Land vehicles

Ukraine: 14 Challenger 2 tanks alone 'won't make a big difference', defence expert says

Watch: Why Challenger 2 tanks are not enough and why Ukraine wants Leopard 2s.

Britain agreeing to send Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine sends a message to the rest of Nato, but the British tanks alone "won't make a big difference", a defence expert has told Forces News.

Ukraine has asked for 300 extra main battle tanks and between 600 and 700 infantry fighting vehicles, Brigadier (Ret'd) Ben Barry told Forces News, to help put together a decisive counter-offensive.

"Fourteen Challenger 2s will make a small difference," he said, "but they won't make a big difference."

"But what the UK is trying to do is to energise Germany and other European nations to send a lot more Leopard 2 tanks," said Brig Barry, a Senior Fellow for Land Warfare at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), a world-leading authority on global security, political risk and military conflict.

A lot has been made of the German-made Leopard 2 tanks, with Poland officially asking Germany if they can send them to Ukraine.

Watch: All you need to know about the Leopard 2 tank.

But why is Ukraine pushing so hard for the Leopard 2s?

Brig Barry says the US is "right" when it says its Abram tanks would be more difficult to send to Ukraine than Leopard 2s.

"There's over 2,000 Leopard 2 tanks in Europe already," he said.

According to the European Council on Foreign Relations, Leopard 2s are used by Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey. 

"There's only a couple of hundred Abrams. There's lots of Abrams in the hands of the US Army, but they're all in the continental USA – which is why Ukraine is so keen to get hold of Leopard 2 tanks."

Brig Barry also said that as the Abrams is powered by a "gas turbine", it uses twice as much fuel as a diesel-driven Challenger or Leopard.

"So, for a battalion of Abrams tanks you need twice as many fuel vehicles," he said. "That's the principal logistic problem."