The United Kingdom has promised to send Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine, UK prime minister Rishi Sunak confirmed in a call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky.
During the call on Saturday, Sunak confirmed up to 14 tanks could be sent to Ukraine, as well as some 30 AS90 self-propelled guns.
According to the UK defense ministry, officials believe “a window has opened up where Russia is on the backfoot due to resupply issues and plummeting morale.”
“The prime minister is therefore encouraging allies to deploy their planned support for 2023 as soon as possible to have maximum impact.”
A squadron of 14 tanks will go into the country in the coming weeks after the prime minister told president Zelenskyy that the UK would provide additional support to aid Ukraine’s land war.
Around 30 AS90s, which are large, self-propelled guns, operated by five gunners, are expected to follow, a defense ministry statement read.
“With NATO-style tanks, we will move towards victory much faster.
Grateful to His Majesty’s Cabinet, especially to my colleague Ben Wallace,” Ukrainian defense minister Oleksii Reznikov said.
Ukrainian soldiers are expected to begin training on the tanks and guns in the coming days, as part of wider UK efforts which have seen thousands of Ukrainian troops trained in the UK over the last six months.
The prime minister also tasked defense secretary Ben Wallace with bringing together European allies to ensure the surge of global military support is as strategic and coordinated as possible. The defense secretary will travel to Estonia and Germany this week to work with NATO allies and other international partners to this end.
The UK’s announcement is bound to put pressure on Germany to either send or approve the transfer by other countries of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine. Earlier this week, Poland’s president said the country was ready to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine as part of an international coalition. German officials have repeatedly said that Germany would not make unilateral decisions on sending main battle tanks to Ukraine, implying they would coordinate their moves with the United States and other allies.
While the transfer of Challenger 2 tanks has been officially confirmed, reports out of the UK have also indicated that a transfer of British Army Apache attack helicopters was on the table. UK daily Mirror quoted an unidentified senior defense source as saying that up to four Apaches would be sent.
The report even identified the helicopters as the Apache AH-64E, the most modern variant of the helicopter, which the UK is still receiving.