The Russian military has claimed to have successfully destroyed a British Challenger 2 tank in the Zaporizhzhia region, marking the first recorded instance of a British-supplied tank being lost in the ongoing conflict with Ukraine.
In an announcement regarding the alleged destruction of the Challenger 2 tank, Vladimir Rogov, the Kremlin-backed leader of the Zaporizhzhia region, stated on his Telegram channel, “We are together with Russia.”
“The destruction of the first British tank, the Challenger 2, has been documented. The Nazi combat vehicle was burned in the battles near Rabotino in the Orekhovsky direction of the Zaporizhzhia front,” he wrote.
According to Rogov, Challenger 2 is currently deployed with the 82nd Air Assault Brigade, a unit that, according to the Kyiv authorities’ plan, was meant to advance towards Crimea. However, he asserts that it has already faced defeat on the first line of Russia’s defense.
While the Russian authorities have not offered further information regarding the precise date when the tank was rendered inoperative, a video circulating on social media early in the morning on September 5 depicts what seems to be a Challenger 2 tank engulfed in flames at the roadside.
This is the first confirmed loss of this tank in Ukraine and is also the first one ever destroyed by enemy action. pic.twitter.com/hFWkYQ8XSV
— 🇺🇦 Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) September 5, 2023
The video footage has been confirmed to have been recorded near Robotyne in the Zaporizhzhia region, an area recently reclaimed by Ukrainian forces. Furthermore, several open-source intelligence pages have identified the destroyed vehicle in the video as a Challenger-2 tank.
The circumstances surrounding the destruction of the British tank remain unclear. However, upon reviewing video footage, defense analysts have discerned that the Challenger 2 was in an area that had borne the brunt of active artillery fire.
Additionally, there was visible evidence of shell splinter damage on the side armor of a stationary Ukrainian T-64 tank located approximately 50-60 meters away.
Meanwhile, the apparent loss of the British-supplied tank has been enthusiastically embraced by Russian media, with considerable discussion occurring on pro-Russian social media platforms.
Prominent television propagandist Vladimir Solovyov even commented — with Francis Scarr of BBC Monitoring translating — that “The Challenger 2 tank hasn’t passed the challenge of the Russian Armed Forces.”
‘This Tank Is Like A Sniper Rifle’
The news of Ukraine’s first Challenger loss comes two days after Kyiv had released a video showcasing the capabilities of the weapon system, with one operator describing it: “This tank is like a sniper rifle.”
The soldier admired the Challenger 2, extolling its remarkable long-range firepower and protective capabilities in stark contrast to Soviet-style tanks.
This 69-ton Challenger 2 tank, manned by a crew of four, is a British-supplied asset. As part of their commitment to bolster the Ukrainian war effort, the United Kingdom delivered 14 units, fulfilling their pledge in January.
The online video presents a somber picture and provides a window into the tank’s resilience features. Despite fire engulfing the Challenger 2, the turret remained connected to its hull, quite evidently.
This detail suggests that while the tank may have been rendered inoperative, its structural strength was largely preserved.
Also, if true, this is the first confirmed loss of this tank in Ukraine and the first ever destroyed in enemy action.
The only other publicly documented instance of a Challenger 2 tank being incapacitated in combat occurred in 2003 in Basra, Iraq.
In that incident, it fell victim to ‘friendly fire’ from another British tank, resulting in the loss of two members of a British tank crew, while two others sustained critical injuries.
First introduced in the 1990s and subjected to continuous upgrades, the Challenger has proven its mettle in operations across different conflict areas.
This main battle tank is engineered to outmatch any adversary, boasting cutting-edge “Chobham” layered armor, modern optical systems, and the formidable L30 120mm rifled main armament.
The Challenger 2 stands as the most advanced tank in the Armed Forces of Ukraine’s inventory, representing a substantial leap in capability compared to the hundreds of Soviet-era T-72 tanks Ukraine has received from friendly nations since the Russian special military operation that began on February 24, 2022.
Despite its superior performance, Ukraine has only received 14 Challenger 2 tanks, while the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) predominantly operates the German-made Leopard tank.
Ukraine is expected to field approximately 165 Leopard tanks once all the pledged deliveries have been completed.