The Prime Minister is set to accelerate the UK’s diplomatic and military support to Ukraine in the weeks ahead in a bid to push Russia further back and secure a lasting peace. A flurry of UK diplomatic activity will take place across the globe this week after the Prime Minister directed senior ministers to drive international action as they approach the first anniversary of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in late February. UK defence and security 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. The Prime Minister has already committed to match or exceed the UK’s defence support for Ukraine in 2023 and he instructed ministers and officials this week to ensure they are being proactive as possible across the full spectrum of support.
Sending Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine is the start of a gear change in the UK’s support. 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. The Defence Secretary will set out further details of this support in the House of Commons. The Prime Minister has tasked the Defence Secretary with bringing together European allies to ensure the surge of global military support is as strategic and coordinated as possible. The Defence Secretary will travel to Estonia and Germany this week to work with NATO allies and other international partners to this end. The UK will begin training the Ukrainian Armed Forces to use 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 FV4034 Challenger 2 (MoD designation “CR2”) is a third generation British main battle tank (MBT) in service with the armies of the United Kingdom and Oman. It was designed and built by the British company Vickers Defence Systems, now known as BAE Systems Land & Armaments. The Challenger 2 is an extensive redesign of the Challenger 1. Although the hull and automotive components seem similar, they are of a newer design than for the Challenger 1 and only around 3% of components are interchangeable. The Challenger 2 is equipped with a 120-millimetre (4.7 in) 55-calibre long L30A1 tank gun, the successor to the L11 gun used on the Chieftain and Challenger 1. Uniquely among NATO main battle tank guns, the L30A1 is rifled, because the British Army continues to place a premium on the use of high-explosive squash head (HESH) rounds in addition to armour-piercing fin-stabilised discarding-sabot rounds. The Challenger 2 is also armed with a L94A1 EX-34 7.62 mm chain gun and a 7.62 mm L37A2 (GPMG) machine gun. Fifty main armament rounds and 4,200 rounds of 7.62 mm ammunition are carried.
The AS-90 (“Artillery System for the 1990s”), known officially as Gun Equipment 155 mm L131, is an armoured self-propelled artillery weapon used by the British Army. It can fire standard charges up to 24.9 km (15.5 mi) using 39-calibre long barrel and 30 km (19 mi) with 52-caliber long barrel. The maximum rate of fire is 3 rounds in 10 seconds (burst); 6 per minute for 3 minutes (intense); and 2 per minute for 60 minutes (sustained). The AS-90 uses a conforming 39 calibre barrel which fires the L15 unassisted projectile out to a range of 24.7 km. However, this was a new design of ordnance using a split sliding block breech with Crossley obturation, instead of the more usual screw breech, to permit bagged charges (no metal cartridge cases). The breech mechanism has a primer magazine holding 18 primers. The standard ammunition is that designed for FH-70 (L15 HE and associated propelling charges) although in training the less effective but cheaper M107 with Green and White propelling charges is used. The gun can be brought into action fully closed down; the barrel can be clamped and unclamped from within the vehicle.