According to the armaments company Rheinmetall, the Leopard battle tanks intended for so-called ring exchanges with Slovakia and the Czech Republic will be fully repaired in the spring.
"These tanks belong to the federal government. They can do what they want with them," said CEO Armin Papperger to "Stern". By the end of March, Rheinmetall had around 29 Leopard 2A4 main battle tanks ready for use, which were intended for the ring exchange. On the other hand, a Rheinmetall spokesman told the editorial network Germany (RND) that the 29 ring exchange tanks would be "ready in April/May 2023".
The federal government has organized part of the military aid for Ukraine in its defensive struggle against Russia as an exchange with eastern NATO partners. These hand over weapons of Soviet design to the Ukraine and receive more modern replacements from Germany. In the course of this so-called ring exchange, Germany has promised Slovakia 15 and the Czech Republic 14 Leopard tanks - these are outdated vehicles from Rheinmetall stocks, both countries already received the first vehicle in December. Most recently, pressure had grown on Germany to deliver Leopard tanks to Ukraine.
To repair the tanks "misunderstood important things"
Against the background of this debate, the Rheinmetall boss recently made headlines with the statement that repairing Leopard tanks from his stocks would take "almost a year". Papperger said some people "got important things wrong". "I spoke of the 22 Leopard tanks that are at Rheinmetall and belong to Rheinmetall. I'm sticking with it, they won't be ready before the end of this year." He explained the condition of the vehicles: "Some of these tanks stood there for ten years with the hatch open, they are moldy on the inside."
The Rheinmetall spokesman told the RND about these 22 tanks: "Delivery would be possible at the end of 2023/beginning of 2024." In addition, there are 29 Leopard tanks that are being worked on for ring exchange projects. "From Leopard 1 we could make 88 vehicles available," he added. So in total there are 139 Leopard tanks. The mixed situation is "very volatile" due to the security policy framework, various forms of direct or indirect delivery and the changing priorities of orders. "It is therefore difficult, for example, to name specific periods for deliveries."