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What are features of British Challenger 2 tank and when will it arrive in Ukraine?

18 March, 2023 Saturday

Great Britain became the first country to agree to deliver its main battle tanks to Ukraine. On January 14, the UK government officially announced the decision to send Challenger 2 to the Ukrainian Armed Forces. What kind of tanks are they? Read in our article

How many tanks are there and why might they be delayed?

Back in January, the United Kingdom announced the decision to provide 14 Challenger 2 tanks to the Ukrainian Armed Forces, which is a standard tank company in NATO countries. As for the number of these tanks in the UK, as of 2022, the country had 227 Challenger 2 tanks (148 of which are planned to be upgraded to Challenger 3) and about 70 more are in storage in various states.

Later, British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, during a visit to the military base where Ukrainian military are training, said that Ukraine could receive more British tanks if they are effective against the invading Russian forces. At the same time, Ukraine's Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the United Kingdom Vadym Prystaiko recently said that Ukraine would eventually receive twice as many British tanks – 28 Challenger 2 armoured vehicles instead of 14.

As for the delivery date of the Challenger 2 tanks, it was initially reported that they would arrive in Ukraine in March this year, but the situation has changed – British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said that the tanks would arrive in Ukraine in May-June this year.

This period is primarily due to the fact that Ukraine's tanker crews, in addition to directly mastering the British tank, will also learn to fight on it as part of units. Two other facts are also worth mentioning here: first, the UK will conduct exercises for nearly 20,000 Ukrainian military this year; second, in addition to tanks, the UK is also providing AS90 self-propelled artillery systems and FV430 Mk3 Bulldog armoured personnel carriers. This means that we are talking about a complete supply, and it is likely that the British will prepare a full-fledged combat-ready unit for the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

Why Challenger 2 can be called "special" compared to Abrams and Leopard

The British main battle tank FV4034 Challenger 2 can be called a classic Western tank without a loading gun and with a crew of four. The first vehicles entered service in 1995, but had a number of shortcomings, so most of the tanks built at that time remained at the factory and began to enter service in 1998.

The Challenger 2 was created to replace its predecessor, the Challenger 1, and although at first glance these tanks seem similar, they have only 3% of interchangeable components. And when we talk about the Challenger 2, we should first of all mention its unique 120-mm L30A1 gun with a length of 55 calibre. This is a rifled gun that can use non-unified NATO ammunition. Among other things, the British tank can hit the enemy with powerful armour-piercing high-explosive HESH, which can destroy both armoured vehicles and enemy fortifications at a distance of up to 8 km and are effective against tanks – these shells were developed by the British primarily to destroy Soviet vehicles on the battlefield.

British main battle tank Challenger 2, photo: gettyimages

The tank is protected by the second-generation Chobham armour, also known as Dorchester, which is almost the same as the American Abrams tank. This armour effectively protects against both cumulative and sub-caliber ammunition. At the same time, there is an option to install additional armour modules, and then the weight of the tank will increase from 64 to 75 tons.

What will be the successor to the Challenger 2 tank?

As we mentioned earlier, the British army plans to upgrade almost 150 of their tanks to the Challenger 3 level – the UK has already approved the final design of this tank and expects to receive all upgraded vehicles by 2030. The modernization process will take place in the UK with Rheinmetall's active involvement. The contract for the modernization of the vehicles was signed in 2021 for $0.97 billion (or approximately $6.5 million per vehicle).

The modernized Challenger 3 tank will receive a number of updates, including a new gun, photo: gettyimages

The vehicle will receive a new 120mm smoothbore L55 cannon from Rheinmetall, which is also installed on Leopard 2 tanks, instead of the rifled L30, and, accordingly, the ability to use programmable ammunition. The tank's turret will also be new, and the main feature of the modernization is the total digitalization of the vehicle. In addition, the vehicle will receive new sighting devices. 

Oleksiy Levkov, Defense Express Media and Consulting Company, exclusively for Espreso.

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