50 'Belgian' Leopard 1 tanks headed for Ukraine
On Monday, 50 Leopard 1 tanks left Tournai for Ukraine. "The tanks will first stop in Germany and Italy, where they will be overhauled and equipped with modern weapon systems," Freddy Versluys, CEO of OIP Land Systems, told De Standaard. "After that, they will travel on to the battlefield."
It will be some time before the tanks actually land in Ukraine. "Transport alone will take several weeks. You don't just put 50 tanks on a truck in a couple of days," said Versluys.
The arms dealer bought the Leopard 1 tanks about 10 years ago when the Belgian army took them out of service and replaced them with lighter tanks. Earlier this year, Defence minister Ludivine Dedonder (PS) announced that the Belgian state wanted to buy back the tanks to send to Kyiv. According to Versluys, the proposal came with an "unreasonable price", making the sale impossible.
Since then, he has found a buyer who bought and donated the whole lot to Kyiv. Versluys cannot say which country it is or how much the tanks were sold for. So far, only Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands have announced that they will donate Leopard 1 tanks to Ukraine.
High market value
Due to the high demand for the tanks and the long waiting times at the manufacturers, the market value of the tanks has risen to at least 500,000 euros each.
The Leopard 1s will not be the first "Belgian" tanks to appear on the front line. In June last year, the UK bought 20 self-propelled howitzers from Flanders Technical Supply. These were shelved in 2008 by the Belgian government, which felt they no longer fit its military strategy.
The hangars of OIP, owner of around 50 Leopard 1 tanks decommissioned and bought from the Belgian army © MONASSE T/ANDBZ/ABACAPRESS.COM