The majority of the Leopard 2A6 tanks sent to Ukraine by Germany are no longer functioning, a senior politician for the German Greens has said.
Party defence expert Sebastian Schäfer made the revelation in a letter to arms manufacturers Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) and Rheinmetall that was then leaked to the local press.
According to Schäfer, Ukraine has been unable to field most of the high-end main battle tanks due to difficulties over repairs, with a maintenance hub set up in Lithuania lacking the necessary spare parts.
“Unfortunately, it has to be noted that only a very small number of the battle tanks delivered can still be used by Ukraine,” the Green politician wrote.
He went on to ask the two companies to help rectify the situation by accelerating the production of spares, saying there was now an “urgent need for action”.
Germany had asked Switzerland in February to sell back some of the 96 Leopard II tanks it has in storage to manufacturer Rheinmetall AG. https://t.co/oVSe13OTyY
— Brussels Signal (@brusselssignal) September 27, 2023
According to Forbes, Ukraine has received a total of 21 Leopard 2A6s.
Three were donated by Portugal, with the rest coming straight from Germany, where the tank was designed and manufactured.
It is unclear precisely why most of the tanks sent from Germany are out of service, although Schäfer complains in his letter that Ukrainian engineers who lack proper training have inadvertently badly damaged them in attempting repairs.
Battlefield breakdowns also look like a likely cause for at least some of the failures. The German military was plagued by issues over the reliability of another of its armoured vehicles, the Puma, in 2022.
Russia is also likely responsible for the destruction of a number of the Leopard tanks and the country has been reported to have taken out at least five of them as of the end of October.
With so many out of commission, Ukraine has been forced to rely on older models to back up its infantry. For instance, the Leopard 1 is reportedly becoming a more common sight within the country’s armed forces.
The flagship main battle tank of the 1970s Soviet Union, the T-72, is also being deployed as Kyiv increasingly fields modified versions of the vehicle as it runs out of newer Communist-made surplus.
Dubbed the T-72EA, the modified armoured vehicles boast improved engines, armour and firing capabilities than the Cold War variants.
This new version does maintain the core flaw of the original tank, that being the ammunition storage is located directly under the turret.
As a result, if that area is directly hit by an enemy round it frequently blows the turret off the vehicle, often killing all personnel within.
The European Union “does not know how to fight wars” and spends too long deliberating on how and when to ramp up its weapon production, according to Ukraine’s foreign minister. https://t.co/zCf0Ql3sfD
— Brussels Signal (@brusselssignal) January 2, 2024