Following the United Kingdom’s announcement that it will send its Challenger 2 main battle tank to Ukraine, Germany reversed its policy and made similar promises of armored support against Russia’s invasion. On January 25, 2023, the German government announced plans to send 14 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine while the U.S. approved sending 31 M1 Abrams tanks.
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the Ukrainian government has pleaded with Western nations to supply them with armored vehicles. While military aid has escalated from medical supplies and body armor to artillery and infantry fighting vehicles, NATO countries have held off sending Ukraine their modern main battle tanks. However, with the UK’s promise of its Challenger 2s, the flood gate appears to have opened for other countries to follow suit.
Germany already reversed a decades-old policy of not providing heavy military equipment to war zones when it sent Flakpanzer Gepard self-propelled anti-aircraft guns to Ukraine. Although the United States previously cited maintenance challenges for its withholding of the M1 Abrams to Ukraine, that decision was also reversed. “These tanks are further evidence of our enduring, unflagging commitment to Ukraine and our confidence in the skill of the Ukrainian forces,” President Biden said during the announcement at the White House on Wednesday.
The Leopard 2 is a third-generation main battle tank that currently serves as the German Army’s primary tank. Entering service in 1979 with the West German Army, it replaced the Leopard 1 from which it was developed. With its 120mm smoothbore main gun, licensed for use on the Abrams from the M1A1 onwards, the Leopard 2 represented a leap forward for Western tank design.
The Abrams, borrowing from the Leopard 2’s design, is also a third-generation main battle tank. It entered service in 1980 and uses the same ceramic Chobham armor as Britain’s Challenger 2 tank. The Abrams first saw action during the Gulf War along with the Army’s other Big Five systems. Since then, it has also seen combat in Iraq and Afghanistan in U.S. service and Yemen with the Saudi military.
Along with Germany, over a dozen other nations field the Leopard 2 including Denmark, Norway and Poland. Norway announced that it will send an unspecified number of its Leopard 2s to Ukraine following Germany’s approval of the reexport. Poland and Denmark also previously requested Germany’s permission to reexport their Leopard 2s and will likely join the other Western allies in sending their tanks to Ukraine.
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