Legal ‘war’ begins in Germany over ownership of Leopard 2 tanks

There is a reversal of the success of Germany’s Leopard 2 tank as a result of the war in Ukraine, to which various countries have already committed to supplying 85 units and which is increasing its sales.

Berlin continues to give Leopard 2A4 tanks, 15 go to Prague
Photo credit: Defence View

With expectations opening up, the two German giants in the production of armored vehicles will meet in court to settle who owns the intellectual property of the tank they both produce.

Krauss-Maffei Wegmann [KMW], the hull manufacturer, and Rheinmetall [RHM], responsible for the turret and main gun, have a meeting on May 2 before the Munich court responsible for settling the conflict.

The process has begun

The process began with a statement from Rheinmetall CEO Armin Paperger stating that his company owns the intellectual property on the Leopard 2A4 variant. KMW responded by taking the case to court after Papperger refused to budge. This older variant of the current Leopard 2 served as Rheinmetall’s basis for a new battle tank development called the KF51.

See what the latest Rheinmetall 130mm Kf-51 tank looks like
Photo credit: Twitter

The new KF51 was presented at the last international Eurosatory fair in France, which took place in June. This is a model designed largely as a replacement for the current Leopard 2. Therefore, it shares the same undercarriage, the same power supply, and part of the hull structure.

Information gathered by German media outlet Neue Zurcher Zeitung [NZZ] shows that KMW claims to own all intellectual property rights to the car, which it is the main contractor for. Those responsible for this company accuse Rheinmetall of trying to interfere in its legitimate market, which gained potential as a result of the war in Ukraine.

At least Italy, the Czech Republic, Norway, Lithuania, and Germany are interested in acquiring more Leopard 2s after the Russian incursion into the eastern European country began last year, and some have even formalized their purchase.

Italian, Norwegian, and other interests

On the Italian side, last month the words of the Chief of Staff of the Army General Pietro Serino came to light, who indicated during an interview in the Italian Defense Magazine about his country’s interest in acquiring 125 Leopard 2A7+ tanks.

Also announced last month were the Czech Republic’s plans to purchase fifty Leopard 2A7+ and add them to the 14 Leopard 2A7s it was revealed last summer it would acquire, in this case second-hand.

A month earlier, in February, Norway formalized the acquisition of 54 Leopard 2A7s, plus another 18 as an option, with German manufacturer Krauss-Maffei Wegmann.

Most recently, Lithuania’s military chief of defense, Lieutenant General Valdemaras Rupšis, also announced the acquisition of 54 tanks to strengthen his army, which currently does not have any armored vehicles of this type.

German Army will receive Leopard 2A8 tanks, not the Leopard 2A7+
Photo credit:

Likewise, Germany, the country of origin of this weapon, is now considering ordering a new, more advanced version of this model, called the Leopard 2A8, to start fielding the first units in 2025. This will be the first time that the German army has been receiving tanks since 1992.

New generation

In this context of growing interest in main battle tanks generated by the crude invasion of Ukraine, Rheinmetall unveiled its KF51 in June, largely designed to replace the Leopard 2. But now the old model seems to have a lot more going, as new sales show, the German interest in a new version and in particular the battle that the two manufacturers are having in court for their rights.

Although much of the key to the confrontation between KMW and Rheinmetall over this car lies in the next-generation tank development opportunities that the intellectual owner of the disputed model will have.

If Rheinmetall achieves recognition of the rights attributed to it, it will be free to produce its new Panther. While KMW is working with France’s Nexter, with which it is merging, on a new product under the two countries’ joint MGCS program, which Rheinmetall is eyeing as a possible alternative, with its KF51, if it fails or is delayed.

KMW and Rheinmetall are also partners in the development of other armored vehicles, such as the Puma tracked vehicle and the Boxer 8×8 wheeled vehicle.


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