Lithuania is procuring tanks as part of plans to form a light infantry division consisting of three brigades and a tank battalion, which was announced earlier this year in May. According to the Ministry of Defense’s estimates, the project may cost the budget an average of 200 million euros annually until 2030. However, the Defense Minister could not provide an exact figure.
Lieutenant General Valdemaras Rupys, who is in charge of the Lithuanian Armed Forces, has previously said that the “Iron Wolf” Mechanised Brigade, the core unit of the Lithuanian Army and the nation’s contribution to NATO collective defence, will serve as the foundation for the future division that will be created. It may comprise two existing brigades and one brigade that’s still being formed. It will also have the “Žemaitija” Light Infantry Brigade and a new brigade that will be made from the reserve battalion of the staff. In total, the division will have about 17,500 soldiers. Valdemaras Rupys has also stated that Vilnius requires a tank battalion regardless of the decision to establish a light infantry division.
This matter is being rushed forward now that Vilnius has disclosed the model that will be used.
Lithuania has announced it will buy 54 Leopard 2 Tanks for the new armoured battalion. According to the defence adviser to the President of Lithuania, Kestutis Budrys, who was mentioned on the Delfi portal on July 25, this will be one of the largest acquisitions that Lithuania has ever made, not only for the army but also for the country as a whole.
He said it is somewhere in the neighbourhood of 2 billion euros, adding that the sum takes into account not only the price of the tank but also the delivery of ammunition, logistics, and supplies.
On the same day, Lithuanian Minister of Defence Arvydas Anuauskas declared on Facebook, as opposed to through official channels as appears to be the current fad, that a letter of intent would soon be signed with Germany for the acquisition of an undefined number of Leopard 2 tanks. The model will likely be a Leopard 2A8.
He went on to clarify that two alternative models, notably the American M1A2 Abrams and the South Korean K-2 Black Panther, did not match the requirements set by the Lithuanian army, particularly in terms of costs and operational preparedness. He stated that this was the case for both of these vehicles. The operational environment, mobility, protection, adaptability, and maintenance were also considered as criteria throughout the evaluation process.
According to Mr Anuauskas, the Leopard 2 and the M1A2 Abrams are sold for around the same price; however, the cost of operating the American model is approximately 1.5 times more than that of the German tank. In addition, the maintenance of the Leopard 2 is made simpler by the fact that it is in service in several NATO nations. This results in “easier access to spare parts” through NSPA (the NATO Support and Procurement Agency), which helps simplify the maintenance process.
In light of this, the minister regretted not choosing the M1A2 Abrams. It is impossible to agree with the allegation that Lithuania ignores American manufacturers, he said, adding that Lithuania is the largest consumer of American products among the Baltic nations, and the country encourages its neighbours to buy American products. He mentioned that all Baltic countries’ purchase of HIMARS systems together is an excellent example. According to his estimation, the value of the purchases Lithuania plans to make in the United States amounts to 1.3 billion dollars.
In addition to this, Mr Anuauskas asserts that KNDS is of German origin. This may offend French sensitivities given that Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and Nexter are French and German companies and have created this company.
Nevertheless, the decision that Lithuania has made makes sense. While the minister emphasised the significance of practical need, it is also necessary to consider political and diplomatic considerations. Germany has signalled to NATO that it is prepared to station a brigade with 4,000 soldiers on Lithuanian territory. As a direct consequence of this decision, cooperation between the Lithuanian army and its German counterpart may become less difficult due to the acquisition of Leopard 2 tanks.
In addition, Lithuania has previously purchased several military hardware from the German industry. This hardware includes 21 PzH2000 howitzers, 89 Boxer infantry combat vehicles, and a further 120 units that have been placed on order. The notion of coherence would guide the selection of Leopard 2 as the vehicle of choice.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, the Lithuanian army was once able to deploy about 398 T-72 tanks; nevertheless, these tanks were subsequently sent back to Russia in 1993. Because of it, it does not possess such a capacity.