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Lithuania willing to buy 54 main battle tanks to recreate MBT capability.

| 2023

Lithuania plans to recover a combat tank capability to fill a gap that the war waged by Russia in Ukraine makes appear as crucial. This is the announcement made by General Valdemaras Rupšys, the Head of Lithuanian Defense: “We propose to transform a battalion of mechanized infantry into a battalion of tanks”. This new unit would be part of a division that Lithuania intends to set up by 2030.
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A variant of the M1A2 Abrams might be at the top of the competitors' list for the supply of 54 tanks to the Lithuanian army (Picture source: U.S. DoD)

“As a country of three million people, we really need to have a unit at least as big as a division. […] NATO and American leaders have already promised to give us the capabilities that we do not yet have”, General Rupšys said last January. Hence, the Lithuanian army plans to procure a total of 54 combat tanks of a so-far unspecified type, which would be implemented with Boxer infantry fighting vehicles, 89 of which have already been delivered to it. And there is talk for Vilnius to acquire 120 more.

A variant of the M1A2 Abrams could be considered at the top of the future competitors' list, in spite of the current ‘’Leopard 2 frenzy’’, but why not Rheinmetall’s KF51 Panther or Hanwha’s K2 Black Panther that wil be produced in Poland? Let us mention that Romania recently announced its intention to also acquire 54 M1A2 Abrams to equip a battalion.

In the meantime, Lithuania can count on the Leopard 2A6 tanks deployed by Germany as part of NATO's enhanced forward presence in the Baltic countries.

The core of the Lithuanian Land Force structure is the Mechanised Infantry Brigade Iron Wolf (MIB "Iron Wolf") consisting of four mechanized infantry battalions and an artillery battalion. It is supported by the Žemaitija Motorized infantry Brigade which has three battalions and one artillery battalion as well. The third, Aukštaitija Light Infantry Brigade, is a reserve formation with active training. Its command, signal and logistic units are manned by professional soldiers. Volunteer Forces form another brigade-size force, consisting of six territorial units. Other auxiliary units include Juozas Vitkus Engineer Battalion and Juozas Lukša Land Force Training Center.

The Lithuanian Land forces use equipment compatible with NATO standards. Since 2007, the standard assault rifle is the German Heckler & Koch G36. Units are supplied with modern variants of anti-tank weapons (M72 LAW, Carl Gustaf AT4, FGM-148 Javelin) as well as man-portable air-defense systems (PZR Grom, RBS-70, FIM-92 Stinger). Modern armoured equipment includes: Oshkosh L-ATV armoured vehicles, Boxer infantry fighting vehicles (local designation IVF "Vilkas") armed with Spike-LR anti-tank missiles and PzH 2000 self-propelled howitzers. The Lithuanian Land forces have been carrying out major modernization with more new weapons and heavier armour being acquired.

Lithuania has been restructuring the armed forces so that one-tenth of the Land Forces could at any given time be deployed for international operations, while half of the Land Forces would be prepared to be deployed outside Lithuania's borders. The volunteers have already successfully participated in international operations in the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq.

In early 2022, Lithuania's Defense budget for 2022 was approximately €1.05 billion, but it was increased to €1.5 billion on 17 March 2022.

Defense News March 2023

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