COLOGNE, Germany — The German Army is in line for an upgrade of its tanks, based on the expectation that future conflicts will rely heavily on ground warfare with armored vehicles.
All told, the Bundeswehr stands to get 104 used Leopard 2 battle tanks out of storage that manufacturer Krauss-Maffei Wegmann will upgrade under a contract with the German Defence Ministry from the A4 configuration to the newest A7V standard. The latest package includes improvements in the areas of information technology, armaments and armor.
The tanks — 13 of them previously operated by Germany's own armed forces — hail from multiple NATO allies, who returned them to KMW sometime after the fall of the Soviet Union, when tank warfare in Europe was thought to be an unthinkable relic of the Cold War. Until recently, the company had planned to use the tanks for parts or experiments, according to a spokesman.
But times have changed, as a May 8 statement from the acquisition arm of the German Defence Ministry noted.
"The geopolitical developments of the past years have emphasized to us the importance of tank technology for our defense capabilities," officials wrote.
Also part of the €760 million (U.S. $832.7 million) contract with KMW is the delivery of 32 tank chassis frames that can later be turned into additional vehicles of the Leopard 2 series, such as variants capable of launching bridges across rivers and other chokepoints.
The German Army is slated to receive the upgraded tanks beginning in 2019, with deliveries finished by 2023. The new tank deal will bring the number of German tanks to 328, in line with a goal set by Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen.
The possibility of tank warfare has seen something of a resurgence in recent years within U.S. defense circles and, to a lesser extent, in Europe, as officials on both sides of the Atlantic believe that Russian capabilities in such tactics outmatch those of the West.
Sebastian Sprenger is Europe editor for Defense News, reporting on the state of the defense market in the region, and on U.S.-Europe cooperation and multinational investments in defense and global security. He previously served as managing editor for Defense News.