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Challenger 1: The Tank Ukraine Really Needs?

Challenger 1 Tank
Challenger 1 Tank

NATO and the US should be giving the Ukrainians Challenger 1’s and avoid the logistics nightmare – Why is NATO not offering to purchase some 200-400 recently retired Challenger 1 tanks from the Kingdom of Jordan, with all the spare parts that will come with them, and supply those to Ukraine, avoiding the logistics mess?  

It would be far more cost-effective. This was the point of a recent comment in The Telegraph (Britain is sending the Ukrainians the wrong tanks), but it bears repeating. 

The NATO tank donation program has turned into a hodgepodge, not only supplying three different tanks from three different nations, The M1 Abrams, the Challenger 2, and the Leopard 2

And to make matters even more confusing, different models of the Leopard are being sent to Ukraine that are substantially different in their maintenance and parts requirements.  

While the Ukrainians can probably manage this logistics nightmare (one of the few countries that can), in the middle of the war, who needs the headache? 

The Case for Challenger 1

While the Challenger 1’s are not front-line technology, they are still pretty damn good. They are vastly superior to the T-72 – pretty much the equivalent of the M1A1 Abrams – have the record for the longest tank-to-tank kill, 4700 meters, and the Challenger’s that took part in the first Iraqi war acquitted themselves well by destroying 300 Iraqi tanks without incurring a single loss. 

No, they aren’t today’s technology, but their fire control systems, night vision, and armor are still superior to almost anything the Russians can throw at them (they have already proven they can have a field day with the T-72).

Crucially, they can be made available in large quantities now.

Ukraine needs a lot of tanks, and they need them quickly; the number that is consistently mentioned is 300. However, they need to conduct training for both operations and support. 

The problem is that the US and NATO is handing them handfuls of different types of tanks, each having unique training and support requirements, many of which will not be delivered in time for combat in the spring. 

The US is talking about delivering 31 M1’s sometime this summer with critical technologies removed and then producing another 60-70 for delivery sometime next year. 

The UK is coughing up 14 of its Challenger 2’s.

Then we have the Leopard donation program. 

The whole thing is silly. It is unimaginable that the US, UK, NATO cannot buy 100-200 used Challenger 1 tanks that are operable and at a fraction of the cost of new vehicles, and supply those. 

Moreover, Ukraine would be receiving one type of tank, standardizing both training and support. 

There are many complaining about the cost of this war, it has affected many NATO countries, this is a way of reducing those costs. But so long as because of politics or prior political announcements, we refuse to examine emergent alternatives, we’re going to be stuck with paying through the nose, delayed delivery of needed weapon systems to fight this war, and a logistical strategy that no business would ever consider sane. 

In-fact, I wonder that if we privatized this war with corporations managing it, having to foot the bills themselves, the decisions they would have made. This seems a no-brainer. NATO and DOD should look into this.

Author Biography and Expertise

Dr. James Refalo is a Professor at Cal State University Los Angeles and a former Surface Warfare Officer in the U.S. Navy.

Written By

James Refalo is a Professor at Cal State University Los Angeles and a former Surface Warfare Officer in the U.S Navy.