Slovakia wants modern main battle tanks, plans to buy up to 104 of them

 02. 06. 2024      category: Events
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The end of T-72M1 tanks in the Slovak army seems to be slowly but surely approaching. According to the latest information, Slovakia plans to make a major decision in the field of tank troops in the coming months. In addition to the reorganisation of the ground forces, the acquisition of up to 104 new main battle tanks is to be implemented.

The ground forces of the Armed Forces of the Slovak Republic are currently undergoing a major modernisation. Over the last two years, contracts have been signed for the purchase of 76 Patria AMV XP 8x8 vehicles and 152 CV90 MkIV infantry fighting vehicles. Current information suggests that the tank battalion could also see a significant renewal of its equipment.

Several sources report that during the recent Future Armored Vehicles Central & Eastern Europe conference held in the Hungarian capital Budapest, Captain Jakub Murček of the Land Forces Development Department, which falls under the modernisation section of the Slovak Ministry of Defence, outlined plans to modernise the Slovak tank force. According to him, the Slovak defence ministry plans to buy up to 104 new main battle tanks to replace the outdated T-72M1 tanks in the Slovak army's armament. At the same time, the original plans to extend the service life of these tanks are to be abandoned and the ground forces are also to be reorganised in the coming years. 

At present, the Slovak Armed Forces have 30 T-72M1 tanks and 15 Leopard 2A4 tanks in their arsenal. According to the Slovak Army, all 30 T-72M1 tanks are beyond their service life and the potential for further extension of the service life and combat capability of these vehicles is low. The Leopard 2A4 tanks, donated to Slovakia by Germany as compensation for the delivery of 30 BVP-1 combat vehicles to Ukraine, are more advanced than the T-72 tanks, but even these tanks are not state-of-the-art. For this reason, too, intensive work is being done to implement the plan defined in the Ministry of Defence's Long-Term Development Plan with a view to 2035. This is the decision to acquire new main battle tanks ideally by 2026.

Foto: V současnosti mají Ozbrojené síly Slovenské republiky ve výzbroji 30 tanků T-72M1 a 15 tanků Leopard 2A4 (na snímku) | Ministerstvo obrany SR
Picture: Currently the Slovak Armed Forces have 30 T-72M1 tanks and 15 Leopard 2A4 tanks (pictured) | Ministry of Defence of the Slovak Republic

However, according to available information, Captain Jakub Murček said that the agreement on the purchase of new main battle tanks should be concluded during this year or next year. For now, it is only possible to speculate on what specific tanks Slovakia will choose, but probably the most logical solution, also in the context of interoperability within the Central European region, is the acquisition of German Leopard 2 tanks in the most modern A8 version. The Czech Republic also wants to acquire these tanks in cooperation with Germany. The new Leopard 2A7HU tanks are now also being taken over by Hungary, which ordered them in December 2018. The possibility of acquiring Leopard 2A8 tanks has been discussed several times by Slovak Defence Minister Robert Kaliňák, who also said that the production of these tanks could be partially transferred to Slovakia. 

In addition to the Leopard 2A8 tanks, there is also speculation about the possibility of acquiring K2 Black Panther tanks of South Korean provenance or American M1A2 Abrams tanks. While the specific type of tanks for the Slovak army can now only be speculated, the number of tanks should be clear, as Captain Murček mentioned during the aforementioned conference that two tank battalions will be created as part of the reorganisation of the ground forces, each with 52 tanks. 

A relatively important criterion for the Slovak defence ministry in the acquisition of new tanks should be the involvement of the domestic defence industry. In Slovakia, tanks have been produced in the past at the state-owned company ZŤS in Martina, and by adequately involving the Slovak defence industry in this project, Slovak companies could build on this tradition. As already mentioned, Defence Minister Robert Kaliňák himself would like to return the production of individual tank components to Slovakia.

 Author: Mgr. Otto Dóka

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