How Britain’s Challenger 2 tanks could be a game changer in the war in Ukraine

  • The UK has confirmed it will send a small number of Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine.
  • The powerful tank could easily outshine any Russian main battle tank, an expert told Insider.
  • However, the greater impact could set an example for other Western countries to send tanks.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak confirmed on Saturday that the UK will send Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine, the BBC reported. This was the first time a Western country had sent its most powerful heavy armor to Kiev.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked the UK, saying the move “will not only strengthen us on the battlefield, but also send the right signal to other partners,” according to the BBC.

He added that while UK support was “always strong”, it was “impenetrable now”.

The BBC reported that it understands the initial commitment is for about a dozen tanks, which would be enough to equip a squadron, but falls well short of the hundreds of tanks requested by Kiev.

The tank would be superior to any Russian main battle tank it opposes, an expert told Insider, and some reports suggest they could deal a serious blow to Putin’s troops on the battlefield.

According to Justin Crump, a military veteran and the CEO of the risk intelligence company Sibylline, a small number of Challenger 2 tanks would be a “token gesture” because tanks need to be numerous to be effective.

But more importantly, the move could open the floodgates for other Western countries to send tanks to Ukraine, he said, particularly the mass-produced German-made Leopard 2 tanks that several European countries are already using.

“The Leopard isn’t much of a one-on-one tank, but I’ll take 400 Leopard over 10 Challenger 2,” Crump said.

Poland’s representatives said on Wednesday that the country plans to transfer Leopard tanks to Ukraine but needs Berlin’s permission to re-export them. German Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck said on Thursday it would not stand in Poland’s way, and reports suggest Germany is also considering following suit.

The Challenger 2 is much better than the Russian main battle tanks

The powerful Challenger 2 tanks could easily out-compete Russia’s main battle tanks, primarily the Soviet-era T-72s, Crump said.

“The Challenger 2 is designed to do the job the Ukrainians need this tank to do,” said Crump, who personally operated the tanks.

“They are certainly much better than anything the Russians have because everything we designed during the Cold War – so Challenger 2, Leopard 2, M1 Abrams in the US – all these vehicles are designed to be significantly better than the Russian equivalent,” he said.

The tanks are about 27 feet and 3 inches long, weigh 62.5 tons, and have a 1,200 horsepower V-12 diesel engine.

A commander, left, of a Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank during a training exercise.

A commander, left, of a Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank during a training exercise.

Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images



In terms of firepower, the tank is equipped with three guns. The main armament is a 120mm rifle cannon that can fire anti-tank or high-explosive squash-head rounds, which Crump said are designed to take out things like slightly lighter vehicles and bunkers.

The other two guns are a chain gun and a hatch machine gun.

Crump said the tank’s fire control system is incredibly accurate. He said that while the gun can fire much further if needed, it is extremely accurate within a range of two kilometers or about 1.2 miles.

In the first Gulf War in 1991, a British Challenger tank reportedly scored the longest ever tank-on-tank kill after knocking out an Iraqi tank three miles away.

The tank has a laser rangefinder that adjusts the gun before firing at a target, taking into account numerous factors such as wind, temperature, and the direction the target vehicle is moving.

Thermal imaging also helps track targets at night, and the command station has a periscope with 360-degree visibility.

The tank’s armor can survive a direct hit from a Russian T-72

The tank can carry four crew members, including a commander and a gunner. They have what is known as a “hunter-killer capability”, which refers to a targeting system where the gunner and commander can track two separate targets at the same time.

Another thing that makes the tanks particularly formidable is that they are well protected by Chobham armor, also known as Dorchester armor, which Crump said is some of the best armor in the world. The exact composition of the armor is top secret and can survive a direct hit from a Russian T-72, according to a report in The Telegraph.

Crump said that, in his experience, what most impressed foreign commanders of the tank is its efficient suspension system, which allows it to glide easily over landscapes that other tanks have difficulty traversing.

He said his favorite feature of the tank is a large electric kettle that runs off the vehicle’s power system and allows soldiers to make hot drinks and “boil-in-the-bag” meals.

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