Berlin Rheinmetall’s plans to build a tank factory in the Ukraine are being met with pithy words in Russia. Former President Dmitry Medvedev threatened attacks on the plant via his Telegram channel, which is unlikely to be ready for production for several years. “But if the Fritzen decide to actually build there (…), then we’ll be waiting eagerly,” said the politician, who belongs to President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle. “Fritzen” is a term for “Germans” used primarily in World War II.
In mid-February, Rheinmetall boss Armin Papperger confirmed in an interview with the Handelsblatt that his company was negotiating with the government in Kiev about the delivery of Panther battle tanks. The vehicle is an in-house development of the Düsseldorf armaments group, which is said to be more powerful than the Leopard 2. Ukraine would become the launch customer for Rheinmetall.
According to Papperger, production could be set up in the Ukraine. A decision should be made within the next two months, as the Rheinmetall boss told the “Rheinische Post”. He estimated the costs at 200 million euros.
Ukraine is in dire need of the supply of modern tanks to repel the Russian attack. With main battle tanks, the armed forces could also more easily achieve success on the offensive. Until the outbreak of war a year ago, Ukraine had mostly Soviet-made tanks.
A few weeks ago, some NATO countries announced that they would hand over Western main battle tanks to Kiev. The core stock will be the Leopard family. The Ukraine is to receive a few dozen of the Leopard 2 built by Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW). Almost 200 of the predecessor model Leopard 1 could ultimately be delivered.
The Panther should be superior to the Armata
Western main battle tanks are usually clearly superior to their Russian-made counterparts in a direct comparison. Not only do they have a better defense against enemy fire and better technology for reconnaissance – they are also able to fire targeted shots while driving.
With a 130mm gun, the Panther has more powerful armament than its predecessor, the Leopard 2. With this, the new Rheinmetall development can penetrate the armor of the T-14 Armata – currently the most powerful Russian battle tank. This does not play a role in the Ukraine war, as hardly more than a dozen have been handed over to the Russian armed forces.
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The catch with the Panther plans, however, is that the tank has not yet been mass-produced. According to estimates by industry experts, this will also take some time. It would be about two years before a tank factory was built, a person familiar with the plans said.
The decision on this lies with the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and the Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz. It is not legally possible to sell the Panther to Kiev without approval from the federal government. According to Rheinmetall boss Papperger, it is also conceivable that the Panthers could be manufactured in Germany, which could then be exported to the Ukraine.
Papperger is calm about an attack by Russia on a possible production facility in the Ukraine. Rheinmetall also manufactures anti-aircraft systems that can be used to ward off missile attacks.
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