Challenger 2 saw its first defeat on the battlefield in Ukraine, despite being praised for its protection capabilities.
According to Bulgarianmilitary, the British Challenger 2 tank’s fatal weakness is its forward slanting region, which can leave the vehicle vulnerable to enemy anti-tank weapons.
A similar assertion was made in Western media, after specific videos were circulated on various social media platforms. The shared footage exhibits a Challenger 2, a gift from the Britons to the Ukrainian forces, crossing through the expanse of Ukrainian soil. The tank’s forward-sloping part, otherwise known as the Glacis, is embellished with a grid. An expert, addressing this particular part, annunciates this is a region where this tank is susceptible to threats.
It is known that this part of the British tank was not made of composite armor and the thickness of the steel plate was only 100 mm, so Ukrainian soldiers had to immediately reinforce this position, but in a simple way: add a piece of steel. In addition to additional armor in the form of steel cages, some Challenger 2 tanks donated by Britain to Ukraine were also seen carrying roof cages to defend against attacks by Lancet suicide UAVs.
In the British Army, vulnerable areas on Challenger 2 tanks were often covered with special additional protective blocks when the tank took on operational duty in Iraq in 2003, but it was not supplied to Ukraine. The Ukrainian army initially planned to place Kontakt-1 explosive reactive armor modules here, but then simply reinforced them with a steel plate. Analysts say this approach is incapable of protecting against modern Russian anti-tank guided missiles.
Given the above reality, it is not surprising that Challenger 2 tanks appearing on the front lines will continue to suffer losses, even though they were previously advertised as having the strongest armor in the world. But on the contrary, some military experts believe that the tank’s protection layer, including the Glacis armor, still provides the vehicle with enough solidity and reliability.
In addition to the Glacis armor, this 69-ton tank is also surrounded by a main armor layer called “world-class” Dorchester. The special combination and arrangement give Challenger 2 very high survivability. Technical data suggests that the thickness of Dorchester armor varies between 30 to 100 millimeters, depending upon the specific model and protected area of the tank. Normally, the plates are welded to form a continuous shield-like structure around the tank, aimed at reducing possible vulnerabilities. One prominent feature of Dorchester armor is its capability to withstand various forms of projectiles. Its sloped design significantly enhances its effectiveness by deflecting incoming projectiles.
In January, the UK transferred 14 of such formidable tanks solely for the use of Ukraine’s 82nd Airborne Brigade. In the combat zones of southern Ukraine, the brigade extensively used these tanks for long-range fire support. Hence, reinforcements were often needed for the Glacis. Another weak spot has been identified as the turret, which lacks substantial protection.
In early September, images went viral of a destroyed Challenger 2 tank in Ukraine – the first. It was presumed to be immobilized via a mine, after which it was hit by a Russian Cornet anti-tank missile at the vulnerable turret. Despite all this, the crew of four managed to evacuate safely.
In another development, on September 23, reports appeared from Russian media agencies that a Leopard 2 tank that had just been destroyed in the Zaporizhzhia direction was operated by a German-speaking crew. Even the costumes of this crew are said to belong to the Bundeswehr – the German armed forces. The commander of the reconnaissance unit of the Russian Armed Forces in the Zaporizhia region, nicknamed “Legend”, said to the Russian news agency Sputnik.
Before the Leopard with a crew believed to be German soldiers was destroyed, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that the Russian armed forces had destroyed almost all Leopard tanks supplied to Ukraine by Poland and Portugal, a total of 16 Leopards. Before the counteroffensive campaign, the Ukrainian press praised the Leopard’s superiority, claiming that these monsters would penetrate Russia’s defense lines and cut off the road connecting Russia and Crimea.
The reality of the battlefield shows that so far Ukraine’s counterattack campaign has not brought many results. It is estimated that Ukraine has lost a large number of tanks and armored vehicles since the start of the counteroffensive campaign. Western tanks such as the Leopard or Challenger 2 have their armor reinforced by Ukrainian soldiers with anything they think can counteract Russian anti-tank weapons, including cage armor or even ERA Kontakt-1 explosive reactive armor from the Soviet era.