Ukraine's need to arm itself with modern tanks could have an ambitious response from the German company that makes the Leopard 2.
The challenge of defending such an installation in a country at war
This morning the German daily Spiegel reported an interview with Armin Papperger, head of the Düsseldorf weapons group Rheinmetall, published in Rheinische Post. In that interview, the Rheinmetall manager points out that this company wants to build a tank factory in Ukraine. The German company is already negotiating the construction of that factory, which could cost 200 million euros. The challenge of building such a factory in a country at war and subjected to frequent Russian air attacks has also been commented on by Papperger, noting that "protection by anti-aircraft defense would not be difficult" .
Rheinmetall could make 400 Panther KF51s a year in Ukraine
Papperger has pointed out that up to 400 Panther KF51 tanks a year could be produced in that factory, a very significant amount but which would be insufficient to cover the needs of Ukraine in the face of the Russian invasion, according to the German company. "Ukraine needs 600 to 800 tanks for a victory", notes Papperger, adding that "even if Germany gave up all 300 Leopard 2 tanks available to the Bundeswehr, they would be too few."
So far, according to the Rheinmetall executive, talks with the Ukrainian government are "promising", and Papperger has said he expects a decision "within the next two months", adding: "The Western allies are sending enough weapons there for Ukraine to defend itself, but the Ukrainians don't have enough equipment today to fully retake their territory."
Panther KF51, a more modern and lethal tank than the Leopard 2
The Panther KF51 was unveiled by Rheinmetall in June last year. It is a new generation tank equipped with a 130mm L52 cannon fed by an automatic loader, which would give it more power of fire, higher rate of fire, and longer effective range than the L55 gun on more recent versions of the Leopard 2. In addition, it will be equipped with a coaxial 12.7mm machine gun instead of the 7.62mm MG3 mounted on the Leopard 2.
One of the main novelties of the Panther KF51 in relation to the Leopard 2 is that it will carry a Natter RCWS protection system against drones, with a 7.62 mm machine gun with 2,500 rounds (mounted on the back of the its turret) and a HERO 120 Starter launcher for loitering ammunition on the right side of the turret. Another difference with the Leopard 2 is that the Panther KF51 will have two crew members in the turret (commander and gunner) instead of three, while there will be two crew members on the chassis: the driver and a specialist, who can operate drones from that position. This is the presentation video of the Panther KF51 published by Rheinmetall eight months ago:
Rheinmetall is preparing some 250 armored vehicles for Ukraine
Separately, Papperger said Rheinmetall is preparing some 250 armored vehicles for Ukraine. "We are working at full speed", he said. "We have already put more than 40 Marder infantry fighting vehicles into operation, and by the end of the year there will be around 100. Around 30 tanks are ready out of 50 Leopard 2A4s. There are also around 100 older Leopard 1 models, of which we can currently reuse 88". Recall that Germany noted that these latest tank would be of the Leopard 1A5 version, and that Denmark and the Netherlands would contribute to this shipment.
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