Many reconditioned Leopard 1A5 tanks are currently on their way to Ukraine. However, the FV4201 Chieftain, which is a bit older than the Leopard 1A5, will soon be used by Ukraine. According to a video published online by Ukrainian journalist Roman Bochkala, currently based in the United Kingdom, this is the case.
Roman Bochkala asserts that “many” of these tanks, which he has mistakenly referred to as Challenger 1 tanks, will “soon” be present in Ukraine. To replace the Centurion, which was the first British main battle tank to be built following World War II, Vickers Defence Systems manufactured 1,500 Chieftain tanks. The British Army used its Chieftain tanks until 1995 when they were finally retired.
When it first became available in 1965, it had the title of the world’s most potent main battle tank. Drawing on their recent field experience with the Centurion, the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) gave significant technical help for developing the Chieftain. This assistance was made possible thanks to their experience with the Centurion Tank. And to show its appreciation, the UK gave it to Arab countries at war with Israel. This is why Israel created the Merkava Tank.
Throughout its history, this tank has spawned several distinct iterations. The most recent ones have been upgraded with additional Stillbrew armour and a TOGS thermal sight advertised to perform quite well. In addition, the Chieftain Mk11, which weighed 57 tonnes in combat, was outfitted with a 120mm L11 rifle barrel and three machine guns, two of which were 7.62mm and one 12.7mm.
The Royal Jordanian Army, which received 390 Chieftain tanks, is the only Army still with them. They have been given the name Khalid and stored. If Roman Bochkala’s information is correct, Ukraine will purchase some of these tanks soon.
According to Nicholas Drummond, a British specialist in ground weapons, the Chieftain could be very useful to the Ukrainian Army despite its weaknesses. He stated it would outclass the T-54/55, T-62, T-64, and T-72 tanks. However, this claim against the T-62 and T-72 Tank remains to be demonstrated because, during the Iran-Iraq war, Iranian Chieftain tanks struggled against Iraqi T-62 tanks, mainly due to insufficient armour. A Chieftain Tank crew also contracts for this claim, as will be detailed in the following section of this piece. While the West formerly mocked Russia for employing T-62 tanks, it is today holding the use of the chieftain Tank up as a virtue.
Another weakness of the Chieftain was its six-cylinder Leyland diesel engine, which was prone to recurring breakdowns. The Chieftain had a Leyland L60 engine, one of the first engines that could run on diesel oil, jet fuel and petrol. The L60 was not one of the few engines of this type that worked well. These engines were extremely unreliable and gave off a lot of smoke. Sometimes the engine room would be completely black with soot after a mission. The chieftain crew didn’t like these engines, and the Dutch Army turned down the Chieftain because of these problems.
Moreover, repairing the more delicate parts of the engine was complicated as they were difficult to access. Stuart Crawford, a former member of the Chieftain crew, wrote in the UK Defence Journal that the Chieftain was considered the best tank in the world as long as it broke down in a decent firing position. In the 1980s, he commanded a troop and then a squadron of Chieftains while serving with the 4th Royal Tank Regiment. By then, the tank was “obsolescent if not obsolete.” He described Chieftain as a sluggish and unreliable vehicle for which they developed an ambivalent fondness.
Regarding other tanks that are comparable to the Chieftain, he says that the German Leopard 1 with its 105mm gun exhibited new levels of mobility and dependability, whilst the Soviet T-64 and T-72 models with their auto-loading 125mm cannons excelled the Chieftain. It was clear that Britain desired a new tank, and the Challenger 1 was a cancelled export order model for Iran after the fall of the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in 1979. It replaced some MBTs already in service with the Royal Armoured Corps.
During the Iraq-Iran War, the Chieftain first saw combat with varied results. The UK claims they performed poorly during the initial offensives due to the Iranian government purging or reassigning most of their experienced personnel and commanders. During this period, many Chieftains fell into the hands of the Iraqi Army, and some were hastily abandoned while still operational. However, when the Iraqis encountered Chieftains on the defensive, their counteroffensive was halted. Following the conflict, many ex-Iranian Chieftains were later in the Iraqi inventory.
In the last war it fought, Kuwaiti Chieftains destroyed T-72 M1 or its cruder Iraqi clone Asad Babil, a type of tank that observers had believed the Chieftain would be incapable of defeating.