First Ever Challenger 2 Lost to Enemy Fire Reported in Ukraine

Challenger 2

Warzone footage has emerged on social media appearing to show a British-made Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank in flames, which may be the first loss of the platform to enemy fire in its 30-year combat history.

A Challenger 2 tank has reportedly been destroyed in fighting near Robotyne, Ukraine. While the combat footage is short in duration and obscured by smoke, the distinctive outline of the British-built tank is partially visible, and based on this several outlets including Forbes and the UK Defence Journal say the video makes it a “confirmed loss”.

If true, the destruction of the MBT is the first loss of a Challenger 2 to enemy action in its history, a successful track record of combat that had it previously hailed as an example of “undefeated” armour. Indeed, the 1990s tank with its design focus on very long-range engagements — rather than close-up fighting, as per Russian-designed armour — has long been considered one of the best in the world.

Designed in the late Cold War to face off against Russian armour in Central Europe, the Challenger II has been previously deployed in Kosovo, Bosnia, and Iraq. Only one has ever been destroyed in a warzone until now, and that was by friendly fire in Iraq in 2003.

The United Kingdom has donated 14 Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine, which have been used to equip Ukrainian brigades alongside over 90 German-made Leopard tanks donated by a group of NATO nations. While headlines of mounting Leopard tank losses characterised the early weeks of the belated counteroffensive, the Challenger 2 group were reportedly withheld to support Ukraine’s most ‘elite‘ fighting force, the 82nd Air Assault Brigade.

That the 82nd was committed with its tanks was seen as a signal the main thrust of the counteroffensive was being launched, as this formation was said to be the force exploiting a breakthrough achieved by other units.

Although the Challenger was the first Western armour to be donated to Ukraine, it is among the last to appear in combat. When the first Challenger 2 in Ukrainian service was spotted it was with special adaptations made by its new owners, including what was mockingly called at the start of the war when applied to Russian armour a ‘cope cage’. The improvised armour, which has characteristics of bar or slat armour with a roof cage is intended to detonate rocket-propelled grenades early and catch IED-laden drones. The effectiveness of the modifications is hotly debated.

The Ukrainians have been effusive with praise for the Challenger 2, leaning into its design priorities, such as superior optics and a more accurate than average main gun for long-range engagements, and method of ammunition storage which directs accidental or combat-caused explosions outside, rather than inside toward the crew. In a video published by the Ukrainian Defence Ministry on Sunday, Ukrainian crews praised the “sniper rifle” Challenger 2, relating its advantages over Russian-built machines.

The crewman said, per the Ukrainian government’s translation: “It undoubtedly set a world record when it hit a T-55 from a distance of more than five kilometres [3+miles]… Its advantage is that it has a long range, it is very precise. It is a machine designed to operate at a long distance and [engage other tanks]. There is no such thing in our tanks which are meant for engaging infantry] with fragmentation shells.”

He praised the survivability for the crew of losing a Challenger 2 compared to Soviet-designed tanks, saying in Russian designs a hit means the ammunition stowed aboard instantly cooks off, killing those aboard.


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