There has been a bit of a feeding frenzy this week over Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s announcement that Britain is to send “proper” tanks, self-propelled guns, and other armoured fighting vehicles (AFVs) to Ukraine.
The promise to send fourteen Challenger 2 tanks is, as I have written elsewhere, more political and symbolic than militarily useful. They are unlike anything other tank the Ukrainians have or are likely to have and will require yet another different logistic and supplies set up. Famously, or infamously if you prefer, the Challenger’s 120 mm rifled gun using different ammunition to the rest of NATO, to mention but one issue.
Nonetheless, tanks are tanks and they will be welcome. Britain’s move has more to do with trying to persuade the Germans to follow suit with their more modern and superior Leopard 2s, but so far Chancellor Olaf Scholz has refused to budge. Nor is he prepared to allow countries which have German tanks already pass them on to Ukraine. His latest statement, that Germany will send its tanks if the USA does the same with its M1A2 Abrams, is puzzling. It’s almost as if he fears Germany unsettling the Russian bear on its own.
Military social media has been awash with rumours and suggestions how the impasse might be solved. One seemingly sensible suggestion is that, as the UK hopes to replace its ageing tanks with the upgraded Challenger 3 model anyway, we may as well send all the remaining Challenger 2s to Ukraine and buy Leopard 2s to replace them. That would mean roughly seventy-five available to send, a much more useful addition to Ukraine’s inventory.
The main problem here is, as always, funding. Where is the money going to come from is the cry. Yet, with Secretary of State Ben Wallace now saying that we might have to look at increasing Britain’s overall tank strength anyway it may not be such a daft suggestion as some have said.
Lt Col Stuart Crawford is a Defence Analyst and a former Army officer, author & broadcaster – sign up to his podcast at defencereview.uk
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