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Lithuania to buy German-made Leopard 2 tanks

A pair of Leopard 2 MBTs.
A pair of Leopard 2 MBTs. Source: SCANPIX/AFP/PETRAS MALUKAS

Lithuania is to purchase German-made Leopard 2 Main Battle Tanks (MBTs), public broadcaster LRT reports.

The procurement would represent the first heavy armor in use by the armed forces of any of the three Baltic states, who have hitherto relied on deployments of Leopards, Challenger 2s, Leclercs and M1 Abrams to make up for that deficit.

LRT reports the country's State Defense Council on Tuesday agreed on the purchase, which will form a part of a planned new army division in that country.

Presidential adviser Kestutis Budrys said post-meeting that: "The most effective tank platform which meets the full range of criteria set by Lithuania is the German Leopard 2 tank."

Budrys added the ministry of defense has been tasked to start talks with German manufacturers and other interested countries, while the total number of Leopard 2's to be procured and the final price tag will become clear pending further negotiations.

In addition to the division, a division-level artillery regiment is to be established, while existing air defense and engineering battalions will be boosted to regimental size, he said.

Budrys said Vilnius does not see any direct military threat in the near future, but all scenarios have to be considered; he named Russia as a direct threat tot he NATO alliance as a whole, and the ongoing situation on the ground in Ukraine, and also developments in other regions as being relevant too.

"This will hold true in the future as well," he added.

Other developments will include the setting up of coastal defense and cyber warfare units, and boosting conscription by around 2,000 personnel per year, from its current figure of 3,800 per year.

The Leopard 2 first entered service in 1979, and its service life is anticipated to end around 2030. There are several variants and sub-variants of the tank in use by the militaries of over 20 countries worldwide, though all Leopard 2's are armed with a  smoothbore 120 mm cannon made by Rheinmetall, operated by a digital fire control system, laser rangefinder, and advanced night vision and sighting equipment.

The MBT has shot to prominence due to its use by Ukraine's forces in the battle against Russian invaders, while already Lithuania has become a local repair hub for Ukrainian Leopard 2s.

Germany forms the lead nation in the NATO battlegroup in Lithuania and will continue to do so as the country's military presence in the southernmost Baltic state grows to brigade size, involving around 5,000 personnel, by 2027.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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