Leopard 2 A4 vs T-72 battle expected as Germany prepares to supply tanks to Ukraine

Ukraine and Germany are close to an agreement on direct deliveries of German Leopard 2 tanks to Kyiv, Ukrainian Ambassador to Berlin Oleksiy Makeev said. Spain also desired to provide Ukraine with 40 Leopard 2A4 tanks, but the quality of the vehicles was abysmal. The United States has lifted the "tank embargo" on Germany, allowing it to sell tanks to Ukraine.

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Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P. Chacko is the publisher of Frontier India. He holds an M.B.A in International Business. Books: Author: Foxtrot to Arihant: The Story of Indian Navy's Submarine Arm; Co Author : Warring Navies - India and Pakistan. *views are Personal

Ukraine and Germany are close to an agreement on direct deliveries of German Leopard 2 tanks to Kyiv, Ukrainian Ambassador to Berlin Oleksiy Makeev said in an interview with the Funke media group published on Saturday, November 5. “We have reason to hope that a decision will be made on the supply of Leopard 2 from Germany directly to Ukraine,” Makeev said.

“We need these tanks,” the Ukrainian diplomat stressed, calling for an end to talk “about not provoking Russia.

Spain also desired to provide Ukraine with 40 Leopard 2 tanks, but the quality of the vehicles was abysmal. Due to their terrible state, the Ukrainian representative of the Ministry of Defense refused to accept them, and they also refused to use the EU-allocated funds to repair them. The Spanish army is equipped with 108 Leopard 2A4 tanks and about 200 Leopard 2E.

Leopard 2 tanks operate in Kherson unofficially

In a contrary report, the pro-Russian telegram channels say the Ukrainian Armed Forces used Spanish supplied Leopard tanks during the counteroffensive in the direction of Kherson. Specifically, this was reported by the Rybar channel.

“(In the Kherson direction of the Armed Forces of Ukraine) the entire company kit of (Spanish) Leopard 2A4 has now been transferred,” the post says.

At the same time, the Russian author did not provide any photo or video evidence of the presence of Leopard tanks at the front.

Germany’s initial hesitance in supplying Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine

The transfer of German Leopard 2 tanks to Kyiv has been under consideration for several months, and the German government’s delay in this matter has been constantly criticised. At the beginning of September, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz again denied the proposal of Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal to increase military support for Kyiv, including the supply of tanks. Scholz cited Berlin’s unwillingness to “act alone” regarding arms supply as one of the reasons for the refusal.

In the initial months following the beginning of Russia’s large-scale military attack on Ukraine, Germany considered a different model of assistance to Kyiv – the so-called circular deliveries, under which Germany’s European NATO partners would send Soviet-made heavy equipment to Ukraine in exchange for German-made tanks.

However, this resulted in Poland’s unhappiness, as it delivered more than 200 tanks of Soviet design to Ukraine but never received the promised weaponry from Germany. Berlin was accused of breaking the agreements by Warsaw.

Ready for handover

On December 8, the head of the Bundestag Defense Committee, Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, confirmed that the United States would support the sale of Leopard 2 tanks by Germany to Ukraine.   

Struck-Zimmerman wrote that the transfer was also confirmed during his visit to Washington, during all the discussions in the State Department, Congress and the Senate. He said German partners expect it to fulfil its obligations. 

On December 7, there was information in the media that Washington was lifting the “tank embargo”, and if Berlin wanted to transfer tanks to Ukraine, it could do it. It is clarified that the United States did not ask Germany to carry out such deliveries. 

Two sources with access to information from both nations have confirmed that US national security advisor Jake Sullivan and chancellor’s foreign policy adviser Jens Plötner discussed the matter in October. According to one of the sources, Sullivan stated that the United States would welcome such a shipment but that Germany should initiate it.

According to a second source, Sullivan suggested to Plötner that it would be “excellent” for Ukraine to acquire the tanks.

There are two possibilities for supplying the tanks. As per one estimate, Germany could transfer 80 tanks in the shortest possible time from the stocks of manufacturers Rheinmetall and Krauss-Maffei Wegmann. In the other estimate, this will likely be accomplished with the assistance of Polish Leopard tanks. Poland has begun to re-arm with Korean K2 Black Panthers and American Abrams. Poland is one of the most active European nations supporting Ukraine. Since Poland has the infrastructure to service Leopard tanks, Ukraine could use them to service and repair its tanks if required.

German vs Russian tanks

After World War II, the Leopard 2A4 tank became the most successful project of the German military-industrial complex, with 3200 units built. Its upgrades are now deployed by the Bundeswehr, most of which are Leopard 2A5/ 2A6 tanks (about 225 tanks). There are even more advanced variants of the 2A7 and derivatives like the ARV BPz-3 Buffel. About 78 Leopards 2A4 units are currently in storage.

Russian T-72 Tanks
Russian T-72 Tanks

In comparison with modern tanks, the 2A4 cannot be deemed exceptional. It is illogical to compare it to the Israeli Mk.4M Merkava, the American M1A2 SEP Abrams, the Russian T-90M Breakthrough, and the German 2A6M Leopard. Nonetheless, this is currently one of the most formidable and advanced weaponry that the Ukrainian army will possess in the future.

Despite its vintage, it is still regarded as a robust combat system with outstanding performance. Thanks to stabilisation, the tank has a 120 mm smoothbore cannon that can fire with exceptional accuracy while moving. This 55-ton vehicle has a highway speed of more than 70 km/h and can go more than 500 kilometres without refuelling. The frontal armour is 480 millimetres thick, and the side armour is 250 millimetres thick, allowing it to withstand anti-tank grenade launcher and artillery shell fire. The tank is equipped with an EMES-15 automated fire control system (FCS) that can process massive data for shooting in many modes.

For aiming and striking a target, the gunner only needs to select a target, place a mark on it, and then shoot using the “fire and forget” system. The targeting system employs a laser and stereoscopic rangefinder that precisely measures the target’s distance and assesses its reliability. The tank commander can take control of the fire if necessary. At night, surveillance equipment with electro-optical amplifiers and active infrared devices allow users to precisely locate the target and fire a shot in its direction.

T-72 is smaller, lower profile and significantly lighter than the Leopard-2. The T-72  tank embodies a different concept than the “German” tank: a low silhouette, potent weaponry, and a compact and agile chassis. The Russian smoothbore cannon 2A46M-5, with a calibre of 125 millimetres, may give the leopard gun a run for its money. This is the most recent update of the 2A46M gun, which improves accuracy by 20 per cent and reduces dispersion by 1.7 times when firing while moving. The automatic loader has been updated to accommodate the new Lead 1.2 armour-piercing subcaliber ammunition. A slighter profile does not mean it is less protected than the Leopard 2. 


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