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11 Apr, 2022 16:00

Old German tanks could be sent to Ukraine

Rheinmetall could start the delivery of up to 50 Leopard 1 tanks in six weeks, the company’s chairman has revealed to journalists
Old German tanks could be sent to Ukraine

Rheinmetall, one of Germany’s top arms manufacturers, is ready to start delivering tanks to Ukraine, the company’s chairman told the Handelsblatt newspaper on Monday.

Armin Papperger revealed that his company was preparing to send up to 50 decommissioned Leopard 1 models, with the first delivery possible within just six weeks. Rheinmetall’s chair noted that the deal, however, should first get approval from the German federal government.

At least some of the tanks that could be sent to Ukraine are sourced from stocks of hardware decommissioned and returned to the original manufacturer by other armies, Papperger explained. According to the company’s chair, the condition of the tanks is being checked at the moment.

The Ukrainian government has repeatedly asked its Western allies to provide it with tanks and other heavy weaponry to contain the Russian offensive.

On Monday, Germany’s Foreign Minister, Annalena Baerbock indicated that Berlin would heed Kiev’s calls, noting that “now is not the time for excuses, but rather the time for creativity and pragmatism.”

The country’s economy minister, Robert Habeck, for his part refused to divulge whether the German government would issue permission for the delivery of tanks to Ukraine, adding that “we have agreed for good reason not to talk about concrete weapons deliveries, types and routes.” However, the official indicated that there would be further arms shipments as Germany had committed itself to backing Ukraine with weapons.

Regarding another kind of military hardware, the Marder infantry fighting vehicle, Berlin had until recently been reluctant to provide these to Kiev, its defense ministry’s spokesperson on Friday describing the vehicles as “indispensable” to ensure the country’s own protection.

However, Rheinmetall’s chair announced that the company was prepared to send between 50 and 60 decommissioned Marder vehicles to Ukraine. As with the Leopard tanks, the said the hardware would come directly from Rheinmetall’s own stocks and not from those of the Bundeswehr.

However, some politicians from Germany’s ruling coalition have questioned just how useful the said tanks and vehicles will be to Kiev, seeing that the Ukrainian troops have mostly been trained to use Soviet-made military hardware. Marcus Faber, a defense speaker for the FDP party in the German parliament, noted that “one has to have more intensive training” to operate the Leopard 1. Nonetheless, both he and his colleague from the Green party, Sara Nanni, concurred that “if the Ukrainians want to have the tank… then there should be a way around” this. 

Russian military expert Viktor Litovkin, too, surmised that it would take a “couple of weeks” to train Ukrainian troops to operate the German hardware. Moreover, he pointed out that Kiev could expect difficulties in finding the appropriate cannon ordnance, which is not produced in Ukraine.

Rheinmetall’s Handelsblatt, too, acknowledged that a big question mark was hanging over where Ukraine would be getting the munitions from. According to the report, most countries have already decommissioned Leopard 1 tanks, with a few exceptions, like Brazil.

While not commenting on the issue of ordnance, the chairman told the newspaper that Ukrainian troops who had sufficient experience with other types of tanks could be trained to operate the Leopard 1 “within a few days.”

Since February 24, when Russia launched its military campaign against its neighbor, Germany, along with numerous other nations, have been supplying weapons to Ukraine. Among the known deliveries are several thousand anti-tank and anti-aircraft portable missiles.