Slovakia to receive first Leopard 2 A4 tanks in December
In August this year, the Slovak Ministry of Defence announced that after weeks of intensive negotiations, it had concluded an agreement with Germany for the delivery of 30 BVP-1 infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine in exchange for 15 Leopard 2 A4 tanks. Slovakia should receive its first tank by the end of this year.
The delivery of 30 BVP-1s to Ukraine is expected to take place in the coming weeks. In addition to these vehicles, Slovakia has already provided Ukraine with the S-300 PMU air defence system, four Mi-17 helicopters, one Mi-2 helicopter, and ammunition for Grad multiple rocket launchers. Slovakia has also sold eight Zuzana 2 self-propelled howitzers to Ukraine. Until now, however, Slovakia has not received any compensation for the equipment supplied to the Ukrainian army. The agreement between Germany and Slovakia on the donation of 15 Leopard 2 A4 tanks will thus be the first exchange of military equipment.
The Leopard 2 A4 tanks will be delivered to the Slovak Armed Forces (SAF) by the German company Rheinmetall. Before being delivered to the Slovak army, the tanks will undergo all necessary repairs and partial modernisation at the German company's plants. The aim of the repairs and modernisation of some components is to ensure that these tanks have the communication and information systems that are in place in the Slovak army. The first partially modernised Leopard 2 A4 is scheduled to arrive in Slovakia in December this year, with the remaining Leopards to be delivered during 2023. The deliveries include spare parts, ammunition, logistic support and crew training. The Czech Republic recently concluded a similar agreement with Germany, which will receive 14 Leopard 2 A4 tanks and a Bergepanzer 3 Büffel recovery vehicle as a donation.
The delivery of the German Leopard 2 tanks will increase the capacity of the Slovak Armed Forces tank battalion by 50%, bringing Slovakia closer to the size of a NATO-standard tank battalion. It should be noted, however, that Slovakia still has old T-72M1 tanks in its arsenal, which, according to the Slovak army’s data, are beyond their service life. According to the Ministry of Defence's Long-Term Development Plan with a view to 2035, "the ambition is to take a decision on the procurement of new battle tanks by the end of 2026". For example, the Czech Republic is considering the purchase of up to 50 Leopard 2 A7 tanks and plans to upgrade Leopard 2 A4 tanks to the 2 A7 standard in the future. Slovakia could follow a similar path, replacing its current number of T-72M1 tanks with modern Leopard 2 A7 tanks and considering the possibility of upgrading Leopard 2 A4s. Leopard 2 A7 tanks are produced by the German KMW concern and all neighbouring countries have Leopard 2 tanks in their armament. In total, there are 13 Leopard tank users in Europe, and together with Slovakia and the Czech Republic, the number of users will increase to 15, which will, among other things, allow for greater cooperation between users.
The introduction of Leopard 2 A4 tanks into the armament of the Slovak Armed Forces is perceived by the Minister of Defence Jaroslav Nad as a great success, as Slovakia will receive tanks of Western provenance and at the same time bilateral cooperation with Germany will be deepened. According to the words of Martin Sklenar, Director General of the Defence Policy Section of the Slovak Ministry of Defence, the users of the Leopard 2 tanks cooperate in the field of logistics, modernisation, operation and training, and thanks to the donation of 15 Leopard tanks Slovakia can also establish cooperation with these users.