For Ukraine, what’s so special about Germany’s Leopard 2 tanks?

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As the war in Ukraine nears its one-year mark, Kyiv is pushing Western allies to provide modern battle tanks to fight Russian forces. And there is one particular model that Ukrainians want – the German-made Leopard 2.

Other countries have offered other tanks, such as Britain, which pledged 14 Challenger 2 models earlier this month. However, the Leopard 2’s speed and ease of use – as well as the fact that they are already widely available in Europe – made them more attractive to Kiev.

In a statement last week, Ukraine’s foreign and defense ministers said that while they welcomed Britain’s “courageous and timely decision” to send a squadron of Challenger 2 tanks, they were “not enough to achieve operational objectives”. Next, they turned to countries “that operate Leopard 2 tanks” to send them to Ukraine.

The focus on the tanks has become a geopolitical headache for Berlin – and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government has so far rejected calls to export the Leopard 2. Although this week German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said in an interview with French television that her government “would not stand in the way” if Poland asked to send its Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.

Poland’s prime minister said he would seek German permission to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine on January 23, after Berlin said it would not stop them. (Video: Reuters)

Here’s what you need to know about the Leopard 2 and why Ukraine says it needs them.

Why Ukraine prefers Leopard 2?

The Leopard 2 was first introduced in 1979. and has been upgraded several times since then, gaining a reputation as one of the best main battle tanks in the world.

It was designed by West German arms manufacturer Krauss-Maffei Wegmann to replace the original Leopard tank, which entered service in 1965. The Leopard 2 is more advanced than many Soviet-era tanks fielded by Russian and Ukrainian forces.

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Even older versions of the tank have modern optics, including a thermal imager that allows it to operate day and night, as well as a magnification and laser range finder for tracking targets. According to the manufacturer, the tanks are designed to move quickly, with a top speed of about 44 miles per hour despite their 55-ton weight.

The Leopard 2 also has a number of features to protect the crew. Compartmental ammunition storage avoids the disastrous explosions associated with Russian T-72 tanks, where ammunition is stored below the crew.

The tank is powered by a diesel engine that is relatively easy to refuel, giving the car a range of around 210 miles. It also uses NATO’s standardized 120mm ammunition, which would give Ukraine access to a larger pool of suppliers than its current tanks, which require 125mm.

How much is Leopard 2 and where are they?

Researchers estimate that there are more than 2,000 Leopard 2 tanks in Europe. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, more than half are believed to be older variants of the 2A4 and 2A5, including more than 200 stored in Germany alone.

A spokesman for German arms group Rheinmetall told local media on Tuesday that the company could deliver 139 Leopard main battle tanks to Ukraine if needed, Reuters reports, although some will not arrive until the end of the year or early 2024.

Many already exported from Germany were sent to European countries or NATO member states such as Canada and Turkey. Other countries that have purchased Leopard 2 tanks are Singapore, Chile and Qatar.

Ukraine has focused on the Leopard 2 in part because there are so many of them in Europe that they can be transported to the battlefield relatively easily. However, according to agreements with the purchasing countries, the German government must sign off on any transfers.

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September. In a statement, the European Council on Foreign Relations called on Western countries to support the plan to send Leopard 2 to Ukraine, saying that “the more countries donate tanks, the easier it will be to share the burden of giving them away.” away.”

What about alternatives including the US M1 Abrams?

When it comes to main battle tanks, the Leopard 2 has one main rival: the US-made M1 Abrams.


The battlefield is compared

heavyweights

Germany’s Leopard 2 main battle tank and the US M1 Abrams boast similar dimensions and capabilities; indeed, some of the similarities are deliberate to ensure that the tanks can work together on NATO battlefields.

Sources: Federation of American Scientists;

Military-Today.com

WILLIAM NEFF/WASHINGTON POST

Battlefield heavyweights compared

Germany’s Leopard 2 main battle tank and the US M1 Abrams boast similar dimensions and capabilities; indeed, some of the similarities are deliberate to ensure that the tanks can work together on NATO battlefields.

Sources: Federation of American Scientists; Military-Today.com

WILLIAM NEFF/WASHINGTON POST

Battlefield heavyweights compared

Germany’s Leopard 2 main battle tank and the US M1 Abrams boast similar dimensions and capabilities; indeed, some of the similarities are deliberate to ensure that the tanks can work together on NATO battlefields.

120 mm cannon

120 mm cannon

About 70 tons

About 55 tons

Sources: Federation of American Scientists; Military-Today.com

WILLIAM NEFF/WASHINGTON POST

Battlefield heavyweights compared

Germany’s Leopard 2 main battle tank and the US M1 Abrams boast similar dimensions and capabilities; indeed, some of the similarities are deliberate to ensure that the tanks can work together on NATO battlefields.

120 mm cannon

120 mm cannon

Sources: Federation of American Scientists; Military-Today.com

WILLIAM NEFF/WASHINGTON POST

In service since 1980, the M1 Abrams has similar specifications to the Leopard 2, but has some distinct advantages. Modern versions have layers of depleted uranium armor protection that provide significant benefits to the crew inside.

In a phone call earlier this month, Scholz suggested to President Biden that in order for Germany to unlock a package of Leopard 2 tanks for Ukraine, Washington should send the M1 Abrams.

But the Biden administration has argued that the US-made tanks in Ukraine have a number of shortcomings.

They use jet fuel, which is much more difficult to obtain compared to the diesel used in the Leopard 2. Although the tank once weighed 60 tons, its weight has increased over the years; new versions can weigh almost 75 tons, adding to the logistical difficulties. For example, this is a lot of weight to drive over a bridge.

U.S. officials told reporters they also have complex maintenance requirements and require specialized training.

The war in Ukraine: what you need to know

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