18 Challenger 2 tanks of ‘A’ Squadron (Prince Philip’s Squadron) of the Queen’s Royal Hussars Regiment will support the operations of the Polish 21st Motorized Rifle Brigade of the 18th Mechanized Division. The Main Battle Tanks, previously stationed at NATO Forward Holding Base, Sennelager, Germany were deployed to Eastern Flank amid the tensions caused by the war in Ukraine and potential threats to the NATO member states. The Polish Ministry of Defense announced the joint effort on Twitter but there has been more comment from the UK’s Ministry of Defence, though the move has been under consideration since the spring.
The decision to move Challenger MBTs was widely discussed due to the transfer of Polish T-72M1s to Ukraine. Over 250 vehicles were removed from stockpiles, drawing down the Polish armored fleet by 30 percent. The replacement of those T-72 tanks is on the way, but it will take time until the first M1A2 SEP v3 Abrams delivery by General Dynamics. This creates a gap in Polish defense capabilities that needs to be filled by other NATO states. In this case, the British armored formation will reinforce and strengthen the Polish division stationed in Eastern Poland.
The single Challenger 2 squadron may seem to be an insufficient temporarily replacement for the 250 transferred T-72s, however, quality is the key factor when talking about armor. British Challenger 2 tanks were introduced into service in 1998, two decades after Polish T-72s. They are equipped with a 120-millimeter (4.7 in) L30A1 tank gun which is equipped with Thermal Observation and Gunnery Sight II (TOGS II) while the commander’s SAGEM VS 580-10 gyrostabilized sight with a laser rangefinder provides a panoramic view of the battlefield. Challenger’s high mobility and situation awareness advantage of the crew makes the tank a very lethal platform.
The British component will spend some time in Poland. Little is known about additional squadrons joining the 18th Mechanized Division in the future, however, other British weapons systems including Sky Sabre air defense systems are deployed in Poland. Sending Challenger tanks to Europe’s Eastern Flank proves the UK’s commitment to NATO’s security and the protection of its allies.