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What is the Leopard 2 tank and how could it help Ukraine?

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U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III met his newly appointed German counterpart Boris Pistorius in Berlin on Thursday, as Germany has been under pressure to allow German-made Leopard 2 tanks to be sent to Ukraine for years. other European countries and also to send part of Germany.

Here is a brief overview of Leopard 2 tanks and how they could be useful to Ukraine.

The Leopard 2 is one of the world’s leading battle tanks, used by the German army for decades and by the armies of more than a dozen other European nations, as well as the armies of countries as far afield as Canada and Indonesia. He served in the conflicts in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Syria.

The tank, which is powered by a diesel engine, has night vision equipment and a laser range finder that can measure the distance to an object, allowing it to better aim at a moving target while moving over terrain. accident. There are several iterations of the Leopard 2 with different features and designs.

So far Ukraine and Russia have used Soviet-era tanks in combat and the Leopards would offer a big step forward in capability. The Ukrainian government has requested tanks in addition to previous military aid programs from allies in the United States and Europe, which included aircraft, air defense systems to protect against Russian missile and drone attacks and longer range artillery.

The Leopard 2 supply would help offset Russia’s superiority in artillery firepower, which helped Moscow capture two towns in eastern Ukraine’s Luhansk province, during the summer. They could be of particular value as the war nears its second year and Ukraine seeks to reclaim lost territory and expects a Russian offensive in the spring.

Britain has pledged to supply Ukraine with 14 of its Challenger 2 tanks and two US officials said on Thursday that Washington planned to supply nearly 100 Stryker combat vehicles, although it did not commit to sending any American-made M1 Abrams tanks, which require constant maintenance and usually run on special fuel.

Military experts said the main advantage of the Leopard 2 is the quantity that can be sent to Ukraine and the relative ease of repair and logistics.

“The Leopards are in Europe, they are easy to get in Ukraine and several European countries use them so they are readily available,” said Minna Alander, a researcher at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs. “Logistics and maintenance would be easier. The spare parts and the know-how are here in Europe, so training Ukrainians would be easier.

Moreover, as several European countries use the vehicles, several nations could provide either the tanks themselves or the spare parts, training capacity or logistics, said Ms Alander, a security expert from Northern Europe. and in German foreign policy.

According to the German authorities, the re-export of German-made tanks without permission from Berlin would be illegal.

Contracts a country signs to obtain weapons from German manufacturers or German military stocks require it to apply for a re-export license from the federal government if it wishes to send those weapons to another country. (The United States has similar requirements, as do other countries, such as Switzerland.)

Ukrainian leaders and military experts in the United States and elsewhere have said in recent weeks that Russia appears to be preparing for an offensive in late winter or early spring. It is not clear that Western tank supplies, including the Leopard 2, would arrive on the battlefront quickly enough to meet this threat.

“Ukraine needs it as soon as possible and all indications are that Russia is preparing for a bigger offensive in the spring, so time is really running out,” Ms Alander said.

Even if the Ukrainians are trained very quickly, it could still take months, and there are still questions about how many countries could supply and at what level they could be maintained.

Erika Solomon and Jean Ismay contributed report.

nytimes Gt

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