In Dorset, soldiers command British tanks during the Ukraine War

A man dressed for battle scans the horizon

Britain was the first nation to promise Ukraine modern Western battle tanks. Currently, Ukrainian soldiers are learning how to use them in the UK.

Some people, like Sasha, are combat seasoned.

He is a combatant in eastern Ukraine. However, he is exchanging his outdated Russian T-80 tank for a Challenger 2 from the British Army.

Up until a few months ago, his friend Grisha was merely a tractor driver.

Now that they are both learning to drive a 60,000 tonne tank, which is much heavier and more advanced than anything they have ever experienced before.

The Challenger 2 tank from the British Army may be over 20 years old, but Sasha and Grisha consider it to be a vast improvement over Ukraine's older and lighter Soviet-era tanks.

Sasha gushes about the car's maneuverability, suspension, and ease of engine access. A driver's mechanic is also a driver.

But he particularly appreciates that there is a very British piece of equipment inside to heat the water for cups of tea. His old tank, he claims, lacked such creature comforts. Grisha is concentrated on their primary goal.

He claims that Challenger 2 tanks from the West are precisely the kind of equipment Ukraine needs to win this conflict.

A man in army gear looks into the horizon
According to Sasha, Ukraine needs these weapons.

Only 14 Challenger 2s are being given to Ukraine by the UK. However, other countries are now providing Ukraine with Western main battle tanks, following the example set by the UK.

Although it is still unknown how many will be delivered or when they will arrive, at least 11 countries have now made a similar commitment. Some countries have declined to talk about numbers.

Sasha and Grisha are two soldiers who have spent the last few weeks at a British Army base in Dorset operating training vehicles rather than the actual vehicles that will be sent to Ukraine.

Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, and General Sir Patrick Sanders, the Army chief, were among the dignitaries who visited them to learn how they were doing.

Mr Wallace says it's not just about learning to drive and fire the Challenger, but how to "weave them together" with armoured vehicles and artillery to create "a combined arms effect".

A group of Ukrainian soldiers stand in front of a Ukrainian flag
Ukrainian soldiers and their British instructors are joined by UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace.

Or, how to employ them in offensive operations to retake ground from Russia.

On top of a Challenger, Mr. Wallace smiles for the camera with appreciative Ukrainian soldiers while pointing to the horizon and saying, "Crimea that way!".

In what appears to be a jab at President Putin's most recent address, he quips that it provides more motivation than "a two-hour speech.".

The UK is also giving Ukraine 20 Bulldog armored troop carriers and 30 SA-90 self-propelled artillery guns in addition to the 14 Challenger tanks.

When we visit, Ukrainian soldiers are already using tools and wrenches, demonstrating their rapid learning of how to maintain them.

Lance Corporal Zach Reid of the King's Royal Hussars, one of their British instructors, claims the Ukrainians have demonstrated they are "very bright, with technical skills which make it easy to instruct.".

With its heavier armor, night sights, and thermal imaging, the Challenger 2's arrival, in his opinion, could be a "game changer.". The same is rare in Russian tanks.

There are 227 Challenger 2 tanks available to the British Army. Less than half of those people are actually combat-ready. Some vehicles from the late 1990s may have been cannibalized for parts that are no longer produced.

However, Ben Wallace indicates that he has more to send. General Sir Patrick Sanders, the commander of the Army, has acknowledged that the British Army has been "temporarily weakened" by the deployment of just 14 tanks.

Mr. Wallace is personally requesting more funding from the Treasury. He points out that, following Russia's invasion, 20 of the 30 NATO members have committed to raising their defense spending. Britain hasn't up until now.

But Mr. Wallace's top priority right now is to support Ukraine in winning this conflict, even if that means pillaging his own supplies and stocks. He responds, "I'd be open to giving more if we think that's the right thing to do," in response to the question of whether Ukraine could receive more British-made tanks.

A man hols ear muffs over his ears as he gets out of a tank
Prior to going back to Ukraine, the soldiers will train over the coming weeks.

In the coming weeks, Sasha and Grisha will continue their training, which will include learning how to use the Challenger 2's 155-millimeter gun.

The tanks they employ are being equipped for combat in other places, including the replacement of communications systems.

There will be additional logistical difficulties in getting them to Ukraine. For air transportation to Poland, they are too big and heavy. However, there is a sense of urgency to move them forward in time for the anticipated Ukrainian spring offensive.

The first Western country to pledge main battle tanks to Ukraine was Britain. It desires to witness the entrance of their tanks into combat first.

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