German battle tanks require considerable repairs and will not be ready for transfer to Ukraine until 2024 at the earliest, the chief executive of German arms manufacturer Rheinmetall has confirmed, as cited by the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.
Rheinmetall CEO Armin Papperger revealed Germany’s battalion of Leopard 2 heavy-armored battle tanks is in need of significant refurbishment and will not be available for use by Ukrainian defense forces anytime soon.
Officials in Kyiv have been exerting pressure on Berlin to do more to assist President Volodymyr Zelensky’s troops in the ongoing conflict with Russia, calling on German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to sign off on transferring heavy-armored tanks to the Ukrainian front line.
Germany’s federal government has so far resisted the request, insisting the country will not provide battle tanks to the region without the green light from Western allies, in particular, U.S. President Joe Biden.
This is despite confirmation over the weekend that the United Kingdom will send a squadron of 14 Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine to help counter Russia’s invasion “in the coming weeks.”
Poland and Finland have also announced their intention to send German-made Leopard 2 battle tanks to Kyiv as part of a wider Western alliance, heaping pressure on Berlin to follow suit.
However, it appears Germany’s own squadron of the tanks is not currently fit for purpose.
“Even if the decision is made tomorrow that we are allowed to send our Leopard tanks to Kyiv, delivering them will take until the beginning of next year,” Rheinmetall CEO Armin Papperger told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.
“We still have 22 Leopard 2 vehicles that we could prepare for use and deliver to Ukraine. We still have around 88 vehicles from the Leopard 1. But we cannot repair these tanks without an order, as the costs are several hundred million euros. Rheinmetall cannot finance that in advance,” Papperger told the newspaper.
“The vehicles not only need to be repainted, but also have to be converted for use in war. The vehicles must be completely dismantled and rebuilt,” Papperger added.
Ukraine’s ambassador in Berlin, Oleksii Makeiev, said on Saturday that time was of the essence for Ukraine, telling Germany’s dpa news agency that “German weapons, German tanks are essential for survival.
“We have very little time for discussions. And we expect our allies to understand that and act appropriately,” he added.