A British Challenger II tank, probably the strongest and most impenetrable in the world, has been badly damaged for the first time ever......
Challenger 2 tank hit in roadside blast
By Martin Beckford
A heavily armoured British tank has been badly damaged for the first time ever by a roadside bomb in Iraq.
The Challenger 2, a 62-ton vehicle which is probably the best-protected tank in the world, was hit by the device during a routine patrol in Basra. Its driver is thought to have lost both legs during the attack and has been flown back to Britain for medical treatment, while another member of the crew suffered minor injuries.
The attack on the tank was followed by the death of another British soldier today in Basra. The soldier from the 2nd Battalion The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment was killed by small arms fire while providing top cover protection for a Warrior armoured vehicle on a routine patrol in the Al Ashar district of central Basra.
The Challenger 2 was on patrol in the Hyall Shuala area of western Basra when it was struck by the roadside bomb on April 6, the day after four British soldiers were killed when their Warrior armoured vehicle was blown up.
It was damaged by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) laid by insurgents, leaving its driver critically wounded and causing minor injuries to another member of the crew.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman confirmed last night: “This was the first successful attack on a Challenger 2, it’s the first bomb to have damaged it.
“A soldier was very seriously injured. He has been returned to the UK and is receiving treatment. We won’t comment on his injuries.
“Of the other three crew, one received minor injuries.”
But the MoD denied the tank had been destroyed and insisted it would return to service. The spokesman said: “The vehicle wasn’t destroyed. It is being repaired.”
He also denied that the Challenger 2, the British Army’s main battle tank, had been damaged by a new type of “shaped charge” IED, which concentrates the force of an explosion.
The spokesman said: “It is not some sort of escalation. We would dispute the fact that it’s a new bomb.
“It was an improved explosive device and the technology is at least 50 or 60 years old.” He added: “No one has ever said the Challenger 2 tank is inpenetrable. We’ve been at pains to point out a big enough bomb will take out any vehicle. A big enough bomb will go through any armour.”
But Professor Michael Clarke, of the Defence Studies department at King’s College London, claimed the damage to the Challenger 2 was “worrying” as its armour is usually “inviolable”.
He said: “Most of the things on a battlefield are not much of a threat to a tank, usually.
“This is worrying, because if there are many of these sorts of very heavy penetrative IEDs around in the area then no vehicle is safe.”
In 2003, two British soldiers in a Challenger 2 were killed in a “friendly fire” incident when their vehicle was hit by shells from another one of the tanks.
An investigation by the Army Prosecuting Authority later ruled that no one acted negligently during the incident in Iraq, which left Corporal Stephen Allbutt and Trooper David Clarke of The Queen’s Royal Lancers dead as well as severely injuring two other soliders.