(CNN Spanish) — After weeks of intense debates within NATO, both the German and the United States governments approved the shipment of tanks to strengthen the defense of Ukraine, which has been at war with Russia since February 2022.
In the case of Germany, these are at least 14 modern Leopard 2 tanks –other European countries could send dozens more–, while the United States will send 31 M1 Abrams tanks –enough to equip about two companies–, manufactured american.
Joe Biden, the president of the United States, confirmed the shipment, which had already been advanced by US officials, on Wednesday from the White House, thus reversing Washington’s long resistance to Kyiv’s requests for highly sophisticated but high-maintenance vehicles and a complex logistics that, for many, will be difficult to maintain in Ukraine.
It is not yet clear which model of the M1 Abrams tank the United States will send, but it will take months to arrive, senior government officials said, and will require extensive training for Ukrainian troops on how to operate and repair them.
Biden also noted that the United Kingdom will send its own Challenger 2 tanks — at least 14, according to the British government — although there are no details on the timing.
In the case of the Berlin decision, it affects not only possible shipments of tanks belonging to the Bundeswehr, the German armed forces, but also the hundreds of Leopard 2s held by other European countries —Poland was the first country to offer their Leopard 2s, but the list has grown—and whose sale or donation required approval from Germany, the manufacturer.
US M1A2 Abrams tanks of the 1st Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division stand in Grafenwoehr, Bavaria, Germany, on July 13. (Credit: Daniel Karmann/picture-alliance/dpa/AP)
But how many Leopard 2 could be sent by European countries to Ukraine, what models would they be and when could they be operational?
Germany has initially committed to sending 14 of its own Leopard 2s to Ukraine, according to a government statement. This number is enough to equip a tank company in the Western NATO standard, consisting of three platoons (4 tanks each) and 2 more tanks at headquarters, according to US Army specifications.
“The goal is to rapidly assemble two Leopard 2 tank battalions for Ukraine,” the statement said, with the remainder to be completed by supplies from European partners.
Each battalion, for its part, is made up of three or four companies, for a total of between 42 and 56 tanks.
A Leopard 2 A4 belonging to Poland during military training on January 27, 2022. (Credit: Armin Weigel/picture-alliance/dpa/AP)
According to German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius, German-supplied Leopard 2 tanks could be operationally deployed in Ukraine within three months.
It is not clear when the Leopard 2 delivered by other European countries will be operational, nor which countries will provide them and in what quantity.
Who could supply the remaining Leopard 2
Poland, which has a large fleet of Leopard 2 A4 and A5, was the first country to offer a carrier (about 14 tanks) to Ukraine.
The Netherlands, which does not formally own Leopard 2 tanks but leases 18 from Germany, said it was willing to buy those tanks for shipment to Ukraine, while Norway said it would also “contribute” between 4 and 8 tanks.
While Spain is also willing to send its Leopard 2, although in coordination with its NATO allies, according to Defense Minister Margarita Robles said. The official did not speak of numbers or deadlines.
In all, there are 13 countries in Europe that have some 2,000 Leopard 2 tanks — in different states — in their armed forces, according to the European Council on Foreign Relations think tank.
What are the capabilities of Leopard 2 tanks
The Leopard 2 is a Main Battle Tank that entered service in 1979, but through successive modernizations and upgrades it remains one of the most modern and capable armored vehicles in the world.
It is armed with a 120mm smoothbore gun (the NATO standard), can reach speeds of 70 km/h, or 50 km/h when off-road, with very good manoeuvrability, and is protected by a advanced armor concentrated on the front, according to the German manufacturer Krauss-Maffei-Wegmann.
Its oldest variants are the A4 and A5, while the A7 is the most advanced and is considered front-line due to its firepower, mobility, armor and firing systems, with the ability to face the most advanced tanks in favorable conditions. From Russia.
The Leopard 2 A4 can be identified by the straight front of their turrets, while the A5, A6 and A7 use an armor design sloped at an angle for increased protection.
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.
It is unclear which variants of the Leopard 2 will be shipped to Ukraine by Germany and the other European users of this tank.
With reporting by Stephanie Halasz, Al Goodman, Natasha Bertrand, Oren Lieberma, Rob Picheta, Antonia Mortensen, Kevin Liptak, Brad Lendon, Yoonjung Seo, and Joseph Ataman.