Sep 2, 2023
A video that appeared on social media on Friday depicts around 30 Leopard 2A4 tanks apparently belonging to a single Ukrainian battalion.
The tanks are lined up in tidy rows in broad daylight, flying a variety of flags including the Ukrainian flag. Their crews amble around the 61-ton, four-person tanks—unworried, unafraid. It’s obvious the tanks, together comprising an entire armored battalion, aren’t within range of Russian artillery.
We don’t know where or when the video was shot, but it seems to be from somewhere in southern Ukraine—and recent. Ukrainian technicians gradually have been fitting the Leopard 2A4s with blocks of locally-made Kontakt explosive reactive armor. The ERA explodes outward when an incoming shell or missile strikes it, thus partially deflecting the blast.
ERA turns a Leopard 2A4 into what observers call a “Leopard 2A4V.” All the tanks in the video are A4Vs. A mass display of ERA-equipped Leopard 2s wouldn’t have been possible just a few weeks ago, before workers had time to install the extra armor.
Ukraine received 50 of the 1980s-vintage Leopard 2A4s with their 120-millimeter smoothbore main guns just this spring. Donor and sponsor countries include Canada, Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland and Spain.
The Ukrainian general staff reportedly assigned most of them to the army’s new 33rd Mechanized Brigade, which in the first three months of Ukraine’s long-anticipated southern counteroffensive has lost just two of the tanks, alongside three of 21 newer Leopard 2A6s, while supporting the 47th Mechanized Brigade.
The 47th and its supporting brigades have been fighting along a 50-mile axis stretching from recently-liberated Robotyne toward Russian-occupied Tokmak and ultimately Melitopol, the liberation of which is one of the Ukrainians’ main objectives.
Kyiv’s foreign allies in total have pledged 85 Leopard 2s of three variants: the A4, the A6 and the super-armored Swedish Strv 122. All but 14 A4s already have arrived in Ukraine; another 14 are due to ship next year. Subtracting the five Leopard 2s Ukraine is known to have lost leaves 66 active tanks. Around half were in one spot for the recent video.
In other words, the video seems to be a reminder that Ukraine still has almost all of its Leopard 2s. The 33rd Mechanized Brigade is intact, and apparently ready to recommit its up-armored tanks to the counteroffensive.