After weeks of intense debates within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the governments of Germany and the United States approved the deployment of tanks to strengthen the defense of Ukraine, which has been at war with Russia since February 2022.
In the case of Germany, there will be at least 14 modern tanks of the Leopard 2 model – other European countries can send a few dozen more –, while the United States will send 31 M1 Abrams tanks – enough to equip about two companies –, manufactured in the USA.
Joe Biden, the president of the United States, confirmed the shipment this Wednesday (25). The shipment had already been advanced by US officials, thus reversing Washington’s long resistance to Kiev’s requests for highly sophisticated, high-maintenance vehicles with complex logistics that, for many, will be difficult to maintain in Ukraine.
It is not yet clear which model of the M1 Abrams tank the United States will send, but it will take months to arrive, senior government officials say, and will require extensive training by Ukrainian troops on how to operate and repair them.
Biden also highlighted that the UK will send its own Challenger 2 tanks – at least 14, according to the British government – although there are no details on timeframes.
Berlin’s decision affects not only possible shipments of tanks belonging to the Bundeswehr, the German armed forces, but also the hundreds of Leopard 2 tanks held by other European countries – Poland was the first country to offer its Leopard 2, but list grew – and whose sale or donation would require the approval of Germany, as the manufacturing country.
But how many Leopard 2s could European countries send to Ukraine, what models would they be and when could they be operational?
Germany initially committed to sending 14 of its own Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, according to a government statement. This number is enough to equip a company of tanks in the Western NATO standard, composed of three platoons (with four tanks each) and two more tanks at headquarters, according to US Army specifications.
“The aim is to rapidly assemble two Leopard 2 tank battalions for Ukraine,” the statement said, with the remainder to be completed by supplies from European partners.
Each battalion, in turn, is formed by three or four companies, in a total between 42 and 56 tanks.
According to German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius, the Leopard 2 tanks supplied by Germany could be operationally deployed in Ukraine within three months.
It is not clear when the Leopard 2 tanks delivered by other European countries would be operational, nor which countries would supply them and in what quantity.
Who could provide the missing tanks
Poland, which has a large fleet of Leopard 2 A4s and A5s, was the first country to offer an aircraft carrier (about 14 tanks) to Ukraine.
The Netherlands, which does not formally own Leopard 2 tanks but leases 18 from Germany, said it was willing to buy those tanks to ship to Ukraine, while Norway said it would also “contribute” between 4 and 8 tanks.
Spain would also be willing to send Leopard 2 tanks, albeit in coordination with its NATO allies, according to Defense Minister Margarita Robles. She didn’t mention numbers or deadlines.
In all, there are 13 countries in Europe with around 2,000 Leopard 2 tanks – in different states – in their armed forces, according to the think tank of the European Council on Foreign Relations.
What are the capabilities of Leopard 2 tanks
The Leopard 2 is a main battle tank that entered service in 1979, but through successive modernizations and upgrades it remains one of the most modern and capable armored vehicles in the world.
It is armed with a 120 mm smoothbore cannon (NATO standard), can reach speeds of 70 km/h, or 50 km/h off-road, with very good manoeuvrability, and is protected by advanced armor concentrated on the front, according to the German manufacturer Krauss-Maffei-Wegmann.
Its oldest variants are the A4 and A5, while the A7 is the most advanced and is considered frontline for its firepower, mobility, armor and shooting systems, with the ability to face the most advanced tanks in favorable conditions. .
The Leopard 2 A4s can be identified by the straight front of their turrets, while the A5s, A6s and A7s use an angled armor design for added protection.
The Leopard 2 was exported by Germany to several countries and used in combat against irregular forces in Afghanistan, the Balkans and Syria – used by Turkey –, but an eventual deployment in Ukraine would be the first time they would face Russian tanks like the T-72 , T-80 and T-90.
It is not clear which variants of the Leopard 2 will be sent to Ukraine by Germany and other European users of this tank.
Source: CNN Brasil
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