Ukraine keeps asking its western allies for battle tanks and armored personnel carriers. So far, it has received Soviet-style battle tanks and armored personnel carriers from Eastern European NATO countries. Anti-aircraft or armored recovery vehicles from Western manufacturers were also supplied, but no battle tanks or armored personnel carriers like the Marder or the Leopard 2 from German production.
For a long time, Chancellor Olaf Scholz did not want to deliver such tanks as long as they were not provided by other alliance partners. Scholz has repeatedly emphasized that Germany will not go it alone on this issue. Now the federal government is under pressure.
French President Emmanuel Macron has already promised Ukraine the delivery of “light battle tanks”. At the same time, US President Joseph Biden indicated that the US could supply armored personnel carriers. Which models are you talking about? And what can they – and what not?
Macron’s term “light main battle tank” is misleading for the AMX-10 RC, at least grossly exaggerated. Because the AMX-10 RC is not a real battle tank. With the Leclerc, France is building real battle tanks that are comparable to the German Leopard 2, but Ukraine is apparently not supposed to get them.
The AMX-10 RC (the RC stands for roues-canon, i.e. wheeled cannon) is an all-wheel drive scout tank for battle reconnaissance with a comparatively large 105 mm cannon, which has been built since 1976 and has been continuously improved. Because it is mainly used for battle reconnaissance, a scout tank must above all be mobile and quiet.
Thanks to its wheel drive and low weight, the AMX-10 RC achieves an impressive top speed of 85 km/h on the road and a range of up to 800 km – chain armor only comes about half as far. However, this comes at the expense of armor. Despite its large gun, the AMX-10 RC would hardly stand a chance against main battle tanks, but that’s not its job either. The French model has proven itself in combat missions in Chad, Iraq, Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan and Mali.
The US government is considering supplying Bradley tanks, but has not yet committed. There are two similar models of the Bradley, the M2 and the M3, but they have different features. So if the US government actually decides to deliver, what type will be important. The M2 is used as an armored personnel carrier, while the technically almost identical M3 is mainly used as a reconnaissance tank. Both have been around since 1981 and, like almost all military vehicles, have undergone several further developments.
The M2 infantry fighting vehicle serves as a means of transport and protection for an infantry squad of nine to ten soldiers. It is armed with a 25mm machine gun and a machine gun, as well as several armor-piercing guided missiles. It can drive through water up to 1.20 m deep, is up to 65 km/h fast and has a range of about 400 km. It can be carried by heavy transport aircraft. The only significant difference between the M2 and M3 is that the M3 carries several reserve guided missiles instead of infantrymen.
The Bradley M2 is intended to be used in combat as a unit together with the standard American M1 Abrams main battle tank to fight enemy tanks and infantry. The Abrams then forms the top because of its better armor and stronger armament, the M2 the flank protection. However, the US government is currently not thinking of delivering the M1 to Ukraine, so the concept of combining the two tank types would be dropped there.
Since its introduction in 1981, the Bradley M2/M3 has been one of the most-produced armored personnel carriers and reconnaissance vehicles in the world with almost 7,000 units. It was used in all major US military operations, including the 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 Iraq War.
What Ukraine wants, but doesn’t get, even after the most recent statements from Paris and Washington, are battle tanks. For the time being, France will not deliver its Leclerc model, and the USA will not deliver its M1 Abrams. And since Chancellor Scholz does not want Germans to go it alone, Ukraine will also have to wait for the German Leopard 2 main battle tank.
What the Ukraine got are, for example, 30 German Gepard anti-aircraft tanks and heavy tank howitzers 2000, but also US-type M113 armored personnel carriers from various Western countries.
Conclusion: Even if the promised French AMX-10 is not, strictly speaking, a main battle tank, Macron is increasing the pressure on the federal government. And so does Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, when he says: “France is taking defense support to Ukraine to a new level.” Joseph Biden’s statement that the US is considering supplying Bradley armored personnel carriers goes in the same direction . Since the Bradley roughly corresponds to the German Marder model, numerous German politicians have already urged that the previous reluctance be given up and at least the Marder be delivered to Kyiv.
And it is precisely this reluctance that is apparently crumbling. According to information from the “Süddeutsche Zeitung”, government circles say that the Federal Republic will raise its military support for Ukraine to a new level, which could mean the delivery of the Marder.
During a visit to Oslo, Norway, Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck (Greens) announced that the federal government would make a timely decision on the supply of tanks to Ukraine. It will be discussed quickly and then decisions will be made.
Author: Christoph Hasselbach
The original of this post “Western main battle tanks for Ukraine after all?” comes from Deutsche Welle.