Abrams and Leopard tanks: Why are they important to Ukraine?
Kyiv has long called on Western nations to send battle tanks, arguing they are essential for battlefield success.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has agreed to send its Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine.
The news comes amid reports that Washington is also poised to send dozens of M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine’s front lines.
Like Germany, the United States had been hesitant.
While Berlin was concerned about escalating the war, Washington cited logistical and maintenance challenges Ukrainians may face if they were to receive the Abrams.
Both armoured vehicles are considered state-of-the-art and are more powerful than many Soviet-era tanks fielded by both Russian and Ukrainian forces.
“The Leopard and American Abrams are actually twins,” Sydney Freedberg, contributing editor of the digital magazine, Breaking Defence, told Al Jazeera.
The Leopard 2 was first produced in 1979 by Krauss-Maffei for the German Ministry of Defence.
They are in service with the armies of Austria, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, Switzerland, Sweden, Spain and Turkey.
The first M1 tank was manufactured by General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) in 1978 and was delivered to the US Army in 1980.
“They are very similar. Big vehicles, heavily armoured. Much better protected than anything the Soviets built, or anything the Russians currently have,” said Freedberg.
The main difference between the Abrams and Leopards is the engine.
The Leopard 2 has a diesel-powered MTU MB 873 engine, which is much easier to maintain and more widely used across Europe, while the Abrams uses a more powerful and more complex turbine engine.
According to Freedberg, because the Abram tanks are used significantly less across Europe, Ukraine may struggle to cope with logistic infrastructure such as obtaining spare parts, warehousing and general maintenance. The four-person tank will also require additional training on the complex machinery.
Russia’s ambassador to the US said the possible delivery of Abrams tanks to Kyiv by Washington would be “another blatant provocation” against Moscow and that the West would regret its “delusion” that Ukraine can win on the battlefield.
Why are the tanks important to Ukraine?
According to Alex Gatopoulos, Al Jazeera’s defence analyst, the latest-generation main battle tanks are vital for Ukraine if it wants to punch holes in Russian defensive lines and retake territory that Russian forces seized in the opening weeks of the invasion.
Southern Ukraine is flat and ideal tank territory. Russia has been building rows of trenches and fortified bunkers to stop a Ukrainian advance in the area.
In a Ukrainian offensive, tanks along with troops protected by infantry fighting vehicles like the American Bradley, German Mardar and even the Russian-made BMP-2 would advance.