What the Leopard 2 tank could mean for Ukraine's fight against Russia | CBC News (2023)

Following intense pressure from its allies, Germany appears to be inching toward approving deliveries of high-tech Leopard 2 main battle tanks that Ukraine and its biggest Western backers hope will boost Kyiv's fight against Russian invaders.

Over the weekend, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Berlin would not get in the way if Poland — arguably Ukraine's most vocal supporter among European Union neighbours — wants to ship Leopard 2 tanks from its arsenal across the border into Ukraine. And Germany is not ruling out supplying such tanks to Ukraine itself, cautioning however that the implications of such a step need to be carefully weighed.

Here's a look at what those tanks might mean for Ukraine's defence against Russian forces.

What is the Leopard 2?

Germany's Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, the manufacturer of the Leopard 2, touts it as "the world's leading battle tank," that for nearly a half-century has combined aspects of firepower, defence, speed and manoeuvrability, making it adaptable to many types of combat situations.

The 50-tonne tank requiresa crew of four and has a range of about 500 kilometres, withtop speeds of about 68 kilometresper hour. Its earliest version first came into service in 1979 and there are nowfour main variants. Its main weapon is a 120-mm smooth bore gun, and it has a fully-digital fire-control system.

What the Leopard 2 tank could mean for Ukraine's fight against Russia | CBC News (1)

How many could be sent to Ukraine?

One big appeal of the German-made tanks istheir sheer number: More than 2,000 have been deployed in over a dozen European countries and Canada. Overall, Krauss-Maffei Wegmann says more than3,500 units have been supplied to 19 countries.

According to a recent analysis by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a London-based global think tank, some 350 Leopard 2s — in different versions — have been sent to Greece, and Poland has about 250 of varying types. Finland has 200 in operation or in storage.

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For Ukraine's war against Russia, "it is believed that for the Leopard 2 tanks to have any significant effect on the fighting, around 100 tanks would be required," the International Institute for Strategic Studies analysts wrote.

Ukraine's defence minister wants 300 tanks, and some European Union leaders support him on that.

"We need a fleet of 300 tanks," Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said Monday in Brussels, alluding to the wide deployment of Leopards across Europe and the need for "synchronous" weaponry — that can operate smoothly together.

(Video) Germany WILL send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine - reports

WATCH|Why Germany has hesitated to send the Leopard 2 tanks:

What the Leopard 2 tank could mean for Ukraine's fight against Russia | CBC News (2)

Land warfare expert weighs in on Ukraine's need for battle tank

5 days ago

Duration 5:14

(Video) Germany sending Leopard 2 battle tanks could end the war in Ukraine: analyst

Ukraine has been fighting a defensive battle so far and will need tanks from Western allies to recapture ground lost during the Russian invasion, says Nicholas Drummond, U.K. defence analyst specializing in land warfare.

How soon could Ukraineuse them?

Getting Leopards into Ukrainian hands isn't as easy as rolling them across the border from friends farther West in Europe. The International Institute for Strategic Studies estimates that three to six weeks of training would be needed for operating crews and support staff to reach basic proficiency.

Ralf Raths, director of the Panzer Museum in Munster, Germany, said experienced Ukrainian tank crews would likely be able to learn to use the Leopard 2 fairly quickly, and training could be shortened to focus on essential knowledge.

"Do you really have to exploit 100 per centof the potential or is it enough to utilize 80 per centin half the time? Ukrainians will certainly vote for option B," he said.

What difference would the tanks make towar effort?

Yohann Michel, a research analyst for defence and military affairs at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said such tanks could allow Ukraine to go onthe offensive in the 11-month-old conflict that has been stalemated for months following two key Ukrainian counteroffensives that recaptured areas occupied by Russian forces for months in the northeast and south.

"In this type of conflict, it's just not possible to carry out large-scale offensives without the full variety of armoured combat equipment and armoured vehicles, and tanks are a part of that," he said. In addition to Main Battle Tanks (MBTs)like the Leopard 2, others include infantry fighting vehicles and armoured personnel carriers.

