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DW: Challenger, Leopard, Abrams tanks can make a difference in Ukraine


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Are decisions for Challenger, Leopard, Abrams enough to change the facts on the battlefield? How will Western military aid pay off? The challenges of the Ukrainian army

The time is approaching when the war between Ukraine and Russia will end a year of mostly human casualties, lost territory and a tension that does not seem to subside. During this time, the West has responded with sanctions against the Russian regime and military aid to Ukraine.

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Recently the Western Allies went a step further, after deciding to send heavy tanks to the battlefield. But views on how much help the heavy armor will ultimately provide differ among analysts and the British military.

Analyzes on the subject are hosted by media outlets such as CNN and the BBC. One of the experts asked by the state-owned British network is Ben Barry, a former Brigadier General of the British Army and current member of the International Institute for Military Research (ISS). He states that “tanks are capable of making a difference” but at the same time he expressed the belief that “the commitments of the West so far are unlikely to prove decisive for the war”.

How will Western military aid pay off?

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Britain, Germany, the US and Poland have agreed to send over 100 tanks to Ukraine. It is of course pointed out that it remains unknown when exactly they will arrive in the country. The number is much smaller than what the Ukrainian army had requested. The different statements show the confusion that exists in the aid field. According to yesterday’s statements by the Ukrainian ambassador to France, Vadim Omelchenko, “several Western countries have officially confirmed that they will send 321 tanks to Ukraine.”

In any case, tanks can give Ukraine the security and surprise it needs against Russia. Hamish de Breton Gordon, an armored unit commander, emphasized that a key feature of Western tanks is “their ability to fight at night” unlike most Russian ones.

In addition, the heavy tanks of the West, (Britain – Challenger 2, Germany – Leopard 2, USA – M1 Abrams) are faster than the Russian-made ones, as they have a speed of more than 40 kilometers per hour.

The challenges of the Ukrainian army

But the existence of military equipment alone cannot give victory to the Ukrainian troops.

Western-style tanks are 20 tons heavier than their Russian counterparts, making them unwieldy or unable to cross makeshift bridges. At the same time, the Ukrainians will have to think about how they will transport the fuel for the heavy vehicles or the different missiles and spare parts they need. For example, the British Challenger 2 is no longer in production so spare parts are hard to come by.

Britain, for its part, is trying to reduce as much as possible the impact of the resulting negative data. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak may have announced in mid-January that he will send 14 British Challenger tanks, but he will also send 30 self-propelled artillery guns, armored personnel carriers and drawbridges, as well as wheeled mine clearance vehicles.

At the same time, the British Undersecretary for Defense Alex Chalk expressed the intention that the British Challenger 2 will arrive in Ukraine before the end of March, while he added that until that time the Ukrainian forces will be intensively trained to learn to operate and maintain the vehicles, with the aim of course to speed up the whole process.

Analysts therefore agree that coordination is the most decisive factor. However, such a thing is absolutely in the hands of the Ukrainian forces, which are trying to carry out not only defensive but also offensive operations, with the aim of course of recovering territories.

DW – Zoe Katzagiannakis, London

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