What makes the Leopard Tank so special?

Ukraine had long asked for a "Leopard" delivery. The main battle tank could now play an important role in Ukraine's counteroffensive. What makes him so special. An overview.

The federal government will probably announce the planned delivery of “Leopard” tanks on Wednesday. From the first day of the war, Ukraine surprised the Russian attackers with their military capabilities: the advance was stopped and pushed back over the eleven months of the war. But Russia is now gearing up with new armored forces for an expected major push that could see Ukraine suffer heavy casualties or lose more territory. Like other experts, former NATO general Hans-Lothar Domröse expects “a terribly bloody spring offensive.”

What main battle tanks does Ukraine have so far and what can the “Leopard” tanks do better?

Ukraine has hundreds of infantry fighting vehicles and main battle tanks developed by the Soviet Union from its own stocks and from ring exchange partners. These include older main battle tanks such as the T-72 or T-80 and – left behind by Russian troops as captured tanks – also the successor model, the T-90. Western battle tanks, above all the “Leopard”, are now supposed to increase Ukraine’s ability to offensive, i.e. to recapture occupied territories.

These tanks are superior to the Russian device, especially in the more modern versions, and can destroy the enemy in battle. Experts consider the “Leopard” to be the best battle tank in the world in its respective generation.

Former Commander-in-Chief of the US Army in Europe Ben Hodges made it clear on US radio station NPR that Ukraine could thus launch a strike against the Russian-held corridor from the Donbass to the annexed Crimean Peninsula. In addition, the Ukraine could form a heavily armored unit with western battle tanks, “the spearhead of a force that could break through the Russian lines in the direction of Mariupol.” And in general, the infantry could be paved the way to advance with such battle tanks.

Can the federal government deliver the “Leopard” in time?

In Germany, “Leopard” tanks are in the workshops and warehouses of industry and in the army. Rheinmetall boss Armin Papperger told “Stern” that around 29 “Leopard 2A4” main battle tanks would be ready for use by the end of March, which are intended for the ring exchange with the Czech Republic and Slovakia. It will therefore take time to get more “Leopard” ready for use.

During the Cold War, the Bundeswehr had more than 2100 “Leopard 2” in stock, which were sold, given away or destroyed in the course of disarmament. Last year, the Bundeswehr still had 312 Leopard 2 tanks, but not a single model of the older Leopard 2A4 version, which is now being considered for Ukraine. 19 pieces in the “Leopard 2A5” version are considered to be the most dispensable for the Bundeswehr. They are currently used in the combat training center to “represent enemy forces”, so they are intended to represent the enemy during training.

Are there other main battle tanks of importance to Ukraine?

Great Britain has already announced that it wants to give “Challenger 2” to Kyiv. For the use of weapon systems, however, it is advantageous if the device is as uniform as possible. The large device may even have to be driven out of the Ukraine for repairs. The tank builder KMW and the German Ministry of Defense have set up a workshop center (“hub”) in the border area between Slovakia and the Ukraine in order to repair systems such as the Panzerhaubitze 2000 after use at the front and to replace wearing parts.

How many “Leopard” tanks are available?

The US broadcaster ABC News reported on Tuesday, citing a Ukrainian government official, that twelve states, including Spain, the Netherlands and Denmark, had signaled their willingness to deliver “Leopard” tanks. The Ukrainian site is quoted as saying that a total of 100 “Leopard” are already available. The assurances had already been made last week at the Ukraine talks in Ramstein.

If you take the numbers, practically all European “Leopard” users except Turkey should have signaled their willingness. Poland has already laid the cards on the table: the 14 “Leopard 2A4” that it has requested for delivery are sufficient in number to equip a company. The “Leopard” manufacturer Krauss-Maffei Wegmann has built well over 3500 “Leopard 2” so far, with the majority of countries planned for their own defense.

What is NATO’s position on the project?

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday called for the rapid delivery of new weapons, which he said would require “heavier and more advanced systems”. The Norwegian said: “The only way to a lasting peace is to make it clear to Putin that he will not win on the battlefield.” Critics warn of a further escalation.

How is the mood among the population in Germany?

According to DeutschlandTrend for the ARD morning show last Thursday, a delivery of “Leopard” tanks to the Ukraine is controversial among the German population. 46 percent of respondents are in favor of it, almost as many are against it (43 percent). The remaining eleven percent cannot or do not want to commit themselves.

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