MILAN, Italy — The Norwegian Ministry of Defense put an end to months of speculation, confirming at a Feb. 3 press conference that the government has selected the German Leopard 2A7 as the country’s next main battle tank over a South Korean contender, the K2 Black Panther.
Norway’s Defense Minister Bjørn Arild Gram said his agency is eying 54 of the Krauss-Maffei Wegmann-made tanks in the 2A7 variant. The weapons would arrive in 2026, with the option to procure 18 more.
The decision today amounts to a political announcement on the selected tank type. An industry deal has yet to be signed, though government officials have been pursing negotiations with both tanks’ manufacturers in parallel during technical trials.
Norway’s program for new tanks is worth 19.7 Norwegian crowns, or $1.93 billion, according to a defense spokesperson.
Leaders in Oslo announced on Jan. 25 that Norway would donate some of its older Leopard 2A4 tanks to Ukraine. As such, ensuring that the new tanks are rolled out on time will be critical for the country to maintain the training level and capabilities of its armed forces.
The manufacturing of new tanks, including Leopards, has come into sharp focus recently, as European nations have pledged old stocks and slivers of their active arsenals to help Ukraine.
Nicholas Drummond, a strategic advisor to KMW in the U.K., told Defense News that the company’s production capacity in Germany still has plenty of slack. “Norway is the first of several new expected orders for new-build Leopard 2A7 tanks,” he said. “Previously, at the height of the Cold War, KWM was able to produce 16 tanks a month, today it is producing much less than that, but it still has the same amount of floor space.”
Drummond pointed out that bottlenecks lie in the supply chain rather in the manufacturing process itself.
One year ago, Norway had begun a four-week Arctic assessment to evaluate both tank contenders that included extensive mobility and firing trials alongside harsh climate conditions and snow-covered terrain. At the time, the MoD stated in a press release that officials were looking to guarantee that the contestants possessed “technical features” that would ensure they could survive against Russian forces’ armored vehicles.
The German manufacturer of the Leopard 2, which is the standard main battle tank for most of Europe, has faced increased competition from Korea’s willingness to transfer technology and localize production in European countries. Poland is an example where the government inked significant contracts with South Korea’s Hyundai Rotem and Hanwha Defense for the production of 1,000 K2 tanks and 672 K9 self-propelled howitzers.
Elisabeth Gosselin-Malo is a Europe correspondent for Defense News. She covers a wide range of topics related to military procurement and international security, and specializes in reporting on the aviation sector. She is based in Milan, Italy.