Longest Tank Kill In History

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One thing that is undeniably “British” is the love of a good underdog story and British military history is filled with examples of just that. The Harrier in the Falklands. The Swordfish bomber attack on Taranto harbour. The evacuation of Dunkirk. That’s to name but a few. In 1991 on the eve of the ground war to liberate Kuwait and destroy Iraq’s mighty army one of the underdogs was certainly the British Challenger tank.

221 Challenger tanks were eventually deployed to Saudia Arabia to liberate Kuwait and operated under the guise of the 1st (UK) Armoured Division supporting the US Army’s VII Corps. As the tanks deployed there were worried muffles in the Ministry of Defence and amongst military analysts about how well they would perform especially in the face of Iraqi armoured forces who were superior in number and had extensive tank vs tank combat experience following the Iran-Iraq War.

The reason for this is that the Challenger had developed quite an unenviable reputation at the start of the 1990s. In service it had displayed very poor reliability and this was the source of much frustration amongst crews and commanders. Even worse however was the stigma of having finished last in the prestigious Canadian Army Trophy tank competition held in West Germany in 1987 against tanks and crews from all over NATO. Despite the MoD highlighting several key factors for this poor performance the stigma remained and so when the Challenger deployed to the Gulf it had a lot to prove.

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Prove itself it did. During the course of the 100 hour ground war the Challenger had completely reversed its reliability problems and achieved an enviable serviceability record; a testament to the hard work and dedication of the support crews who keep these vehicles going. In combat it was the superior of anything it came up against and by the end of the three day offensive Challengers accounted for some 200 Iraqi tanks destroyed or captured along with numerous armoured and ‘soft’ vehicles.

During the offensive one Challenger finally laid to rest the doubts anyone had over the capability of the type with a single shot. That shot was made over a staggering range of 5,100m (3 miles) with a Depleted Uranium (DU) round – the longest confirmed tank kill in history!

The Minister of State for the Armed Forces, Ian Stewart, said after the poor showing of the Challenger at the Canadian Army Trophy in 1987;

I do not believe that the performance of tanks in the artificial circumstances of a competition, such as the recent Canadian Army Trophy, is a proper indication of their capability in war.

Less than four years later he was proven right.

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10 responses to “Longest Tank Kill In History

  1. its a known fact that we in the tank regiments never get enough practice on the firing range. its only when we go into action that they let us have the shells to practice with.
    i spent 9 years in the tank regiment and only went on the ranges two or three times.
    but once we get operational we are the best

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The gun on that tank is undeniably one of the most accurate – if not the most accurate – MBT gun in the modern day. But even so, a Leopard 2A6 or M1A2 Abrams holds great advantages. None are the best – it’s only how you use them.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It wasn’t a DU round that was used but APFSDS. The elipse that had displaced was manually laid onto the target and struck at the centre of the observed mass on the turret ring of the T62.
    The tank was 11B SCOTS DG.

    Like

  4. In a misquote of the famous saying, what we have here are “lions fed by donkeys”.

    There is no doubt that the parsimonious issue of practice shells doesn’t contribute to operational effectiveness but another couple of factors also come into play in the “improvement” of the Challenger:

    1) The MoD assessment of poor performance during the 1987 competition had more than a whiff of whitewash when it came to procurement decisions and other “savings” demanded by the Fools and Knaves in the Treasury.

    2) Although a “too little, too late” improvement programme kicked off, by the time Feb 1991 came, around the situation had changed, a bit anyway.

    3) If you are anywhere in Britain’s Armed Forces, unless you make do and mend, you are doomed. The ingenuity brought on by continued shortages and breakdowns meant the crews and worskshops had worked out for themselves which shortcuts could afford to be taken and which couldn’t. When something broke, there was usually a creative way around it, to the eternal praise of those fixing it and the eternal shame of those causing it.

    Lord knows I have no great truck with nostalgia but the 20 years of Government after World War 2 at least meant that those in the precursors to the MoD at least understood the consequences at the front, for poor decision making in Government. We ask our Armed Forces to put themselves in harm’s way, so we don’t have to be. Spokesmen saying “well, they signed up for it” is just no defence for negligent procurement and supply.

    In my view, no one in the MoD or the Treasury should have anything to do with a decision affecting the front line until they have either served or been seconded there to appreciate for themselves. There is a litany of this in modern times both in equipment and in logistics:
    * Body Armour (or rather, the lack of it)
    * the original SA80 personal weapon
    * WMIK Land Rovers and their KNOWN vulnerabilities to IEDs
    * no cuts in the battlefield helicopter budget

    …it just goes on.

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    • totally agree,scrapping nimrod and having to ask other people to find Russian sub off our coast,scrapping harrier and having nothing to put on new carriers(biggest ships RN as ever had but cannot except conventional a/c) until 2023,buying nimrod replacement that is not compatible with our flight refuelling system so having to ask other people to flight refuel them, closing tank factory putting all our a/c heavy lift on one airfield, having only 7 front line sqdns and according to some estimates spending more on overseas aid(ring fenced) by 2020 than armed forces.

      Like

  5. Pingback: Defence of the Realm – Army | Defence of the Realm

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