According to the Prime Minister’s Office, the UK will be sending 14 Challenger II main battle tanks to Ukraine and will begin training crews in the next week or two. The number of tanks being sent amounts to 3 platoons which would nominally create a tank company with supporting vehicles attached to it.
The news came to Ukrainian President Zelensky in a January 14th phone call with UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak. A press release by the Prime Minister’s office described the call this way,
The leaders reflected on the current state of Russia’s war in Ukraine, with successive Ukrainian victories pushing Russian troops back and compounding their military and morale issues.
They agreed on the need to seize on this moment with an acceleration of global military and diplomatic support to Ukraine.
The Prime Minister outlined the UK’s ambition to intensify our support to Ukraine, including through the provision of Challenger 2 tanks and additional artillery systems.
The Prime Minister and President Zelenskyy welcomed other international commitments in this vein, including Poland’s offer to provide a company of Leopard tanks.
The Prime Minister stressed that he and the whole UK Government would be working intensively with international partners to deliver rapidly the kind of support which will allow Ukraine to press their advantage, win this war and secure a lasting peace.
The artillery systems referred to are the BEA-built AS-90 Braveheart, a self-propelled gun using the L131 cannon in 155 mm. The UK is sending 30 of the AS-90s to Ukraine along with ammunition and spare parts.
For a country as strapped for weapons as Ukraine is, every additional tank, gun, and plane provided to them is both a blessing and a curse.
The Challenger II is a tank designed in the 1980s and continuously upgraded to remain in service. In spite of its age, it would still be more than a match for any Russian tanks currently in the field, especially with a well-trained and drilled British tank crew. That being said, the tank still has a sophisticated optics and targeting system and an engine package that Ukrainian crews will have to be trained on. Learning to operate the tank would take several weeks of accelerated training while learning to maintain it in the field could take months of additional training along with parts, tools, and manuals translated into Ukrainian.
Ukraine’s military is becoming a mixed bag of tanks, guns, and other equipment from western nations. This can create real logistics problems for Ukraine as they try to create a system to sustain and repair different tanks from France, Germany, the UK, and perhaps the US as well at some point.
Nazi Germany had this problem as well during WWII, fielding numerous models of tanks that each required different ammunition, engines, and spare parts, while the US M4 Sherman was fielded as a medium tank, a self-propelled gun, a tank destroyer, and even a mobile anti-aircraft gun system, The most important parts, the engines, transmissions, suspension and track systems were all standardized.
As the winter wears on in the region, Western Countries continue to trickle weapons into Ukraine accompanied by press releases stating how much military aid in flowing into the country.