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Ukraine to get German ‘Frankenstein’ tanks

Rheinmetall says it is working on new weapons systems for Kiev based on a Leopard tank chassis

German arms manufacturer Rheinmetall could soon supply Ukraine with new mobile air defense systems capable of shooting down Russian drones and missiles, according to the company’s head of Land Systems, Bjorn Bernhard.

In an interview with the German tabloid Bild released on Sunday, Bernhard signaled that the systems, which the German media dubbed ‘Frankenstein tanks,’ are already in the works.

According to the report, the tanks would be a heavily armored version of Rheinmetall’s advanced Skyranger anti-aircraft system grafted onto the hulls of Cold War-era Leopard 1 tanks. They will reportedly be capable of dealing with short-range targets such as drones and artillery fire.

“There are still a lot of Leopard 1 battle tanks on whose chassis we could put the Skyranger turret with the 35 mm machine gun,” Bernhard said in the interview, which took place at a secret Rheinmetall tank repair factory in Western Ukraine that was reportedly launched in early June.

The company will present a similar vehicle, albeit placed on a Leopard 2 chassis, at the ongoing Eurosatory 2024 defense industry exhibition in Paris, according to a press-release.

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UELZEN, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 12: Employees work at a production line at a new munitions factory of German defence contractor Rheinmetall.
Western weapons makers on hiring spree – FT

“Highly mobile, modular and scalable ground-based air defense systems are becoming increasingly important as NATO forces refocus on national and alliance defense,” Rheinmetall said in a press release.

It is unclear when Ukraine may get the new hybrid tanks. According to the UK’s The Telegraph, Kiev’s army has already received roughly a hundred traditionally configured Leopard 1 tanks from Germany. However, the Ukrainian authorities have been pressuring NATO countries in recent weeks to supply more critical weaponry and have been complaining that the shortage of Western air defense systems leaves its troops and infrastructure exposed to Russian attacks.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced earlier this month that Berlin would transfer its third US-made Patriot air defense system and other additional weapons to Kiev within the next several weeks. Addressing the Ukraine Recovery Conference in Berlin, Scholz said that Germany has already either delivered or earmarked €28 billion ($30 billion) worth of weapons for Ukraine and will continue to support Kiev’s war effort.

READ MORE: Italy could arm Kiev with long-range weaponry – media

Russia has repeatedly criticized the Western military aid to Kiev, warning that it will only drag out the conflict without changing its outcome.

June 18, 2024 at 09:06PM

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