Updated on 1/17/2023 5:21 PM
- Great Britain decided to be the first country to deliver Western-style main battle tanks to Ukraine.
- 14 “Challenger 2” tanks must be sent east as soon as possible.
- The decision could also have an impact on German weapons deliveries.
This text contains a classification of current events, which, in addition to data and facts, also includes the assessments of Lukas Weyell and, if necessary, experts. Know the different types of journalistic texts.
For a long time, the Chancellor’s office said that it wanted to avoid an escalation of the war, and therefore no “Western-style” tanks should be delivered to Ukraine. Again and again warnings were given against the German going it alone. Everything must be done in consultation with European partners. Then-French President Emmanuel Macron went ahead and pledged infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine in early January. Germany and the US followed suit and announced a few days later that they also wanted to supply infantry fighting vehicles.
Britain is now taking the next step and is supplying the “Challenger 2” main battle tanks. 14 pieces must be delivered as soon as possible, crew training must begin immediately. The urgency is understandable in the context of further mobilizations in Russia and an expected spring offensive by the Russian army.
What does the delivery mean for the course of the war and does it mean that Germany will also deliver “Leopard” type main battle tanks?
Superior to Soviet-made tanks
Experts agree on one thing: the “Challenger 2” is clearly superior to Soviet T-series models. T-72 tanks, in particular, are vulnerable to sensitive attacks on ammunition stores, which will blow up the entire tank and make the turret shoot like a surprise box into a fireball.
This usually ends fatally for the crew. Team protection in the British “Challenger 2”, on the other hand, is much better, as Rafael Loss, from the European Council on Foreign Relations, explains to “Spiegel”.
In direct comparison with the tanks that Ukraine has used so far, the British Main Battle Tank is clearly better equipped. According to experts, it is also clearly superior to many outdated T-62s in the Russian army and can effectively fight them. The British Army still claims the tank is undefeated in combat. It was used in the Iraq war against Soviet T-series tanks, among other things, and is said to have never been completely destroyed, save for an accidental shoot down by its own troops.
Your opinion is requested
Survey: Answer some questions about the quality of our content
1 day ago
Technically partially outdated
On the other hand, the tank is outdated in some respects, which is why it will soon be replaced by the “Challenger 3” in the British army. Thus, the rifled gun is less effective than the smooth gun of the “Leopard 2” or the American “Abrams”.
Shell penetration suffers from this, but according to experts it should be sufficient against most Russian tanks. “Challenger 2” also lacks the so-called “active protection measures at a distance”, that is, defensive weapons that destroy or distract incoming projectiles before they reach the target.
Compared to the “Leopard 2”, the British counterpart is also not particularly fast. It only reaches 59 km/h, compared to over 70 km/h for the fastest German feline. Off-road should be only 40 km/h. Maintenance and logistics can also become an issue. For example, Western tanks are significantly more complex in terms of maintenance and ammunition compared to their Soviet counterparts. Spare parts must first be supplied from abroad. Therefore, the “Panzerhaubitze 2000” is currently being repaired in Lithuania and soon also in Slovakia.
Federal government under pressure: “It is clear that the pressure on Germany is increasing”
For the federal government, the delivery of British main battle tanks could become an incentive for its own arms deliveries. As well as the French government’s advance in terms of armored personnel carriers, other Western countries could now follow suit and supply main battle tanks as well.
Western allies want to meet in Ramstein next Friday and discuss how to proceed. According to Tagesschau, SPD leader Lars Klingbeil had signaled in advance that the delivery of “Leopard 2” tanks could no longer be ruled out. There are no red lines, the SPD politician said on Monday.
Gustav Meibauer of Radbout University in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, sees the federal government under pressure to act. “Of course, pressure is mounting on Germany to now allow deliveries of Leopard 2 from European countries and provide appropriate support,” the foreign policy expert told our editorial team.
Germany not only failed to lead, but also to adequately prepare for the situation. “The federal government tries to sell this as prudent, but fails both because of its continued catastrophic political communication – also from within the parliamentary groups – and because of the already stagnant image of a hesitant, even anxious and motivated policy, which lacks any strategy or vision for the conflict in Ukraine appears to be slipping away.”
About the specialist:
Gustav Meibauer is Assistant Professor of International Relations at Radboud University in Nijmegen, Netherlands. He specializes in foreign policy decision-making processes and the establishment of no-fly zones in crisis areas.
- Conversation with Gustav Meibauer
- sueddeutsche.de: The British are advancing
- spiegel.de: This is how valuable Challenger 2 tanks are for Ukraine
- tagesschau.de: Klingbeil: Sign of Ramstein for Ukraine