Berlin — The German government has issued an export licence for Leopard 1 battle tanks to Ukraine, spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said in Berlin on Friday, without giving further details.
Until now, the government had only decided to approve the delivery of modern Leopard 2 battle tanks from the military stocks of the Bundeswehr.
German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) had reported that manufacturers Rheinmetall and FFG wanted to refurbish dozens of Leopard 1 tanks and could supply them to Ukraine for the fight against Russia. According to other media reports, Rheinmetall has 88 Leopard 1 tanks at its disposal.
However, the SZ report added that there had been problems so far with procuring ammunition.
The refurbishment is expected to take many months. “Even if the decision is made tomorrow to allow us to send our Leopard tanks to Kiev, the delivery will take until the beginning of next year,” Rheinmetall chief executive Armin Papperger told the Sunday edition of mass-circulation newspaper Bild in mid-January.
“The vehicles will not only be repainted, but will have to be converted for wartime use. They will be completely taken apart and then rebuilt,” Papperger said.
Papperger said that Rheinmetall could not repair the tanks without a contract, as the costs would be several hundred million euros. ” Rheinmetall cannot pre-finance that.”
According to Hebestreit, the application to export the tanks was made “quite some time ago.” He did not want to comment on further details. “I don’t want to say much more at this stage, [as] it will become more concrete in the coming days and weeks,” the government spokesman said.
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