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Shock and Awe: What British Tanks Were Doing Under the English Channel

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British troops conducted secret drills to deliver their five Challenger tanks to France and back through the Channel Tunnel; the goal was to test if the rail network could withstand a theoretical military conflict with Russia, media reports said.

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The Channel Tunnel was reportedly used by British forces for secretly delivering their five Challenger tanks to France and back during drills, which aimed to test the rail network to see how it responded in the event of a potential military conflict between London and Moscow.

Commenting on this, expert Alexander Khrolenko of the International Information Agency Rossiya Segodnya wondered why British tank crew members had decided to grapple with the alleged "Russian threat" by using the Channel Tunnel.

© AP Photo / Tony Nicoletti/PoolAlex Matheson, left, a member of the Desert Rats with his Challenger II tank man an operational post in Basra, southern Iraq, Friday April 4, 2003
Alex Matheson, left, a member of the Desert Rats with his Challenger II tank man an operational post in Basra, southern Iraq, Friday April 4, 2003 - Sputnik International
Alex Matheson, left, a member of the Desert Rats with his Challenger II tank man an operational post in Basra, southern Iraq, Friday April 4, 2003

"Perhaps, they think that transporting [Challengers 2] tanks through the Channel Tunnel will be safer than on board a ferry, which can be attacked by the enemy from the air or from under  the water," Khrolenko said.

At the same time, he recalled that the tunnel can be blocked by several missile strikes and that currently, the UK has a total of 227 Challenger 2 tanks, a number that is due to be reduced by one third in the next few months.

© AFP 2022 / PHILIPPE HUGUENA Eurotunnel truck shuttles enters the Channel tunnel on October 3, 2015 in Coquelles, near Calais, northern France
A Eurotunnel truck shuttles enters the Channel tunnel on October 3, 2015 in Coquelles, near Calais, northern France - Sputnik International
A Eurotunnel truck shuttles enters the Channel tunnel on October 3, 2015 in Coquelles, near Calais, northern France

"The British military will cherish the remaining 170 Challenger 2 tanks as the apple of their eye," Khrolenko said, stating that a whopping 2,700 tanks are currently in service with the Russian armed forces.

Describing the Challenger 2 tank as a moth-balled and super heavy vehicle, Khrolenko expressed surprise about the feasibility of transporting these tanks to mainland Europe, where similar obsolete armored vehicles are not uncommon. 

© Wikipedia / UK Ministry of DefenceA Challenger 2 main battle tank (MBT) is pictured during a live firing exercise in Grafenwöhr, Germany
A Challenger 2 main battle tank (MBT) is pictured during a live firing exercise in Grafenwöhr, Germany - Sputnik International
A Challenger 2 main battle tank (MBT) is pictured during a live firing exercise in Grafenwöhr, Germany

"The concept and technology turned the Challenger 2 into one of the bulkiest and heaviest Western tanks," he said, adding that the Challenger 2's characteristics, for example, yield significantly to those of Russia's T-90S main battle tank.

The Challenger 2 entered service in 1998 and has long been considered one of the best-protected tanks in the world.

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But in 2015, media reports said that UK generals, worried about the innovative features Russia's state-of-art T-14 Armata tank, started to look for solutions to upgrade the Challenger 2 tank.

Their decision was apparently prompted by the T-14's abilities, demonstrated in public in May 2015, experts said.

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