Marking the first-ever instance of Challenger-2’s combat loss, the Russian military claimed on September 5 that it had successfully destroyed a British Challenger 2 tank in the Zaporizhzhia region. Now, that loss has been officially confirmed by the UK Defense Secretary.
In an announcement regarding the alleged destruction of the Challenger 2 tank, Vladimir Rogov, the Kremlin-backed leader of the Zaporizhzhia region, stated on his Telegram channel, “We are together with Russia.”
“The destruction of the first British tank, the Challenger 2, has been documented. The Nazi combat vehicle was burned in the battles near Rabotino in the Orekhovsky direction of the Zaporizhzhia front,” he wrote.
Just a day after the Russian claims took the world by storm, the new UK Defense Secretary Grant Shapps confirmed that a Ukrainian Challenger 2 battle tank sent by the UK had been destroyed in Ukraine. He referred to the destruction of the tank as the first such incident in its nearly 30 years of service.
“I can confirm that is correct. It may be the first loss as far as we know,” Shapps told Sky News, explaining that the Russian artillery hit the tank. “We gifted 14 of these Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine. We accept that there can be material losses in the war zone,” Shapps said.
‼️🚨 Journalist: “Will you send another one?”
-> Secretary of State for Defence confirms the loss of a Challenger 2.
PS: Crew of 6? pic.twitter.com/FKidQcgFWu
— Lord Bebo (@MyLordBebo) September 6, 2023
Pro-Russian bloggers who rejoiced at the tank’s destruction widely shared the video of the tank’s burning. One of these bloggers posted a video saying, “The British Challenger 2 tank, which has a price of 4.2 million pounds sterling, is burning in front of the Russian army.”
However, after its recorded combat loss, the Defense Secretary said that his country did not intend to supply more tanks to Ukraine. After incurring tanks and armored vehicle losses in the counteroffensive, Ukraine has made fresh pleas to NATO to provide additional tanks.
The British Challenger 2 tank, which has a price of 4.2 million pounds sterling, is burning in front of the Russian army pic.twitter.com/mRxCkG5T5w
— Sprinter (@Sprinter99800) September 5, 2023
On reviewing video footage, defense analysts have discerned that the Challenger 2 was in an area that had borne the brunt of active artillery fire. Additionally, there was visible evidence of shell splinter damage on the side armor of a stationary Ukrainian T-64 tank located approximately 50-60 meters away, as noted by EurAsian Times.
This year, London sent 14 Challenger 2 tanks to Kyiv. There are 213 of these tanks in the UK alone. Only 157 vehicles, however, are combat-ready, according to data provided to the British Parliament in March. Besides the United Kingdom and Ukraine, only one nation, Oman, employs Challenger 2 tanks. The loss in Ukraine is significant because it is the first ever in its operational history.
It was previously reported that only one of these tanks, which first saw action in 1994, was damaged in Iraq in 2003, but that tank was destroyed by friendly fire, not an enemy attack.
First Challenger-2 Tank Was Annihilated By Mistake
A Challenger 2 from the Black Watch Battlegroup (2nd Royal Tank Regiment) accidentally engaged a Challenger 2 from the Queen’s Royal Lancers in Basra after spotting what it thought to be an enemy flanking maneuver on thermal equipment.
The second HESH round one of the Challenger-2 tanks struck the commander’s hatch cover of the open QRL tank, killing two crew members. The tank was destroyed when the stowed ammunition caught fire after the hit and started a conflagration. This was the first Challenger 2 to be obliterated during operations.
The two men who died were First Royal Regiment of Fusiliers combat group members from the Queen’s Royal Lancers. They were identified as Corporal Stephen Allbutt, 35, of Stoke-on-Trent, and Trooper David Clarke, 19, of Littleworth, Staffordshire.
“The soldiers were tragically killed in a ‘friendly fire’ incident during a period of multiple engagements from enemy forces on the outskirts of Basra,” Colonel Chris Vernon, a British military spokesman, said at the time, elaborating on the incident.
“Regardless of the careful planning and measures taken in the type of operations in which we are engaged and in the heat of battle, there is always a risk that incidents such as this might happen.”
In the aftermath of the incident, Col. Vernon stated that an investigation was being conducted into the incident, which marked the first time in a long time that British personnel had been accidentally slain. It will focus on why the tank’s cutting-edge new identifying system could not foil the assault.
Later, in 2006, an RPG-29 capable of firing a tandem charge penetrated the frontal lower underbelly armor of a Challenger 2. While the tank survived, the driver of this war machine lost his foot, and two other crewmen were reportedly injured. The incident did not come to light until 2007, in what was allegedly an attempt at concealing information that suggested the tank was vulnerable to insurgent weapons.
Later that same year, in another incident, a shaped charge from an improvised explosive device (IED) penetrated the vehicle’s underside again, causing injuries to the crew.
The latest and the first combat destruction of the Challenger-2 came just two days after Kyiv had released a video showcasing the capabilities of the weapon system, with one operator describing it: “This tank is like a sniper rifle.”
The footage of the destruction paints a gloomy image while also giving viewers a glimpse of the tank’s endurance capabilities. The Challenger 2 was completely engulfed in flames, but it was clear that the turret was still attached to the hull. This information reveals that even though the tank was rendered inoperable, its structural integrity was mainly retained.
First introduced in the 1990s and subjected to continuous upgrades, the Challenger has proven its mettle in operations across different conflict areas. This main battle tank is engineered to outmatch any adversary, boasting cutting-edge “Chobham” layered armor, modern optical systems, and the formidable L30 120mm rifled main armament.
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