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What are and how do Leopard 2 tanks work and why are they important for Ukraine?


The possible shipment of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine is at the center of discussions surrounding the war with Russia. What are they and how do they work?

Is Germany the only option to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine?


(CNN Spanish) --

In recent weeks, the Ukrainian government has concentrated its requests to the NATO countries for more military aid to continue resisting the Russian invasion in a single word: tanks.

It is "a very important word for our defense, for our state, for our army, for the common defense of Ukraine and the whole of Europe," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in mid-January.

  • Poland announces shipment of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.

    What could it mean for the war?

And among the wide variety of armor deployed in the West, the German Leopard 2s, operated by numerous European countries, appear to have become Kyiv's most sought after weapon after Poland offered to send its own.

The shipment of tanks to Ukraine, however, is not guaranteed and there are countries within NATO in favor, because of the help it would mean for Kyiv, and against, because of the possible escalation that it could generate with Russia.

Germany, the maker of the Leopard 2, which must approve any sale of the tank, even went as far as to ask that the United States send its M1 Abrams at the same time as a condition.

Urge Ukraine to send Leopard 2 tanks from Germany 4:09

The dispute within NATO over the shipment of tanks, be they Leopard 2, M1 Abrams or the British Challenger, has reached such notoriety that John Kirby, coordinator of strategic communications for the US National Security Council, even came out to subtract it. importance.

"To say that this is dividing the alliance or that it's somehow putting national security in Ukraine at risk because there's a discussion about the tanks is just overreacting," the White House official told CNN's Christiane Amanpour.

  • Germany does not give in on sending tanks to Ukraine.

    Why is the Leopard 2 tank so important?

But what are they and how do these Leopard 2 tanks, now in the center of the discussion, and why are they so important for Ukraine?

Ukraine has a fleet of Soviet-designed and in some cases manufactured tanks that have suffered heavy losses in fighting since the start of the war on February 24, 2022.

A Bundeswehr Leopard 2 tank during a visit by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to the Bundeswehr Army training center in Ostenholz on October 17, 2022 near Hodenhagen, Germany.

(Credit: David Hecker/Getty Images)

In recent months Kyiv has asked Western countries, and especially NATO members, to send modern tanks.

With these weapons, it hopes to be able to replace losses, face Russian attacks and also to be able to mount counteroffensives, such as those carried out in Kherson and Kharkiv at the end of 2022, operations for which these weapon systems are more suitable.

Armed with a 120mm smoothbore gun, the Leopard 2 can reach speeds of 70 km/h, or 50 km/h when off-road, making maneuverability one of its key features, and is protected by advanced armor concentrated on the front, according to the German manufacturer Krauss-Maffei-Wegmann.

Although it entered service in 1979, its latest versions - the Leopard 2 A7 - are still considered top-of-the-line for their firepower, mobility, armor and systems, and are capable of taking on Russia's most advanced tanks.

While its older variants —such as the Leopard 2 A4— remain relatively competitive in certain scenarios, even more so if they receive modernizations.

The Leopard 2 has been exported by Germany to numerous countries and used in combat against irregular forces in Afghanistan, the Balkans and Syria - employed by Turkey - but an eventual deployment in Ukraine would be the first time they have faced Russian tanks like the T-72, T-80 and T-90.

A Polish Leopard 2 stands in a wooded area during the international military exercise "Allied Spirit 2022" at the Hohenfels military training area on January 27, 2022. (Credit: Armin Weigel/picture-alliance/dpa/AP)

There are 13 countries in Europe, including Poland and Finland, that have Leopard 2 tanks, according to the European Council on Foreign Relations think tank.

In total, there are around 2,000 Leopard 2s spread across Europe, at varying levels of modernization and readiness for deployment.

Many European countries have agreed to re-export some tanks to Kyiv, but they require permission from Germany.

Representatives of countries that own Leopard tanks met on the sidelines of the Ramstein meeting, according to the Portuguese Defense Ministry.

This huge fleet of tanks deployed in countries close to Ukraine, the relatively low maintenance demands of the Leopard 2 compared to other models, and its more efficient use of diesel fuel, lead experts to believe that these tanks are best suited for help Ukraine as soon as possible.

Poland has a large fleet of Leopard 2 A4 and A5 tanks, which were undergoing modernization, according to the Polish Armed Forces website.

However, in recent times Warsaw seems to have also opted to upgrade its forces with the purchase of US M1 Abrams and South Korean K2 tanks.

With reporting by Rob Picheta, Antonia Mortensen, Kevin Liptak, Brad Lendon, Yoonjung Seo, and Joseph Ataman.

Source: cnnespanol

All news articles on 2023-01-24

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