A battlefield video circulating on social media overnight showed the destruction of a British Challenger 2 from a mine and Russian drone in Ukraine, which would be the first time one of the tanks has been destroyed in combat, APA reports citing the Guardian.
At the beginning of the clip, filmed from a car involved in the fighting, the Challenger 2 with its distinctive gun barrel is seen shrouded in thick, grey smoke after the battlefield incident.
There was no confirmation of the location but it is likely to have been on the southern Zaporizhzhia front, where the brigade of which the tanks are a part has been reported to be fighting.
A typical Challenger 2 crew is made up of four, and the tank’s ammunition is stored in separate compartments, unlike Russian equivalents, to try to prevent it from exploding if it takes a direct hit. But in this case it was a fuel tank that was affected.
On Sunday, Ukraine’s armed forces released a video of a tank soldier praising the Challenger 2, describing it as more resilient than Soviet equivalents, in which “you don’t stand much of a chance if you get hit”. The British tank, by contrast “can withstand several hits”, he said.
No Challenger 2 has been lost in combat since it was first deployed in 1994, although one was destroyed in a friendly-fire incident in Iraq in 2003. The record is partly because of the relatively small numbers built and their infrequent deployment.
Britain gave 14 of the tanks to Ukraine earlier this year as part of a European effort to provide western heavy armour. It is not clear if they have been widely used on the frontline in the past couple of weeks.
The tanks were attached to Ukraine’s 82nd air assault brigade, and Kyiv had hoped to keep them in reserve to exploit any frontline breakthrough. The brigade was thrown into battle in August on the key Zaporizhzhia front around Robotyne, where Ukraine said over the weekend it had breached the first Russian defensive line.
Britain has 213 Challenger 2 tanks remaining after donating the 14 to Ukraine, although MPs were told in March that 157 were available for operations. The only other country to use the tanks is Oman.
The UK did not comment publicly, although the Ministry of Defence does not dispute that the video shows a Challenger 2 and it privately accepts that one of the British tanks was lost.