Ukraine encounters issues with Leopard 1 tanks, jeopardizing supply of hundreds
Despite the German government's July announcement regarding the transfer of Leopard 1 tanks to the Ukrainian Armed Forces, issues have already arisen which threaten the whole point of their supply
Defense Express reported on the issues.
The supposed transfer of 10 tanks in late August did not actually happen; the tanks remain in Poland.
“The reason is wear and tear because these Leopard 1s were utilized for training, necessitating repairs, yet there is a shortage of spare parts and qualified specialists,” Defense Express explains.
Moreover, some previously transferred vehicles have already malfunctioned during training exercises, not even reaching the front lines.
How Germany and Ukraine are addressing the challenges
The German Defense Ministry is attempting to address the problem by expediting the training of technical specialists who can then train others in Ukraine. This issue is somewhat surprising but also entirely logical. These tanks were produced between 1965 and 1984 and were initially supplied to private companies, not military units for proper maintenance. Some were sold for remarkably low prices, indicating their poor condition at the time of sale.
For instance, Rheinmetall is restoring these tanks, and from the 50 units supplied by OIP Land Systems, 20 were so deteriorated that they had to be dismantled for spare parts. This "cannibalism" approach has become a crucial source of spare parts, as demonstrated by Brazil's experience with a shortage of Leopard 1 parts.
With 217 Leopard 1s in the inventory, a significant number of spare parts are required, especially given that older machines need more frequent repairs, particularly if used in combat. It was expected that when Germany, the Netherlands, and Denmark decided to transfer Leopard 1s to the Ukrainian Armed Forces, these issues should have been foreseen. Without addressing this problem, hundreds of Leopard tanks with questionable combat readiness become less and less practical.