Czech army to get Leopard tanks under Berlin-Prague arms swap

STUTTGART, Germany – The Czech Republic is in line to get main battle tanks and armored recovery vehicles from Germany’s Rheinmetall as part of a swap to replace Prague’s own equipment given to Ukraine.

The Czech armed forces will soon receive an unspecified number of Leopard 2A4 main battle tanks and Buffalo armored recovery vehicles, with initial deliveries to begin this December and end by late 2023, Rheinmetall announced Tuesday. The order includes ammunition, training, and logistics support. The Leopards are Rheinmetall-owned tanks that were formerly in other states’ inventories and will be upgraded, per the company.

Senior defense officials from both countries signed the contract Oct. 11 at the Ministry of Defense in Prague, according to a Rheinmetall statement. It comes after Berlin recently established a “Ringtausch,” or “Ringswap,” equipment exchange program aimed at encouraging allies to send their Soviet-era equipment to Ukraine and receive readily available NATO-standard equipment in return.

Since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine last February, the Czech Republic has sent T-72 tanks, armored personnel carriers, and various other military equipment to support Kyiv’s defenses. Earlier this month, the nation’s citizens crowdfunded 33 million crowns (U.S. $1.31 million) to buy a modernized T-72 Avenger in support of Ukraine, Reuters recently reported.

Germany has previously signed agreements with Slovakia, Greece and most recently Slovenia under the Ringtausch effort, committing to provide Western equipment to these countries after they provided their own Soviet-era equipment to Ukraine.

In exchange for sending armored personnel carriers to Kyiv, Slovakia will receive 15 Leopard 2A4 tanks from industry stocks. Meanwhile, Greece agreed to ship 40 BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine; in return, Athens will receive 40 Schützenpanzer Marder 1 infantry fighting vehicles, also from Rheinmetall stocks.

In September, the German and Slovenian ministers of defense signed a letter of intent for Ljubljana to send 28 M55S tanks to Kyiv, and for Berlin in exchange to provide 40 15-ton military trucks, 35 flatbeds, and five tank containers from industrial stocks, per a Sept. 20 Germany defense ministry press release.

“Together, we are supplementing the direct arms deliveries to Ukraine in order to support them in their courageous defense against Russian aggression,” German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said in the statement.

As the exchange program has come underway, Germany has come increasingly under pressure for its sluggishness in providing modern tanks and equipment to Ukraine.

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