Germany to send Leopard 1 battle tanks to Ukraine

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Berlin — The German government has issued an export licence for Leopard 1 battle tanks to Ukraine, spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said in Berlin on Friday, without giving further details.

Until now, the government had only decided to approve the delivery of modern Leopard 2 battle tanks from the military stocks of the Bundeswehr.

German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) had reported that manufacturers Rheinmetall and FFG wanted to refurbish dozens of Leopard 1 tanks and could supply them to Ukraine for the fight against Russia. According to other media reports, Rheinmetall has 88 Leopard 1 tanks at its disposal.

However, the SZ report added that there had been problems so far with procuring ammunition.


The refurbishment is expected to take many months. “Even if the decision is made tomorrow to allow us to send our Leopard tanks to Kyiv, the delivery will take until the beginning of next year,” Rheinmetall chief executive Armin Papperger told the Sunday edition of mass-circulation newspaper Bild in mid-January.

“The vehicles will not only be repainted, but will have to be converted for wartime use. They will be completely taken apart and then rebuilt,” Papperger said.

Papperger said that Rheinmetall could not repair the tanks without a contract, as the costs would be several hundred million euros. ” Rheinmetall cannot pre-finance that.”

According to Hebestreit, the application to export the tanks was made “quite some time ago.” He did not want to comment on further details. “I don’t want to say much more at this stage, [as] it will become more concrete in the coming days and weeks,” the government spokesman said.

Ukrainian Ambassador Oleksii Makeiev welcomed the move and called for a speedy delivery. “After last week’s historic decision on the Leopard 2s, it is an important sign that the tank coalition has not only been formed by Western partners, but is growing and becoming stronger,” Makeiev told dpa on Friday.

This was particularly important in view of the continuing “barbaric Russian attacks on civilians and critical infrastructure in Ukraine,” Makeiev said.

They are now in exchange with the German side to quickly bring the Leopard 1 tanks to the front, Makeiev said. “We have no time to lose.” He said he was glad that this message from President Volodymyr Zelensky had reached Berlin.

Makeiev also assessed the export approval as a clear sign that Germany and other allies want to help Ukraine win the war against the Russian aggressors.

“Today’s announcement is also another sign that Ukraine’s allies have no more illusions about the goals of the terrorist regime in the Kremlin in Ukraine and will stand by Ukraine as long as it takes until Ukraine wins,” he said.

The Leopard 1 was the first main battle tank built for the Bundeswehr after World War II. From 1965 to the mid-1980s, 4,700 units were produced.



The Bundeswehr took its last Leopard 1 tanks out of service 20 years ago. However, according to the manufacturer, nine countries on five continents still use the tank today.

Last week, the government of Chancellor Olaf Scholz decided after lengthy deliberations to supply Ukraine with 14 German Leopard 2 battle tanks, as well as allowing other states to deliver these German-made tanks to help the Ukrainian war effort.

The Leopard 2 tanks are much more modern than the Leopard 1.


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