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Bild: Germany’s Rheinmetall can’t deliver Leopard tanks before 2024
Germany’s leading defense manufacturer Rheinmetall can’t supply battle tanks to Ukraine before the beginning of 2024, the company’s CEO Armin Papperger told Bild on Jan. 15.
Rheinmetall currently has 22 Leopard 2 models and 88 Leopard 1 in stock, but repairing and preparing the decommissioned tanks for battle will take “just under a year,” Papperger said.
“This means that even if the decision is made tomorrow that we can send our Leopard tanks to Kyiv, delivery will take until the beginning of next year,” he said.
Rheinmetall also needs a government order to fix the tanks because the “costs are several hundred million euros,” and Rheinmetall can’t finance it ahead.
Papperger also dismissed critics of the slow process for arms procurement.
“We don’t have martial law in Germany, so normal review loops for armaments contracts must be observed,” he said.
Germany currently has 376 Leopard 2 tanks, including 55 in-store, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
Germany will likely finalize their decision on supplying Ukraine with Leopard main battle tanks in the next week, Bloomberg reported on Jan. 13, citing two unnamed officials familiar with the matter.
According to the officials, Berlin will decide on the tank delivery ahead of the Ramstein defense summit on Jan. 20.
Recently, Ukraine and some Western countries have increased pressure on Germany to send heavy tanks to Kyiv.
On Jan. 10, Politico reported that France was putting increasing pressure on Berlin ahead of a Franco-German summit on Jan. 22, while Poland also exerted pressure on Germany by publicly calling for a broad coalition among Western allies to hand over Leopards.
On the same day, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba expressed confidence that Germany will hand over to Ukraine the long-pledged Leopard tanks, following a three-hour meeting with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock during her unannounced visit to the northeastern city of Kharkiv.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Jan. 13 complained about alleged pressure to supply Leopard tanks to Ukraine and said that Germany would not rush to deliver weapons and would “weigh every step carefully,” AP and Der Spiegel reported.
Since the beginning of Russia’s all-out invasion in February 2022, Scholz has been criticized for delaying and blocking arms supplies to Ukraine.
Amid pressure from the media, the public and NATO allies, Germany has increased its arms supplies to Ukraine.
However, Scholz is still accused of being reluctant to antagonize Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.
Currently, a lot depends on the position of Germany since several countries are reportedly ready to supply German-made Leopard tanks to Ukraine.
They need approval from the German government, which has not decided on the issue yet.