Ukraine’s long-anticipated counteroffensive hasn’t been nearly as successful as Kyiv likely hoped, and concerns have been raised that the apparent lack of progress could weaken the resolve in the West to provide aid to the besieged nation.
However, this week, the support from NATO members was on full display as German-based Rheinmetall AG announced that it had purchased around 30 Leopard 1 A5 main battle tanks (MBTs) from a Belgian company on behalf of the German government as part of a package of military hardware for Ukraine unveiled at last month’s NATO summit.
The Cold War-era tanks were at the center of a “public spat” earlier this year, Reuters reported. Belgian Defense Minister Ludivine Dedonder said the government in Brussels had explored buying back tanks to send to Ukraine but had been quoted unreasonable prices by the firm that had reportedly owned the tanks.
Western hardware that was once discarded as obsolete is now in high demand, as a multitude of nations looked to send the equipment to Ukraine. The private firms that bought up the old tanks and other equipment at bargain basement prices are now seeking to turn a tidy profit. Such seemed to be the case with the nearly three dozen Leopard 1 MBTs.
A Deal Was Reached
As Reuters also reported, Freddy Versluys, CEO of defense company OIP Land Systems, bought the tanks from the Belgian government more than five years ago. He has since sold those tanks to another European government, but could not name it due to a confidentiality clause.
According to German-based DW, Versluys bought the tanks from the Belgian government more than five years ago for about €37,000 each (about $40,500) – however, he did not disclose the price for which the tanks were sold back to Rheinmetall.
“The fact that they leave our company proves that we asked for a fair market price and someone was more than happy to take them,” Versluys said via a post on LinkedIn. He appeared in a photo of the MBTs with a bottle of Ukrainian vodka.
Does Ukraine Need Leopard 1 Tanks?
An additional 30 Western MBTs could be seen as a major boost to Ukraine as it could help equip another full tank battalion. Yet, these aren’t exactly fresh off the assembly line vehicles, and even with upgrades they’re not exactly the most cutting edge either.
“Just how useful the 1980s-vintage, German-designed tanks will be to Ukraine’s war effort depends on how the Ukrainians choose to use them—and how heavily they upgrade the 40-ton, four-person vehicles,” David Axe of Forbes.com wrote earlier this week.
Ukraine has already seen a number of its more advanced Leopard 2 MBTs disabled and destroyed in the ongoing fighting. Russian defensive lines are far more fortified than some may have expected, and it could take more than just massive numbers of tanks to make a breakthrough.
However, Russia has lost thousands of tanks – and it has been forced to employ tanks far older than the Leopard 1. Truly the fighting in Ukraine is becoming a military war of hardware attrition.
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.
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