Western deliveries of Leopard 2s could help equip Ukraine with needed high-calibremunitions to replace its own dwindling Soviet-era stockpiles, opening a new avenue for supplies of Western firepower to get to Ukraine, he said.

Raths noted that the Leopard 2 and similar Western tanks are more agile than T-models used by Russia, which can't reverse at speed, for example.

"Imagine a boxer who cannot move freely in the ring, but only in one direction," he said. "The other boxer, who can move in all directions, has a big advantage and that it is the case with the Leopards."

What the Leopard 2 tank could mean for Ukraine's fight against Russia | CBC News (3)

Still, even Western MBTs are vulnerable to aerial attacks, or anti-tank infantry while in forests and urban areas, highlighting the importance of anti-aircraft and reconnaissance support, said Raths.

With similar numbers of tanks on both sides, Leopards 2 and similar tanks could give Ukraine the upper hand, especially given the poor tactical performance of Russian troops during the war, he said.

"The Ukrainians shine through creative, dynamic and often very clean warfare," Rathssaid. "So it could well be that if Ukraine's operational offensive were to begin, the Russians would have real problems countering it."

(Video) Top Ukrainian Defense official says battle tanks are key to defeating Russia

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Niklas Masuhr, a researcher at the Center for Security Studies at Switzerland's federal polytechnic university ETHZ, based in Zurich, cautioned that the addition of Leopards to the battlefield alone wouldn't be "a game changer or a war-winning technology, anything like that."

"You can't just deploy a bunch of main battle tanks and assume they will win," he said. "They're very valuable, but you still need to use them in the correct way and integrate them with all the other military tools that you have at your disposal," such as infantry, artillery, air defence, combat engineers and helicopters.

Why has Germany been reluctant to send the tanks?

Germany has final say about whether Leopard 2s can be delivered — even from other countries' arsenals — and has been reticent about anyone shipping them to Ukraine.

"Obviously, Germany is reluctant to trigger any kind of escalation," U.K. defence industry analyst Nicholas Drummond told CBC News.

Even thoughGermany has already sent a huge amount of other military equipment to Ukraine, Drummond says,tanks are the sticking point—and Germany would prefer not to lead in this area.

"And really, when you think about its history and its desire notagain to become a militaristic state, you can kind of sort of understand this approach," he said, referring to the country's general reluctance to supply tanksfollowingthe events of the Second World War.

More-hawkish Western allies have been stepping up pressure on Germany, but the U.S.has also refused to send its powerful M1 Abrams tanks.

WATCH| Peter McKay says Canada could deliver Leopard 2 tanks:

What the Leopard 2 tank could mean for Ukraine's fight against Russia | CBC News (4)

Peter MacKay calls on Trudeau government to send tanks to Ukraine

19 hours ago

Duration 8:18

(Video) Ukrainian troops to start training Leopard 2 tanks in Poland
Former minister of national defence Peter MacKay tells Power & Politics he thinks Canada could deliver 14 Leopard 2 tanks in a matter of weeks to Ukraine: "It all depends on how quickly the government and the Department of National Defence want to move."

What have other countries provided?

The U.S.announced an upcoming new package of military aid that is expected to include nearly 100 Stryker combat vehicles and at least 50 Bradley armoured vehicles — but not the Abrams tanks, which U.S. officials say havecomplex maintenance needs and may not be the best fit.

Allies and military analysts say the Leopard 2 is diesel-powered — not driven by jet fuel that powers the M1 Abrams — and is easier to operate than the big U.S. tanks, and thus has shorter training times.

Britain this month announced it will send Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine, and the Czech Republic and Poland have provided Soviet-era T-72 tanks to Ukrainian forces. French President Emmanuel Macron said Sunday that he had asked his defence minister to "work on" the idea of sending some of France's Leclerc battle tanks to Ukraine.

Even if modern western MBTs are superior to their Russian counterparts, donor countries supplying them need to prepare for losses, Raths said.

The Leopard 2 "is an offensive weapon that will be thrown into high-intensity battles," he said. "Vehicles will be destroyed, and people will die in these tanks."

