A Copenhagen-led three-nation coalition plans to send Leopard 1 tanks to Ukraine, Danish and Ukrainian officials have confirmed. While the weapon was developed in the 1960s, the Leopard 1 is still combat-capable thanks to extensive upgrades, and it is hoped that the tanks will arrive in time to support Kyiv’s long-awaited counter-offensive.

Acting Danish Defense Minister Troels Lund Poulsen at a joint briefing with Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov on Monday, April 10, said: "We hope that we will start supplying tanks by the summer. Looking six months ahead, it will be possible to deliver about 100 Leopard 1 tanks to Ukraine."

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A NATO-standard main battle tank mostly fielded from the 1970s to the 1990s, the German-developed Kampfpanzer Leopard 1 is the older cousin of Rheinmettal’s top-of-the-line Leopard 2 tank.

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Armored more heavily than all Russian tanks operating in Ukraine, and equipped with state-of-the art fire control, troop protection, sensor systems, and a powerful 120mm cannon, the Leopard 2 is widely used by European and other militaries. Crew members say a Leopard 2 can hit a moving vehicle at ranges of three kilometers – roughly twice the accuracy of even Russia’s best tanks.

Germany, Poland, Portugal, Canada, Norway, Spain and Sweden have promised to send Ukraine at least 71 Leopard 2 tanks. It is estimated that roughly half of the promised Leopard 2s had actually reached Kyiv’s forces by April 11, the independent Ukraine war monitor Oryx reported.

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Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands have limited numbers of Leopard 2 to give to Ukraine, so they are moving ahead with plans to fill that gap with Leopard 1A5 tanks taken from long-term storage, Poulsen said.

According to Danish military media reports, Ukraine will receive the Leopard 1A5DK, a weapon operated by Danish Army peacekeepers in Croatia and Bosnia in the 1990s, and in regular forces until the mid-2000s. Copenhagen-purchased upgrades for the vehicle include a new diesel engine, advanced gun stabilization, modernized fire control and sensor systems, bolt-on polycarbonate armor, and enhanced crew protection. 

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Compared with Leopard 2, the Leopard 1 has a smaller cannon and weaker armor, but comparable fire control and gun accuracy. A Ukrainian crew operating the older Leopard should be able to shoot first, hit, and destroy almost all current Russian armored vehicles, at any range. The exception would be a rare face-to-face engagement against late-model Russian tanks, whose thick frontal armor the Leopard I’s main gun might not always penetrate, military observers said.

According to the Danish online news platform OLFI, in February a German company called Flensburger Farhzeugbau Gesellschaft was holding 99 Leopard 1A5 tanks in a depot across the border from Denmark, as reserve vehicles for the Danish Army. According to a February 7 article, in the Danish mainstream newspaper Jyllands-Posten, Denmark, Germany and Netherlands will coordinate and finance the repair and transfer of at least 80 tanks to Ukraine.

The vehicles were in long-term storage and needed repair and maintenance before being serviceable for combat, but, they did not require upgrading and “Ukraine is screaming for tanks,” OLFI wrote in a February 1 article.

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An initial 20-tank batch of 20 of the Leopard tanks would be ready for shipment to Ukraine “in a few months,” to be followed by more deliveries as additional vehicles were returned to operational status, the OLFI report said.

Other Danish media reported Ukrainian troops should begin receiving the tanks by the end of April – theoretically in time for Ukraine’s long-awaited Spring offensive.

The recent leak of a late February US military intelligence briefing on Ukraine’s offensive preparations, listed 53 tanks of unnamed type set to enter the Ukrainian military with delivery dates at the end of March, April and “unknown”. The same briefing slide said 32 Leopard 2 tanks (from Germany, Canada and Poland) would be in Armed Forces of Ukraine hands by the end of April.

It is not clear whether crew training for the Danish Leopard 1A5s is already in progress, or would take place after Ukraine received the vehicles. Past training of Ukrainian tank crews for Leopard 2 has taken around two months.

Poulsen at the Monday press conference said it was “important that Ukrainian specialists have the opportunity to service and repair these weapons (Leopard 1) before they arrive in Ukraine… and (that) this question will be worked on.”

