What are the German anti-aircraft tanks sent to Ukraine?

Germany has promised more Gepard anti-aircraft tanks to Kyiv as Ukraine tries to fend off continued attacks by Iranian-made drones.

On February 10, Andriy Yermak, the head of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office, declared that Ukraine had secured a new tranche of military aid from Germany, which included more Gepard.

Berlin will send another two Gepard, or “Cheetah” anti-aircraft guns, along with several thousand rounds of ammunition, Yermak wrote on Telegram.

Up from 30 before, the German government has now shipped 32 Gepard air defense systems to Ukraine.

A further five Gepard are “planned to be despatched,” as the official German government website stated. The Gepard, designed in the 1960s, is a mobile anti-aircraft gun that can operate in any climate and is protected by armor. Manufactured by Krauss Maffei-Wegmann (KMW), Gepards have been supplied to countries including Germany, Belgium, Romania, and the Netherlands.

Primarily intended for anti-aircraft defense, anti-aircraft guns can also be directed against ground targets. The three-person crew of the tracked Gepard can go up to 65 km/h for as far as 340 miles. KMW claims it is equipped with “state-of-the-art training and simulation equipment,” including radars for independently tracking and monitoring targets.

Equipped with two 35mm machine guns, the Gepard has “high off-road mobility and fast turret rotation, allowing for extremely short reaction times when engaging air threats.” The Gepard shares a chassis with the Leopard 1 main battle tank.

Not only is it effective against fighter jets, attack helicopters, missiles, and rockets, but it can also “reliably combat drones,” according to the manufacturer.

Ending April 2022, Berlin promised Kyiv the first shipment of “heavy weapons” from Germany, a commitment to deliver roughly 50 Gepards. The first batch of Gepards arrived in Ukraine in July. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin called the move an “important decision” that “will provide Ukraine with real capability.”

Germany blocked Swiss bids to re-export ammunition made in Switzerland for the Gepard shortly after the announcement. The Economic Secretary of State cited its supposed impartiality to back up its choice.

Germany was rumored to be sending seven more Gepards to Ukraine on December 2, with their arrival at the front expected in spring 2023. According to the German newspaper Der Spiegel, the seven Gepards were being refitted before leaving for Ukraine.

Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung reported in January that Germany’s new military minister, Boris Pistorius, said that “air defense is the top priority.”

While in Kyiv on a surprise visit earlier this month, Pistorius reportedly assured German public channel ZDF that Germany would continue to support Ukraine’s air defense capabilities. Quoted by the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Pistorius said: “The Cheetah plays a very central role in air defense here, especially in cities and critical infrastructures.”

“In addition to the 30 Cheetahs already delivered, in February, we delivered two more, and there are another five to deliver,” he added.

The Gepards gained notoriety for their ability to destroy “kamikaze” drones, specifically the Iranian-made Shahed-131 and 136. The short-range Gepard is a “world-class piece of technology,” according to defense expert Glen Grant of the Baltic Security Foundation.

However, he previously stated that the Gepard’s ability to shoot down drones “depends entirely on its location.” “It is a tactical firearm. It’s not a strategic weapon,” Grant explained, adding, “It’s designed to follow ground troops.”

“You actually have to put it in the appropriate place, which requires knowing where the opponent will launch and land their drones, as it can easily be out of their reach,” he continued.

Michael Knights of the Washington Foundation has previously stated that the Gepard is a much cheaper alternative for Ukraine and NATO to interceptor missiles.

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