ROME — Italy is planning to buy 133 new German-built Leopard tanks and upgrade 125 of its ageing Ariete tanks as the Ukraine war brings high intensity land warfare back to Europe.
Announcing the plan in parliament, Italian junior defense minister Isabella Rauti said Italy wanted the Leopard 2 A8 combat version tank and upgraded Arietes to achieve a “radical and significant” improvement in its land capabilities as the Ukraine conflict makes tanks once again “fundamental” to warfare.
Italy has 200 home-built Ariete tanks of which only 50 are still operational. Rauti told parliament that the country needs more than 250 battle tanks to meet NATO requirements. Four billion euros ($4.49 billion) would be budgeted for the new buys from 2024, with a total outlay of eight billion euros envisaged, she said, adding that the plan would need approval from parliament before being enacted.
Rauti did not quantify the number of Leopards to be purchased, but a source knowledgeable of the plan said 133 of the combat tanks built by Krauss-Maffei Wegmann are needed. Four billion euros would cover that acquisition between 2024 and 2037, with further funds being spent on other variants of the Leopard, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to speak on the record.
The upgrading of 125 Arietes, would cost around 900 million euros, extending their life to 2034, the source added. In her address to the defense commission of the lower house of the Italian parliament, Rauti said the purchase of Leopards would not rule out Italy’s entry into the envisaged Franco-German Main Ground Combat System (MGCS) initiative.
The acquisition of the German tank would help Italy become more closely involved with German industry and actually facilitate Italian involvement in the MGCS program, she added.Italy is also hoping to replace its ageing Dardo fighting vehicles, with Germany’s Rheinmetall pitching its Lynx fighting vehicle.
Tom Kington is the Italy correspondent for Defense News.