UK weighs supply of Challenger tanks to Ukraine

Britain is weighing the merits of supplying Ukraine with tanks to help the country’s armed forces fight a Russian invasion, according to two defense sources familiar with the situation.

If a deal is reached to supply Ukraine with the British Army’s Challenger 2 tanks, it would be the first time a Western country has supplied modern heavy battle tanks to Ukraine.

Other Allies are weighing shipments of Western tanks. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said over the weekend that he was “in talks aimed at creating a broader coalition of countries” to supply Western tanks to Kiev. Jakob Kumoh, an adviser to Polish President Andrzej Duda, said Warsaw is ready to provide “about a dozen” of its German-made Leopard 2 tanks.

Most analysts believe that the Leopard 2 is better suited to Ukraine’s needs than the Challenger, which is operated only by Great Britain and Oman. Thirteen European armies operate the Leopard 2, creating a larger pool of tanks, training and maintenance facilities for Kiev.

Western policy toward sending armored assault vehicles, including tanks, was not centrally coordinated, one Western official said, but formed through bilateral talks between capitals and decisions made by individual countries that had a domino effect.

If the UK were to send Challenger tanks, US M1 Abrams and German-made Leopard tanks would likely follow, the official added.

Britain has committed £2.3bn of military aid to Ukraine and supplied thousands of anti-tank weapons, artillery systems and missiles since Russia launched its full-scale invasion almost a year ago.

No final decision has been made on whether to continue supplying the reservoir, one of the people familiar with the discussions in the UK warned. Concerns remain about the tanks’ complexity and whether the Ukrainian military will be able to operate them.

“There’s no point in sending them something they can’t use,” one of the people said.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz refused to provide Ukraine with Leopard tanks, fearing that it could draw NATO into a war with Russia. He said that Berlin will not act unilaterally.

Last week, France agreed to supply Kiev with an unspecified number of AMKS-10 “tank killer” armored vehicles, which French officials and some analysts describe as a light tank.

A US-led group of about 50 countries providing military aid to Ukraine, including the UK, is due to hold its next meeting on January 20. Any announcements about the delivery of the new equipment could then be made, according to Sky News, which first broke the news of the UK’s potential acquisition of Challenger 2 tanks.

The UK Ministry of Defense declined to comment specifically, but said the government was “committed to matching or exceeding last year’s funding for military aid to Ukraine in 2023 and . . . will continue to build on recent donations with training and further equipment giveaways”.

“To date, we have provided Ukraine with over 200 armored vehicles — including Stormer vehicles armed with Starstreak missiles,” the statement said on Monday.

Downing Street said: “We are not getting into pre-setting what kind of support we can and cannot provide.

“The UK has been leading the supply of equipment and vehicles and has played a supporting role in that regard.”

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