Dhe announced delivery of infantry fighting vehicles from America and Germany as well as French wheeled armored vehicles with large caliber cannons to the Ukraine further fueled the debate about main battle tanks at the weekend. At the same time, it shows that the Bundeswehr and industry are already having problems with the delivery of 40 older Marder armored personnel carriers.
There are hardly any reserves in the army, the stock of about 320 martens is considered to be at best half operational. Many are used as spare parts stores, dozens are in NATO commitments. The defense technology industry could need months to repair some of the vehicles from their warehouses.
The army would hardly be prepared for the surrender of the even scarcer Leopard tanks. Battle tanks like the German Leopard 2 or the American Abrams are about twice as heavy and therefore better protected than infantry fighting vehicles. They have smoothbore guns with a range of more than four miles.
European supply coalition?
The German Marder armored personnel carrier, on the other hand, has a 20 millimeter autocannon with about a third of the range. To combat enemy main battle tanks, additional armor-piercing guided missiles must be carried. According to the current status, these are not part of the German delivery commitment.
Experts are of the opinion that the armored personnel carrier with its mounted infantry – six soldiers in the case of the Marder – can be used efficiently, especially in combination with battle tanks.
Several MPs from the traffic light coalition and the opposition have since joined the call for a European Leopard supply coalition. The SPD foreign politician Michael Roth had suggested months ago. Roth said there were a total of about 2,000 Leopards in 13 European countries, enough to ship a number to Ukraine together.
The Leopard is an export hit by the German armaments industry; the Netherlands, Poland and Turkey are among the users. The Vice President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, also supported the proposal.
Former Defense Committee chairman Wolfgang Hellmich (SPD), meanwhile, dismissed reports that he had differentiated between the alleged “defensive” Marder tanks and an “assault” Leopard, which should not be given to Ukraine. Unlike when he was quoted, he did not say that; the distinction is also nonsensical. Hellmich told the FAZ about the problems with the Marder delivery: “Now we are acting. The decision was made in close consultation between the chancellor and the defense minister. It is a priority decision and the priority right now is Ukraine.”
As reported from Poland, the government there intends to rely more on American tanks in the future. At the end of 2022, the delivery of more than 100 older, modernized Abrams main battle tanks was agreed, which should go to Poland this year. At the beginning of 2022, Warsaw had ordered 250 of the latest generation Abrams.
Poland is thus on the way to building up a strong armored force, after years of Warsaw relying on old Soviet models and older Leopards, some of them very old. In the first months of the war, Poland had sent at least 230 of its original 800 main battle tanks to the Ukraine, at that time models of Soviet design.