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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.



  1. Johnny Ray

    January 27, 2023 at 6:01 pm

    Don’t sweat the small stuff.

  2. Mark Williams

    January 27, 2023 at 6:50 pm

    Don’t be daft, it’s far too sensible an idea for the clowns currently in charge

  3. 3L120

    January 27, 2023 at 7:45 pm

    The problem is in maintenance. Challengers, Abrams and Leopards all require different maintenance. Assuming there are different maintenance battalions, either in Poland or later on in the Ukraine, it will be a pain in the ass to keep all the tanks running. Add to that, repair facilities for Bradley’s, Marders, and others will take a toll of the maintenance troops. A lot better to concentrate on one tank & IFV rather than a hodgepodge of each countries leftovers.

    Mind you I am not a treadhead. I was a Marine Lt in the Nam, a FO. We had armor support, but that is about the extent of my armor involvement.

  4. Tomb

    January 27, 2023 at 10:18 pm

    Very interesting ☺

  5. Lee C.

    January 27, 2023 at 11:48 pm

    A quick literature review indicates that the Jordanian Challenger 1s received substantial local modifications to varying degree – they are not a truly homogeneous fleet. Still, if an inventory of 200 to 300 could be acquired, they would make a much more consistent force than the collection of various Leopard 2 versions likely on offer and could probably be in place sooner and certainly in larger numbers. If the full Jordanian collection (~400 vehicles) could be acquired, almost 100 could be used as ‘parts doners’ in addition to any Jordanian spare parts to keep the others available for AFU service. Ammo availability for the 120mm rifled main gun might be a consideration, however.

  6. Stepancov Viktor

    January 28, 2023 at 2:49 am

    attempts to justify the nonsense that they are doing with the supply of various systems to Ukraine look very funny.
    Even armies with advanced digital logistics and inventory management systems prefer to avoid being overwhelmed by the same type of systems.
    But Ukraine is sent everything that is lying in the warehouse from the time of the Vietnam War, and they read the mantra – Ukrainians can handle it, because they are unique.
    It’s like pushing boiling lava into a lake and saying you can do it.
    Those who dealt with supplies at least at the level of a mechanized battalion understand what I’m talking about.
    But the white-collar think-tank waving their hands are all minor hurdles.

    By the way, the Challenger and 1 and 2 are not well suited for the Ukrainian theater of operations, and the fact that they are superior to the T72 is a big exaggeration. Yes, Challenger 1 has superiority with early export T72s, but later models, T80 T90 tanks for the Challenger are simply too tough.

  7. Rob

    January 28, 2023 at 4:32 am

    Sending the Abrams is a political sacrifice of the US to get Germany to allow for Leopards 2 to be sent in. They will probably serve as a ‘strategic reserve’ as not too stretch logistics too much.
    Otherwise this looks like a cost effective measure. I’d guess it is an option that is commercially less attractive. Why admit that Challengers 1 would suffice, if you want to sell Challengers 2? Why would the UK boost Jordan economy if its own economy is in shambles?
    Don’t forget these choices are made by politicians advised by both military and economic advisors.

  8. Kevthepope

    January 28, 2023 at 9:06 am

    This is a good idea to say the least. The Challenger1 is a proven design, if field upgrades are needed they can be done in a depot in Poland on the border, but they would be a very good defensive tank. Offensive fine as well, though the weight is going to limit the avenues of approach. It also is one homogenuos fleet. Of course the US could do this too, the 2700+ sitting in the Sierra Nevada depot could be trimmed by 300, even if it’s the lower end models, and give them something that with ERA and some modest upgrades will allow offensive actions. Giving them the Marines discarded Abrams gives them something on par with the M1A2 model prior to SEP and is another fleet ready to go. Key here, no large scale refurb needed, they were driven and stored within the past two years. It also enables the US to be the main armored supplier to Ukraine in the years to follow. Have to jockey for those dollars ya know…

  9. Lee C.

    January 28, 2023 at 10:53 am

    I believe the US Abrams inventory is restricted from export by the depleted uranium armor installed. While I understand from published sources this uranium armor is actually an insert that can be removed and replaced with a tungsten-based insert for export, that is a long and labor-intensive process that can only be done at General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS). While the US has a large inventory of currently surplus Abrams, they are stuck in the USA unless modified or the export regs are changed.

  10. Tomb

    January 28, 2023 at 4:26 pm

    Please write more articles ☺

  11. Lee C.

    February 13, 2023 at 12:16 am

    Anything further on this possibility? Getting a quantity of effective tanks to the Ukrainians is a priority and this option sounds like a good one (baring a change in US arms export laws).

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