First of Britain's Challenger 2 tanks arrive in Ukraine
Ready to fight Putin’s invaders: First of Britain’s Challenger 2 tanks arrive in Ukraine as Kyiv’s defence chief thanks ‘marvellous’ UK counterpart Ben Wallace… and takes one for a spin
- Britain said in January it would send 14 Challenger 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine
- They arrived at the same time as 18 German Leopard 2s, bolstering Kyiv’s forces
The first of Britain’s Challenger 2 main battle tanks have arrived in Ukraine, with the country’s Defence Minister giving the UK the thumbs up as he took a ride in the heavy armour that will soon take on Vladimir Putin’s invaders.
Britain said in January it would send 14 of the tanks to Ukraine, which is preparing for a possible counter-offensive against Russian forces that invaded 13 months ago.
Oleksii Reznikov wrote on Twitter that the tanks had ‘recently arrived in our country’ and posted a video that showed him sitting in one of a long line of tanks in an open field, all of them flying Ukraine’s yellow and blue flag.
‘It was a pleasure to take the first Ukrainian Challenger 2 MBT (main battle tank) for a spin,’ Reznikov wrote. ‘These fantastic machines will soon begin their combat missions,’ he added, tagging Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak as well as Wallace.
In the video, he gave the thumbs up sign and thanked British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace for the tanks, as they tore around the muddy field.
Five armoured vehicles are seen in this photograph shared by Ukraine’s armed forces. From left to right: A US-made MRAP Cougar, a US-made Stryker armoured fighting vehicle, a British-made Challenger 2 main battle tank, a German-made BMP Marder, and a Canadian-made Roshel Senator. Ukraine’s defence minister can be seen in the foreground (centre)
‘Marvellous, Ben,’ he said in English. ‘It’s…very good stuff. Thank you very much from Ukraine to the United Kingdom.’
READ MORE: This is what you’re up against now, Putin: How America’s Abrams, Germany’s Leopard 2 and Britain’s Challenger compare to Russia’s outdated armour
In addition to the video, Ukraine’s armed forces shared a picture of the British Challenger 2 lined up with four other vehicles sent to Ukraine from its allies.
The picture showed a MRAP Cougar along-side a Stryker armoured fighting vehicle – both from the US, a German-made BMP Marder, and a Canadian-made Roshel Senator.
Ukrainian soldiers held the flags of Ukraine’s airbourne forces, the US, the UK, Germany and Ukraine in front of the vehicles, while Ukrainian flags flew from the top of each piece of military hardware as well.
Germany’s defence ministry also said on Monday that 18 Leopard 2 battle tanks and 40 Marder infantry fighting vehicles had also arrived in Ukraine.
‘I’m sure that they can make a decisive contribution on the front,’ German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said on Twitter.
The £5million Challenger 2, with a 120mm rifled gun and a 7.62mm machine gun, is a battle tank designed to attack other tanks.
It is the UK’s only guaranteed 24-hour, all-weather mobile tank with protected precision direct fire and anti-tank manoeuvre capability, the British army says.
An earlier version of the tank claimed the longest-distance tank kill in history, with the war machine destroying an Iraqi tank from three miles away during the Gull War.
The 27ft-long Challenger 2 has a crew of four and a range of 340 miles on-road and 160 miles off road. However, it has a top speeds of about 37mph, meaning it is slightly slower than Germany’s Leopard tank.
The 75-ton Challenger 2 has been described by British military commanders as a modern tank which is ‘much better protected, more reliable and quicker’ than Russia’s Soviet-era tanks.
Meanwhile, the Leopard 2s are seen as the workhorses of militaries across Europe, and are thus in the arsenals of several countries willing to send aid to Ukraine.
Canada, Norway and Poland also have sent such tanks to Ukraine.
Rheinmetall AG, a German defense contractor that makes the 120mm smoothbore gun on the Leopard 2, says the tank has been deployed by ‘more nations than any other’, with 3,500 units being supplied to 19 countries. More than 2,000 of those have been sent to over a dozen European countries and Canada.
