Tank deliveries are “not quite exhilarating”

The defense minister wants to speed up arms deliveries. The production of ammunition is now also being expanded.

According to German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius, plans for the rapid delivery of dozens of European Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine are progressing slowly. It doesn’t look “quite so exciting – to put it mildly,” said the SPD politician on Tuesday at the sidelines of a meeting of the international contact group for arms deliveries to Ukraine.

In addition to the German commitment to deliver 14 Leopard 2A6, there has only been an announcement from Portugal that three such tanks will be made available. More A6 are currently not in discussion, said Pistorius. Leopard 2A4 tanks from Poland may have problems in terms of tank condition and serviceability. You can read more about the planned tank deliveries here.

When asked whether he had sympathy for countries that had put incredible pressure on to deliver tanks and now had delivery problems, Pistorius said: “Since I’m on the diplomatic stage here, I would say: little.”

“Only the armaments companies can do that”

According to Pistorius, the question of how to ensure that there are enough ammunition and spare parts is still open. “The Federal Republic of Germany cannot ensure that, only the armaments companies can do that,” he said.

At the end of last week, Chancellor Olaf Scholz expressed optimism that the targets for the delivery of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine would be met. “My impression is that it works,” said the SPD politician on Friday night after the EU summit in Brussels. “But of course it won’t be easy.”

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Leopard 2A6: The main battle tank is to be delivered from Germany to Ukraine. (Quelle: David Inderlied/imago images)

On January 25, the federal government announced the goal of providing the Ukraine with two battalions of Leopard 2 tanks. In Ukraine, these are usually equipped with 31 tanks each. As a first step, Germany itself wants to give up 14 tanks. The others should come from partner countries.

Production of cheetah ammunition begins

New ammunition is also being sought for the Gepard anti-aircraft tank. Germany therefore ordered supplies. Pistorius announced that the contracts with the manufacturers had been signed. “That means we will immediately resume production at Rheinmetall for cheetah ammunition. It will start immediately.”

According to the Ministry of Defense, the contracts were signed by Germany on behalf of Ukraine. An appointment by Germany itself would therefore have required the participation of the Bundestag and would have taken too much time.

For Ukraine, it is currently a matter of not losing airspace to the Russian Air Force and not having to accept more bombing and attacks on critical infrastructure, explained Pistorius. Hopefully it’s not too late for the topic to pick up speed now.

Switzerland blocks new deliveries

According to Pistorius, the contracts for the cheetah ammunition should ensure Ukraine’s independence and faster delivery. “This is of central importance for cheetah anti-aircraft defenses in Ukraine,” he said. Despite his age, he is doing “outstanding service, especially in drone defense” and is highly valued by the Ukrainian soldiers.

According to the Defense Ministry, Germany has delivered 32 Gepard anti-aircraft tanks to Ukraine since the summer, with five more to follow by the end of February. However, the ammunition for this is scarce, also because Switzerland is blocking the transfer of cheetah ammunition with reference to its neutrality. A new factory of the armaments company Rheinmetall for the production of this ammunition is currently being built in Unterlüß in Lower Saxony in the district of Celle (Lower Saxony). According to information from December, production should begin in June.

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Anti-aircraft tank Gepard: Ukraine needs more ammunition for the tank. (Source: Björn Trotsky/imago images)


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