The British-made Challenger 2 main battle tank (MBT) was spotted for the first time near the frontlines in Ukraine this week.
The Telegraph newspaper first reported this key detail – and Putin won’t be happy.
Such tanks are among the best on Earth and should make the Russian military quite nervous.
Ukraine’s forces have gone to great lengths to conceal the movements of the tanks, but the video clips were shared by the Ukraine Army’s 11th Separate Army Aviation unit.
It is unclear and actually unlikely that the unit will be operating the tanks – and instead, it operates the Soviet-era Mi-8 and Mi-24 helicopters rather than heavy armor.
82nd Air Assault Brigade?
According to reports that cited the U.S. intelligence documents leaked on the Internet in April, the Challenger 2s will be assigned to a new unit called the 82nd Air Assault Brigade. The same documents noted that the brigade would be equipped with the German Marder infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) and the American Stryker armored personnel carriers (APCs) – which led to speculation that this new unit could be employed to exploit holes in the Russian lines.
The Ukrainian military has not acknowledged the existence of the unit, and there is also speculation that the 82nd may be a fictional fighting force – similar to the “Ghost Army” that was created during the Second World War by the Allies prior to the D-Day landings – to mask the true destination of the Challengers.
Moreover, this isn’t the first time the Challenger 2 has appeared in leaked classified documents. It was in 2021 that a British Army tank commander posted material from the “Challenger 2 Army Equipment Support Publication,” which is essentially the tank’s “user manual,” to the forums for the online game War Thunder.
Ukraine Pausing Offensive Operations
The Challenger 2 hasn’t been employed in combat yet, but as The Wall Street Journal reported last week, Kyiv may have paused its advancements to regroup as it seeks to punch through Russia’s heavily defended lines.
Ukraine lost several German-made Leopard 2 MBTs, along with a number of U.S. M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles, in the early stages of the highly anticipated offensive. Though such losses are almost expected during offensive operations, Kyiv may seek to avoid the mistakes made by Russia when it launched its unprovoked invasion nearly 17 months ago.
The Kremlin has lost thousands of tanks in the fighting, and it has had to bolster its numbers with Cold War tanks including the T-62 and even T-54/55 series tanks. The latter has been employed as kamikaze-style platforms but with mixed results at best.
Clearly, Ukraine is seeking to consider how to best utilize the weapons it has received from the West. But we should expect the Challenger 2 to have its baptism of fire in Ukraine in the coming weeks or even days.
Author Experience and Expertise:
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.