Ukrainian Army Will Be Operating British Challenger 2 Tanks Within Two Months: Training Begins Next Week

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Following confirmation from London that Challenger 2 tanks will be provided to the Ukrainian Military, Minister of State at the Ministry of Defence Alex Chalk had claimed that the vehicles will be operational by the end of March. This followed questions regarding when the vehicles would begin to arrive in the Eastern European country – amid concerns that they would not be available for service when fighting is expected to intensify in the spring. “I am pleased to say that training is expected to start next week on Monday,” he stated, adding regarding the timing of their entry into the theatre: “the intention is that that will be at the end of March.” “Between then there will be a significant programme of training, not just for the tank crews who are to operate the vehicle, but for those who will be charged with maintaining it,” he elaborated. Fourteen tanks are expected to be delivered, alongside AS90 155mm self propelled artillery systems, although with Britain holding well over 100 Challenger 2s in reserve, and set to downsize its active fleet over the next decade, the numbers in Ukrainian hands could expand significantly.

Challenger 2 deliveries will make Ukraine only the second foreign operator of the tank class after Oman, with the vehicle having failed to compete for contracts with the more widely used German Leopard 2 and American M1 Abrams despite being a significantly newer design. The tank’s use of a rifled gun has remained a major shortcoming, with the Soviet Union having led the transition to more powerful smoothbore guns in the early 1960s which other producers have all since adopted – leaving Britain as the last to follow. The issue is set to be addressed by the British Army in an upcoming upgrade package by rearming the vehicles, although this will not affect units delivered to Ukraine. The Challenger 2 is prized for its high degree of armour protection, and is considerably more fuel efficient and easier to maintain than the American Abrams tank, also recently pledged to Ukraine, due it its use of a diesel rather than a gas turbine engine. The Abrams’ very high maintenance needs are thought to be a major factor in why deliveries are expected to commence several months later than those of Challenger 2s. Pledges to deliver Western-built tanks come as Russia has rapidly expanded production of its new T-90M tank, and developed a new modernisation package for its older T-72 tanks to provided a much needed boost to armour protection


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