Ukraine 2023 Update: Challengers, Leopards and Abrams Will Be Heading To Ukraine

We’re jumping back to reality for a short spell to discuss the decisions by Germany and the US earlier in the week to supply Ukraine with main battle tanks. Specifically, Leopard 2s and M-1 Abrams. Great Britain also announced last week it will be sending around a baker’s dozen Challenger 2s to Ukraine. Overall, the number of tanks being sent is not significant. Along with the 13 or so Challengers, Germany’s contribution will be 14 Leos while the US sends 31 M-1A2 Abrams, though these A2s will not have the classified armor packages that baseline M-1A2s in US service have. Federal law prohibits the export of Abrams tanks equipped with this armor. So, the Ukrainians will have to make do without it.

As far as the M-1s go, it will be some time before they arrive on the battlefield and can be integrated into Ukrainian formations. Until then, Ukrainian crews and maintenance personnel will be trained up on how to fight, maintain and repair the Abrams. Then there are the support elements that will also need to be deployed, including the M-88 armored recovery vehicle. Ukrainian tractors have proven their worth in hauling tanks, but not even they can handle pulling a damaged Abrams. Add to this a collection of spare gun tubes, tools and parts that will need to be sent east as well. No small undertaking by any stretch of the imagination. Challenger 2s will be no easier. However, the German Leopard 2s from Heer stockpiles, as well as some in Polish service will probably arrive sooner. Perhaps in time to play a part in defending against the Russian offensive, expected to begin in early spring.

Big picture wise, the decision to send MBTs to Ukraine represents a dramatic change for NATO. Up until now supplying Ukraine with advanced tanks was a red line every major NATO member was reluctant to cross for fear of it escalating the conflict. Even the Germans fought the idea tooth and nail, only relenting after the US agreed to send M-1s in exchange for Berlin jumping on board. Whether or not the appearance of Western MBTs brings on an escalation in the war depends on a number of variables. Unfortunately, the commitment of these tanks only adds fuel to Putin’s argument that NATO is a direct combatant in this conflict. Beyond the borders of the Soviet Union this carries little staying power. But domestically, it can. Even though many Russian citizens wonder why they are fighting a war in Ukraine, it’s not very difficult to imagine the majority of Russians rallying around the Kremlin leadership to defend the motherland from an external threat, namely the Western alliance. Remember, for decades now NATO has been the bogeyman moving to destabilize Russia and reduce its sphere of influence according to Putin and other nationalists.

As for Leopard 2s in Ukraine, all I can say is that this won’t be the first time German tanks have prowled the Ukrainian countryside looking to do battle with the Russians. Who knows. Maybe this time German-made armor will make it to Moscow. 😉

Author’s Note: Back to 1987 in the next post on Sunday. Not sure if I’ll conclude the Today’s Friend series then or just push ahead and return to it next weekend.


28 Replies to “Ukraine 2023 Update: Challengers, Leopards and Abrams Will Be Heading To Ukraine”

  1. Expectation is for 90 Leopard 2 when all is said and done, and that’s the first instance, the 14 German ones are only a small part. So about two battalions and a battalion command section. Germany giving the permission to send these tanks also enables recipients of Ringtausch Leopard tanks to send those if they fancy it. I also wouldn’t be surprised for late-version Leopard 1A5 to be overhauled and sent. Finally, Ukraine may now be able to use some of the cash they have been advanced to buy Challengers, older M1s and Leopard 2s on the open market. E.g. Jordan has retired its fleet of 400 Challenger Is (which will need overhaul). So on the whole this opens up the potential for quite a bit of addition to the Ukrainian tank park.

    I suspect that the Challengers and M1 Abrams will go into a separate, second-line formation (e.g. mobile reserve at the Belarussian border) due to logistics issues.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. 90 Leos are a big chunk of Germany and Poland’s tank forces. And that number alone just makes it easier for Russia to claim escalation if their situation on the battlefield worsens when Western tanks arrive.

