Western weapons have undoubtedly altered the trajectory of Russia’s ongoing invasion.
While anti-tank weapons like the FGM-148 Javelin and the M142 HIMARS are often glamorized for their effectiveness in the war, main battle tanks are not discussed as often.
In the early days of the invasion, the White House was resistant to providing M1 Abrams tanks to Kyiv. U.S. officials insisted that these advanced battle tanks were too complex and too difficult to maintain and repair. The Biden administration later changed course and approved delivery of the platform for Ukraine. At the time, Biden’s dramatic policy reversal coincided with escalating international pressure to do more to support Kyiv.
In addition to the 31 M1 Abrams tanks the U.S. agreed to provide Ukraine, Germany announced it would deliver 14 of its Leopard 2 MBTs as well.
Introducing Germany’s Leopard 2
The German-made Leopard 2 tank was the first foreign MBT to be delivered to Ukraine during Russia’s invasion. Initially designed to go against some of the most sophisticated armored vehicles produced by the Soviet Union decades ago, the Leopard-2 has contributed mightily to Kyiv’s defense. The tank series was introduced to the German military in the 1970s as a result of the MBT-70 program tasked with creating a solid successor for the Leopard 1. The formidable tank remains active today in a number of NATO militaries, including Canada, Poland, Turkey and Norway.
Although the Leopard 1 was a relatively good tank, its successor was equipped with several notable improvements that made it better armored and more mobile. The Leopard 2’s large and powerful main gun elevated its effectiveness in battle. 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.”
Leopard 2 Destroyed
#Ukraine: A Ukrainian Leopard 2A4 tank was destroyed by the Russian army South of Mala Tokmachka, #Zaporizhzhia Oblast- the tank was seen targeted by a Russian FPV drone two months ago in the same place possibly leading to its destruction. pic.twitter.com/FTR62voHi6
— ???????? Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) August 3, 2023
According to open-source intelligence group Ukraine Weapons Tracker, the MBT was targeted by a Russian FPV unmanned aerial vehicle. A Ukrainian T-72EA and a PT-91 Twardy MBT were also destroyed by the Russian army.
While any tank loss on Ukraine’s side is a detriment to the country’s defense efforts, it is also inevitable. In fact, now that Kyiv is further thwarting Russia’s advances via its counteroffensive, more tank losses on both sides are expected.
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.