It's not every day you see a 62.5 tonne Challenger 2 Tank drive onto the UK’s Fleet Flagship HMS Albion. But Exercise Baltic Protector offered a rare opportunity to demonstrate how British Army tanks can be moved and projected ashore using Royal Navy and Royal Marines amphibious platforms.
The Challenger 2 has been the main battle tank of the British Army since 1998, and successfully supported operations in Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq. With a top speed of 59 km/h on the road and 40 km/h across country it’s primary role is to destroy or neutralise enemy armour with its 120mm rifled gun, however it is versatile enough to operate across a spectrum of high intensity conflict, counter insurgency and peace keeping roles.
Trooper Stratford of the Kings Royal Hussars said: “This was a new experience. I had to keep double checking because of the movement of the craft. It felt like I wasn’t moving. The incline into the ship was very high and difficult to manoeuvre.” The Kings Royal Hussars are currently supporting NATO’s enhanced Force Presence in Estonia.Colour Sergeant ‘Daz’ Donavan, aged 36, of 4 Assault Support Royal Marines (ASRM), was the coxswain charged with getting the Landing Craft and tank onto the ship. He said: “It was really tough manoeuvring the landing craft into the well dock of the ship due to sway caused by the high sea state.”
The Deputy Commander of the Estonian Defence Forces, Major General Indrek Sirel, along with the Commander of the Amphibious Task Group, Commodore James Parkin, watched on as the landing craft was skilfully parked to allow the tank to drive onto the vehicle deck of HMS ALBION. So impressed were both Commanders with the coxswains skills that each presented Colour Sergeant Donavan with a Commander’s coin.
The training was an important demonstration of integration between amphibious forces from the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF), and British Army and Estonian soldiers within NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence. The ability to move heavy armour from the sea to the land is a capability held by only a handful of nations around the world, and Baltic Protector continues to demonstrate the UK’s world leading amphibious capabilities.