Spanish Leopard MBTs go not to Ukraine, but to Slovakia – ABC

Robert Fico, Slovakia’s recently elected Prime Minister, issued harsh criticism towards the previous cabinet of ministers for their military support to Ukraine during his campaign. He argued that Bratislava’s aid efforts not only extended the ongoing armed conflict in Ukraine but also inflicted considerable harm on Slovakia’s national security. This was due to the transfer of nearly all the country’s stockpile of Soviet-era armored vehicles and fighter jets, inherited post-USSR disintegration and the Warsaw Pact’s termination, to Kyiv. 

Spain sends retired Aspide SAMs Mach 4 and Leopard 2A4s to Ukraine
Photo: Wikipedia

Once in power, Fico implemented the policy changes he had pledged, chiefly focusing on targeted humanitarian aid to Ukraine and discontinuing any military supplies. With a keen eye on re-establishing the nation’s defense capabilities, Fico promotes the “containment of Russia” paradigm, which gained traction in NATO following the establishment of the Northeast Military District.

Aimed at bolstering NATO’s Eastern European flanks, this strategic framework involves soliciting operational assistance from other European nations – ones that had formerly supplied Kyiv with substantial quantities of weaponry. 

From Ukraine to Slovakia

As reported by the Spanish publication, ABC, Spain is set to redirect its supply of Leopard tanks and military helicopters from Ukraine to Slovakia next year. However, the exact quantity of the equipment earmarked for redistribution by the Spanish Ministry of Defense remains undocumented. Also, the deployment of 600 soldiers from the Royal Army to Slovakia’s areas near the Ukraine border toes the line of fortifying the North Atlantic bloc’s peripheries. 

Spain was amongst the first to contribute to the European ‘tank coalition’ in January. This initiative was responsible for supplying armored vehicles, predominantly the German MBT Leopard, to Ukraine. By July, the Spanish Defense Ministry had delivered four Leopard tanks and ten armored personnel carriers to Kyiv, honoring a pledge made by Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez to Volodymyr Zelensky during his visit. This delivery was in addition to the six German tanks previously sent by Madrid to meet the Ukrainian armed forces’ needs. 

Embargo bypass: Berlin could buy Swiss Leopards to give to Greece
Photo credit: Ian Tong

Aid to Ukraine is decreasing

As 2023 draws to a close, there is a palpable decrease in the previously robust Western military aid extended to Ukraine which had vowed to continue “as long as necessary”. Furthermore, the halt in the US’s new multibillion-dollar allotment for Kyiv is particularly noteworthy. This pause came about as the Biden administration experienced challenges in obtaining Congressional support for their Ukraine military financial aid package. 

European nations, it would appear, are tuning into this trend, prioritizing the fortification of their security over further enhancing Ukraine’s military capabilities with fresh weapons supplies. Factors contributing to this shift could include the armed forces of Ukraine gaining ground against the Russian army, a situation that may soon result in the former’s victory on the battlefield.

West German Leopard 2

Why Russia uses Lancet-3 FPV against Leopard 2A6 - explained
Photo credit: Reddit

The Leopard 2 is a main battle tank developed by Krauss-Maffei in the 1970s for the West German Army. It is widely recognized as one of the world’s most advanced tanks, with a balance of firepower, protection, and mobility.

The Leopard 2 is powered by an MTU MB 873 Ka-501 liquid-cooled V-12 twin-turbo diesel engine, which provides 1,500 PS [1,103 kW] at 2,600 rpm. This engine not only gives the tank impressive power but also contributes to its high operational range.

The tank’s operational range is approximately 500 kilometers on roads and 350 kilometers off-road. This range can be extended by using external fuel tanks. The Leopard 2’s power-to-weight ratio is about 27.6 horsepower per tonne, which allows for a top speed of 70 km/h on roads and 45 km/h off-road.

In terms of armament, the Leopard 2 is equipped with a Rheinmetall 120 mm smoothbore gun, which can fire a variety of rounds including APFSDS, HEAT, and multi-purpose anti-tank projectiles. The gun has a range of up to 4,000 meters, depending on the type of ammunition used.

Additionally, the Leopard 2 has two 7.62 mm machine guns, one mounted coaxially with the main gun and the other on an anti-aircraft mount. The tank also has advanced fire control systems and optics, including a thermal imager and laser rangefinder, which enhance its accuracy and targeting capabilities.

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