Slovakia is to receive Leopard 2 A4 tanks
The conflict in Ukraine continues and European countries are looking for ways to support Ukraine in its fight against Russia as much as possible. Slovakia is one of the countries that is very active in supporting Ukraine. Most recently, Slovakia has agreed with Germany to send 30 BVP-1 Infantry Fighting Vehicles to Ukraine and to receive 15 Leopard 2 A4 tanks from Germany as compensation. This will be the first direct compensation for military equipment provided to Ukraine.
The open war between Russia and Ukraine has been going on for more than half a year. It is becoming increasingly difficult for many European countries to find ways of continuing to support Ukraine militarily without significantly reducing their military capabilities and thus jeopardising their security. Slovakia is among the countries that have supported Ukraine since the beginning of the war with Russia. It has already sent Ukraine several of its weapons systems, such as the S-300 PMU air defence system, four Mi-17 helicopters, one Mi-2 helicopter, ammunition for Grad multiple rocket launchers and other military material worth several million euros. In addition, just before the war, the Slovak Government provided Ukraine with Božena 5 demining systems, and in June this year eight Zuzana 2 155mm self-propelled howitzers were sold.
Slovakia has not received a direct replacement for any of the above weapon systems in the form of other adequate equipment. Although German, American and Dutch troops are currently present in Slovakia with their Patriot systems, these systems serve only as temporary protection of Slovak airspace. However, Slovakia has recently concluded an agreement with Germany under which, for the first time, it will receive compensation for the military equipment sent to Ukraine. We can say without exaggeration that this compensation will be more than adequate.
More Leopards for Central Europe
On 23 August, the Ministry of Defence announced that it would send 30 BVP-1 Infantry Fighting Vehicles to Ukraine under an agreement with Germany and receive 15 Leopard 2 A4 tanks from German stocks as compensation. The agreement was confirmed by the signatures of the Secretaries of State of the Ministries of Defence of both countries. After the Czech Republic, Slovakia would thus be the second country in Central Europe to receive Leopard 2 A4 tanks from Germany as compensation for heavy military equipment donated to Ukraine. The agreement also includes the supply of spare parts, ammunition and training. Speculations that the exchange agreement concerns T-72 tanks, which Slovakia currently has in its arsenal, have not been confirmed.
Thanks to the German donation of Leopard 2 A4 tanks, the number of tanks in the Slovak Armed Forces will increase to 45, which corresponds to the size of a tank battalion in NATO. As the Slovak Defence Ministry further informs, the Leopard 2 tanks will significantly increase the capabilities and strength of the heavy mechanised brigade. At the same time, it should be mentioned that Leopard 2 tanks are the most widely used tanks within the North Atlantic Alliance, which allows their users to cooperate more. The Leopard 2 tanks are also the only tanks in Europe that are still in production, at KMW's Munich factory.
The agreement between Slovakia and Germany is also a good basis for the further development of the tank battalion of the Slovak Armed Forces. According to the recently approved Long-Term Development Plan of the Ministry of Defence with a view to 2035, the issue of purchasing new tanks for the Slovak Armed Forces is to be resolved by 2026. Although Slovak Defence Minister Jaroslav Naď has previously stated that the purchase of new tanks is not envisaged in the current parliamentary term, the agreement with Germany may still lead to significant steps that will subsequently lead to the purchase of new tanks.
As the first Leopard 2 A4 tanks are due to be delivered early next year, the Slovak defence ministry can start the necessary training of operators and building the necessary infrastructure for tanks of Western provenance. Leopard 2 A4 tanks also offer upgrade potential, as these tanks can be upgraded to A5, A6 and even A7 versions. This potential can play a significant role in the purchase of additional tanks, ideally the most modern Leopard 2 A7+ tanks. Thanks to the possible upgrading of the Leopard 2 A4 tanks, which Slovakia will receive free of charge from Germany, it would be possible to buy the necessary number of tanks to reach the tank battalion size in accordance with NATO requirements, i.e. 44 tanks, with the money saved. The purchase of Leopard 2 tanks also makes sense from a geopolitical point of view, as all neighbouring countries have or will have these tanks in their armament.