COLOGNE, Germany – The Hungarian army has taken delivery of four used Leopard-2 tanks to begin training on the weapons as manufacturer Kraus-Maffei Wegmann works on the country's order of 44 new tanks.

The Hungarian government ordered the equipment in late 2018 as part of an effort to replace its Soviet-era arms. The Leopard 2 tanks in their newest configuration, dubbed 2A7+, are slated to replace Russian-made T-72s.

A total of 12 older Leopards of the 2A4 variant were part of the deal to ensure Hungarian soldiers can train ahead of the new deliveries, slated for 2023.

“Hungary is modernizing its land forces with Germany as a strategic partner,” German State Secretary of Defense Thomas Silberhorn was quoted as saying in a defense ministry statement. The acquisition would ensure interoperability among Hungarian and German forces and strengthen the defense capabilities of the European Union and NATO alike, he added.

Defense Secretary Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer recently visited Hungary, led by far-right Prime Minister Victor Orban, and lauded the two countries’ defense cooperation. Her ministry later made mention of the government’s increasing authoritarian bent only by saying that challenges in dealing with the country were “rather sociopolitical” in nature.

Recent weapons contracts with Hungary, with also include howitzers and other heavy gear, are reportedly valued at around $2 billion, making the country Germany’s largest arms customer for the time.

The government’s anti-democratic moves – threats to a free press and an independent judiciary, for example – have put Budapest on a collision course with the European Union, though the pact has yet to meaningfully hold its member to account.