Ground Warfare

German Government Approves Leopard 1 Main Battle Tank Export to Ukraine

Leopard 1A5DK Main Battle Tank (Photo by FFG)
Leopard 1A5DK Main Battle Tank (Photo by FFG)

The German government has granted an export license for delivery of older Leopard 1 main battle tanks to Ukraine, without giving any further details. The Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that deliveries of the tanks from the industrial stocks could be made as soon as the tanks are repaired. However, there are still problems in obtaining the required 105-millimeter ammunition. First entering service in the 1960s, the Leopard 1 is the forerunner of the more advanced Leopard 2, which is widely used by armies across Europe. The German government had already decided to send 14 more modern Leopard 2 main battle tanks from Bundeswehr stocks to Ukraine. It is not clear how many can be refurbished and how many are beyond repair, and estimates vary from “most” to “a minority.”

The german defense manufacturer FFG (Flensburger Farhzeugbau Gesellschaft) has a stock of 100 Leopard 1A5 that was purchased in 2010 from the Danish government. Denmark ordered 120 German-made Leopard 1A3s in June 1974, the first of which were delivered in March 1976 and the last in November 1978. Denmark modernized the Leopard 1A3 to the 1A5 configuration and named Leopard 1A5DK. The Leopard 1A5DK is a version of the Leopard 1A5 tank that has been specifically designed for the Danish army. It features modifications and upgrades tailored to meet the specific requirements of the Danish military, such as improved armor protection, enhanced mobility, advanced fire control systems, new communications equipment, new navigation systems, and advanced target acquisition devices.

Flensburger Farhzeugbau Gesellschaft - Leopard 1 Family Vehicles
Flensburger Farhzeugbau Gesellschaft – Leopard 1 Family Vehicles. (Photo by FFG)

The german defense manufacturer Rheinmetall is also preparing to deliver a batch of 50 used Leopard 1 tanks to Ukraine. The first main battle tanks could be supplied in six weeks and the rest in three months if approved by the federal government. The Ukrainian soldiers could be trained to use the vehicle in a few days. Cabinet ministers and coalition partners are open to the possible tank delivery fearing a fresh Russian attack from the east. Rheinmetall initially made an offer to the German government to ship the vehicles to Ukraine from existing military stocks immediately. The proposal was rejected despite the arms manufacturer’s offer to compensate for the loss with new units. Rheinmetall also reportedly offered to deliver 35 Marder infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine.

The Kampfpanzer Leopard 1 is a main battle tank designed by Porsche and manufactured by Krauss-Maffei in West Germany, first entering service in 1965. The main armament of the Leopard consisted of a German license-built version of the British Royal Ordnance L7 105 mm rifled gun, one of the most effective and widespread tank guns of the era. The Leopard tank could be fitted with bolt-on polycarbonate (Lexan) armour panels, which have increased the effectiveness of the armour. The first modified vehicle was delivered in early 1987. Since then, almost all users of the Leopard 1 have applied similar changes to their own vehicles, and in most ways the 1A5 can be considered the “standard” Leopard 1 today.

German Army Kampfpanzer Leopard 1A5 main battle tank
German Army Kampfpanzer Leopard 1A5 main battle tank. (Photo by KMW)
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