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It may simply be my media bubble but it seems that the discussion on providing main battle tanks to the Ukraine focuses strongly, almost entirely, on the German Leopard 2. Why is that?

Now I understand that the Leo 2 is likely the best tank out of all the options, being well-regarded, produced for export, etc. However, it seems odd to me that there is seemingly no discussion around e.g. the British Challenger 2 (or mothballed predecessors). Seeing how the UK is otherwise not shy in providing equipment, this seems an odd omission.

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    There are also those 88 Leopard 1 Rheinmetall has rotting in their garage 😉 Oct 4 at 13:23
  • @PhilipKlöcking Leopard 1 is from 1965; our grandfathers used it. The first world war was less in the past then than that year is in the past now. Oct 6 at 8:35
  • @Peter-ReinstateMonica True, yet they were clearly in discussion. And as many people correctly surmised, the comment was meant to add a rather funny sidenote to that what the question considered. Oct 6 at 8:49
  • And, Rheinmetall tried to give Ukraine 50 different Leopard 1's already, but other NATO people didn't donate. Oct 7 at 2:51
  • @Peter-ReinstateMonica True, but T-62s are used in Ukraine widely and modernized T-55s were donated to Ukraine as well. Oct 7 at 10:54

3 Answers 3

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One has to consider that it isn't enough to give Ukraine tanks that are good, but are also able to be supported with logistics.

Leopard 2 is in use by several other countries near Ukraine, including Poland and Hungary. The Leopard 2 would therefore be one of the easier western tanks to support in Ukraine. Neighboring countries could ship parts to Ukraine, and Ukraine could ship Leopards to Poland and other countries for repair (They are doing this with their T-72s by sending the Czech Republic and Poland).

Challenger 2 is in use by absolutely nobody other than the UK and Oman. If a Challenger 2 breaks down nobody in continental Europe will be able to do anything about it.

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    To the "logistics" part I would add: training. Similar to why Ukraine was given Soviet era weapons at first: because that's the armament they're familiar with and wouldn't require new training. To train Ukrainian tank crews in using a Leopard 2, they'd just need to go to neighbouring Poland and that's it. To train them in using Challenger 2s they'd have to either travel to the UK, or fly people over from the UK to Poland. And that's just the people, we then add the tank parts and the actual tanks... Not impossible, but much less practical.
    – kirgod
    Oct 4 at 21:10
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    Add to this that the Leopard 2 is the only European MBT still in active production (not counting the Turkish Altay, which are not even in service yet) other than Russian designs, so any other vehicles sent to Ukraine would have to be replaced by different materiel, adding logistical issues for the source countries as well. Oct 4 at 23:43
  • @AustinHemmelgarn Yes, I almost added a bit about the US Abrams specifically with that caveat, since it's another western MBT that gets talked about.
    – Joe
    Oct 5 at 16:56
  • Given that the media loves conflict, there is also the aspect of whether the German parliament allows it or not (and they can speculate for weeks or months about the outcome). Oct 6 at 22:01
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The simplest answer is probably that there are more Leopard 2s to go around. According to the most recent figures I can find, 3,600 Leopard 2s have been produced, compared to only 447 Challenger 2s. It's therefore likely to be far easier, and potentially also cheaper, to get hold of a dozen Leopards than a dozen Challengers.

The Leopard 2 is also still in production, whereas the last Challenger 2 was built twenty years ago, so it's possible that Ukraine can get Leopard 2s fresh off the production line.

(I don't know how this stacks up against other contemporary main battle tanks, but as the Leopard 2 and Challenger 2 are the only ones you mentioned, those are the only ones I'm providing figures for.)

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  • "it's possible that Ukraine can get Leopard 2s fresh off the production line." Not too probable. Current approach is rather that other countries donate their old tanks and receive (or buy) new ones. Oct 4 at 15:27
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    Using tanks in war also requires spare parts, again something that's much easier for tanks which are still in production.
    – MSalters
    Oct 6 at 12:29
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  • Logistics and Donors
    The Leopard 2 is produced by Germany, it is used by a dozen European countries. It might be feasible to assemble a battalion-and-some-spares grouping from all of them even if no single user would give up that many. This requires the OK of Germany and some but not all of the others. And Spain did consider sending them, with seems to have failed both because of maintenance state of the tanks and the lack of a German permit.
    Note how Germany and the Netherlands pooled to come up with approx. two batteries' worth of the Panzerhaubitze 2000.
  • Power Plants
    Only the Leopard and Abrams are currently in production, among Western MBTs, and the Abrams has a gas turbine. This differs from most ex-Soviet tanks, and they have a high fuel consumption. The US decided that they could provide the necessary logistics for their own Abrams, and accepted the trade-off.
  • Potential for Political Pressure
    As far as I know, the request for modern MBTs has been refused by all Western powers. Germany is in an awkward position because it is the Western power with the largest dependency on Russian gas (in absolute terms, not percentage-wise, but it makes nice pie charts). It was also late delivering arms in the Spring. Demanding Abrams from the US or Challengers from the UK would look ungrateful after all those Javelins.
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    T-80 has gas turbine IIRC and Ukraine has some (even produced them, IIRC). OTOH I see the Ukrainian version of the T-80 is diesel powered, so I guess you have a point on rarity of the gas turbine.
    – Fizz
    Oct 4 at 16:18
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    I think we can cross out the dependency on Russian gas by now. "Turbine problems" and the north stream sabotage have seen to reducing the dependency to a level where Russia has basically an empty hand on natural gas.
    – Manziel
    Oct 5 at 7:15
  • @Manziel, I'm talking about past imports being used as a political lever to get more arms from Germany. Ukrainian messaging differs from audience to audience, for Germany much of it was "you owe us whatever we ask for."
    – o.m.
    Oct 5 at 10:08
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    @Manziel I think you're confusing gas(oline) and natural gas. "The [Honeywell AGT1500] engine can use a variety of fuels, including jet fuel, gasoline, diesel and marine diesel."
    – 0xFEE1DEAD
    Oct 5 at 13:59
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    No, I mean the political pressure part. That card has definitely been played now and it has already been played back when NS1 only delivered at reduced capacity. As a German I know that the thread of cutting off natural gas has been a strong argument in the political discussion back in the spring. But I think this has lost a lot of its power since mid June
    – Manziel
    Oct 5 at 14:20

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