Challenger-2 Vs T-90: Historical Confrontation


Most likely, this will be the first time a Western tank confronts the famous Russian T-90. Which side will take advantage?

Britain announced plans to aid 14 Challenger-2 tanks to Ukraine on January 16, 2023. Later it was reported that London doubled its Challenger-2 aid to Kiev. However, 14 Challenger-2s for an all-out war in Ukraine to make a difference is still a controversial topic. Most likely, this will be the first time a Western tank confronts the famous Russian T-90. Which side will take advantage?

The Challenger-2 is supposed to equip the 25th and 80th air-mobile brigades to counter the Russian T-90 tanks in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region. Currently, these two brigades are operating the T-80BV tanks, the fastest tank types in the Ukrainian arsenal. Western military commentators suggest that Challenger-2s could pose a considerable challenge for the Russian 90th Tank Division, which is operating the T-90 tanks and BMP-T fighting vehicles in Kreminna, which have so far given a hard time to the Ukrainian army.

Mostly, the Russian and Ukrainian militaries are deploying their tanks in combined service units, combining both infantry and armored fighting vehicles; in which infantry protects tanks, and tanks provide fire support for infantry combat. The T-90A weighs 46.5 tons, while the T-90M version weighs 48 tons, with a crew of three. Currently, the Russian Army has about 400 units in service, of which a few have been upgraded to the T-90M standard and sent to the Ukrainian battlefield. The T-90s have tactical features far beyond the T-72 and T-80 tanks, which currently account for the majority of the Russian Army’s service.


British Challenger 2 tank weighs 70 tons, crew of 4 people. It is said to have better armor protection than the Russian T-90. Challenger 2 is armed with a rifled Royal Ordnance L30 120-mm main gun, which can deliver main armament rounds up to a range of around four kilometers. The gun can also fire high-explosive squash head (HESH) and armor-piercing fin-stabilized discarding-sabot (APFSDS) rounds. The HESH rounds have a much longer range of up to 8 kilometers and are much more effective against buildings and thinner-skinned vehicles. The secondary armament comprises two 7.62mm machine guns, one coaxially mounted with the main gun and the other placed on top of the roof.

The T-90s, most of which are A variants armed with a fully-stabilized 2A46M 125mm smoothbore gun, can fire APFSDS, HE, and HE-FRAG rounds only up to a range of around 2-3 kilometers. However, the T-90M boasts an improved 2A46M-4 125mm smoothbore main gun, which has a more extended range of 4-5 kilometers and is said to be 15-20% more accurate than the standard 2A46M gun. The secondary armament includes a coaxial 7.62mm machine gun and a roof-mounted remotely-controlled weapon station armed with a 12.7mm heavy machine gun.

Both the Challenger-2 and the T-90M have thermal sights and hunter-killer capability. The Challenger-2 is said to have a maximum road speed of around 58 kilometers per hour and about 40 kilometers off-road. The T-90 is said to have a top speed of about 59 kilometers on-road and 45 kilometers per hour off-road. The smaller size and low profile of the T-90 allow it to navigate tight spaces such as forests and mountains.


Challenger-2 has the best armor in the world, the Chobham. It is said to be about two times harder than steel and is said to be able to survive a direct hit from a Russian T-72. The T-90 has a welded composite armor hull with built-in Kontakt-5 explosive reactive armor blocks. However, the upgraded T-90M variant has improved armor protection with Relikt built-in Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA) in place of the previous Kontakt-5.

However, ammunition compatibility compared to other popular NATO tanks like the Leopard-2 will be an issue with the Challenger-2. Most countries do not currently produce 120mm tank shells for rifled guns. This means that the supply of ammunition for the Challenger-2 will be very limited. In addition, the Challenger-2 is only equipped with a thermal imaging system that is outdated for a generation. Meanwhile, Russia’s T-90M has been equipped with a third-generation thermal imaging device.


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