and are also in service with the Royal Army of Oman. The MBT is based on the Challenger 1 main battle tank and features 150 major modifications, including a completely new turret, L30 CHARM 120mm gun, and second generation Chobham armour.
Although visually similar to the Challenger 1, the Challenger 2 has a newer design, and only about 3% of components are interchangeable. The main battle tank provides a very high level of protection against direct fire weapons. The Chobham composite armor of second generation is lighter than the original Chobham, but offers better protection. Explosive reactive armor kit can be fitted for improved protection.
The Challenger 2 is equipped with a 120-millimetre L30A1 gun, is loaded manually. Effective range of fire with armor-piercing round is over 3,000 m. Uniquely among NATO main battle tank guns, the L30A1 is rifled, because the British Army continues to place a premium on the use of high-explosive squash head (HESH) rounds in addition to armour-piercing fin-stabilised discarding-sabot rounds. Secondary armament consists of two 7.62 mm machine guns. One of them is coaxially mounted with the main gun, while the other is placed on top of the roof.
The Challenger 2 has a 12-cylinder, 1,200hp Perkins Caterpillar CV12 diesel engine and a David Brown TN54 gearbox, with six forward and two reverse gears. Challenger 2 has six aluminum road wheels with the drive sprocket at the rear, idler at the front, and two track-return rollers on either side. The tank has a 550 km (340 mile) range and maximum road speed of 59 km/h (37mph).
Since entering service, various upgrades have sought to improve the Challenger 2’s protection, mobility and lethality, the most recent of which was the Life Extension Programme (LEP). In March 2021, the British Army announced plans to upgrade 148 Challenger 2s to extend its service life out to at least 2035; these upgraded models will be known as Challenger 3.
Earlier, Berlin and Washington had pledged to provide Ukraine with armored fighting vehicles in a significant policy change. For Germany, this means the Marder infantry fighting vehicle. For the US, it comprises the Bradley Fighting Vehicle. Western military aid plays an important role in sustaining Ukraine’s war against Russia, but it also poses a major logistical and training challenge. Logistical support will be an issue in Ukraine, where attrition of armored assets degrades the capability of the user.