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Fatal misjudgment? Why the Leopard 2 might not be a game changer in the Ukraine war


Kyiv continues to insist on the delivery of the Leopard 2. But can the modern main battle tank actually meet the high expectations?

Kyiv continues to insist on the delivery of the Leopard 2. But can the modern main battle tank actually meet the high expectations?

Munich – In the war against Russia, the Ukrainian armed forces still have to resort to Soviet-designed battle tanks to defend themselves against the invaders.

Kyiv could still fall back on some of these T-72 tanks from its own military stocks.

The armed forces were able to capture further weapon systems through combat operations in the ongoing Ukraine war.

In addition, they now want modern western battle tanks from NATO.

The main object of desire: the German Leopard 2 main battle tank. But can the weapon system actually serve as a panacea for the Ukrainian military?

First of all, one thing can be stated: Leopard 2 tanks are not equal to Leopard 2 tanks.

The second version of the Leopard tank has been mass-produced by the Bavarian manufacturer Krauss-Maffei Wegmann since 1978.

Over the years, however, new variants of the main battle tank have been developed.

The latest variant of the Bundeswehr is the Leopard 2A7, which was first handed over to the troops in 2014.

But the older variants are still in use by various NATO countries.

Leopard 2: what benefits would the main battle tank bring to Ukraine?

Compared to the Soviet-designed T-72 tanks, the newer Leopard 2 tanks can have both offensive and defensive advantages.

The Bundeswehr names the combination of firepower, armor protection and mobility as one of the main advantages of the weapon system.

The Leopard 2 can reach operational speeds of over 70 km/h and remains combat-capable despite its mobility.


The focus of the discussion: Leopard main battle tanks from Germany.

© IMAGO/Sven Eckelkamp

Military historian Ralf Raths, head of the German Tank Museum, recently explained to

the main difference between modern battle tanks and their predecessors: "You can shoot and hit at full speed - and over several kilometers, even when reversing," says Raths.

"The Soviet or Russian models, such as the 'T-90', cannot do that at this speed."

In addition, the Leopard 2 has significantly better armor than the tanks currently used by Ukraine.

"A hit T-64/72/80/90 (the various types of Soviet-made tanks used by Ukraine, editor's


) usually burns out with the crew," military expert Gustav Gressel told

Merkur in December. de




"Western tanks have a higher chance of crew surviving a hit." 

Fatal misjudgment?

Experts warn: "Western tanks are not super tanks"

The advantages of the Leopard 2 are obvious, and yet critics warn against seeing the main battle tank as a panacea for the Ukrainian military.

Because the Leopard 2 is clearly superior on paper, but has not yet been able to prove itself on the battlefield against equal opponents.

So is there a risk of a fatal misjudgment?

Tanks, drones, anti-aircraft defenses: weapons for Ukraine

Tanks, drones, anti-aircraft defenses: weapons for Ukraine

The German Tank Museum had also warned against such a misjudgment last week.

"Western tanks are not super tanks," read a post on Twitter.

“In their roughly hundred-year history, tanks have never been indestructible.

It was always clear to military planners that using tanks would always result in destroyed vehicles and killed soldiers.

It will be no different with the leopards and martens,” the post continued.

Leopard 2 not yet faced with "intensive scenarios" in action

False optimism should also be avoided because of the low combat testing of the Leopard 2.

In the recent past, the Leopard 2 was used by the NATO countries Denmark and Canada in Afghanistan and by Turkey in northern Syria.

In Afghanistan, however, the tanks were not confronted with the "intense scenarios" that they would expect when deployed in the Ukraine war.

In northern Syria, even the vulnerability of the weapon systems became apparent.

There, fighters from the IS terrorist militia managed to destroy at least three Leopard 2A4s.

The experts at the German Tank Museum also point out that western main battle tanks have only faced inferior opponents in the past few decades.

In Ukraine, on the other hand, the Leopard 2 would encounter a wide arsenal of modern anti-tank weapons.

Including drones and cruise missiles.


The debate surrounding the delivery of western tanks to Ukraine is characterized by an optimism that is strangely at odds with many statements that have invoked the "end of the tank".

Western tanks are not super tanks.


— DasPanzermuseum (@DasPanzermuseum) January 19, 2023

The Ukraine war would be the first endurance test for the Leopard 2

A deployment in the Ukraine would therefore be the first real endurance test for the German battle tanks.

It is possible that this aspect also caused Chancellor Olaf Scholz to delay a decision.

In the final conclusion, however, the German Tank Museum points out that the points mentioned do not automatically speak against delivery by Germany.

But you have to be careful not to see them as invulnerable "game changers" in the course of the war.

The federal government in Berlin is still waiting for US participation in the delivery of battle tanks.

Because of German hesitation, Poland has now taken the initiative itself and wants to deliver tanks to Kyiv.

However, since these come from German production, Warsaw needs permission from the traffic light coalition for this.

An official application was received on Tuesday morning.


List of rubrics: © IMAGO/Sven Eckelkamp

Source: merkur

All news articles on 2023-01-24

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