With Russia and Ukraine preparing for their respective spring offensives, Kyiv has arranged to outsource its tank repair facilities to its neighbor and ally Poland.
Poland’s Bumar-Labedy tank plant will start repairing damaged Ukrainian T-64 tanks as part of a recently concluded agreement between Polish and Ukrainian defense corporations Polska Grupa Zbrojeniowa (PGZ) Ukroboronprom.
According to the official press release from PGZ, the Bumar-Labedy plant is well-suited for the task because it was initially set up to maintain and upgrade Polish tanks based on Soviet-era designs. T-64 is a vintage Soviet-era tank that Ukraine has extensively deployed in the ongoing conflict.
In the absence of any cutting-edge Western tanks, Ukraine has been forced to use these archaic tanks inherited from the collapse of the former Soviet Union. Some of these tanks, like the T-64s, are twice as old as the troops operating them, as noted by EurAsian Times.
The Ukrainian army has been operating many of these Soviet-era tanks, including the T-64, the T-80, the T-84 (based on the T-80), and the T-72s received from other East European countries as aid. The country has also refurbished and deployed several tanks captured from Russia in combat.
This may also be why it needs its repair facilities to keep running. For instance, a Ukrainian tank man previously told a Spanish newspaper El Pais that he was forced to repeatedly leave the battlefield rather than pounding Russian positions owing to a malfunction in the tank’s undercarriage and constant gun jamming.
As per the agreement, plans for the program include maintaining the T-72 and PT-91 main combat tanks that Poland had previously given to Ukraine, with an extension to include upcoming Leopard-2 tanks built by Germany.
“Thanks to the implemented program for the modernization of Leopard-2A4 tanks to the 2PL standard for the needs of the Polish Army, the company received the necessary knowledge, technical means, and experience in this area,” according to the PGZ.
The Polish defense ministry also affirmed this on April 7. The head of the Ministry of Defense, Mariusz Blaszczak, underlined that the Polish arms industry was ready to service and overhaul Leopard tanks delivered to Ukraine.
Germany has delivered a batch of 18 Leopard-2 tanks to Kyiv, while delivery by other countries is underway.
“The Bumar-Labędy plant is well equipped to carry out such activities. But there’s a fundamental problem with the shortage of Leopard spare parts. This is a challenge that stands before Poland and before Canada. But, indeed, this is a problem that only Germany, namely the German defense industry, can solve. I’m counting on a breakthrough, on overcoming the impasse together.
“Primarily, I’m relying on Minister Pistorius to get the German defense industry to produce the parts. The Polish armaments industry is also ready to manufacture them, but of course, the German company, Rheinmetall has all the necessary documentation,” the Ministry of Defense said.
The Ukrainian agreement with the Polish plant for tank repair comes even as both sides are gearing up to launch a massive spring offensive, which could see a fresh spate of missile attacks from Russia. In previous missile attacks, Moscow’s troops have overwhelmingly targeted Ukraine’s repair facilities.
Russia Hits Ukraine Where It Hurts
In a missile strike by Russia on February 12, the Russian military claimed the destruction of a Ukrainian tank repair facility in Kharkiv.
At the time, Lieutenant General Igor Konashenkov, the official spokesman of the Russian defense ministry, said in a statement, “As a result of a high-precision missile strike of the Russian Aerospace Forces in the city of Kharkiv, the armored vehicle assembly workshops of the Armed Forces of Ukraine were hit on the territory of the machine-building plant named after Malyshev.”
According to Russian military experts, attacks against Ukraine’s rear military infrastructure would limit the number of combat-ready weaponry sent to the front, lowering Ukrainian armed forces’ combat readiness. This is one strategy that Russia has sworn by since the onset of hostilities in February 2022.
Russian military analyst Vladislav Shurygin went so far as to assert that the most crucial objective is to disable military infrastructure. Although Ukraine cannot produce equipment, it attempts to repair and restore it in repair facilities. He said, “We are trying to find and destroy these objects, so they must drag equipment to the West for repairs.”
As previously reported by EurAsian Times, Ukrainians run repair facilities close to the frontlines, where even Russian tanks captured by Ukrainian forces are being fixed in preparation for redeploying them against Russian forces.
According to reports, some of the workers in these repair facilities were volunteer mechanics who, before the war, repaired cars, trucks, trains, and buses.
In addition, the Ukrainian army is believed to have sent a specialized mobile tank repair unit to the Donbas frontline in response to radio requests from battle groups calling for routine maintenance, a speedy fix, or breakdown recovery. However, all these facilities are at risk from Russian missile attacks.
Against that backdrop, sending the tanks for repair right across the border to Poland could help Ukraine keep the chain of repairs and maintenance without the constant threat of being struck by Russian projectiles.
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