The British Army is left with only 157 Challenger 2 tanks ready to undertake operations within 30 days, fueling concerns that its operational capability might have been reduced by nearly a third.
The number was disclosed during a UK Defence Committee meeting held earlier this week to discuss the country’s response to Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
The service earlier reported 227 Challenger 2 tanks in its inventory, but it did not say how many are operationally ready.
Providing Ukraine with 14 Challenger 2s taken directly from the operational fleet would further affect the capability of the British Army to respond to threats on its territory.
UK Chief of the General Staff Patrick Sanders admitted that the move might leave the service “temporarily weaker,” but it would help ensure that the UK and its allies are safe from threats.
Change of Plans
In 2021, it was revealed that 148 of the UK’s Challenger 2 tanks would be upgraded to a Challenger 3 variant to defend against more sophisticated threats.
The upgraded variant features active protection systems, improved sensors and optics, and a new turret.
It will also be equipped with Rheinmetall’s L55A1 120-millimeter smoothbore gun for added lethality.
However, UK Secretary of State of Defence Ben Wallace said that more than 148 tanks could be upgraded in light of the Russia-Ukraine war.
The conflict has seen the use of tank countermeasures such as loitering munitions, prompting the UK defense ministry to reconsider its plans.
Wallace did not specify how many more Challenger tanks could be upgraded to the Challenger 3 variant, but reports suggest that nine more could join the modernized fleet.