Germany has at last offered to send Leopard tanks to Ukraine, and a big batch of US Abrams are going that way too




  • In Politics
  • 2023-01-25 17:08:25Z
  • By Business Insider
 
The Leopard 2A7 main battle tank of the German Armed Forces participates in the "Land Operations" military exercises during a media day at the Bundeswehr training grounds on October 14, 2016 near Bergen, Germany.
The Leopard 2A7 main battle tank of the German Armed Forces participates in the "Land Operations" military exercises during a media day at the Bundeswehr training grounds on October 14, 2016 near Bergen, Germany.  
  • Germany and the US have agreed to send their much-sought-after tanks to Ukraine.

  • Kyiv has repeatedly asked for the German-made Leopard 2 and American M1 Abrams.

  • Both countries previously expressed a reluctance on the matter but have now reversed course.

Germany has finally decided to let its Leopards hunt in Ukraine, and the US is at last putting its Abrams in the fight.

Announcing that Germany plans to initially send a company of 14 Leopard 2 tanks with more to come later, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Wednesday morning that "this decision follows our well-known line of supporting Ukraine to the best of our ability."

The US followed suit around noon Wednesday with its own announcement that it intends to provide Kyiv with 31 Abrams tanks, as well as the tools to maintain and sustain them.

"With spring approaching, Ukrainian forces are working to defend the territory they hold and preparing for additional counteroffensives to liberate their land," President Joe Biden said.

"They need to be able to counter Russia's evolving tactics and strategy on the battlefield in the very near term," he added. "They need to improve their ability to maneuver and open terrain, and they need an enduring capability to deter and defend against Russian aggression over the long term."

Germany has until now been reluctant to send its Leopard 2 tanks or allow other countries with these tanks in their arsenals to send them, and the US has also withheld its tanks, arguing that operating and maintaining them is too complicated.

These modern tanks have better armor, improved sensor suites, and more powerful cannons than some of the Soviet-era tanks that have dominated the battlefield in Ukraine thus far.

Once they eventually make their way to Ukraine, these weapons, along with the Challenger tanks promised by the British, will represent a substantial boost to not only the quantity but also the quality of heavy armor available to Kyiv.

The announcements from Germany and the US this week follow repeated Ukrainian requests for tanks and other heavy armor and come as Western militaries have sharply increased their security assistance for Kyiv, providing new weapons of war at a time when they are desperately needed.

This added firepower from Western partners comes just weeks ahead of the one-year anniversary of Russia's invasion, which has become a "very, very difficult fight" with a relatively "static" front line, Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last week.

A Leopard 2A6 main battle tank of the Bundeswehr, the German armed forces, participates in the NATO Iron Wolf military exercises on October 26, 2022 in Pabrade, Lithuania.
A Leopard 2A6 main battle tank of the Bundeswehr, the German armed forces, participates in the NATO Iron Wolf military exercises on October 26, 2022 in Pabrade, Lithuania.  

The Leopard 2 is a German-made main battle tank that was developed in the 1970s that has seen operational experience in Kosovo, Syria, and Afghanistan. The tank, which is shielded by composite armor, as well as ballistic and mine protection, is armed with a 120 mm cannon, a 7.62 mm machine gun, and automatic grenade launchers.

Military experts previously told Insider that these are the right tanks to send to Ukraine at this moment.

Available in arsenals across NATO and relatively easier to maintain, these weapons would allow Kyiv's forces to take advantage of potential offensive breakthroughs by leveraging the firepower, force protection, maneuverability, and shock effect that they bring to the battlefield.

The German announcement on the Leopards was met with support from other European countries like Poland and gratitude from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who said he was made aware of the news in a phone call with Scholz on Wednesday. "German main battle tanks, further broadening of defense support & training missions, green light for partners to supply similar weapons. Just heard about these important & timely decisions," he said, adding he is "sincerely grateful" for Germany's help.

The M1 Abrams was first developed in the 1970s and first entered service with the US Army in 1980, but it didn't see combat experience until the Gulf War in the early 1990s, where it outmatched Soviet-era armor.

An M1A2 Abrams main battle tank from the Minnesota National Guard races through a breach in a barbed wire obstacle during the 116th eXportable Combat Training Exercise at the Orchard Combat Training Center, Idaho
An M1A2 Abrams main battle tank from the Minnesota National Guard races through a breach in a barbed wire obstacle during the 116th eXportable Combat Training Exercise at the Orchard Combat Training Center, Idaho  

The heavy tank weighs around 70 tons and can travel at speeds of up to 42 mph, is protected by composite armor improved with depleted uranium meshing, and is armed with a 120 mm main gun, a M2 .50 caliber machine gun, and two M240 7.62 mm machine guns.

The Abrams "is an extremely capable and effective fighting system, but it's also a very complex system that requires a lot of maintenance, requires a lot of logistic support," a senior US military official told reporters this week. Setting that capability up won't be an easy task, experts previously told Insider.

Like Germany, the US has been withholding its tanks, but the Biden administration is finally reversing course on the matter.

Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said on Tuesday that while Washington continues to look at and assess Ukraine's "immediate" battlefield needs, it is also holding discussions on what Kyiv needs in the "medium- to long-term."

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