UK Reportedly Wants Kiev to Restrict Use of Challenger 2 Tanks to Prevent Russia From Capturing Them
Britain plans to deliver 14 Challenger 2 main battle tanks (MBTs) to Kiev, along with ammunition, training and logistical support. The United Kingdom became the first country to promise Kiev Western MBTs. Germany and the United States followed suit this week by committing Leopard 2 and Abrams tanks.
The top brass of Britain’s armed forces are working with their Ukrainian counterparts to avoid deployments of its Challenger 2 tanks in areas where they are at risk of being captured, sources have told a major British tabloid.
“If a tank is destroyed or disabled the first option is always to try and self-recover. You tow it with another tank or use a specialist armored repair and recovery vehicle – which looks like a tank with a crane,” a defense source told the outlet, adding that the “worst case scenario” would be one where the tank is destroyed as the front line collapses and friendly forces are forced to fall back.
“Step one is the training and working with mission planners to try and ensure the Challengers are not used in scenarios where they think that collapse is a realistic possibility. Step two is making sure, at the tactical level, the Ukrainians are trained to recover a tank under fire. They certainly don’t lack the courage,” the source added.
“The Russians will be desperate to try and kill and capture a Challenger 2, partly for their propaganda but also to get their hands on its secrets,” another source indicated.
Another option would be to have mercenaries standing by to recover damaged tanks, according to the tabloid.
Britain’s defense ministry announced Sunday that Ukrainian tank crews had arrived in the UK to start training in the operation of the promised 14 Challenger 2s, which London plans to deploy in Ukraine at the end of March.
Britain has often boasted of its Challenger 2 MBT’s near-perfect battlefield record, with only two of the tanks damaged by Iraqi militias and one destroyed in a friendly fire incident during the US-UK-led war of aggression in Iraq in 2003. Oman is the only other country operating the tanks at the moment, with about 447 built by Alvis plc, Vickers plc and BAE Systems Land & Armaments since their introduction in 1998.
The UK reportedly has some 227 Challenger 2s in its inventory, but only about 60 are said to be in a condition to be deployed. A 2021 report suggested the military was planning to scrap a third of its Challenger 2 fleet to pay for the rest to be upgraded into “something that can fight the next war” in the form of the Challenger 3.
The Challenger 2 is the newest of the three NATO third-generation MBTs being deployed to Ukraine alongside Abrams and Leopard 2s, with all three initially designed to fight large Warsaw Pact armies in the heart of Germany during the Cold War.
Western tanks gained an air of invincibility in the 1990s after the 1991 Gulf War, in which US and allied forces carried losses which were far below those of the Iraqi Army, which operated largely first and second-generation Soviet, Chinese and Romanian tanks and which was overwhelmed by the West’s dramatic combined arms superiority, including artillery and air support. NATO planners were robbed of their illusions in the 2000s and 2010s, when several hundred Abrams and at least a dozen Leopard 2s were damaged or destroyed by Iraqi insurgents, Daesh (ISIS)* fighters and Kurdish militias in brutal fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan involving the US, Danish, Canadian, Iraqi and Turkish militaries.
28 January, 12:00 GMT
*Daesh, also known as ISIS/IS/Islamic State, is a terrorist organization banned in Russia.