BERLIN — Ukraine may be able to add older Leopard 1 main battle tanks from German defense industry stocks to the modern tank deliveries that Berlin and other governments pledged last week to counter the Russian forces in the war.
German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit confirmed on Friday that “export permission has been granted”, but declined to give figures or other details, saying they could become more concrete “in days and weeks to come.” He told reporters in Berlin that the industry’s request to allow delivery of the Leopard 1 tanks was filed “some time ago”.
Hebestreit’s comments came after the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported that the government had allowed the tanks to be exported and that they could be sent as soon as the defense industry had made them operational.
He said two companies, Rheinmetall and FFG, wanted to prepare dozens of Leopard 1 tanks that could be delivered to Ukraine if interested. But he also said there have been problems so far getting enough ammunition for the vehicles. It was not immediately clear when deliveries might be possible, but it seemed unlikely to be a quick process.
The Leopard 1, built between the mid-1960s and mid-1980s, was the first battle tank built for the Bundeswehr in West Germany. The German army has had no tanks since 2003, Defense Ministry spokesman Arne Collatz said.
Last week, Germany agreed to send 14 modern Leopard 2 A6 tanks from its current army stocks. Several other European countries have outfitted their armies with Leopard 2 tanks, and Germany’s decision – which follows weeks of mounting pressure to supply main battle tanks – means they can also donate some of their stockpiles to Ukraine.
The United States announced that it would send 31 M1 Abrams tanks.