(Video) Retired general on how US tanks could affect Ukraine battlefield

FAQs

Why are Leopard tanks important to Ukraine? ›

According to Alex Gatopoulos, Al Jazeera's defence analyst, the latest-generation main battle tanks are vital for Ukraine if it wants to punch holes in Russian defensive lines and retake territory that Russian forces seized in the opening weeks of the invasion.

Will Leopard tanks help Ukraine? ›

They will provide Ukrainian crews with more protection, speed and accuracy. But Western modern main battle tanks are not a wonder weapon or game-changer on their own. It's also what's being supplied alongside them.

How many Leopard 2 tanks will Ukraine receive? ›

European allies will send about 80 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, Germany says. Chancellor Olaf Scholz finally agrees to supply the German-made tank after the US also agrees to send American tanks.

How many Leopard tanks will Ukraine get? ›

Scholz said in the German parliament on Wednesday that his government will send 14 Leopard tanks to Ukraine, wrapping up months of deliberation and several days of tense negotiations with NATO partners.

What is so special about Leopard 2 tanks? ›

What are the Leopard 2 tanks? Germany's Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, the manufacturer of the Leopard 2, touts it as “the world's leading battle tank" that for nearly a half-century has combined aspects of firepower, protection, speed and maneuverability, making it adaptable to many types of combat situations.

What's so special about Leopard 2 tanks? ›

The Leopard 2A6 is nearly 58 tonnes. Both models have a top speed of 72kph (45mph), making them quicker than both the Abrams (68kph) and the Challenger 2 (56kph). And the range of both Leopard 2 models—how far they can travel before refuelling—is 550km.

How good are the Leopard 2 tanks? ›

Germany's Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, the manufacturer of the Leopard 2, touts it as "the world's leading battle tank," that for nearly a half-century has combined aspects of firepower, defence, speed and manoeuvrability, making it adaptable to many types of combat situations.

How many Leopard 2 tanks does Germany have? ›

The German army has 320 Leopard 2 tanks in its possession but does not reveal how many would be battle ready, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Defense previously told CNN. Germany will also allow other countries to export the battle tank, it said.

Who is sending Leopard tanks to Ukraine? ›

BERLIN, Jan 25 (Reuters) - Germany said on Wednesday it would supply its Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, overcoming misgivings about sending heavy weaponry that Kyiv sees as crucial to defeat Russia's invasion but Moscow casts as a dangerous provocation.

Has Germany sent tanks to Ukraine? ›

Germany has finally decided to send its coveted Leopard 2 battle tanks to the Ukrainian frontlines, German news magazine Der Spiegel first reported Tuesday, though a formal announcement has yet to be made.

Why is Germany sending tanks to Ukraine? ›

U.S. and Germany sending tanks to Ukraine for fight against Russian invasion. The U.S. officially announced it will send American tanks to Ukraine as part of a coordinated effort with Germany, which will also send its tanks.

Who else is sending tanks to Ukraine? ›

Germany and the US have confirmed that they are sending tanks to Ukraine in a show of support for the government in Kyiv. The German government said it will be sending 14 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, while the US is planning to deliver 31 Abrams in the coming months.

How many tanks does usa have? ›

According to the IISS, the US Army has 2,509 Abrams M1A1 and M1A2 tanks in service, with a further 3,700 in storage.

How many Leopard 2 tanks have been destroyed? ›

At least eight Leopard 2 MBT have been destroyed according to photographic reports.

How many Leopard 2 tanks in NATO? ›

While there are more than 2,000 Leopard 2s deployed across multiple countries in Europe, there are not nearly as many M1 Abrams tanks. There are also some uncommitted tanks available.

What was the best tank in World War 2? ›

The Panther is often believed to be the best German tank of the Second World War. When the Germans invaded Russia in June 1941, they were surprised by the quantity and quality of Soviet armour. Hitler ordered that the T-34 be copied and the result was the Panther, which saw action for the first time at Kursk in 1943.

How much ammo does a Leopard 2 carry? ›

The Leopard 2 main battle tank is armed with a fully-stabilized Rheinmetall RH-M-120 120 mm smoothbore gun. Vehicle carries 42 rounds for the main gun. A total of 15 ready-to-use rounds are stored in the turret bustle, while the rest are store in front of the hull by the driver.

