Challenger 2: The Tank Putin’s Forces in Ukraine Should Fear


Since the onset of Russia’s invasion more than fifteen months ago, Ukraine has tactfully utilized social media to garner attention and spread awareness throughout the drawn-out conflict. This week, Ukrainian officials took to Twitter to mock a recent intimidation attempt by Moscow.

Russian forces have claimed to use “dragon teeth” barricades throughout occupied territories in Ukraine in an attempt to immobilize main battle tanks (MBTs).

The U.S., Germany, the UK, and other North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) members have pledged to provide Kyiv with advanced armored vehicles to support the country’s defensive efforts against Moscow.

While Russia may be confident that its dragon teeth barricades may hinder the path of Western tanks like the M1 Abrams, Challenger 2, or Leopard, Kyiv has mocked this notion.

In the widely shared video on Twitter, Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense wrote that “If there is such a thing as ‘dragon teeth,’ there must be a ‘dragon dentist.’”

In the clip, a British Challenger MBT can be seen dragging the barricades to the rhythm of the AC/DC song “Highway to Hell.” 

Introducing the Challenger 2:

The Challenger 2 is not the first British MBT to feature its name. During World War II, the A30 Challenger was designed, followed by the Challenger 1, which remained the backbone of the UK’s armored corps until the mid-1990s.

The effort to develop a successor to Challenger 1 dates back to 1986 when Vickers Defense Systems submitted its new MBT proposal to the UK’s Ministry of Defense. Ultimately, Britain opted to pursue production of this domestic tank instead of procuring foreign alternatives like the American M1 Abrams, the French Leclerc, or the West German Leopard 2. The last of the 386 Challenger 2 tanks to enter service with the British Army was delivered in the early 2000s. 

Specs & Capabilities:

The third-generation MBT features non-NATO ammunition and Chobham/Dorchester armor designed to better protect the tank from penetration. Under a 2005 contract, a new smoothbore 120mm gun was developed by Land Systems for the Challenger 2 tanks.

Made from electro-slag refined steel, the Rheinmetall L55 smoothbore gun is also insulated. As detailed by Army Technology, “There is capacity for 50 120mm projectiles, including armour-piercing fin-stabilised discarding sabot (APFSDS), high-explosive squash head (HESH) or smoke rounds. The L30 gun can also fire the depleted uranium (DU) round with a stick charge propellant. With the DU round, the L30 is part of the Charm 3 gun, charge and projectile system.” 

The Kremlin is Worried About the British Tank’s Arrival in Kyiv:

While some analysts don’t believe the Challenger 2s will prove to be as effective in the hands of Ukrainian forces, it is pretty clear that Kyiv will be better off with additional modern tanks than without them.

The Kremlin’s threats toward the British MBT also indicate that Moscow is worried about the Challengers’ arrival. Earlier this year, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov warned that British tanks sent to Kyiv would fail and “burn” at the hands of Russian soldiers. Since Kyiv’s highly anticipated counter-offensive is looming, Moscow will probably pull out all the dragon teeth barricades it can in order to thwart Ukraine’s modernized tank fleet. 

Maya Carlin, a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel. You can follow her on Twitter: @MayaCarlin

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