BERLIN (Reuters) – German arms maker Rheinmetall (RHMG.DE) The chief executive of the repaired Leopard 2 tanks was quoted by Bild on Sunday to Ukraine in 2024 at the earliest and would need a firm order to begin repairs.
Germany announced earlier this month that it would supply Ukraine with 40 Marder infantry fighting vehicles to help fend off Russian forces.
But Kyiv has also ordered heavier vehicles such as the Panther, which would represent a significant increase in Western support for Ukraine. However, Economy Minister Robert Habeck said earlier this month that deliveries of Leopard tanks could not be “ruled out”. Today the German Army has only about 350 Leopard II tanks, compared to around 4,000 main battle tanks at the height of the Cold War.
For Rheinmetall, repairing its existing tanks — at least 22 Leopard 2 tanks and 88 Leopard 1 tanks — would cost several hundred million euros, Papperger told Bild.
“The vehicles must be completely dismantled and rebuilt,” he added.
The company also has 100 Marder cars, Papberger said, but they will also need seven to eight months of repairs before they can be used.
Rheinmetall did not respond to an emailed request for comment on Sunday.
Germany became one of Ukraine’s biggest military backers in response to Russia’s invasion after last year, breaking a taboo rooted in its bloody 20th-century history on sending arms to conflict zones.
However, critics say German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and the ruling Social Democrats are too slow, waiting for allies to act first rather than taking responsibility for Germany as the Western power closest to Ukraine.
The law prohibits the German defense industry from producing tanks for storage. Even if production is ramped up, experts say it could take at least two years for the new tanks to be ready for use.
(Reporting by Victoria Waldersee, Sabine Siebold Editing by Frances Kerry and Raisa Kasuluski)
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