The utilization of British-sourced Challenger 2 tanks in Ukraine has brought to light a recurring issue encountered in the field. The phenomenon, recently highlighted by The Sun, underscores the predicament faced by these armored assets when traversing Ukraine’s chernozem, colloquially referred to as black soil.

Reported firsthand by a British correspondent stationed within a Challenger 2 tank, the challenge is vividly depicted as the imposing vehicle grapples with the nutrient-rich, dark soil. Engaging inclines amplifies the problem as the engine exerts additional power to propel the tank forward, often too late to prevent the treads from becoming ensnared in the Ukrainian terrain.

This predicament transcends mere inconvenience; it poses a significant operational threat. As articulated by The Sun reporter, the primary issue plaguing Challenger 2 tanks in Ukraine is their susceptibility to becoming mired in the mud. The soft, fertile expanses of black soil present a formidable obstacle in the theater of conflict, as elaborated upon by the correspondent’s harrowing account of the tank’s gradual descent into the mire.

With the water level encroaching perilously close to the tank’s upper chassis, the crew faces an ominous prospect. The potential for the tank to sink further into the quagmire raises concerns regarding the feasibility of recovery operations. The voracious nature of the soil compounds the challenge, exacerbating the already precarious situation.

The clash between Western tanks and Chernozem, characterized by its impressive humus content of up to 15%, elucidates the inherent difficulties posed by this unique terrain. Despite its fertility, the soil’s composition renders it particularly problematic for heavy machinery such as tanks.

Chernozem’s remarkable water retention capacity, attributed to its substantial organic matter content, transforms the terrain into a treacherous quagmire when exposed to rainfall. Coupled with its high clay content, which diminishes permeability and exacerbates waterlogging, Chernozem presents formidable challenges for armored vehicles ill-equipped to navigate its sticky embrace.

While tanks are engineered for versatility across diverse terrains, they are not optimized to contend with the specific challenges posed by Chernozem. The broad tracks designed to distribute weight effectively in other environments may inadvertently exacerbate sinking in this clay-rich terrain, underscoring the need for tailored solutions to mitigate the operational risks inherent in such environments.

Numerous inquiries arise when considering the recent challenges faced by Western tanks navigating Ukraine’s renowned chernozem, or black soil. This situation should not elicit surprise but rather prompt a thorough reevaluation of our understanding. Given the notorious difficulty of movement in such terrain, the entrapment of vehicles like cars or tanks should not amuse Ukrainians but instead lead us to question the rationale behind their deployment in Ukraine.

Critical questions emerge: Why were Western tanks chosen for deployment in Ukraine, knowing that Russian tanks, being lighter, possess greater maneuverability in such terrain? The frequency of issues encountered by Western tanks underscores the importance of this consideration, highlighting a significant advantage for their Russian counterparts.

The connection between Western military planners and the realities of Ukrainian terrain becomes paramount. If there was indeed a lack of awareness regarding the specifics of Ukrainian black soil, it suggests a significant communication gap within military hierarchies. This prompts further inquiry into why efforts weren’t made to acquire older Soviet tanks, widely available across the globe. Despite the inevitability of Russian tanks facing similar challenges as their Western counterparts, such as susceptibility to fire, the primary concern that emerges is mobility.

Evidence preceding the conflict hinted at the pivotal role terrain might play. Around February 14, 2022, a Russian tank regiment conducted exercises in the Rostov-on-Don region, unveiling crucial insights. Several Russian T-72B3 tanks became immobilized in mud resembling Ukrainian chernozem, disregarding political boundaries. These tanks became deeply entrenched, beyond the capability of auxiliary towing equipment to rectify. The resolution required the intervention of a large excavator to create a path for their liberation.

The recent sight of Western tanks traversing Ukrainian bridges is a rarity, bearing implications not only for the tanks themselves but also for the arsenal of weaponry provided by Western nations to Ukraine. Central to this issue is the considerable weight of Western tanks.

Western tanks, by their nature, are heavier than their Soviet counterparts which have been in use by Ukraine for many years, notably the T-72. These Soviet tanks offer greater agility due to their lighter build. Consequently, the infrastructure of Ukrainian road bridges was tailored to accommodate the weight of Soviet tanks. It appears that during the design and construction phases, there was no anticipation of the necessity to support a load heavier than that of the Soviet armored vehicles.