A look at the Leopard 2 tanks that could soon be sent to Ukraine
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 now 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 – and hopes for driving them out.
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 over nearly a half-century has combined aspects of firepower, protection, speed and manoeuvrability, making it adaptable to many types of combat situations.
The 55-ton tank has a crew of four and a range of about 500 kilometres (310 miles), and top speeds of about 68 kilometres an hour (about 42 mph). Now with four main variants, its earliest version first came into service in 1979. Its main weapon is a 120mm smooth bore gun and it has a fully-digital fire-control system.
How many could be sent to Ukraine?
One big appeal of the German-made tanks are their sheer number: More than 2,000 have been deployed in over a dozen European countries and Canada. Overall, KMW says over 3,500 units have been supplied to 19 countries.