‘Marvellous’: Western Tanks Roll Into Ukraine

challenger tanks ukraine
Ukraine Govt / Twitter

Western tanks are now arriving in Ukraine in larger numbers, including consignments of British Challenger 2 and German Leopard 2 Main Battle Tanks this week, donations from NATO members for the fight against the Russian Army.

The first tranche of British-made Challenger 2 tanks have arrived in Ukraine, their government announced, celebrating the arrival of the advanced fighting machines with social media posts. Sitting in the driver’s seat of one Challenger 2, Ukraine’s on-again, off-again defence minister Oleksii Reznikov thanked the United Kingdom for the donation.

“Marvellous! Ben… it’s very good stuff. Thank you very much from Ukraine to the United Kingdom”, said Reznikov, addressing Ben Wallace, the British minister of Defence whose absolute dedication to aiding Ukraine saw him become one of the only British government ministers survive the collapse of the Boris Johnson era in-post.

While the United Kingdom said it would be sending 14 Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine, just three appear in the video, suggesting further deliveries will follow.

Britain was the first western country to promise top-tier tanks to Ukraine, but the delivery comes amid arrivals of other armour in Ukraine. German Leopard 2 tanks have also rolled into Ukraine this week, another well regarded piece of armour which like the British Challenger is a product of the late Cold War and specifically designed to fight Russian tanks in Europe.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz confirmed 18 German tanks had arrived in Ukraine on Monday, having been handed over at the border, Die Welt reported.

While these two models are the first main battle tanks to arrive in Ukraine from the West, other lighter armour has already been deployed. In a separate communication, the Ukrainians also noted the arrival of Stryker AFV and Cougar MRAP vehicles from the United States, and Marder IFVs from Germany.

The tracked Marders are having a renaissance of sorts at the moment, alongside 40 vehicles going to Ukraine, the German military is also re-activating other 1970s-era Marders from storage for their own use, as the modern Puma armoured vehicles meant to replace them have proven prone to breaking down.

Some European nations have also sent non-Western armour to Ukraine, including the Czech Republic which sent Soviet-made tanks left over from the Communist era to Ukraine to use against the Russian invasion.

The announcements came as the Ukrainian tank crews who have been training in the United Kingdom for several weeks to operate the British armour returned home, having completed their programme. Announcing the completion of the programme to teach the Ukrainians “how to operate and fight with the tanks”, the British officer in command of the training said of his students: “We have all been hugely impressed with the level of competence displayed and have no doubt that our friends will use the Challenger 2 tanks most effectively in the battles to come as they fight to defend their homeland.”

A Ukrainian tank commander who was on the course and has now returned to Ukraine said, the Ministry of Defence reported: “I fight for my future, for future of my country and for future of my family. We will fight. This tank for us is like a diamond, I think it is the best tank in the world.”

Speaking in a Ministry of Defence-produced documentary about the training process, General Sir Patrick Sanders, the Chief of the General Staff of the British Army, remarked on the unusual nature of the British government donating tanks to Ukraine. He said: “I can’t think of another time when we’ve given tanks to an ally. But nor can I think of a time when an ally or a friend needs tanks as much as Ukraine does.”

Of course, despite the General’s claim the United Kingdom has given tanks to allies several times in the past, most notably — and ironically enough, perhaps — to Russia. The United Kingdom sent dozens of ‘Mark V’ great-war-era tanks more or less directly from the mud of the Western Front trenches to Russian forces trying to resist the Red Army during the Russian revolution from 1919. Many of these tanks were subsequently captured by the Reds, used in the Communist army, and even eventually ended up being installed in town squares as war memorials.

Huge quantities of British tanks make domestically and in Canada were supplied to Red Russia during the Second World War to help the country hit back against Nazi Germany. A Parliamentary answer given in April 1946 put the level of British Empire military support to Stalin from 1941 at a colossal 5,218 tanks (“shipped with ammunition”), 4,282 aircraft, 4,020 lorries, 1,721 motorcycles, and 1,474 radar sets.


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