The Leopard 2 heavy tank, which Germany agreed to deliver to kyiv on Wednesday after weeks of dithering, is a world-renowned weapon likely to have a “significant” impact on the battlefield, experts say.
The German Chancellor Olaf Scholz gave the green light to the delivery by Poland and other countries which would like it of specimens of this tank. The German leader also created a surprise by also announcing the delivery of more advanced Leopard 2 model 2A6, taken from the stock of the German army.
Designed by the German manufacturer Krauss-Maffei and built in series from the end of the 1970s to replace the American M48 Patton tanks and then the Leopard 1 tank, the Leopard 2 combines firepower, mobility and protection.
This combat tank of about sixty tons, of which approximately 3500 specimens left the production lines, is equipped with a smooth cannon of caliber 120 mm allowing to fight the enemy while moving, thanks to its 1500 horses, up to 70 km/h, with a range of 450 km.
It is also equipped, according to the manufacturer, with “integral passive protection” effective against mines and rocket launchers. Its crew of four also benefits from technological tools allowing it to locate and target the enemy at long distance.
Wide availability in Europe
Another major advantage: the Leopard is widespread on the continent, thus facilitating access to ammunition and spare parts and simplifying maintenance, which is demanding for this type of equipment.
The four latest models are still in use, from the 2A4, which Poland offers to deliver 14 copies to kyiv, to the 2A7, which Berlin is not willing to part with, preferring to keep it – like France with its Leclerc tank – to ensure its own defence.
Germany, which possesses a total of 312 Leopard 2s, including a hundred in maintenance, according to the German press, will therefore deliver 14 copies of the 2A6. It is equipped with a longer barrel of 1.32 meters than the previous versions. It can fire more powerful ammo and with improved accuracy.
This tank, used in particular in Afghanistan, also has reinforced protection against mines.
Finland, equipped with more than 200 copies of 2A4, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), is also ready to equip the Ukrainian army.
The Netherlands too could deliver 18 2A4 tanks, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Spain is also ready to join in the effort.
Greece, with 350 tanks, and Turkey, which used them against Kurdish forces in northern Syria, are the countries with the most 2A4s.
Prompt delivery in question
The best solution would be for countries willing to contribute to send mostly 2A4 tanks, “for training and logistical reasons” to facilitate, for example, the sending of spare parts, explains the former army inspector, General Bruno Kasdorf.
In Germany, the Rheinemetall armament group, which supplies the gun of the tank and its electronic systems and owns several dozen old models, has already indicated that it could deliver a total of 139 Leopard type 1 tanks. and 2.
“I don’t know when the first German tanks will be here, we will very soon start training and very soon clarify the supply routes and I think the first Leopard tanks (2A6) can be in Ukraine in about three months,” said Defense Minister Boris Pistorius.
A “significant” impact on the battlefield
If kyiv could receive a hundred in total, the effect would be “significant” on the battlefield against the Russians, estimates the IISS. Ukraine could thus “save its energy infrastructure, and save the Ukrainians from Russian crimes”, according to Foreign Minister Dmytro Kouleba.
Equipped with Leopard 2, “an army can break through enemy lines and put an end to a long trench war,” confirms Armin Papperger, director of Rheinemetall. “With the Leopard, soldiers can advance several dozen kilometers at once”.