WASHINGTON — The Czech Ministry of Defence plans to join an emerging push by Germany to upgrade its fleet of Leopard 2 main battle tanks, eying an order of 70 copies of the vehicle’s newest A8 configuration.
Leaders in Prague have designated Minister of Defense Jana Černochová the point person to negotiate a Czech buy of the weapons, made by Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and Rheinmetall and known as Kampfpanzer in German, the defense ministry said in a May 24 statement.
The idea is to piggy-back on a German purchase that will initially cover 18 Leopard 2A8 tanks, for $565 million, to replace Berlin’s donations to Ukraine, but that could grow over time into a multibillion-euro deal for up to 123 copies, German media reported.
The envisioned Czech investment “paves the way for the Army of the Czech Republic to acquire a top-of-the-line ground platform, which is also in use in a number of European armies and is compatible with other NATO armies,” reads a ministry statement. “In addition, from the joint procedure with Germany, the Czech side promises a significant price reduction, shorter deliveries and the provision of adequate logistical support.”
German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius lauded the prospective Czech participation as a big step towards Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s fabled “Zeitenwende” objective, a wholesale boost of German and European defense capabilities.
Other nations are invited to join the emerging program to achieve lower prices, higher production rates — vendors will almost certainly have to add capacity — and increased commonality on everything from training to sustainment, Pistorius said.
Czech defense officials expect their new tanks by the end of the decade at a cost of “tens of billions of crowns,” said Col. Ján Kerdík, director of the MOD’s Land Forces Development Department. Ten billion Czech krona equals roughly $450 million.
Sebastian Sprenger is associate editor for Europe at Defense News, reporting on the state of the defense market in the region, and on U.S.-Europe cooperation and multi-national investments in defense and global security. Previously he served as managing editor for Defense News. He is based in Cologne, Germany.