German Chancellor Olaf Scholz says that the German government has yet to receive a formal request from Spain to approve the export of surplus Leopard 2A4 main battle tanks and Aspide short-range surface to air missiles to Ukraine. During a working visit to Vilnius, Scholz told reporters in the Lithuanian capital on Tuesday that any request would be carefully assessed. Germany’s Conservative opposition parties have already called on Scholz to authorize the transfer.
Spanish newspaper El Pais had reported on Sunday that Madrid was willing to deliver surplus Leopard 2A4 tanks that are currently in long-term storage. The newspaper’s sources say that about 40 Leopard 2A4s can be brought back to operational condition for delivery to the Ukrainian Army, but the speed of such a plan is constrained by Spanish military industry’s capacity following a rise in European military spending spurred by the now three month-old Russian invasion of Ukraine. Spain’s Defense Minister Margarita Robles confirmed to Cadena Ser that “the possibility of making this shipment is on the table” but noted the tanks could not be shipped before they are repaired as this “would not be reasonable”.
The Leopard 2A4s in question are part of a batch of 108 ex-German Army Leopard 2A4s sold to Spain in 1995, as part of the Spanish Leopard 2 program that eventually resulted in the Spanish manufacture of the Leopard 2E. Following the introduction of the Leopard 2E (roughly equivalent to the Leopard 2A6 with armor improvements) and the partial replacement of the 2A4 fleet, the tanks were deemed surplus and selected for conversion into armored recovery vehicles. However, budgetary constraints resulted in the abandonment of the conversion plans, and the tanks were subsequently mothballed at the Spanish Army’s Zaragoza logistics base, where they have been laid up in long term storage for a decade.
El Pais’ sources also reported that Madrid is offering to train Ukrainian Army tank crews in the operation of the Leopard 2A4s. The first stage of the program would be carried out in Latvia, where six Leopard 2Es and 500 Spanish soldiers are currently deployed as part of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence – Latvia Battlegroup, while the second stage would be carried out in Spain.
While the tank delivery plans appear to be in the early days, El Pais adds that the Spanish Ministry of Defense is already finalizing plans to deliver a SHORAD Aspide short-range surface-to-air missile battery to Ukraine. Delivery of the missile battery, which is said to have been replaced with a more advanced system in Spanish Army service, is awaiting the completion of negotiation efforts with a military aid coordination center in Stuttgart.
The offer of the tanks and SAM battery was reportedly raised by Spanish President Pedro Sanchez during a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky in Kyiv on April 21, but the complexity of the plans has meant slower progress. As of writing, the majority of Spanish military aid delivered to Ukraine has been in the form of ammunition, light weapons and personal protective equipment.