1st Of Ukraine’s ‘Most Controversial’ Leopard A5 Main Battle Tank Bites The Dust; Action Caught On Camera

Months after it was delivered to battle Russia, Ukraine reported the first-ever loss of the German-origin Leopard-1A5 Main Battle Tank (MBT) somewhere along the frontline.

Reports published in the local media stated the Leopard-1A5 was lost in the Kharkiv oblast. However, with images published online, the tank was geolocated to Andriivka, Luhansk oblast, where intense fighting is currently raging. Russia has been making concerted efforts to occupy Andriivka.

A video of the loss was published on social media, showing how the Leopard-1A5 belonging to the Ukrainian Army was advancing through an open field and towards a Russian position in  Kupyansk. As seen in the video, the tank was on the move without any cover when it was spotted by the Russian forces.

As soon as it was located by the Russians, the tank came under fire by mortars or artillery fire, which forced the crew to abandon the tank and run for cover. The 2-minute video appears to have been recorded using a drone that caught on camera several shots fired on the tank, with at least one explosive landing near the Leopard-1A5.

The UAV provided a bird’s eye view of the MBT, which seems intact until the video ends. However, the hatch of the tank remained open, suggesting that the tank could have been ultimately destroyed.

According to reports in Ukrainian media, several heavy, high-speed fragments of 152mm shells may have hit the side armor plates of the Leopard-1A5 in the hull or have had a critical armor effect on the crew of the vehicle. It further said that the tracks were damaged, and the tank was rendered immobile.

EurAsian Times could not independently corroborate these claims.

The development comes at a time when, after weeks of combat, Russian soldiers are stepping up their efforts to take control of the eastern Ukrainian town of Avdiivka, attempting to advance on all fronts, the town’s top official was cited as saying on Monday.

Since mid-October, Russian forces have been launching air and ground assaults on Avdiivka as the main target of what has come to be known as a sluggish advance across the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine in the conflict.

As for the Leopard-1A5, the German Defense Ministry in February said that it was teaming up with Denmark and the Netherlands to donate “at least” 100 reconditioned Leopard 1A5 tanks to Ukraine. The 42-ton diesel-powered tank was withdrawn by Germany from service in the 2000s. However, the 1A5 was hailed as a “robust and assertive” contribution to Ukraine’s military.

Since then, Ukrainian forces have received training on these tanks in German bases. However, the delivery and utility of these tanks have remained marred in controversy ever since the delivery was started.

The problem with the Danish-donated tanks arose shortly after Ukraine declined to accept a shipment of 10 Leopard 1A5 tanks from Germany. Ukraine stated that the tanks required repairs that the Ukrainian military could not carry out on its own, as reported by the EurAsian Times.

In addition, it was discovered that obtaining the right replacement components and sufficiently preparing Ukrainian personnel for repairs presented considerable difficulties in the rush to prepare the tanks for combat.

Leopard 1s have already started to be fielded by Ukrainian troops, including the recently formed 44th Mechanized Brigade, therefore, at least some of the tanks are operational.

However, the fact that maybe a third or half of the outdated tanks that have been deployed to Ukraine up to this point were damaged upon arrival may have been disheartening for Kyiv. The recent destruction may prove to be a further dampener.

Leopard-1A5 Tanks Are Archaic & Tanking

The Leopard 1A5 tanks provided by Germany and Denmark are considered older models than the Leopard 2 tanks previously supplied. The Leopard 1 tanks were first created in 1961 and have since received upgrades. The Leopard 1A5 variant was so ancient that German trainers had to enlist soldiers from the Dutch and Danish armies to help them.

Due to the Leopard 1A5’s prolonged use in each of their different military, this personnel received more hands-on experience with it. They were extremely important in preparing Ukrainian soldiers to use this older type of tank.

Furthermore, training was greatly aided by former German tank drivers who had received training in the 1980s and 1990s.

Leopard 2 tanks
File Image: Leopard Tank

The German army’s last formal training on this system dates back to 2000, with some trainers being civilians in their 50s or 60s who temporarily stepped away from their regular jobs to assist in training. Despite its age, experts and German officials highlight that the Leopard 1A5 can serve as a valuable interim solution.

Moreover, the Leopard 1A5’s age does not automatically make it ineffective, especially once it has been refurbished from deactivated stock. It is a viable alternative comparable to and, in several aspects, superior to the Soviet-made T-72 tanks, which are also used by Ukrainian forces. 

While the Leopard 1A5 is not as advanced as the contemporary tanks that Kyiv originally desired, it nevertheless has some significant benefits. It is simpler to maintain, repair, and train staff. In addition, the quantity of these tanks is a factor to take into account.

Tankers from Ukraine can fire all 105mm ammunition types with Leopard 1A5, including canister shots, high-explosive, armor-piercing, and shaped charges. It turns out that the four-man crew of the Leopard 1A5, as opposed to the typical Soviet-type tank crew of three, is a major advantage because it increases crew member interchangeability in a variety of combat scenarios.

The soldiers have already stated that the Leopard 1A5’s maneuverability, speed, and firepower are superior to the T-64’s.

An additional intriguing detail is that while the instructors were waiting for the specialized repair teams to arrive and study how to handle all complex aspects, Ukrainian tank crews during the training course on Leopard 1A5 effectively learned how to repair the vehicles after breakdowns all by themselves.