Damaged In Ukraine War, Leopard Tanks Succumbing To Petty Politics As Germany, Poland Lock Horns On Joint MBT Workshop

The construction of the Leopard tank workshop aimed at repairing tanks for the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) has come to a standstill due to disagreements between Germany and Poland, according to Der Spiegel.

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On April 21, 2023, the defense ministers of Germany, Poland, and Ukraine inked a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to establish a maintenance center for the Leopard 2 main battle tanks (MBTs) during a meeting of the Ukraine Contact Group in Ramstein.  

The primary purpose of the workshop is to guarantee the swift repair and maintenance of the weapon systems supplied to Ukraine, particularly those that have incurred damage or worn out during combat operations.

At the time, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said, “The material we deliver – whether battle tanks or support tanks and other equipment such as howitzers or Patriot systems – is subject to wear and tear, especially when it is in continuous use in combat.” 

The report said two months after the initial meeting in Ramstein, the “German-Polish tank project,” aimed at establishing a maintenance hub for the Leopard 2 main battle tanks, has encountered significant obstacles

While German Minister Pistorius had estimated the project’s cost to be around 150 million euros, progress has stalled as Berlin and Warsaw negotiate the joint venture’s structure. 

Although the initial draft of the agreement was finalized a few days ago, as of the end of last week, the document remained unsigned due to contentious points that both parties have yet to resolve. This situation delays the implementation of the project. 

The German-manufactured tanks are being hailed as pivotal in Ukraine’s ongoing counter-offensive operations, which seek to recapture the territory that Moscow seized. 

After receiving approval from Berlin in January, many nations announced to supply German-made tanks from their own arsenals. 

But, several Leopard tanks, fighting vehicles, and engineering vehicles were damaged and left behind by Ukrainian forces when attempting to cross a minefield south of Mala Tokmachka on June 8. 

According to the latest reports, the Ukrainian army has commenced recovery for these Western-made assets, which amounted to approximately 25 vehicles. 

In such circumstances, a maintenance facility becomes crucial since it facilitates the essential repairs required to reinstate German-made tanks to operational condition and reintegrate them into active service. 

Germany & Poland Fail To Agree

The original plan involved the establishment of a joint venture between the two German tank manufacturers, Rheinmetall and Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW). 

The collaboration would have included the participation of the Polish state-owned armored company, PGZ, to create a shared tank workshop at the Polish facilities located in Gliwice and Poznań. 

Under this arrangement, the German government would have been responsible for financing the repair costs of the Leopard tanks.

However, within industrial circles, there are claims that the progress of this project is still being hindered, particularly due to Poland’s involvement. 

One specific point of contention revolves around the cost of tank repair work, with the Polish company PGZ allegedly presenting unusual ideas and suggesting inflated prices for these services. 

German Army Leopard
File Image: German Leopard Tank

Insiders familiar with the situation have raised concerns about the fairness and reasonableness of the proposed costs. This has further complicated the negotiations and impeded the advancement of the project.

The German media outlet reported that PGZ intended to charge over €100,000 for the initial diagnostic of tanks, whereas, in Germany, similar diagnostics typically cost around €12,000. 

This stark difference in pricing has raised eyebrows. Another concerning aspect is PGZ’s reluctance to guarantee the repairs, which is considered completely unusual.

German tank manufacturers believe that the ongoing controversy surrounding the tank hub project is perceived as politically motivated. The report asserts that Warsaw has been campaigning against Berlin for several months. 

The ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, in particular, has consistently criticized the German government whenever an opportunity arises.

With several Leopard tanks arriving in Poland from Ukraine that need immediate repairs, the repair center cannot afford further delays.