Since the onset of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine nearly sixteen months ago, the Kremlin’s well-oiled propaganda machine has divulged misinformation regularly. Last week, Russian-state media outlets circulated the narrative that a number of advanced German Leopard 2 tanks delivered to Ukraine’s forces had been under fire.
While viewers on social media immediately debunked these claims, pro-Kremlin figures have continued to circulate them. In the released footage, analysts found that the vehicles in question were actually a John Deere 4830 sprayer tractor and a John Deere 9000 combine harvester.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy has indicated that Kyiv’s highly anticipated counter-offensive is underway, which the Kremlin is likely trying to undermine.
The U.S. and other North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) members have delivered billions of dollars’ worth of aid to support Ukraine’s defensive efforts in the ongoing war. In addition to financial support, humanitarian assistance, security aid and weapons and equipment have been delivered to Kyiv. At the beginning of the year, several Western countries pledged to ship advanced main battle tanks (MBTs) to support Ukraine’s front lines, including American M1 Abrams, British Challengers and German Leopard 2 armored vehicles.
Introducing the German Leopard 2 MBT
Derived from the Leopard 1, the second variant in this series of tanks began its development phase in the early 1960’s. West Germany needed a MBT that could effectively counter and overcome the Soviet Union’s superior tanks like the T-62 and T-55. In cooperation with the U.S., Germany initiated its MBT-70 program and ultimately tasked the domestic company Porsche to research additional enhancements to the Leopard 1 tank by the end of the decade. Specifically, the research study focused on particular upgrades like a coaxial autocannon and an optimized turret and hull. Following the end of this study, the German government tasked the company Krauss-Maffei to cooperate with Porsche in future research.
Leopard 2- Specs & Capabilities
By the 1970’s, the Germany military began to train in the Leopard 2 tanks. Today, the MBT remains in service in a number of NATO nations including Canada, Turkey, Poland and Norway. Just over 3,200 Leopard 2A4 tanks currently exist. The Leopard 2 rectified some of the design shortcomings of its predecessor, including sacrificed armor protection. As detailed by Popular Mechanics, the Leopard 2 is “armed with a 120-millimeter smoothbore gun and two 7.62-millimeter machine guns. A crew of four operates the tank, including a commander, gunner, loader, and driver. It’s powered by an MTU MB 873 12-cylinder, water-cooled diesel engine, producing 1,500 horsepower. This results in a ratio of 27 horsepower per ton, enough to drive it to a top speed of 42 miles per hour.”
The Leopard 2 in Ukraine
Regardless of the Leopard 2’s perceived shortcomings, the tank will certainly aid Ukraine’s defensives even if just purely quantitatively. Both Moscow and Kyiv have exaggerated claims regarding military equipment losses and casualties, making it extremely difficult to verify many reports. Since Western tanks are expected to take a leading role in Ukraine’s counter-offensive, reports and footage surrounding their destruction will appear more regularly.
Maya Carlin, a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel. You can follow her on Twitter: @MayaCarlin.