Why is the Leopard the best tank? ›

The Leopard 2 is one of the best and most balanced tanks in the world, with a near-perfect combination of firepower, mobility and protection. Even an older Leopard 2 easily beats any of Ukraine's or Russia's current, ex-Soviet tanks in a head-to-head fight.

What fuel does the Leopard 2 use? ›

The Leopard 2 runs on a more economical engine that burns diesel, which is also easier to obtain than kerosene. The British government announced in January it would send a squadron, or 14, of its Challenger 2 battle tanks.

How many countries use the Leopard 2? ›

One advantage of the Leopard 2 tank is that, as well as being one of the best tanks in the West's arsenal, it is also one of the most widely used. With some 20 nations operating the Leopard 2, several nations could each chip in a small portion of their tanks to support Ukraine.

Does Canada have Leopard 2 tanks? ›

The Canadian Armed Forces has 112 Leopard 2s in its inventory. They include 82 designed for combat and 30 that are used for engineering purposes and recovering disabled vehicles. Many are not battle-ready because of maintenance issues.

How many leopard tanks does Germany have? ›

The German army has 320 Leopard tanks in its possession but does not reveal how many would be battle ready, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Defense previously told CNN.

How many Leopard 2 does Poland have? ›

Poland's land forces currently operate some 247 Leopard 2s in different variants. These comprise Leopard 2A4 and 2A5 tanks, and Leopard 2PL tanks modernized by the Polish defense industry in collaboration with Germany's Rheinmetall.

What will replace the Abrams? ›

The AbramsX comes loaded with features typical of modern military weapons. Powered by a hybrid electric diesel engine, it's lighter and far more fuel-efficient than current gas-guzzling Abrams tanks. It can also operate with a smaller crew and has artificial intelligence systems to spot enemies, its creators said.

How many German Tiger tanks are left in the world? ›

Today, only seven Tiger I tanks survive in museums and private collections worldwide. As of 2021, Tiger 131 (captured during the North Africa Campaign) at the UK's Tank Museum is the only example restored to running order.

Is spain sending tanks to Ukraine? ›

In late 2022, Spain delivered its largest package of defence materiel for Ukraine to date, sending to the logistics hub in Poland heavy weapons, long-range and anti-tank ammunition.

How many tanks are being given to Ukraine? ›

The US will send 31 powerful battle tanks to Ukraine, joining Germany in sending the vehicles to support the fight against Russia's invasion.

Why is the US not sending tanks to Ukraine? ›

WASHINGTON (AP) — For months, U.S. officials balked at sending M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, insisting they were too complicated and too hard to maintain and repair.

How many tanks does NATO have? ›

There are roughly 200 tanks in service for each tank type, making a total of 800, plus roughly 1500 Leopard 2's and roughly 2500 M1 Abrams, the majority of which are M1A2's and the rest M1A1's.

Is the US giving tanks to Ukraine? ›

Along with the tanks, the U.S. will be giving Ukraine the parts and equipment necessary to effectively repair and maintain these tanks on the battlefield, he said. 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, receives M1A2 SEPv3 Abrams tanks at Fort Stewart, Ga., Jan. 5, 2023.

What is the strongest tank in America? ›

Approved for production in 1990, the M1A2 represents the U.S. Army's technological improvement of the basic M1A1 design and the most modern battle tank in the world.

What is currently the best tank in the world? ›

The top ten tanks today are the German KF51 Panther, the American Abrams M1A2, the Russian T-14 Armata, the Korean K2 Black Panther, the Chinese T-99, the German Leopard 2, the French Leclerc XL, the British Challenger 2, the Israeli Merkava V, and the Japanese Type-90.

Is the US getting rid of tanks? ›

Last year, the Marine Corps got rid of the last of its active duty tank units and most of its traditional tube artillery as part of FD2030. This was Berger's plan to reshape the Marine Corps primarily to fight a prospective long-range, high-tech, over-water war with China.

