In an unprecedented event in the ongoing conflict since Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, a UK-manufactured and supplied Challenger 2 tank was laid to waste. The tank had initially fallen prey to a mine, becoming immobilised and catching fire in the rear fuel tank. This catastrophic situation necessitated an immediate evacuation of the four-person Ukrainian crew.
While the tank sat defenceless, a Russian Lancet drone struck, ultimately reducing the incapacitated tank to debris. This occurrence has been marked as the first verified encounter of a Challenger 2 tank at the frontline since the inception of the conflict.
The incident, visually documented with smoke billowing from the ruined vehicle, aligns with Ukrainian officials’ claims of aggressing the initial Russian defensive lines in Ukraine’s southern territories. While the exact location and timeline of this incident remain undetermined, the captured footage concurs with other such videos depicting Ukrainian forces around the freshly regained village of Robotyne, situated in the country’s south-east.
The confirmation of the armoured vehicle being a Challenger 2 tank is affirmed via discussions with experts and examination of reliable reference images. What sets the Challenger 2 apart is the unique gun sights, and the external fuel containers at the rear – a feature unheard of in other Western tanks.
An international defence source, who confirmed the tank’s identity, revealed that the four-strong crew had lived through the catastrophe. As per Sonny Butterworth, an analyst with Janes Defence, the incident bears special significance, marking the the first recorded loss of a Challenger 2 in Ukraine.
Accord to leaked US intelligence from April, the elite 82nd Air Assault Brigade of Ukraine was the only unit that was supplied with the Challenger 2 tanks. The brigade is no stranger to Western-supplied equipment, with videos on social media featuring other such vehicles, indicating its proactive positioning on the frontlines in Ukraine’s southern region of Zaporizhzhia.
The UK government, back in January, had announced its intent to supply 14 Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine. Rishi Sunak, Prime Minister at the time, envisaged the armoured juggernaut aiding Kyiv’s forces to repel the Russian troops. Despite its origins in the late 1990s, the Challenger proves to be one of the most modern and competent tanks available to the Ukrainian forces – along with the German-made Leopard 2 tanks. The goal is to equip Ukraine with superior protection and highly accurate firepower. In preparation for the receipt of these tanks, Ukrainian crews received training on their operation as of March.