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Spain to compensate Ukraine's entire loss of Leopard 2A4 tanks with new delivery.

| Defense News Army 2024

According to ABC España on March 20, 2024, the Spanish government plans to increase its military assistance to Ukraine by delivering 19 additional Leopard 2A4 main battle tanks by September 2024. This decision by Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, if confirmed, would enable the Ukrainian army to replace all the Leopard 2A4 tanks that have been destroyed or damaged by Russian forces since the start of the conflict.
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This delivery, if confirmed, would enable the Ukrainian army to replace all the Leopard 2A4 tanks that have been destroyed or damaged by Russian forces since the start of the conflict. (Picture source: Army Recognition)

The delivery of these 19 additional Leopard 2A4 tanks has been approved by the Interministerial Board for Trade and Control of Defense Material and Dual-Use Technologies (Jimddu). This will supplement the ten Leopard 2A4 tanks previously sent to Ukraine. Spain initially delivered ten Leopard 2A4 tanks to Ukraine, with six dispatched in April 2023 and the remaining four sent by July 2023, completing the promised delivery. The 19 additional tanks, stored for an extended period in an industrial warehouse in Casetas, Zaragoza, are likely to require complete refurbishment before deployment. This refurbishment process is already underway, with ten tanks currently at the Santa Bárbara Sistemas facility in Alcalá de Guadaíra, Seville. According to the plan, these ten tanks will be ready by the end of June, with the remaining nine expected to be completed by September 2024.

The delay in repairing and dispatching these 19 Leopard 2A4 tanks to Ukraine, extending over a year, has been a point of criticism for Spain, reflecting broader issues within the European defense manufacturing sector. The core of the delay lies in the availability of spare parts, a challenge exacerbated for the Ukrainian Leopard 2 models due to a notable shortage. This scarcity impacts the operational readiness of Ukrainian units, as highlighted by a German television network NTV report that found only one out of four Leopard 2A6 tanks in a squadron was combat-ready in January. The situation underscores the difficulties faced by European defense industries, particularly the German firms Rheinmetall and Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, in maintaining a steady supply of spare parts for the Leopard 2 tanks. This bottleneck significantly hampers the refurbishment pace, particularly evident in the delayed repair of 14 Leopard 2s designated for Ukraine, where only two tanks have been refurbished over nine months.

Complicating the situation is Ukraine's strategy of cannibalizing heavily damaged Leopard 2 tanks to salvage parts for others, a measure described by Major General Christian Freuding of the German Defense Ministry as necessary yet counterproductive. This approach not only reflects desperation but also contributes to further delays as repair centers face the dual task of fixing combat damages and replacing scavenged parts. Consequently, Ukrainian forces continue to rely on Soviet-era tanks, which are being refurbished and produced more swiftly in alternative locations like Zhytomyr, Lviv, the Czech Republic, and Poland, due to the logistical constraints faced by Western models like the Leopard 2.

Despite these challenges, Spain's efforts, through the Santa Barbara Sistemas company, signify a notable exception. The company has managed to organize and sustain the restoration of Leopard 2A4 tanks with a significant degree of local production. Achieving 60% local production of the Leopard 2E variant (a modified Leopard 2A6), Spain demonstrates a lesser dependency on German firms for parts compared to other nations. This contrasts with Sweden's localization of its Strv 122 (a variant of the Leopard 2A5), which stands at 30%, showcasing Spain's relatively strong position in maintaining and supplying military hardware amidst broader supply chain challenges.

Spain's support comes at a time when the Ukrainian army has suffered 17 tank losses, with eight Leopard 2A4 tanks destroyed, five damaged, and four abandoned after sustaining damage. In total, 40 Leopard 2A4 tanks have been sent to Ukraine, including eight upgraded Leopard 2A4M CAN, which offers enhanced protective measures.

The decision by Spain to increase military aid to Ukraine was part of broader discussions at a significant meeting convened by Prime Minister Sánchez at the Moncloa Palace. This meeting, which gathered representatives from the national defense industry, aimed to discuss and enhance military support for Ukraine. It included leaders from companies such as Arquimea Group, Escribano, and Instalaza and occurred following a visit by a Ukrainian State Military Border Guard delegation to Spain. This delegation engaged in discussions with both the Spanish defense industry and the Ministry of Defense.

In a detailed release by the Spanish Secretary of State for Commerce, it was revealed that between March 2022 and February 2024, Spain exported various military equipment to Ukraine, totaling 190 million euros. This equipment ranged from tanks and night vision devices to UAVs, ammunition, missiles, and patrol boats. Additionally, it was mentioned that the Spanish defense industry plans to export another 90 items, although details about these exports have not been disclosed.

The Leopard 2A4, a main battle tank produced by Krauss-Maffei Wegmann in Germany, is part of the Leopard tank series, succeeding its predecessor, the Leopard 1. Equipped with a 120mm smoothbore gun developed by Rheinmetall and supplemented by coaxial and anti-aircraft machine guns, it can engage various types of targets effectively. The tank has a storage capacity for 42 rounds of ammunition, including APFSDS-T and HEAT-MP-T, and features an advanced computerized fire control system that provides a maximum effective range of 10,000 meters, even during maneuvering. Additionally, its design incorporates spaced multilayer armor and optional add-on armor variants, enhancing crew protection against diverse threats.

Deployed by several nations, from Austria to Ukraine, the Leopard 2A4 is powered by the MTU MB 873 diesel engine, generating nearly 1,500 hp, which enables the tank to reach a maximum road speed of 72 km/h and a cruising range of 550 km. Its torsion bar suspension system, with seven dual rubber-tired road wheels, allows for superior off-road performance, enabling the tank to navigate steep slopes of up to 60% and side slopes of 30%. Prioritizing crew safety, the Leopard 2A4 incorporates features such as NBC (nuclear, biological, and chemical) protection, infrared night vision, and an over-pressurization system. With its combination of firepower, protection, and mobility, the Leopard 2A4 remains a notable asset on the modern battlefield.


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