Friday, 3 Feb 2023

UK tanks to cause ‘real problems’ for Russia on Ukrainian frontline

Ukrainian tank appears to destroy Russian tank

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Ukrainian forces could be set to use the British Challenger 2 battle tanks, one of the three most sophisticated combat vehicles in the world, to split the frontline in two, severing communication and supply lines between the occupying forces and causing “Russians real problems”, a prominent military analyst has suggested. Professor Michael Clarke, who has been covering the trajectory of the war in Ukraine extensively since February 24, explained to Express.co.uk that Ukraine could use the main battle tanks to “open up a third front from Zaporizhzhya directly south to the coast”. The move would be devastating for Russian forces as it would “split the land bridge” and “make Crime very vulnerable”.

Professor Clarke said there was now a “serious possibility that the offer [of 10-12 Challenger 2 tanks] will be made and accepted”.

He said the deal could be done either during or ahead of the “Ramstein” meeting of defence ministers on January 20, where Western allies will discuss their military support of Ukraine.

His comments came as an official spokesman of the UK Prime Minister on Wednesday said that the Challenger 2 tanks would be a “game-changing” weapon for Ukraine in the fight against Russia, and that Rishi Sunak had instructed defence minister Ben Wallace to consider sending tanks earlier this week.

Used alongside deadly armoured fighting vehicles, scores of which have been promised to Kyiv in the last week by the US, France and Germany, the Challenger 2 tanks could now prove decisive in breaking the Russian frontline.

Professor Clarke said: “If the Ukrainians had their choice – they may not get that choice depending on how the Russians behave – and if they have the luxury of going first when the weather starts to ease, then my view is they would use [the Challenger 2 tanks] to open up a third front from Zaporizhzhya directly south to the coast, to [the city of] Melitopol.

“That would cut off Crimea, insulate it in quite an important way. It would give the Russians real problems.

“It would actually split the land bridge that the Russians have established in two and make Crimea very vulnerable.

“And it wouldn’t be that difficult to do if they had the tanks and the armoured fighting vehicles.”

The Challenger 2 tanks are one of only three “world-class” tanks capable of destroying their Russian equivalents, alongside the US Abram M1s and the German Leopard 2s.

On Wednesday, Poland confirmed an “international coalition” will send Ukraine a company of Leopard 2 tanks in the near future, though that will only be possible if Germany gives its official approval, which has yet to be confirmed.

Once the Challenger 2s and Leopard 2s are in Ukraine, though, they pose a significant problem for the Russian forces.

Russia’s own T-72 and T-90 tanks do not match up to the NATO-supplied vehicles, Professor Clarke suggested, owing to a shorter cannon range and weaker armour.

Additionally, the Challenger 2 tanks] have “the Chobham Dorchester armour, meaning they can take a direct hit from a [Russian] T-72 and it would still not destroy them”.

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If Ukraine were able to punch a hole through the front line in Zaporizhzhya Oblast, Russian forces would be split in two and liable to be surrounded in both the east and towards Crimea.

Ukrainian forces would also be within roughly 65 miles of the northmost tip of Crimea, while fellow soldiers in Kherson to the west would be within 100 miles.

Troops would then be able to attack the Russian forces in the land corridor above Crimea using a pincer movement, as well as use their proximity to launch considerably more missile attacks on the supply routes in and out of the annexed region.

If Ukraine receives these Challenger 2 and Leopard 2 tanks, especially towards the end of winter before Russia’s next wave of mobilised troops reaches the occupied territory, the defending forces could make considerable strides towards gaining a significant upper hand on the frontlines.

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