Ukraine Is Learning How to Use Leopard 2 Tanks to Fight Russia: The German-made Leopard 2 is one of the most well-reputed main battle tanks (MBTs) in service today, despite the fact that it wasn’t really “proven” in combat until the War in Afghanistan and the Syrian Civil War – decades after it first entered service.
Developed in the 1970s, the Leopard 2 was adopted by the West German Bundeswehr in 1979 and has been exported to nations around the world.
The third-generation 55-ton Leopard 2, which is armed with a 120mm smoothbore main gun and equipped with a digital fire control system, still has yet to face any modern tanks in combat,, and it could finally have its true baptism of fire this spring when the first models begin to arrive in Ukraine.
However, it is abundantly clear that Kyiv – which pressed Western powers for months for more advanced weapons such as the MBTs – won’t simply throw them into the fight.
Ukraine Trains for War on Leopard 2
Instead, the Ukrainian military has sent what is believed to be some of its best tank crews to Poland – and not just for what is likely a much-needed break from the fighting on the frontlines. Those crews are now being trained by experienced NATO tankers from Canada, Poland, and Norway. As part of an Op UNIFIER mission, the Ukrainians will be instructed on the tank fundamentals at a Polish proving ground in the southwest of the country.
The official Defense of Ukraine social media account (@DefenceU) shared images of the Ukrainian teams training on a number of simulators – where they are being taught how to drive the Leopard 2, control the turret and aiming system, and even how to manually load the main gun.
The latter point is notable as the Leopard 2 uses a crew of four, while the T-72s that Ukraine had relied on had a reduced crew of just three and employed an autoloader – one that has proved to be a fatal design flaw!
After mastering the simulators, the Ukrainian crews were then able to head out to the proving ground to take the Leopard 2s out for a spin. This training should help ready them when they roll into action against Russian tanks and positions later this spring.
More Leopard 2s Ukraine Bound
Multiple NATO members have pledged to send Kyiv up to one hundred Leopard 2 tanks, but that number could increase as Spain announced this week that it was preparing to provide at least a half dozen from its fleet of 53 MBTs that Madrid acquired from Germany. Sweden, which continues to seek NATO membership, has also said it plans to send up to 10 Leopard 2 tanks along with its HAWK anti-aircraft systems.
Poland, Finland, Norway and Germany have already pledged to supply a number of Leopard 2 MBTs, but The New York Times reported this week that the NATO allies are actually struggling to find enough tanks in working order to send to Ukraine.
It has put the spotlight on the sorry state of some of Europe’s arsenals.
In fact, the Spanish military has said it will need to spend EUR 4.1 million ($4.38 million) to refurbish the tanks before they can be deployed to Ukraine. Spain may have had dozens of the tanks in its arsenal, but it now appears many were not properly maintained.
Germany had previously refused to send the tanks, but in January changed course and agreed to send the tanks, while Berlin also announced it would allow other operators to also supply their respective tanks to Ukraine.
????????Canadian military showed footage of training Ukrainian colleagues to control Leopard 2 tanks pic.twitter.com/UfQpabWO5I
— Eetu Seppänen???????????????? #NAFOFELLA (@EetuSeppnen1) March 1, 2023
The Leopard 2s are coming, and the crews should be well-trained on the platforms. Now the MBT designed to take on Soviet-tanks in the Cold War will finally be put to the test.
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Author Experience and Expertise:
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.
March 4, 2023 at 12:33 pm
Where’s the footage ?
March 4, 2023 at 11:57 pm
Yeah, for the past number of weeks this site became a bait and switch. No footage of things blowing up, just circular referencing links.
March 5, 2023 at 1:37 am
Target practice! Won`t have any meaninful impact.
March 5, 2023 at 7:21 am
It used to be called, “Training the trainers.” For instance, it would surprise me if Ukrainian tankers and maintenance personnel are not being trained on the M1 Abrams right now. In fact, it would not shock me one iota to learn some months from now that Ukrainian pilots were training with the F16 somewhere in the American southwest all along. Official announcements of numbers of ‘this tank type’ or that should never be believed. If the West wants Ukrainians to have modern MBTs they are going to get them.