Poland Requests Germany to Supply the Leopard MBTs, In Exchange for Delivering MBTs to Ukraine: No Decision Yet
The Polish government has asked the Germans to deliver another batch of Leopard 2 MBTs that would act as a gap filler after Poland delivered the T-72 vehicles to Ukraine. The Germans have not made any relevant decision on that matter so far.
“Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagzseitung” was the media outlet that issued a news piece on the Polish request. The delivery of those vehicles would be taking place within the framework of the so-called Ringtausch - a German initiative seeing Berlin deliver equipment to NATO member states in exchange for post-Soviet equipment being sent to Ukraine. The Ukrainian Armed Forces remain capable of utilizing the Soviet-made systems without any extra training.
PM Morawiecki was mentioning the fact that Poland needs extra MBTs during his visit to Berlin, a few days ago. We know now, however, that Warsaw made a formal request to Germany, to deliver Leopard 2 MBTs.
Polish authorities did confirm that a major quantity of Polish T-72M/M1 MBTs was transferred to Ukraine. The release issued by the IAR outlet suggests that the above may refer to MBTs for two brigades - quantity ranging from 150 to more than 200 vehicles. For the sake of comparison, it may be recalled that in 2020 Poland operated 358 T-72 main battle tanks - according to the UN Register of Conventional Arms. Nonetheless, it remains unclear whether that number takes into account all vehicles remaining in storage. Some of the vehicles delivered to Ukraine probably came from the surplus stock. However, the MBTs could also have been operated by the Polish military.
Hence, Poland asked Germany to deliver MBTs that could potentially reinforce the capabilities of the Polish Armed Forces. Currently, the Polish Armed Forces operate 247 Leopard 2 MBTs: 105 Leopard 2A5s, 30 Leopard 2PLs, and 112 Leopard 2A4s. Notably, the 34th Armored Cavalry Brigade based in Żagań has been rearmed, a few years back, receiving the T-72M/M1 MBTs, replacing its Leopard 2 MBTs - sent to serve in the 1st “Warszawska” Armored Brigade.
The above means that this unit could receive Leopards in a relatively trouble-free manner, as the infrastructure, as well as the trained personnel, are already in place. So far, the German government has not decided to deliver the main battle tanks to Poland.
It is expected that the Bundeswehr would be operating 328 Leopard 2A5/A6/A7 MBTs, starting from 2023. The German Armed Forces currently use fewer MBTs. Not all of the units have all of the assigned MBTs at hand, which is a result of long-term cuts. Currently, the Bundeswehr is taking deliveries of 2A7V MBTs - some of them are manufactured via an in-depth upgrade of Leopard 2A4 tanks bought from the industry (KMW). The contract relevant for that process was signed in 2017, and it concerned 104 MBTs in total, including 68 vehicles that returned to service.
The UN Register of Conventional Arms states that more than 600 Leopard 2 MBTs remain in Germany. Plausibly, the industry remains in possession of a certain number of Leopard 2A4 MBTs, outside of the pool destined for the Bundeswehr. Even if we take into account several MBTs in storage that are to be used for specialist vehicles (such as the Leguan bridged), alongside the 328 Leopard 2 MBTs intended to stay in service in the Bundeswehr.
Recently, Hungary received 12 second-hand Leopard 2A4 MBTs for training. Hungary procured 44 brand-new Leopard 2A7 vehicles at KMW, along with numerous specialist vehicles. The potential delivery of Leopard 2 MBTs for Poland (coming from KMW's or Rheinmetall's stock, not from the Bundeswehr's surplus, probably with financing provided by the German government when it comes to purchasing, or recovery of the combat potential), could probably happen without any impact on the Bundeswehr's capability, or on the process of reinforcing the German military, within the scope of contracts that are already in place.
The lack of a relevant German decision on the delivery of MBTs to Poland may be caused either by a reluctance to pursue this path (despite the declared openness), the political reasons, or the Berlin's will to use the KMW's Leopard 2A4 stock to manufacture more Leopard 2A7 MBTs, based on that stock. It needs to be said that the analysis of potential procurement of several vehicles as such, within the framework of modernization of MBTs owned by the German industry, has been going on for quite some time now. It is not a secret that the stance that Berlin adopted when talking about the delivery of heavy equipment to Ukraine, is two-faced. Contrary to the US, or the Netherlands, Germany has not decided yet to take such a step. In the case of MBTs that could be delivered to Poland, one should add that Bundeswehr's requirements could be met by delivery of brand new MBTs, even if that process is longer and more expensive than recovery and upgrade of the 2A4 stock.