Ukraine Situation Report: Kyiv’s Modern Tank Corps Begins To Take Shape

The British Ministry of Defense released pictures of Ukrainian troops training with Challenger 2 “Driver Training Tanks,” a unique turretless variant with a weighted superstructure and room for instructors. 

The Ukrainians are less than a week into training on the Challenger 2 after the first tank crews arrived on January 29.

We wrote about London giving Challenger 2s and other armored vehicles in a recent aid package you can read about here

On the topic of modern tanks, the first of four Canadian Leopard 2A4 tanks donated to Ukraine is on its way to that country after photos showed it being loaded into a Royal Canadian Air Force C-17 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. With multiple countries donating or potentially donating Leopard 2s, the type is set to become the backbone of Ukraine’s modernized tank force.

When it comes to armor Ukraine already has, there’s also a video from UNITED24 with an in-depth look at Ukraine’s most advanced indigenous tank, the T-84U Oplot.

The tanks are reportedly in service with units fighting in Kharkiv Oblast on the frontline’s northern reaches. Ukrainian crews in the video note impressive “sports car” maneuverability as opposed to older Russian tanks in Ukrainian service. Crews also claimed a 200-300 meter advantage for the Oplot’s thermal sights over their Russian adversaries’ capabilities. That size of a gap can make all the difference in armored warfare when the first shot is often a deciding factor. 

Although in lesser number than the coming Leopards, Challengers, and M1 Abrams, the Oplots are some of the best-armored vehicles in Ukraine’s arsenal. They could well one day be fighting alongside the coming western armor once considered their principal adversaries.

Before we head into the latest news from Ukraine, The War Zone readers can get caught up on our previous rolling coverage here.

The Latest

The February 4 intelligence update from the British Ministry of Defense reports that Russia has incorporated its occupied areas of Ukraine into its Southern Military District, headquartered in the city of Rostov-on-Don. 

Fires were reported in Russia’s Belgorod region across the border from Kharkiv, with an oil depot and steel plant burning. The steel plant is reportedly involved in constructing spans for ongoing repairs to the Crimean Bridge, and it’s not clear whether these fires were the result of Ukrainian strikes. 

Insurgent warfare remains a threat to occupying Russian forces and Ukrainian collaborators, as a car bomb targeted one such collaborator in the city of Enerhodar. We wrote about the simmering insurgency behind Russian lines, which you can read more about here.

Video from Mariupol shows Russian occupiers continuing demolition of the city’s theater building. In December, satellite imagery showed occupation forces built a towering wall surrounding the theater to hide it from ground-level view.

Russian forces infamously bombed the theater while it was used as a shelter during the city’s siege last spring, killing at least 300 people. 

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov posed with a radar reflector like the type deployed by Russian forces around the Antonivskiy Bridge near Kherson. We wrote about the reflectors’ dubious effectiveness, which you can read about here

Two NATO self-propelled artillery systems made appearances in Ukrainian service, the French CAESAR and German PzH 2000 155mm guns. The CAESAR is seen on a fire mission during fighting near the town of Vuhledar, and one of the PzH 2000s has additional turret armor plates equipped. 

Lastly, there is a startling report from the Wall Street Journal about Turkish exports to the Russian military industry. A survey of trade data reportedly shows at least 13 Turkish firms sold at least $18.5 million of products to at least 10 Russian companies under U.S. sanction for their role in Russia’s war effort. 

That’s it for now. We will update this story if there is anything major to add.

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