Self-propelled anti-aircraft guns (SPAAG) supplied by Germany will make it easier for Ukraine to target Iranian-made drones, according to a soldier fighting for Kyiv’s forces.
Berlin has given Kyiv 30 of the Gepard units along with 6,000 rounds of ammunition. The weapons have won praise, with Ukrainian diplomat Olexander Scherba tweeting that they were “excellent.”
“Could be the game-changer in Ukraine’s fight against Iranian drones,” he wrote on Thursday, “Wish we had more of them.”
Also known as the Flakpanzer Gepard, the all-weather-capable German SPAAG was developed in the 1960s and has been upgraded a number of times. It is a key part of the air defense of the German Army (Bundeswehr) as well as other NATO countries.
Kyiv’s forces first used the Gepards at the end of September, according to a video shared by the “Ukraine Weapons Tracker” Twitter account. The investigative organization, Conflict Intelligence Team has said the Gepard was probably what destroyed a Russian missile before it hit a Kyiv power plant on October 18.
Meanwhile, a Ukrainian serviceman told the German newspaper Bild in an article published Tuesday that he had already destroyed two Russian cruise missiles and a number of drones.
“The Shahed drones are very easy to fight when we’re within range,” said the gunner codenamed Max, referring to the Tehran-supplied unmanned aerial vehicles which are testing Ukraine’s air defenses.
Max said he and his fellow troops spent a month and a half in Germany training on the systems, which while less than what German soldiers would undertake, but he added “the basics of the system can be learned relatively quickly, which is important for us.”
“It’s a very good system,” he said, according to a translation.
Glen Grant, a senior defense expert at the Baltic Security Foundation, told Newsweek that the Gepard was a “world-class piece of equipment” but “whether it can catch drones depends entirely upon it being in the right place.”
“It’s a tactical weapon, it’s not a strategic weapon. It’s meant to be something that follows ground troops,” Grant said, adding that it can offer “point defense of things like brigade headquarters, logistic areas and maybe artillery composition.”
“You’ve actually got to place it in the right place and that means having an understanding of where the enemy is going to fly its drones from and to because it can easily be out of range,” he said, as it’s only a short-range weapon.
The use of the Gepards comes amid a row between Germany with Switzerland over the supply of ammunition for the weapons. German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht had asked Switzerland for permission to supply 12,400 rounds of Swiss-made ammunition for the anti-aircraft tank.
But this was rejected by Bern, which said it would violate Swiss neutrality. The 35mm shells had previously been supplied by Swiss companies to the German army on the condition that it could not re-export the munitions without Swiss approval.