Greece to transfer Leopard tanks to Ukraine in exchange of Italian Leopard tanks

According to an article published by Flight on August 28, 2023, the German government has put forward a proposal to Greece for a reciprocal arrangement. This arrangement involves exchanging Greek Leopard 1A5/GR tanks for ex-Italian Leopard 1A5 tanks on a one-to-one basis. These ex-Italian tanks, which were acquired by the Swiss group RUAG with the intention of selling them to Ukraine, are currently held up due to an investigation conducted by Swiss authorities.

The consideration of transferring arms to Ukraine follows a recent visit by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to Greece on August 21, 2023. NATO has also issued a call for member states to provide support to Ukraine in light of Russian aggression. Greece’s stance on this matter is being closely examined as it seeks to contribute to Ukraine’s defense while maintaining its own geopolitical position, especially in relation to Turkey. Greece is exploring the possibility of swapping its existing military equipment for more advanced weaponry from Ukraine, drawing parallels with past successful exchanges like the one involving Marder tanks for BMP-1s.

An investigation was launched in Switzerland regarding RUAG’s attempt to sell Leopard 1 battle tanks to Ukraine through Germany’s Rheinmetall. This sale was halted due to concerns about violating Switzerland’s neutral status. RUAG acquired 96 Leopard 1 tanks from Italy in 2016 and planned to sell them to Rheinmetall, which would oversee repairs before facilitating their transfer to Ukraine. These tanks are currently in Italy. The investigation covers various aspects of the tank trade, including the circumstances of the original purchase in 2016 and the subsequent contract with Rheinmetall. Switzerland officially declined the re-export of the Leopard 1 tanks to Ukraine in June.

In response to these developments, the German government has proposed a reciprocal arrangement to Greece. This proposal entails swapping Greek Leopard 1A5 tanks for ex-Italian Leopard 1A5 tanks on a one-to-one basis. The proposal is presented as a fair exchange. The benefits of this exchange are significant: the ex-Italian tanks would undergo comprehensive refurbishment, including the installation of a new thermal periscope and reinforced armor. The costs related to these upgrades would be covered by the German government.

The majority of Greece’s tank fleet comprises Leopard 1A5/GRs, armed with a 105mm L7 gun firing standard NATO ammunition. This version features a laser rangefinder for target illumination at distances of up to 3,000 meters. Additional data is fed to the ballistic computer through sensors to enhance accuracy. This is complemented by the STN Atlas Electronik GmbH EMES-18 fire control system and Carl Zeiss thermal imaging system. These tanks are primarily repurposed Leopard 1 A3 tanks from the German Bundeswehr, equipped with an EMES Fire Control System (FCS). Other tanks, Leopard 1V, originated from the inventory of the Royal Netherlands Army, consisting of A4 models equipped with an EMES 12A3 AFSL-2 FCS. After Germany retired these models, Greece acquired a significant fleet of Leopard 1 tanks, totaling 500 Leopard 1A4/A5 variants.

The exchange process involves a commitment from the German government, similar to the triangular exchange mechanism previously used for BMP-1s. For each ex-Italian Leopard tank sent for repair and modernization, a corresponding Greek Leopard tank would be released. The criteria for tank selection would be determined by the Greek side, with the condition that the chosen tanks should be in a functional state.

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