German defense contractor Rheinmetall has bought 49 second-hand Leopard-1 tanks from a Belgian arms dealer for use in Ukraine, a company spokesman said last week.
A spokesman for the German government said the tanks would be part of a military aid package announced by Defense Minister Oscar Pistorius at last month’s NATO summit in Lithuania. Freddy Versluys, CEO of the private defense company OIP Land Systems, announced the sale of the tanks on Tuesday, telling several media outlets that they were bought by an unnamed European state for an undisclosed price. The Belgian government had negotiated with Versluys earlier this year to buy the Leopards, but ultimately refused to pay the €500,000 per tank that was being asked for.
At the time, Belgian Defense Minister Ludivine Dedonder described the asking price as unreasonable, given that Versluys had bought the tanks as scrap metal. Versluys bought the tanks for €37,000 each when the Belgian government decommissioned them in 2014. Speaking to The Guardian newspaper earlier this year, he said the ageing vehicles were in poor condition and needed new engines, shock absorbers, fire control systems, radar stations, and the list goes on.
Although neither Rheinmetall nor Versluys would reveal the final price, Versluys wrote on LinkedIn that “we asked a fair market price and someone was more than happy to take them”. The Leopard-1, manufactured by Krauss-Maffei in West Germany, entered service in 1965 and was gradually phased out of service from the 1990s onwards.
Kraus-Maffei originally built some 2,400 Leopard 1 tanks of different variants for the German army, some of which are currently in long-term storage, while others are marked for scrap, yet others held by private defense companies.