It is this sheer number of Leopard tanks that has meant they are seen as the best option for Ukraine – as they would be easily deployable to Ukraine – while also being easier to repair and replace in the event that any are damaged or destroyed.
The tank’s manufacturer, Krauss-Massei Wegmann, has touted it as ‘the world’s leading battle tank’ with a 120mm smooth bore gun and a fully-digital fire-control system. It also costs around £5million, and has a top speed 45 miles per hour.
Britain said in January it would send 14 of the tanks to Ukraine , which is preparing for a possible counter-offensive against Russian forces that invaded 13 months ago. They have now arrived in Ukraine, and were seen in a video shared on Tuesday tearing around a field
Pictured: A row of British-made Challenger 2 tanks are seen in a field in a video posted by Ukraine’s minister of defence on Tuesday
In the video, Ukraine’s defence minister (pictured) gave the thumbs up sign and thanked British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace for the Challenger 2 tanks
How do Germany’s Leopard 2 and Britain’s Challenger 2 main battle tanks compare?
As more military aid arrives in Ukraine, analysts expect Kyiv to launch a counterattack to get underway in earnest over April-May as the weather improves.
READ MORE: Putin security chief vows to destroy the West with hypersonic nukes if it attempts to defeat Russia
Front lines in Ukraine have barely moved for more than four months despite a Russian winter offensive, with the most intense battles centred on the eastern city of Bakhmut, which has been likened to a First World War ‘meat grinder’.
It is understood that Ukraine’s military aims to wear down Russian forces before mounting its own attack, in the hope of pushing Putin’s armies back further.
Russia’s Wagner mercenary force, which is thought to have sustained heavy losses in eastern Ukraine (some estimates put the group’s losses as high as 50,000), is seeking to replenish its ranks ahead of any Ukrainian counteroffensive.
A giant recruitment advertisement for the group has appeared on the facade of an office building in northeast Moscow.
It shows Wagner’s logo and slogans such as ‘Join the winning team!’ and ‘Together we will win’, along with a picture of a masked man holding a weapon.
On the battlefield, Russian forces appear to be focusing on Avdiivka, 55 miles south of the battered mining town of Bakhmut, while a Ukrainian general said the country’s forces were planning their next move.
Ukraine shut Avdiivka to civilians on Monday, with an official describing the town as a ‘post-apocalyptic’ wasteland.
The Ukrainian military has warned that Avdiivka could become a ‘second Bakhmut’, which has been reduced to rubble in months of fighting described by both sides as a ‘meat grinder’. Russian forces say they are fighting street by street.
Ukrainian ground forces commander Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi, who said this month that a counterattack was not ‘far off’, visited frontline troops in the east and said his forces were still repelling attacks on Bakhmut.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian authorities said air defences shot down 12 drones near Kyiv on Monday and falling debris set a non-residential site ablaze. No casualties were reported.
Russia launched a total of 15 Iranian-made Shahed drones overnight on Ukraine, with Ukrainian forces destroying 14 of them, Ukraine’s military said early on Tuesday.
Ukrainian soldiers ride atop a military vehicle on the frontline in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Sunday, March 26
Ukrainian soldiers ride atop an APC on the frontline in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Sunday, March 26
A damaged building is seen in this aerial view of Bakhmut, the site of heavy battles with Russian troops in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, Sunday, March 26
A British Challenger 2 main battle tank is seen in action during a drill in 2017 (file photo). The UK has sent 14 of the heavy tanks to aid Ukraine in its fight against Russia’s invasion
‘The logic of the Russians’ actions is terror aimed at civilian infrastructure,’ Ukrainian presidential chief of staff Andriy Yermak said on Telegram about the drone attacks.
‘It won’t work, just like geopolitical blackmail.’
Since Putin’s invasion to ‘demilitarise’ Ukraine got bogged down in the autumn, he and other Russian officials have played up the prospect the war could escalate to involve nuclear weapons.
On Saturday, he said he had struck a deal to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus. Ukraine and its Western allies have denounced the plan.
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