Land Forces

German MoD’s Proposal To Poland: Joint Acquisition of Leopard 2, or Delivery of Leopard 1

German Leopard 1A5 MBT.
Photo. Rainer Lippert/Wikimedia Commons

Christine Lambrecht, head of the German MoD, sent a letter to her Polish counterpart, Mariusz Błaszczak, on delivery of equipment taking place to fill in the gaps left, after military aid was provided to Ukraine by Warsaw. The letter suggests that it would be either possible for Poland and Germany to jointly acquire brand new Leopard MBTs, or Poland could receive large numbers of legacy Leopard 1 MBTs or Marder IFVs.

The letter written by Christine Lambrecht, mentioned by "Sueddeutsche Zeitung", was sent in reaction to the public declarations made by Poland. Warsaw has not been satisfied with German proposals regarding the process of filling in the inventory gaps, following Poland's decision to deliver more than 200 T-72 main battle tanks to Ukraine.

The documents state that the Germans have reviewed all paths possible when it comes to supporting Poland, and there's no option to deliver equipment coming out of the Bundeswehr's stockpile, given the fact that the German Armed Forces are also struggling with the gaps in the inventory it has. The Germans have however offered Poland an opportunity to jointly procure a modern variant of the Leopard 2 MBT. This would happen later than any transfer of second-hand MBTs, with Poland having a right to receive the new variant of tanks first. The head of the Polish MoD stressed that she wants to keep Poland as an ally, also thanking Warsaw for the rapid provision of the MBTs to Ukraine.

Earlier on, Minister Błaszczak, in his interview for the Polish "Sieci" weekly, had said that the Germans have offered 20 Leopard 2A4 MBTs to Poland. The first was to be delivered next year. The same number was mentioned by Roedrick Kiesewetter, German CDU MP. The head of the Polish Ministry of Defence also said that he would expect at least 44 Leopard 2A4s, to equip at least a single almost battalion-sized element.

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If the "SZ"-published information is confirmed, then this may mean that delivery even of the legacy Leopard 2 MBTs may not be possible. One should add that the Bundeswehr is to have 328 Leopard 2 MBTs available, with some of the MBT base platforms being suitable for reconversion into Leguan assault bridges, or Assault Breacher Vehicles. As of 2017, a process has been launched in which some of the previously withdrawn Leopard 2A4 MBTs are recommissioned. This refers to 68 MBTs. The MoD also procured 32 platforms expected to be converted into specialist vehicles. The 328 MBTs listed earlier include 68 reintroduced and 2A7 upgraded MBTs, commissioned under a contract signed in 2017.

On the other hand, according to the UN Register of Conventional Arms, 601 tanks of this type remain in Germany now. That number also includes vehicles that have been decommissioned or are kept in storage by the industry. The Bundeswehr itself, for at least a few years now, has only been operating the 2A5/A6/A7 variants of the Leopard MBT. In recent years, KMW has also delivered 12 Leopard 2A4 MBTs to Hungary (2020). 15 MBTs as such would be transferred to the Czech Republic, and a similar number was also offered to Slovakia - within the framework of an equipment exchange.

If the Germans are not able to hand off around 50 Leopard 2A4 MBTs to Poland, assuming that, indeed, all options have been scrutinized, this may mean that the MBTs kept in storage by the industry were used as a spares reserve - possibly for non-German users as well - and they are not kept in one piece. These MBTs could potentially either be modernized or be used as a base platform for specialist variants. Reintroduction of those seems, however, to be highly unlikely.

The "SZ" reports that Poland was offered a transfer of 100 Leopard 1A5 MBTs, or Marder IFVs. The former are legacy MBTs with 105 mm guns, coming out of the industrial stockpile. The Bundeswehr got rid of its Leopard 1 MBTs back in 2003. The first MBTs of the type entered service back in the 1960s. Any introduction of those into the Polish Army, along with a new caliber of tank munitions, would be completely irrational. Interestingly, Berlin is not willing to hand off the very same MBTs to Ukraine, being worried about the potential escalation of the war in Ukraine.

The report published by "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" indirectly confirms why Slovak and Slovenian equipment exchange initiatives were unsuccessful, even though Germany and the aforelisted states are closer, politically (all are using Euro as their currency). The Slovak MoD supposedly was offered 15 German MBTs, for 30 T-72 transferred to Ukraine. Possibly, the obstacle here is not the lack of will, but an actual lack of main battle tanks available, in a proper condition.

The offer involving a transfer of the Marder IFV seems to be a bit more interesting though. The Germans have already made arrangements with Greece, agreeing to exchange some of those for ex-East-German BMP-1 vehicles, that would then be handed off to Ukraine. Maybe Marder vehicles could be an interesting proposal for the neighbours of Poland, including the Czech Republic or Slovakia, waiting for newly procured CV-90s. If Marder is used in a role of a transitional vehicle, not only could Ukraine receive the BMP-1, but also the far more modern BMP-2 (BVP-2) platform, also operated by the aforesaid nations.

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