Germany sets date for heavy arms deliveries to Ukraine
The first 15 Gepard anti-aircraft vehicles will arrive in Ukraine sometime in July, along with 59,000 rounds of ammunition for them, the German Defense Ministry said on Friday. This would be the heaviest weapons system directly provided by Berlin to Kiev so far.
The announcement came after Friday’s phone call between German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht and her Ukrainian counterpart, Alexey Reznikov.
The Bundeswehr will also train Ukrainian operators on the vehicles, which are armed with twin 35mm autocannons. Lambrecht called the Gepard an “effective” weapon that could be used “for the protection of critical infrastructure.”
Designed in the 1960s on the Leopard 1 tank chassis, the flakpanzer (air defense tank) was retired from active service with the Bundeswehr in 2012. Brazil, Jordan, and Romania currently operate second-hand Gepards. In April, Berlin authorized their manufacturer, Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, to deliver up to 50 units to Ukraine at the German government’s expense.
The arrangement was proposed by Chancellor Olaf Sholz, who recently admitted that the Bundeswehr stocks were running low. While insisting that Germany – and its NATO allies – must arm Ukraine so Russia doesn’t win, Scholz also argued that Berlin should avoid direct military confrontation with Moscow.
According to German media, the Gepard should help Ukraine fend off Russian attack helicopters and may even be useful against infantry and lightly armored vehicles and trucks. In the German service, the Gepard was replaced by a smaller vehicle called the Ocelot, armed with Stinger missile launchers. The US and its NATO allies have supplied thousands of portable Stingers to Ukraine, to the point where its maker, Raytheon, warned of impending shortages.
Meanwhile, the Bundeswehr has trained Ukrainians to use the Panzerhaubitze (PzH) 2000. Though a German-designed self-propelled howitzer, the seven units reportedly delivered to Kiev have come from the Netherlands.
Though Kiev had also asked for mothballed Leopard 1 tanks, and their manufacturer, Rheinmetall, said it was willing to get 50 or more delivered, the deal reportedly fell through due to lack of ammunition and parts.