      Interesting point about the Ukrainian tank park. I wonder how many tanks they actually have serviceable at present. Same for the Russians.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think we are all way beyond caring what Putin and his cronies are claiming. I expect F-16s to be next, as they will give the Ukrainians a cost-effective way to deal with cruise missiles.

        If the Ukrainians play their cards and money right they could have probably 300 western tanks (Leopard 1 and 2, M1) in their arsenal by summer.

        The Poles are also going to give them 60 older (1990s tech level) T-72s which presumably could be with the Ukrainians in time for dealing with whatever the Russians plan for end of February.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Those cruise missiles are playing hell with the Ukrainians. They need something and soon.

          If we’re beyond caring what Putin is claiming, that’s a bad move. Should he get desperate and we push harder, it really raises the chance of escalation.

          300 Western tanks in Ukraine. Nice round number but I don’t know if we’re ready to commit that much. Depends on the spring and if anything comes of their possible offensive.

          Every T-72 ever made will be in Ukraine by March. One way or another 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

            1. They need to get the Western armor and high tech quick though before a new Russian offensive takes shape. And right now, it appears late February/early March is the timeline for that

              Liked by 2 people

  2. Imo, western armor should have been there six months ago. We already know the Poles managed to transfer aircraft successfully… armor being moved would have been easier.

    That said, much has been said about it being not enough. I will point out that a Ukrainian Armored Brigade (about as much armor as two Western Bn’s) tangled with ten times their number in Russian troops… and kicked ass. Yes, they had supporting fires but still, , it was done with upgraded Russian tanks. Imagine what actual western armor could do.

    I agree… it isn’t enough as far as western doctrine and belief goes. But this is 2023. And the Russian Bear, long believed to be a wicked powerhouse with ten foot long claws… isn’t.

    No expert I… but I’ve a few ideas on what can be done with the initial Leos being sent. Would love to discuss at some point… and it would make an interesting scenario for someone. Maybe for the historical minis guys at HMGS; one of hte more innovative sorts there already built the airport battle and showed it off for play there. (iirc, the Ukrainians won that sim; even with coordinated russian side actions.)

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Defending the motherland doesn’t work as a viable excuse when Russia is the country actually doing the invading. All the territory they have lost so far has been Ukrainian.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. That’s a fair point. But just because they view reality differently does not mean reality actually fits their view. Almost no one else in the world actually subscribes to their world view.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I agree. The problem is, misperceptions on our part will only cause trouble. We need to at least see and understand their point of view. Certainly not subscribe to it.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. A thought about all these “Red Lines”… A lot of people believe that Russia got in the position to invade Ukraine because the Obama administration would publicly wave “red line” warnings that ultimately came to nothing. It emboldened Putin to advance because the administration wasn’t going to do anything. It seems that Putin has made the same kind of error. At every turn he has threatened red lines triggering escalation. Russia looks weak on the battlefield and toothless in foreign policy, so that’s why NATO is going forward with the Leos and Abrams deliveries. Might be wrong…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interesting point. The red line has kind of become laughable in the last 10-12 years. Both sides use it improperly so now, when one side may be serious about a red line, no one takes them serious. And that can be dangerous


  5. Germany just okayed the export of Leo 1 by (checks notes) anyone who wants to send them to Ukraine. The first tranche will be 88 Leo 1A5 held in German corporate stocks. This could happen within weeks. While the FT claims there maybe ammunition issues, I would suggest they have no clue what they are talking about. Finding ammo for the 105L7 is no issue whatsoever. The US Stryker vehicles I think utilise the same rounds in the M68A2 gun. The 14 Leo 2s are extra – the EU is paying for a 5/6-week crash course for Ukrainian tankers in Germany and Poland. So Ukraine should get >100 quite capable MBTs from Germany in due course. If I were a Russian tanker I’d start wearing nappies.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was quite surprised to hear the Germans even have updated Leo1s in storage still. I saw something about possible ammo issues and I agree with you, it probably will not be a concern.

      I’m waiting for the Brits to offer up some Chieftains next. 🙂


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