Five Months Into the Fray, Ukraine’s First Challenger 2 MBT Appears Destroyed

Challenger 2 MBT 7 photos
Photo: Airwolfhound from Hertfordshire, UK
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 Seventy-five tons, over eight meters long, and packing a 120 mm rifled cannon that makes the 88s on old World War II German tanks feel sorry for themselves. These are just the highlights of the qualities that made the British Challenger 2 main battle tank so gosh darn irresistible to the Ukrainian Armed Forces in the aftermath of its unprovoked invasion by the Russians. In March 2023, Ukraine finally received the British Army surplus Challenger 2s they'd so greatly wanted to obtain. But nearly six months into its deployment in the conflict, Ukraine's learning Britain's go-to MBT isn't at all invincible.
As first reported by Forbes on Sept 5th, a video from the front lines seems to reveal a Ukrainian Challenger 2, appearing to belong to the 82nd Air Assault Brigade, engulfed in flames on the side of a road just outside the town of Robotune in Ukraine's Zaporizhizhia Oblast, the same Oblast that's home to Ukraine's largest nuclear reactor, currently under occupation by Russian forces. Back in late 2022, Great Britain pledged to send at least 14 surplus Challenger 2 tanks as a means of defending against Russia's formidable stable consisting of the T-72, the T-80, the T-90, and, according to Russian State Media, the brand-new Ural T-14 Armata as well. However, sightings of Russia's new MBT have yet to be confirmed by Western intelligence.

Whatever the case, the British Challenger 2 has proven to be a powerful tool for projecting Ukraine's mostly Western-supplied arsenal of weapons to a Russian Federation seemingly dead set on the complete subjugation of the country under the regime of Vladimir Putin. But in a video posted to Twitter, we appear to stumble upon a signifier that the Challenger 2 is far from invincible, even if it's still one of the most powerful MBTs on a modern battlefield. Though lacking a cannon shell autoloader feature, which potentially exposes a tank's precious ammo to enemy projectiles, it's clear from these recent videos that the Challenger 2's thick Chobham armor does indeed have a breaking point.

Against the might of Russian armor, including the 125 mm smoothbore cannon employed on the T-95, any amount of armor is eventually going to be overwhelmed with enough rounds thrown at it. But in spite of the loss, the recent incident gave the Challenger 2 an excellent chance to flex its less-appreciated strong points. Most notably, the tank's supreme degree of survivability. Though the tank in question appears to be completely destroyed, no reports of injuries or deaths of Ukrainian soldiers have been reported in conjunction with the video. Without concrete evidence to the contrary, it's entirely possible that the majority, if not all of this Challenger 2's Ukrainian crew, made it out in one piece. With at least 13 more waiting in the wing, it's a loss Ukraine is likely willing to accept.
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