Lithuania strengthens defense with acquisition of Leopard 2 Tanks

Lithuania strengthens defense with acquisition of Leopard 2 Tanks

As Lithuania celebrates its Independence Day on Friday, February 16, 2024, the country has organized an exhibition featuring the Leopard 2 tanks acquired last month. In January, Lithuania announced a significant move to bolster its military capabilities by declaring its intention to purchase German-made Leopard 2 battle tanks. This decision comes as the Baltic nation aims to establish an army division by 2030 to deter any Russian aggression.

The State Defense Council, which includes the president, the prime minister, and other ministers, instructed the Defense Ministry to begin negotiations with German manufacturers regarding the imminent purchase of tanks. Although the council did not provide further details on the size of the order, this initiative marks an important step in enhancing Lithuania’s defensive capabilities.

Kestutis Budrys, the security advisor to President Gitanas Nauseda, emphasized that the German Leopard 2 tank is considered the most effective tank platform meeting all the criteria set by Lithuania. In addition to this major acquisition, the council also agreed to increase the number of conscripts by 2,000, bringing the total to 3,800 for nine months of service, moving Lithuania closer to universal conscription.

An existing tank purchase agreement concluded last year by the German government with defense manufacturers includes the option to buy up to 105 additional Leopard tanks in a deal worth up to €2.9 billion. Among European allies, the Czech Republic has expressed interest in participating in a joint purchase of Leopard 2-A8 tanks.

Lithuania’s decision to acquire the Leopard 2 main battle tank for the first time follows the 2023 NATO summit in Vilnius, where the military alliance welcomed Sweden and pledged increased support for Ukraine in its war against invading Russian forces. The Leopard 2, originally manufactured by Munich-based Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW), is the successor to the successful Leopard 1 and has been widely adopted across Europe after being successfully tested and qualified by the German Army.

Adding a fleet of main battle tanks represents a critical step for Lithuania, which has so far maintained its security with minimal effect, relying on its NATO partners. Germany recently deployed 4,000 troops to Lithuania, demonstrating the nation’s dependence on NATO. This strategy and force structure are reasonable given Lithuania’s relatively small economy.

The Lithuanian Ministry of National Defense explained that the main evaluation criteria for the acquisition of the Leopard 2 included price and maintenance costs, operational environment, mobility, protection, adaptability, firepower, and connectivity. The proliferation of Leopard tanks in NATO countries was evaluated as an advantage, facilitating the maintenance of the tanks and the acquisition of spare parts. The Lithuanian Armed Forces already have German weapon systems in their arsenal, and acquiring Leopard tanks will ensure a high level of interoperability and compatibility with the German-led NATO Forward Presence Battalion Group deployed in Lithuania.

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