Ukraine’s Challenger 2 Tanks Could Counterattack Around Bakhmut


The first ex-British Challenger 2 tanks have arrived in Ukraine, and might be ready for combat.

At least one group of analysts believes the tanks could roll into action around Bakhmut, in order to relieve pressure on the Ukrainian garrison of that besieged city in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region. Perhaps as part of a wider counteroffensive.

There are just two main roads into Bakhmut from Ukrainian-controlled territory to the west. Both roads are under fire from Russian artillery and rockets. “We expect that the primary goal of the Ukrainian counteroffensive will be to unblock Bakhmut,” the analysts at the independent Conflict Intelligence Team stated.


The United Kingdom pledged an initial 14 of the 69-ton, four-person tanks with their 120-millimeter rifled guns, precise optics and thick armor. Enough for one company.

The U.K. government announced the tank transfer in January. Within weeks, crews from the Ukrainian 25th and 80th Air Assault Brigades were in the United Kingdom for training.

The Ukrainians love their new rides. “It’s a diamond,” one air-assault tanker said in a short documentary the U.K. defense ministry produced. “It’s a beast.”

By mid-March, the first group of crews was ready. The tanks themselves arrived in Ukraine in late March. “These fantastic machines will soon begin their combat missions,” Ukrainian defense minister Oleksii Reznikov tweeted on Tuesday.

CIT agreed. The Challenger 2s and other newly-arrived Western-made vehicles “may be used in combat in the nearest future.”

Signs point to a Bakhmut counterattack. For starters, it’s where Ukrainian forces are in the most danger. “The Ukrainian group of troops there is still in great danger since the ongoing muddy season and the terrain of this region are now playing into the hands of pro-Russian forces,” CIT explained. “The town is in a lowland, so it is convenient to advance and strike the supply routes.”

Moreover, one of the two units that have sent crews to train on the Challenger 2—the 80th Air Assault Brigade—is holding a position just a few miles north of Bakhmut, from where it could attack Russian forces firing on the northern road into the ruined city.

It’s possible, of course, that the 25th Air Assault Brigade rather than its sister 80th Brigade got that first consignment of Challenger 2s. The 25th is deployed 40 miles north of Bakhmut and might not be in any position to help the city’s garrison.

If there’s another catch, it’s the weather. The winter freeze is thawing. The ground practically is quicksand. Even tanks can get mired.

But the ground grows firmer every day. The Challenger 2s could be out there, somewhere in the woods near Bakhmut, their crews waiting for orders to advance.

The enemy gets a vote, of course. And one Russian crewman of a T-90 tank told state media he has trained to fight Ukraine’s Challenger 2s. “We are 100-percent ready,” he said. “We have studied the technological characteristics of these machines—where they could be struck.”

It’s worth noting, however, that the Ukrainians surely also know where to strike a T-90 with a Challenger 2’s powerful gun. That is, anywhere.


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