Ukraine will receive more than 100 Leopard 1 tanks

Boris Pistorius in Kyiv

The Federal Defense Minister promises Ukraine further support.

(Photo: via REUTERS)

Kyiv, Berlin Ukraine is to receive more than 100 older Leopard 1A5 main battle tanks from a group of several European countries. This was announced by the new Defense Minister Boris Pistorius (SPD) on Tuesday during his first visit to Kyiv.

By the first or second quarter of 2024, at least three battalions of Ukrainians should be equipped with such tanks. Pistorius did not say from which European countries besides Germany the Leopard 1 should come.

Pistorius’ visit to Kyiv was the first major trip abroad by the defense minister, who was sworn in almost three weeks ago. For security reasons, the whereabouts were initially kept secret. In addition to President Volodymyr Zelensky, Pistorius also met Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov. Russia’s war of aggression against the neighboring country has now lasted almost a year.

Pistorius said the Leopard 1 delivery will be in stages. 20 to 25 tanks should be delivered by the summer, and up to 80 by the end of the year. The aim is to have more than 100 in the course of the first or second quarter of 2024.

This means that at least three Ukrainian battalions should be equipped, including the material to be procured for spare parts and ammunition. In addition, the training of 600 sergeants has begun.

Federal government approves export of up to 178 Leopard 1 tanks

The Federal Ministry of Economics has meanwhile approved the export of up to 178 Leopard 1A5 main battle tanks to Ukraine. “How many Leopard 1A5 main battle tanks will actually be delivered to Ukraine depends on the necessary repair work,” said a joint statement by the economy and defense ministries. The federal government had already given its general approval for the export last week.

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The Düsseldorf-based armaments company Rheinmetall announced that it would send the first 20 to 25 Leopard 1 main battle tanks to Ukraine later this year. By the end of 2024, the remaining 88 units that Rheinmetall has could be delivered, said CEO Armin Papperger at a conference in Berlin. In addition to Rheinmetall, the Flensburger Fahrzeugbau Gesellschaft (FFG) also has weapon systems of this type.

In Kiew

Boris Pistorius in exchange with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov.

(Photo: via REUTERS)

The Leopard 1 is the first main battle tank built for the German Army after World War II. 4700 examples were produced from 1965 to the mid-1980s. The Bundeswehr retired its last Leopard 1 20 years ago.

After a lengthy debate two weeks ago, the federal government decided to let Ukraine have more modern Leopard main battle tanks and to allow allies to supply the weapon system developed in Germany. Marder armored personnel carriers and the Patriot anti-aircraft missile system are also to go to Ukraine. Ukrainian soldiers are already being trained in Germany.

Pistorius: Respect for Ukrainians’ will to defend themselves

Pistorius said in Kyiv that he combined the current commitment of several European countries to deliver the Leopard 1 tanks with “the wish and the great hope that this contribution can also help Ukraine to remain defensible and withstand the attack”.

The will of the Ukrainian people to defend their homeland is unbroken. “I have my greatest admiration for that,” said the minister at a joint appearance with his Ukrainian colleague Resnikov.

There should be no doubt that Germany and the other partners in Europe and beyond “will continue to stand firmly by Ukraine’s side in the future and we will continue to support them with everything that is necessary,” said Pistorius.

By the end of the month, Ukraine will also receive more guided missiles, five Cheetah anti-aircraft tanks and another five Badger engineer tanks. Five Biber tank bridge-laying vehicles would be delivered in March.

When asked about Ukrainian demands for fighter jets, such as the Eurofighter or Tornado, Resnikov said that no specific names or brands had been discussed. Pistorius stressed that the first priority at the moment is to deliver and deploy the Leopard tanks and, above all, to ensure air defense capability in Ukraine.

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