The UK has officially updated its Challenger 2 main battle tank (MBT) inventory after awarding 14 vehicles to Ukraine earlier this year, which are now believed to be operational in Kiev’s ongoing counteroffensive against Russia.
In a written reply of the ParliamentUK Secretary of State at the Ministry of Defense (MoD), James Cartlidge, said 213 Challenger 2 MBTs were “in service” with the British military, reflecting a “decrease in platforms from the number reported in the annual published statistics following [the provision] 14 Challenger 2 to the Armed Forces of Ukraine”.
The UK’s commitment to supply Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine, the first NATO country to provide heavy armor to Kiev at the time, prompted US and European allies to pledge their own support in the form of the US Abrams A2 (later downgraded to older variant A1) and Leopard 1 and Leopard 2 from various European countries.
In April this year, the United Kingdom completed the delivery of Challenger 2 MBTs and other promised armored vehicles to Ukraine following a training program held in the United Kingdom.
The Challenger 2 commitment was the latest step in the UK’s escalation of defense equipment support, having previously provided 32 AS90 155mm self-propelled guns, a small number of M270 GMLRS systems, more than 150 armored and protected vehicles such as the Bulldog and CVR( T) and hundreds of additional missiles, including the Storm Shadow cruise missile.
How many UK Challenger 2s are operational?
However, the updated strength of the UK’s Challenger 2 fleet is likely much lower than the reported 213.
In March this year it was revealed that the UK had just 157 Challenger 2 MBTs available for operations, with the overall fleet reduced by the cannibalisation of platforms for spares, raising further concerns about the size of the UK’s land forces.
The UK has committed to upgrading its Challenger 2 tanks to the Challenger 3 variant, which will incorporate improved power generation, sensors and optics, as well as a new turret with the Rheinmetall L55A1 120mm smoothbore gun. The main gun is the same as the armament used on Leopard 2 MBTs, which operate throughout Europe.
Although the current record program calls for 148 Challenger 2s to be upgraded to the Challenger 3 variant, it was hoped that the forthcoming renewal of the MoD’s Defense Command document, due to be published before the UK Parliament recess, would increase this number.
However, with the fleet already around 150-160 usable vehicles and few platforms available on the international market (the Sultanate of Oman is the only export customer) any increase in the UK from the planned 148 Challenger 3s is likely to be minimal in best case.
Read the original at Defence247.gr