Leopard 1, the nearly 60-year-old tank Kiev just received, has many advantages such as ease of operation and large quantity, which can be suitable for the Ukrainian battlefield.

On September 8, the Danish Ministry of Defense announced the delivery of 10 Leopard 1A5 tanks to Ukraine and will soon provide 10 more. This is a tank model developed by Germany in the 1950s and 1960s and upgraded in the 1980s. Germany is also said to have transferred 10 Leopard 1A5s to Ukraine last month.

Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands announced in February that Ukraine would receive 135 Leopard 1A5 tanks in the coming months. These countries also committed to training soldiers to operate, providing logistics, spare parts and ammunition to Ukraine, with the expectation that Leopard 1 will significantly support Kiev’s counterattack campaign.

Germany is one of the biggest suppliers of weapons to Ukraine. The country decided to transfer 18 Leopard 2A6s, a modern variant of the Leopard 2 series, to Ukraine that were deployed in the counteroffensive campaign. However, the majority of Germany’s tank aid commitment is more than 100 Leopard 1s. Despite being nearly 60 years old, some German experts and officials believe that the Leopard 1A5 could be a useful alternative to the Leopard 2A6, the main battle tank model, is many times more expensive, and the quantity available is not high.

Germany was forced to directly withdraw 18 Leopard 2A6s from service to aid Ukraine, while the German army also needed this tank model. Western experts believe that Leopard 1A5 will be effective after being refurbished. Some believe that the Leopard 1A5 still has superior power compared to Soviet-era main battle tank models such as Russia’s T-72.

German Lieutenant General Andreas Marlow, who supervises the training program for Ukrainian soldiers to operate the Leopard 1A5, assessed that this tank model has night vision goggles, a gun barrel stabilization system and can move backwards at high speed. The Leopard 1A5 also has advantages such as the crew being able to easily control their equipment, and the maintenance and repair process being simpler than the Leopard 2A6 model, General Marlow said.

Christian Molling, military expert at the German Council on Foreign Relations, said that due to slow planning and lack of funding, the German military had no choice but to Leopard 1 when faced with a request to aid a large number of tanks to Ukraine. “Those Leopard 1s are actually not a bad choice,” this expert assessed.

Leopard 1A5 is a modernized variant of the main tank model developed by Porsche, a company specializing in manufacturing luxury cars. This line of tanks focuses on mobility and firepower, as the designers believe that HEAT anti-tank ammunition will make heavy armored tanks obsolete. With that philosophy, the Leopard 1 is only equipped with 10-70 mm thick steel armor, only a little more than an armored vehicle, making it very vulnerable to anti-tank firepower on modern battlefields, especially kamikaze UAVs.

Germany upgraded the Leopard 1 tank to the 1A5 standard in the late 1980s and early 1990s, in the context of the country’s military downsizing after the end of the Cold War.


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