The UK Ministry of Defense (MoD) has reportedly destroyed dozens of Challenger-2 Main Battle Tanks (MBTs) that could have been diverted to Ukraine to battle Russia.
The UK MoD has scrapped 43 Challenger-2 MBTs by putting them in the category of “beyond any economic repair,” according to a Freedom of Information disclosure accessed by The Times. The decision has been described in the report as one that has caused millions of pounds in taxpayer money.
According to the report, the decision cost the MoD some €4.3 million, with the disposals taking place between 2010 and 2014 when the country believed that the days of conventional war were over in Europe.
The move has also triggered concerns about the British Army’s capability to fight a long-drawn conflict following years of defense cuts.
The revelation has focused on the possibility that if the Challenger-2 MBTs were not destroyed, they could have been diverted to Ukraine instead, bolstering its counteroffensive.
Moreover, the revelation comes days after British publication The Daily Mail noted that the UK had about 40 combat-ready tanks in its arsenal. The report was based on some assertions by the Chief of Defense Staff, Admiral Anthony Radakin, in the British Parliament.
Admiral Radakin stated that the British Army had a roster of about 200 tanks, but a mere 20% were currently combat-ready. Although Challenger-2 forms the backbone of the British armored force, the Chief did not mention how many of these tanks were available for combat.
Some military analysts suggested that most of these tanks have been idle and rusting in warehouses because they have not seen operational deployment in a long time.
Some went on to say that the tanks are just too big for Europe, and the decision could be based on the simple reasoning that the storage and upkeep of such equipment is expensive.
It was first reported in 2020 that after considering upgrades and replacements, the British government was inclined toward ending the tank program altogether. At the time, military analysts said it would be a grave strategic error and was essentially just a cost-cutting measure.
However, the British government’s decision was understood to be based on the fact that the 227 Challenger-2 tanks in service with the British Army and the 388 Warrior armored combat vehicles that supported them on the battlefield had increasingly become a rising financial burden for the British Army.
At the time, the willingness to dispose of the Challenger-2 tanks was seen with skepticism even within the service and political circles as it was believed that any such decision would have to factor in British commitment to the NATO alliance.
There have been intense discussions in Britain regarding the future of the Challenger-2 tanks. The tanks have seen a series of budget cuts and maintenance issues in the last few years, ultimately reducing the number of battle tanks available for combat. With the latest revelations, the future of the Challenger-3 tank is also under the scanner.
While the decision to scrap dozens of tanks is expected to ignite some intense discussions in Britain regarding its depleting tank strength, it has also led to the media and military watchers pointing out that these tanks could have been diverted to Ukraine if they were available.
Challenger-2 Tanks In Ukraine
In May, the UK MoD confirmed that the Challenger-2 MBTs, pledged to Ukraine earlier this year, had been sent to the country. British Defense Secretary also announced in the Parliament that he had received positive feedback from the Ukrainian troops using the tanks.
In January, Ben Wallace confirmed that the United Kingdom would send 14 Challenger-2 tanks to Ukraine. Vadym Prystaiko, Ukraine’s ambassador to the UK, later asserted that the British government would give Ukraine twice as many Challenger-2 tanks as it had first pledged, meaning a total of 28 tanks.
However, the UK or the Ukrainian government never officially confirmed these speculations and claims. So, it has been assumed that the Ukrainian forces have received a batch of 14 tanks.
Earlier this month, a video posted on social media showed the Ukrainian Airborne assault troops operating the tank for the first time. It was noted that the tanks are firing two types of projectiles- armor explosives and high-explosive fragmentation.
— EurAsian Times (@THEEURASIATIMES) July 22, 2023
In addition, British authorities are also known to have provided Ukraine with several thousand shells for the Challenger-2 tanks, some containing depleted uranium, at the cost of inviting Russia’s ire. EurAsian Times couldn’t independently verify whether the tanks were already firing the lethal depleted uranium shells.
The Challenger-2 served as the primary battle tank for the British Ground Forces and was manufactured between 1994 and 2009. More than 400 tanks have been produced, each with a 120mm rifled cannon and a shell stock of 52.
The tanks measure approximately 27 feet in length and 8 feet in height. Their huge V-12 diesel engine produces 1,200 braking horsepower, adding to their overall 62.5-ton weight. The Challenger 2 is a third-generation MBT, the same generation as the Russian T-80 and T-90 tanks.
The Ukrainian Armed Forces have projected the British Challenger-2 tanks in their inventory as one that could effectively take on the Russian forces. For instance, the Ukrainian Armed Forces posted indicative footage against the backdrop of reports stating that Russia had resorted to fortifications like “dragon’s teeth” to slow Ukraine’s advance.
Challenger 2: If there is such a thing as "dragon teeth", there must be a "dragon dentist." pic.twitter.com/ieB13uVGTt
— Defense of Ukraine (@DefenceU) May 25, 2023
In the widely shared video, a British Challenger-2 tank can be seen dragging the dragon’s teeth to the tune of the AC/DC song “Highway to Hell.” Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense wrote, “If there is such a thing as ‘dragon teeth,’ there must be a ‘dragon dentist.'”
The deployment of Challenger-2 will be keenly watched in Ukraine, which is currently trying to capture territory in the counteroffensive effort that began in June.
According to The Oryx, a Dutch open-source intelligence (OSINT) defense analysis website, already lost 11 Leopard-2 tanks in its ongoing counteroffensive, including 4 Leopard-2A4 and 7 Leopard-2A6.
With several Leopard-2s lost and Abrams slated for delivery in the fall, it has been pointed out by netizens and military watchers that Ukraine could have been bolstered with the delivery of additional Challenger-2 that the UK doesn’t need.
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