Armor: Ukrainians Training to Use German Tanks


September 7, 2023: In Germany Ukrainian crews are being trained to use the hundred or more Leopard 1A5 tanks they are receiving from Germany. Ukraine also received some of the more recent Leopard 2 tanks but Germany and some NATO allies had many more of the older Leopard 1A5s available. While an older model, the Leopard 1A5 is equal or superior to anything the Russians currently have. Most of the instructors are Dutch and Danish, because their countries had used the Leopard 1A5 more recently. These men were no longer in the military but volunteered their time to show the Ukrainians what they knew about operating the 1A5. Ukrainians with experience using older, Russian designed tanks, found the older Leopards to be an upgrade. Before the recent arrival of Western tanks, Ukraine used the same tanks, most of them T-72s, the Russians use. The Western tanks, even the older Leopard 1A5, are more effective, reliable and easier to maintain. The 1A5 is easier to maintain than the current Leopard 2.

Until the 1980s, the Leopard I was considered one of the best tanks available. Entering service in the late 1960s, it was the first post-World War II German tank design. Although a contemporary of the American M-60A3, the German tank was considered superior because it was a completely new design, while the M-60 was evolutionary, the last descendant of the 1945 Pershing tank. For this reason, Germany was able to export Leopards to many nations, including Australia. Most of the 4,744 produced, plus 1,741 Leopard chassis adapted to other uses, like recovery and anti-aircraft guns, have been retired and put in storage or scrapped. Many owners may have to melt down their remaining Leopard Is, for there's not much of a market left for 44 ton tanks, even those equipped with a lot of nifty upgrades. The original buyers of Leopard I have already flooded the market.

The export market is further clouded by legal restrictions, as Germany still retains the right to reject any buyer for the tanks. Prospective buyers must pass muster with German public opinion. No nations suffering from bad PR need apply.

The second hand Leopard I market is made worse by the availability of the Leopard II. This is basically a contemporary of the U.S. M-1, and often considered superior to the M-1. But the M-1 has an impressive combat record, and few Leopard IIs have seen any action at all. Still, on paper, and in training exercises, the Leopard II has been impressive. Some 3,000 Leopard IIs are out there, and Germany is still marketing them. Many surplus M-1s are available, and a few Leopard IIs. Add to this the thousands of late model Russian tanks available, and it's no wonder why second hand tanks like the Leopard I go for such low prices.

The Leopard 1 has a 105mm gun rather than the 120mm standard with current Western tanks. The Leopard 1A5 is, however, equipped with a modern fire control system with a thermal (heat) sensor to provide visibility at night and during daylight when there is a thick fog or mist. The 105mm gun has a shorter range than the 120mm but with modern fire control the 105mm can be just as accurate and can fire accurately while the tank is moving. There is plenty of 105mm tank gun ammo available because many current tanks still use the 105mm gun.




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