Defense Minister Boris Pistorius expects the main battle tanks to be delivered to Ukraine to significantly strengthen its defenses against Russian attackers. “Ukraine needs every support, and Leopard tanks, whether they are 2A6s or other 2A4s, can play an important role in Ukrainians’ fight against the aggressor Russia. And that’s why everyone finally understands that this has to happen,” he said the SPD politician during a visit to troops in Augustdorf, Westphalia.

Pistorius asked the troops to understand this step and announced that a replacement would be procured as quickly as possible. On Tuesday he held three announced bilateral talks with representatives of the armaments industry and was “very pleased about clear commitments and announcements of what is possible and can be achieved,” said Pistorius. He wants to do everything to ensure that the Bundeswehr becomes more operational and cold-start capable, i.e. ready for combat without major preparations.

Time is running out

The federal government has promised Ukraine 14 Leopard 2A6 and 40 Marder infantry fighting vehicles. Other western partners are now also supplying more modern, western weapon systems. In addition, there are training programs for Ukrainian soldiers, which have already begun in Germany on the Marder infantry fighting vehicle. Military aid may also be a race against time, as military experts say Russia is preparing a new major offensive against Ukraine.

Pistorius had arrived in the afternoon at the Field Marshal Rommel Barracks in Augustdorf, home of the 203rd Panzer Battalion. He was shown the performance of the Leopard 2 main battle tank using the example of the tracked vehicles that were to be handed over to the Ukraine. Since August 2022, the 203rd Tank Battalion, with around 550 soldiers, has also provided the core of the multinational NATO battle group in Lithuania, which is helping to strengthen the alliance’s north-eastern flank. Pistorius also rode on the Leopard and afterwards said: “Apart from the fact that it was quite cold, it was above all very impressive.”

Serious accident with twelve injured soldiers

Shortly before his visit to North Rhine-Westphalia, there was a serious accident at the Army Combat Training Center (GÜZ) in Saxony-Anhalt, in which twelve soldiers were injured. One of them suffered serious injuries, said a Bundeswehr spokesman for the German Press Agency. According to the information available, the two vehicles collided during an exercise at a higher speed.

The seriously injured man was taken to a hospital by rescue helicopter. All other soldiers involved in the accident received medical care afterwards. The soldiers belong to a unit from Munster in Lower Saxony, as a Bundeswehr spokesman confirmed. According to the Bundeswehr, the military police carried out investigations into the course of the accident and the possible causes, which were initially unclear. Pistorius was affected by the incident in Augustdorf. He expresses his condolences to the injured and wishes a speedy recovery, he told journalists.

The GÜZ near Gardelegen is a central army training center for the Puma infantry fighting vehicle. There had recently been problems with the weapon system: During a shooting exercise, all 18 armored personnel carriers used failed. According to the Ministry of Defence, a damage analysis mainly revealed minor and medium-sized damage. Buying more Puma tanks and using them for the NATO Rapid Reaction Force (VJTF) have been put on hold for the time being. According to Bundeswehr information, however, the tanks involved in the accident were from a different series than the vehicles that failed.

The Secretary of Defense also clarified his position on conscription in response to a question. “The suspension of conscription was a mistake, but not one that you can just take back in the blink of an eye,” he said. “We have other tasks to tackle that cost a lot of money, energy and time. And they are the priority.”