Spain to send first 6 Leopard 2A4 tanks to Ukraine in early April

According to the news outlet El Pais, which cites Spanish government sources, Spain intends to send the first six Leopard 2A4 main battle tanks to Ukraine after Easter to help Kyiv counter Russia's invasion.
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Spanish army Leopard 2A4 (Picture source: Army Recognition)

All six tanks have already been refurbished at the Santa Barbara Sistemas plant in Seville, and this week they are carrying out firing exercises at the Cerro Muriano range in Cordoba. After receiving their combat certification, they will be transferred by sea to Poland. Last February, Spain announced it was planning to send six Leopard 2A4 tanks to Ukraine after having been refurbished and updated, a number that could increase to 10. A total of 40 tank crew members and 15 mechanical specialists underwent training at a military base in the northeastern city of Zaragoza.

On June 4, 2022, it was reported that Spain was considering providing 40 of its 53 retired Leopard 2A4 tanks stored in Zaragoza. On June 8, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz denied receiving any formal request from Spain for an export permit for Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine. However, it was later confirmed on 10 June by the Spanish Defense Minister they were considering the transfer. On 12 June, anonymous government sources told Der Spiegel that the Scholz government blocked any transfer of Leopard tanks to Ukraine, arguing this "would constitute a departure" from an informal NATO decision not to provide western tanks at that time. By August 2, Spain officially backtracked on its decision, arguing the tanks at Zaragoza were in "deplorable condition" and that it could not send any.

The Spanish government was later reported to be considering sending an unconfirmed number of Spanish Leopard 2E tanks to Ukraine in January 2023 following a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group. On 14 February, Spanish Defence Minister Margarita Robles confirmed Spain was providing training to 55 Ukrainian tank crew members and technicians on the Leopard 2. On 22 February, Robles also confirmed that Spain was in the process of preparing six Leopard 2A4 tanks for delivery to Ukraine by late March or early April.

On February 5, 2023, it was reported that at least 11 of the 53 tanks stored at Zaragoza had been drawn out of storage to be refurbished and upgraded to have "the same lethality" as modern versions of the Leopard 2 before being sent to Ukraine. Five were sent to the Santa Bárbara Sistemas plant in Alcalá de Guadaíra and six had already been moved to Seville for diagnostics and repairs. The Ministry of Defence had not published the contracts for the retrofits out of secrecy. It was unclear however if ammunition would be supplied with the tanks as Spain only has 9 rounds for each of its Leopard 2E tanks. On 23 February, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez confirmed during a visit to Kyiv that Spain was sending at least 10 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.

Leopard 2A4 is the most widespread version of the Leopard 2 family. It included substantial changes, including an automated fire and explosion suppression system, an all-digital fire control system able to handle new ammunition types, and an improved turret with flat titanium/tungsten armour. The Leopard 2s were manufactured in eight batches between 1985 and 1992. All the older models were upgraded to 2A4 standard.

Spain has 347 Leopard battle tanks, of which it purchased 108 of the 2A4 model, the oldest currently operational, from Germany in the 1990s. The other 239 are the so-called 2E, a local version assembled in Spain and one of the most modern ones.

Defense News March 2023