As part of the UK-led NATO Battlegroup, thirty Challenger 2 tanks have recently been out in force on Exercise Winter Camp in Estonia.
The two-week exercise saw soldiers from NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) Battlegroup train in punishingly cold conditions, demonstrating the combined arms capabilities of UK, French, Danish and Estonian forces.
Exercise Winter Camp was the climax of eFP Battlegroup Estonia Rotation 11, led by the King’s Royal Hussars (KRH). Alongside the Challenger 2 tanks, a Danish Leopard 2 tank squadron took part in Exercise Winter Camp.
Since 2017 the UK has deployed an armoured battlegroup equipped with Challenger 2 tanks and Warrior infantry fighting vehicles to Estonia, numbering around 800 to 900 personnel, on rotating six-month tours.
The UK deployment is based in Tapa and is known as Operation Cabrit.
Colonel Dai Bevan, Operation Cabrit Commander, said,
“Exercise Winter Camp has been necessarily demanding and complex. It is the cementing of the eFP Battlegroup’s cold weather credentials. It is what they have been building up to since their arrival in Estonia in September.”
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace visited the eFP in Estonia in January 2023, where he met troops alongside counterparts from European nations to agree further support for Ukraine.
The visit came as the UK announced the most significant package of combat power to date for Ukraine to accelerate their success in expelling Russian forces.
That package included a squadron of Challenger 2 main battle tanks with armoured recovery and repair vehicles.
The Challenger 2 will certainly be a formidable addition to the armoury of the Armed Forces of Ukraine; robustly protected, digitally integrated, and supremely lethal. Lieutenant Colonel Will Hodgkinson, Commanding Officer King’s Royal Hussars
The UK was the first country to donate modern, Western main battle tanks and the Challenger 2 will provide Ukrainian troops with better protection and more accurate firepower.
Ukrainian troops recently arrived in the UK to be trained on how to get the best out of the enhanced capability of the Challenger 2 tanks.
This is part of wider Defence efforts which have already seen 10,000 Ukrainian troops trained in the UK for battle in the last six months, with a further 20,000 Ukrainian soldiers due to follow this year.
Lieutenant Colonel Will Hodgkinson MBE, Commanding Officer King’s Royal Hussars, said:
“This rotation of the eFP Battlegroup has seen 30 Challenger 2 tanks deployed to Estonia. A formidable, genuinely battle-winning, asset, they have been integral to the success of the Battlegroup’s training on Exercise Winter Camp.
“The ability to field three Squadrons of Main Battle Tanks, two of which are equipped with the Challenger 2, has given the eFP Battlegroup a real edge.
“The Challenger 2 will certainly be a formidable addition to the armoury of the Armed Forces of Ukraine; robustly protected, digitally integrated, and supremely lethal.”
The Queen’s Royal Hussars (QRH) will soon take over from the KRH leading the eFP Battlegroup in Estonia.
The QRH is the most senior armoured regiment in the British Army. It also uses the Challenger 2 main battle tank to strike fear into the hearts of the enemy.
While the Challenger 2 remains our most formidable main battle tank, work is well underway to bring in its successor, the Challenger 3.
It was recently announced that the Critical Design Review (CDR) for the Challenger 3 has been approved ahead of schedule.
The CDR means that the design for the tanks has been agreed and that industry partner Rheinmetall BAE Systems Land (RBSL) can now start building the Challenger 3 prototypes.
The work was carried out under an £800M contract awarded to RBSL in 2021 to deliver 148 upgraded, fully digitalised battle tanks to the British Army from 2027.
The fully digitalised tanks will benefit from:
- a new 120mm smoothbore gun which uses the most advanced globally available ammunition
- a new suite of sights providing tank commanders with enhanced day and night targeting abilities
- a new armour solution
- an active protection system
- a turret that can be fitted to the tanks of allies and global partners
- significantly improved mobility through an upgraded engine and new hydrogas suspension
When delivered, Challenger 3 will provide NATO armoured forces with the highest levels of lethality and survivability out to 2040.