Procurement: Ukraine Receiving Lots of Western Tanks


May 15, 2023: Ukraine is delaying the start of its much anticipated offensive against Russian troops occupying portions of Ukraine. The delay is caused by the growing number of Western tanks arriving in Ukraine or adjacent NATO countries where training on new equipment usually takes place. For over a year Ukrainians have asked NATO countries for Western tanks like the M1, Leopard and Challenger. The superiority of these tanks over anything Russia has is well known. For Ukraine, the more of these tanks they have, the fewer Ukrainian troops will be killed or wounded. The Ukrainian troops know as well as the largely demoralized Russian soldiers. The Ukrainians are delaying the offensive so they can incorporate as many of the Western tanks as they can.

As of early May, Ukraine had received and put into service 14 Leopard 2A6s from Germany and 14 Challenger 2 tanks from Britain. The Leopard 2A6 is a 61 ton tank with a more powerful version of the NATO standard 120mm tank gun and exceptional fire control and protection. The Challenger 2 is a 64-ton tank that has similar combat performance to the 2A6 even though the Leopard is more up-to-date. For all practical purposes these two tanks outclass anything the Russians have.

Meanwhile Canada is sending eight Leopard 2A4s while Denmark is sending a hundred Leopard 1A5s. The Leopard 1 entered service in 1961 and began getting replaced by Leopard 2s in 1979. The original Leopard 2 was first upgraded in 1984 to the Leopard A1. The A2 upgrades followed in 1984 while A3 followed less than a year later. The A4 arrived in 1992 followed by A5 in 1995, A6 in 2008, A7 in 2010. Some 3,600 Leopard 2s have been built since 1979, most of them before the Cold War ended in 1991. In the 1990s major users of Leopard 2s retired many of these tanks. Germany had 2,100 Leopard 2s and retired most of them by selling them off, at very attractive prices, to friendly countries. Despite this flood of low cost Leopard 2s, many nations kept their Leopard 1s. The 42-ton Leopard 1 and its 105mm gun could deal with any Russian tank, but not as efficiently as a 61-ton Leopard 2 and its 120mm gun. Ukrainians have been building tanks for nearly a century and know these combat vehicles quite well. A hundred Leopard 1A5s will overwhelm the Russians faster than a few dozen Leopard 2s and Challengers 2s. There are more Leopard 1A5s available from European nations that realized their values and put them in storage rather than scrapping them. Most NATO users want to hold on to most of their Leopard 2s, just in case. That means more Leopard 1s are available and Ukraine is eager to have them. About a hundred American M1 tanks won’t begin arriving in Ukraine until late 2023. Meanwhile 31 are being made available to train Ukrainian crews and mechanics. The U.S. built over 10,000 M1s since it entered service in 1982. The M1 and Leopard 2 are roughly equal in capability although the M1 has more combat experience. Both cost about the same at $6 million, which is twice what a new Leopard 1 cost. Meanwhile, Ukraine believes a hundred Leopard 1A5s arriving first can get most of the work done.




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