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In the summer of 2022, executives of the German company Rheinmetall offered to sell 88 Leopard 1 tanks, held in company storage, to anyone who would buy them, for transfer to the Ukrainian military. Berlin officials cold-shouldered the idea for months citing concerns that sending the 30-year-old tanks to Ukraine, for defensive purposes, might make Russia aggressive.

By early 2023 the German government had largely reversed its position on weapons to Ukraine, but without moving to rapid or large-scale deliveries. Defense Minister Boris Pistorius in a March interview ,with die Welt newspaper, said Berlin’s medium-term intention is for the Ukrainian army to receive 100 Leopard 1 tanks “by the end of the year”.

On March 10, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said “looking six months ahead” he expected “about 100 Leopard 1 tanks” would have arrived in Ukraine.

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Comments (7)

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Steve
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It bemused me those who think (dream) that Russia is a match for NATO !!
So . . Russia has approx 1.5 million troops that are aledgedly combat ready, this hasn't been proven yet, most seem to be poorly trained and equipped conscripts with little experience of combat.
NATO collectively has over 5.5 million troops that are highly trained and very well equipped.
NATO also has some of the best and most capable military hardware in the world.
Putin is told what he wants to hear from his generals and advisors whuch is a long way from reality.
In an all out conflict (God forbid) Russia would not stand a chance, anyone who thinks differently is deluded.
Let's all hope and pray that peace will come soon for the sake of all the innocent civilians caught up in this pointless war of attrition.

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aldol11
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I have known the quality of russian equipment since 1993 .
Leopards will be making mincemeat of the russian armor

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Machone1979
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How ignorant are people that think Ukraine can win. From the beginning Russia went in with under 60000 soldiers thinking that Ukraine will see that Russia is serious. And Ukraine will come to the table. But since NATO armed Ukraine and Russia didn’t expected that. So now Russia is mobilizing its full force which nato can never match. Ukraine is the most corrupt country by far in Europe and top 5 in the world according to the CIA. where European Union and EU do their money laundering. And people here talking carp that they do not know like Jack Griffin commented below but he Han no idea. I leave right next door to Ukraine and since Zelensky came to power in 2014 took away any privilege that the minority had including speaking their won language even in church you are not allowed to speak anything but Ukrainian and priests have been arrested. Do your research before you make a comment. Ukraine will lose and NATO will be weaken by this sadly. And Russia will become a lot stronger because of weak leadership. If another president would’ve been in office Russia would’ve never invaded

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Ronald Watson
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The USA, NATO do not give a damn about Ukraine. The goal from day one was to weaken Russia both Militarily, Financially, Politically. The Russians have proved the WEST wrong. The Russians have not collapsed financially from Western Sanctions, they have not collapsed Militarily, they have not collapsed Politically. The Crimea, Donetsk, Luhansk are ALL primarily made up of ethnic Russians. The only people who are truly suffering from the West's interference are the Ukrainians.
All this could have been avoided but for USA meddling. I AGREE Russia is the aggressor here. The mistake was made when the USSR collapsed and new BORDERS were drawn. One has to look at both the West and Russia being at fault here and see the situation from both sides the Russian and Ukrainian.. There would have been a negotiated settlement long ago ( 2 years ) but for American interference.

Brad Peyton
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@Ronald Watson,

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Mike j
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@Ronald Watson,

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Eric Liscom
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It may be older stuff, bit it can still be quite effective....im sure they are far better than T72's....
The aircraft issue is a bit different....as Russian air defense as a greater problem...
They could probably use Harriers quite effectively, with less dependence on airfields, etc...

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Alexander
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Sending semi-obsolete surplus kit is a total cop-out. Ukraine needs the best and newest stuff, including F-16s. They are not just defending themselves but all of Europe.

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David
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The German officials who prevented delivery of leopard 1 tanks during summer of 2022 for fear of Russian escalation should resign, or be dismissed as incompetent. None of their fears ever stood up to competent military and political evaluation that was always available vis ISW and others, and subsequent events.
Learning from the past unfounded hesitations, many more air defence missile batteries, and fighter planes, should be sent to Ukraine ASAP. . Maintenance can be done in neighbouring counties.. Experienced pilots can be hired. Pilot training can be focused on a limited variety of missions to cover immediate priorities.
No need for 3 year pilot training.

Florian Danzinger
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@David, you are absolutely right.

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