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1 Feb, 2023 03:00

NATO state wants to fast-track Ukrainian tank-crew training

Polish instructors believe five weeks is enough to master German Leopards
NATO state wants to fast-track Ukrainian tank-crew training

Polish military instructors claim it is possible to cut the training time necessary for operating German-made Leopard 2 battle tanks in half, to prepare Ukrainian crews for battle in just over a month.

After leading the charge to send Western-made tanks to Kiev, Warsaw is now “likely” to provide the necessary training as the country hosts one of Europe’s three Leopard training centers, military experts told Reuters on Tuesday. The facility in the village of Swietoszow in western Poland, near the German border, is equipped to train 14 crews simultaneously.

“If we intensify training (by maximising the number of) instructors, our time and our weekends, we can train an entire crew in five weeks,” the commander of the facility, Major Maciej Banaszynski, told Reuters. In addition to crew training, Polish instructors now offer “courses for mechanics for the arms, chassis and equipment accompanying Leopards,” he added.

Warsaw has yet to officially confirm whether Ukrainian personnel would be trained at that facility, but Ukrainian Defense Minister Aleksey Reznikov previously said his troops would undergo training in Poland.

Last week, Germany caved in to pressure from the US, Poland and several other fellow NATO member states, with Chancellor Olaf Scholz announcing his decision to ship 14 Leopard 2A6 tanks from Germany’s own stock to Kiev, no later than by the end of March.

Warsaw immediately pledged another 14 Leopards, after Berlin said it would authorize other countries in possession of the German-made hardware to re-export it to Kiev. The UK, Canada, Spain, Norway and the Netherlands have all promised their heavy armor to Kiev.

The US also agreed to supply Kiev with 31 of its M1 Abrams main battle tanks – but cautioned that the delivery could take several months. According to recent reporting by the Washington Post, the US tanks were only offered as “cover” for Germany to send the Leopards, and will not arrive until the end of the year at the earliest.

Russia has maintained that foreign weapons, including heavy tanks, will not change the course of the conflict. “As we said in the past, these tanks will burn just like the rest. They just cost a lot [to make],” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said last week, referring to the Abrams specifically.