Federal Council supports decommissioning of 25 main battle tanks

Bern, 24.05.2023 - The Federal Council supports the proposal of the National Council Security Policy Committee to officially decommission 25 Leopard 2 main battle tanks. At its meeting on 24 May, the Federal Council authorised the head of the DDPS, Viola Amherd, to support the proposal in the parliamentary discussion on the 2023 Armed Forces Dispatch.

The Armed Forces currently operate 134 type 87 Leopard 2 A4 WE tanks, which have been modernised as part of the 2006 Armament Programme. The Armed Forces also have 96 tanks of the same type that are not in use and that have not been maintained.

On 23 February, Germany’s Federal Minister for Economic Affairs, Robert Habeck, and Minister of Defence, Boris Pistorius, wrote to the head of the DDPS requesting that some of these disused tanks be sold back to German manufacturing company Rheinmetall. They assured Ms Amherd that the tanks would not be sent on to Ukraine, but would either remain in Germany or go to NATO or EU partners to close existing gaps.

On 28 March, as part of its deliberations on the 2023 Armed Forces Dispatch, the National Council Security Policy Committee (SPC-N) adopted a proposal to decommission 25 tanks, with the caveat that these tanks are only to be decommissioned on the condition that they be resold to the manufacturer.

The Federal Council supports this proposal and has authorised the Head of the DDPS to represent this position in the parliamentary discussion on the 2023 Armed Forces Dispatch.

The Armed Forces’ own needs will remain covered

The 134 type 87 Leopard 2 A4 WE that are currently in operation are not sufficient to fully equip all six of the Armed Forces’ battalions that use main battle tanks. To achieve this, a total of 168 tanks would be needed. The Armed Forces are therefore considering reactivating and modernising 34 of the 96 tanks that are currently not in use. In addition, there are plans to refurbish 12 of the tanks to be used as training vehicles, and to keep around 25 tanks for spare parts and components. In total, to cover its own needs the Armed Forces will require 71 of the type 87 Leopard 2 A4 tanks that are currently not in use.

The reactivation of disused tanks is also in line with the Federal Council’s 15 May 2019 decision to further develop the ground forces – a decision it made based on the Basic Report on the Future of the Ground Forces. The report recognises that main battle tanks will continue to play a central role in defence for the foreseeable future. The war in Ukraine clearly demonstrates that this will be the case. According to the report, the planned value retention programme will also make it possible to reinforce two mechanised infantry battalions, each of which includes a mechanised company, with main battle tanks.

As the Armed Forces require 71 of the 96 disused tanks for themselves, 25 tanks remain for which no further use is planned. These 25 tanks can therefore be officially decommissioned and sold.

Federal Council to decide on export licence application

If the Federal Assembly accepts the SPC-N’s proposal to decommission the tanks, the Federal Council will instruct the EAER to assess a possible export application and to submit it to the Federal Council.

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