Ground Warfare

Austrian Ministry of Defense Launches € 560 Million Upgrade of Leopard MBTs and Ulan AFVs

Austrian Ministry of Defense Launches € 560 Million Upgrade of Leopard MBTs and Ulan AFVs
Austrian Ministry of Defense Launches € 560 Million Upgrade of Leopard MBTs and Ulan AFVs

Austrian Ministry of Defense commitment to bolstering its defense capabilities reached a significant milestone recently as Defense Minister Klaudia Tanner oversaw the handover of a Leopard 2A4 main battle tank (MBT) to the European company KNDS (KMW+Nexter Defense Systems), marking the commencement of a €560 million upgrade program. This initiative represents a historic step forward in modernizing the Austrian armed forces and fortifying the nation’s defense capabilities to ensure the safety and security of its citizens. Austria’s decision to invest in the modernization of its armored vehicles, including the Leopard 2A4 main battle tanks and Ulan armored fighting vehicles, reflects a long-overdue commitment to providing state-of-the-art equipment for its troops. For decades, this investment has been urgently needed, and the €560 million allocation signals a significant stride toward closing this gap.

Minister Tanner’s emphasis on bringing these armored vehicles up to the latest and most modern standards is a clear testament to Austria’s dedication to providing its military personnel with the best tools available. This investment will undoubtedly enhance the readiness and effectiveness of the Austrian Armed Forces in safeguarding the nation’s interests and protecting its population. In addition to the upgrade of the Leopard 2A4 tanks, the commitment extends to the Ulan AFVs, ensuring that Austria’s armored fleet is comprehensively modernized to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Such an upgrade is not just about enhancing firepower; it’s also about improving safety, mobility, and the overall capabilities of the armed forces.

Austrian Army Ulan (ASCOD) armored fighting vehicles
Austrian Army SPz Ulan (ASCOD) Armored Fighting Vehicles

Furthermore, the acknowledgment of the role played by apprentices from the Army Logistics Center in Wels underscores the importance of well-trained personnel in operating and maintaining the new equipment appropriately. The center’s contribution to training the 200th apprentice is a testament to its commitment to cultivating a skilled workforce capable of supporting Austria’s military modernization efforts. Governor Thomas Stelzer’s commitment to aviation forces in Upper Austria is equally promising. The decision to maintain Hörsching as the home for future transport aircraft and successor helicopters demonstrates Austria’s dedication to providing its military with the necessary infrastructure for a secure and effective defense strategy. Moreover, the planned introduction of advanced jet trainers at Vogler Air Base reinforces Austria’s readiness to adapt to changing security dynamics.

The “Protection and Aid” partnership signed between the state of Upper Austria and the Ministry of Defense highlights the collaborative efforts between regional and national authorities to ensure a robust defense infrastructure. The allocation of more than €200 million to modernize barracks and related facilities in Upper Austria underscores the commitment to building a resilient and responsive defense apparatus. The symbolic handover of the Leopard 2A4 tank is not just a ceremonial gesture; it represents a tangible step toward realizing the “2032+ construction plan.” The plan outlines the upgrade of 58 Leopard 2A4 main battle tanks to align with current technological standards. With an investment of around €240 million in this endeavor, Austria demonstrates its intent to remain at the forefront of military capabilities in the region.

Austrian Army Leopard 2A4 main battle tanks
Austrian Army Leopard 2A4 Main Battle Tanks. (Photo by Austrian Ministry of Defense)

The Leopard 2 is a third generation German main battle tank (MBT). Developed by Krauss-Maffei in the 1970s, the tank entered service in 1979 and replaced the earlier Leopard 1 as the main battle tank of the West German army. Various iterations of the Leopard 2 continue to be operated by the armed forces of Germany, as well as 13 other European countries, and several non-European countries, including Canada, Chile, Indonesia, and Singapore. The Austrian Army initially acquired 114 Leopard 2A4s from surplus Dutch stocks plus one turret in 1996. In 2006 the number of tanks was reduced to two tank battalions, with 40 of the Leopard 2A4s sold back to KMW in 2011 (Canada lost the bid to purchase them). In 2017–19, a third tank battalion was added and the number of active duty tanks was increased to 56. In 2021 it was announced that Austria would modernize its tank fleet to the 2A7 standard.

The ASCOD (Austrian Spanish Cooperation Development) armoured fighting vehicle family is the product of a cooperation agreement between Austrian Steyr-Daimler-Puch AG and Spanish General Dynamics Santa Bárbara Sistemas (both companies are now divisions of a unit of General Dynamics). In Spanish service, the vehicle is called “Pizarro”, while the Austrian version is called “Ulan”. ASCOD Ulan is built by Steyr-Daimler-Puch Spezialfahrzeuge. It includes a more powerful 530 kW engine, and a different fire control system built by Kollsman. In February 2023, the modernisation of the 112 IFV was announced. It focuses mostly on the electronic, providing new observation equipment, a digital panel for the driver. For the rest, a renewed electrical turret drive, other revisions to the electrical system and the drivetrain.

 Austrian Army SPz Ulan (ASCOD) Armored Fighting Vehicles
Austrian Army SPz Ulan (ASCOD) Armored Fighting Vehicles. (Photo by Austrian Ministry of Defense)

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