Does China have Abrams? ›

The Chinese M1 Abrams isn't exactly correct: it features the wrong main gun—an older, smaller-caliber M68 gun that the Abrams used in the 1980s. It also uses a digital camouflage pattern not used in the West or among U.S. allies in Asia. Those issues aside, however, it's readily identifiable as an Abrams tank.

What is the fastest tank in the world? ›

More than 3,000 were produced and used as a reconnaissance vehicle or a light tank. It holds the Guinness world record for the fastest production tank; recorded doing 82.23 km/h (51.10 mph) at the QinetiQ vehicle test track, Chertsey, Surrey, on 26 January 2002.
...
FV101 Scorpion
Maximum speed72.5 km/h (45.0 mph)
26 more rows

What is the biggest American tank in the world? ›

And it never even went to war.

How many US Abrams tanks have been destroyed in combat? ›

Just over 2,000 Abrams tanks were deployed with combat units during the war, and only 23 were damaged or destroyed. Of the nine that were destroyed, none were lost as a result of enemy action.

How many Abrams have been destroyed by enemies? ›

Of the nine Abrams tanks destroyed, seven were destroyed by friendly fire and two intentionally destroyed to prevent capture by the Iraqi Army.

How many Leopard tanks does the Canadian army have? ›

The Canadian Army has 112 Leopard 2 tanks. Canada purchased them from Germany in 2007, during the height of the war in Afghanistan, and the Ukrainian Canadian Congress has called on Canada to supply some of them.

Why do Russian tanks in Ukraine have cages? ›

Russian forces appear to be attaching makeshift metal cages to the tops of their tanks in Ukraine in a crude effort to protect themselves against anti-tank missiles.

What is the most common tank in Ukraine? ›

The T-84 is a Ukrainian main battle tank (MBT), based on the Soviet T-80 MBT introduced in 1976, specifically the diesel engine version: T-80UD.

What will replace the Leopard tank? ›

The Main Ground Combat System (MGCS) is a project by France, Germany and Italy started in 2012, aiming to replace their currently in-service Leclerc, Leopard 2, and Ariete main battle tanks (MBTs).

How good is the German Leopard 2 tank? ›

The German-made Leopard 2 is one of the most well-reputed battle tanks in the world, perhaps second only to the U.S.-made M1 Abrams tank, military arms experts said. The Leopard 2 was originally designed in the 1970s for the West German army in response to Soviet threats during the Cold War.

Why are Russian tanks so easy to destroy? ›

Unlike modern Western tanks, Russian ones carry multiple shells within their turrets. This makes them highly vulnerable as even an indirect hit can start a chain reaction that explodes their entire ammunition store of up to 40 shells.

Why is Russia losing so many tanks in Ukraine? ›

Russia has reportedly lost more than 650 tanks and about 3,000 other armored vehicles and heavy equipment so far in its invasion of Ukraine. Experts put the losses down to the advanced anti-tank weapons given to Ukraine by Western countries, poor strategy, low morale, and important design flaws.

Why did Russia lose so many tanks in Ukraine? ›

No, Russia's accelerating tank losses are the result of leadership and morale problems more than they are any technological imbalance on the battlefield. Half of the tanks the Russians have written off since early September were abandoned by their crews and seized by the Ukrainians.

What is the number 1 tank in the world? ›

The top ten tanks today are the German KF51 Panther, the American Abrams M1A2, the Russian T-14 Armata, the Korean K2 Black Panther, the Chinese T-99, the German Leopard 2, the French Leclerc XL, the British Challenger 2, the Israeli Merkava V, and the Japanese Type-90.

How many Leopard 2 tanks are there? ›

Overall, Krauss-Maffei Wegmann says over 3,500 units have been supplied to 19 countries. Rheinmetall AG, a German defense contractor that makes the 120mm smoothbore gun on the Leopard 2, says the tank has been deployed by “more nations than any other.”

How many tanks is the US sending to Ukraine? ›

The US will send 31 powerful battle tanks to Ukraine, joining Germany in sending the vehicles to support the fight against Russia's invasion.

Videos

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