British Army chief felt 'emotional tug' seeing Challenger 2 destroyed in Ukraine

Watch: Army chief says he felt 'emotional tug' seeing destroyed Challenger 2 tank in Ukraine.

The head of the British Army has revealed he felt an "emotional tug" seeing footage of a destroyed UK Challenger 2 burning in Ukraine - the first lost to enemy action.

In the first part of an exclusive interview series with Forces News, Chief of the General Staff General Sir Patrick Sanders said it was likely he had been on board the UK-supplied tank, and said soldiers had a "deep affection" for the vehicles and equipment they operate.

The 62.5-tonne tank, one of 14 given to Ukraine by the UK, was disabled by a mine before being struck by a Russian suicide drone, Western officials said.

All crew members survived, with Gen Sir Patrick hailing the Challenger 2 as the best-protected tank in the world.

The UK is the second largest donor of military aid to Ukraine behind the United States, and the Government has pledged to match or exceed the £2.3bn spent last year in 2023.

General Sir Patrick Sanders told Forces News he felt an "emotional tug" seeing a UK-supplied Challenger 2 destroyed in Ukraine
General Sir Patrick Sanders told Forces News he felt an "emotional tug" seeing a UK-supplied Challenger 2 destroyed in Ukraine (Picture: OSINTtechnical).

When asked what it was like seeing British equipment being used on the frontline in Ukraine, Gen Sir Patrick said: "Having advanced kit is important, if it wasn't we wouldn't seek it, but the key thing to remember - and this is a constant - is how you employ that kit that's the most important.

"We can take a lot of pride in the equipment we've given to the Ukrainians.

"They can't get enough of the AS90s [self-propelled artillery]. The Javelin missiles that we provided in the early stages of the war were absolutely critical in holding back and stopping the Russian advances.

"Of course, we've now seen the first Challengers in action and the Challenger is in many respects one of the most advanced tanks in the world and it's certainly the best protected and you saw that when the first Challenger was lost in action - the crew all got out."

British forces have played a key role in the multinational UK-led training programme of Ukrainian recruits, with 20,000 expected to be trained this year alone.

"We know that it [the training] is incredibly effective because the Ukrainians tell us their best-trained troops are the ones that we train and we know from intelligence intercepts of the Russians that they can tell when they're up against troops trained in the UK," he told Forces News.

The Army chief said the UK was training up to 40% of all Ukrainian military volunteers as part of the programme and there was a constant dialogue with Ukrainian commanders to see what they want to get out of the training.

The Chief of the General Staff, who is set to step down from the role next year, said he thinks in the near future the training needs to shift from "quantitative to qualitative", developing leaders and combined arms.

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