German defense giant Rheinmetall has acquired 49 mothballed Leopard 1 battle tanks from a Belgian arms dealer for use in Ukraine, according to a spokesperson for the company. The tanks are reported to be in such poor condition that many will only be suitable for spare parts.
Out of the 49 tanks, it has been announced that 30 will be recommissioned and given to Kiev, while the rest will likely be cannibalized for parts. This purchase is part of a military aid package announced by German Defense Minister Oscar Pistorius during a NATO summit in Lithuania the previous month, as confirmed by a German government spokesperson.
The sale of the tanks was announced by Belgian arms dealer Freddy Versluys, who revealed that an unnamed European state had purchased them for an undisclosed price. Notably, the Belgian government had discussions with Versluys earlier this year regarding the purchase of the tanks but ultimately refused to pay the asking price of €500,000 ($549,000) per tank. Belgian Defense Minister Ludivine Dedonder described the price as “unreasonable,” considering that Versluys had initially bought the tanks as scrap metal.
Versluys had initially acquired the tanks for €37,000 each when they were being decommissioned by the Belgian government in 2014. He stated that the vehicles were in poor shape and required numerous upgrades such as new engines, shock absorbers, fire control systems, and radar stations.
Although the final price of the tanks remains undisclosed, Versluys mentioned on LinkedIn that they requested a fair market price and found a willing buyer. The Leopard 1 tanks were manufactured by Krauss-Maffei in West Germany and entered service in 1965. They were gradually phased out starting in the 1990s.
It has been approved by Berlin to deliver over 200 of these obsolete vehicles to Ukraine, with the aim of supplying around 80 of them by the end of the year. However, it is important to note that neither the Leopard 1 nor its successor, the Leopard 2, have had a significant impact on Ukraine’s battlefield success.
According to the Russian Defense Ministry, Ukraine has suffered significant losses in its ongoing counteroffensive against Russian forces. In just two months, Kiev has lost 43,000 troops and 4,900 pieces of heavy weaponry, including a number of Leopard tanks.
In summary, German defense company Rheinmetall has purchased 49 mothballed Leopard 1 battle tanks from a Belgian arms dealer for military aid in Ukraine. While 30 of these tanks will be recommissioned and given to Kiev, the rest will likely be used for spare parts. The purchase is part of a larger military aid package announced by Germany, and the tanks are in poor condition, requiring extensive upgrades.