According to reports, Berlin has agreed to send "tanks" to Ukraine as Kyiv continues to fight off the Russian onslaught. But a closer look at the details proves that all that Germany is really doing is unloading museum pieces and relics that are long past their useful service life and are no match for nearly any weapon system the Russians are fielding.
"The German government said Tuesday it will deliver anti-aircraft tanks to Ukraine after facing strong pressure at home and abroad to abandon its reluctance to supply heavy weapons to Kyiv," Politico Europe reported earlier this week.
"The decision to provide the 'Gepard' tanks, which come from German defense industry stocks, was made at a closed-door government meeting on Monday, Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht told reporters at a Ukraine security conference at a U.S. airbase in Ramstein, Germany. There was no immediate information on how many tanks Germany would deliver," the report added.
A closer look at the Gepard indicates what a pathetic, even insulting, "offer" this is from Berlin.
First and foremost, the Gepard isn't even a tank in the real sense of the term; it's a radar-guided anti-aircraft system and a short-range system at that (around three miles). While armored and on tracks, it is lightly armored and features two 35 mm cannons as anti-aircraft weapons. Worse, these are Cold War systems, having first been manufactured in the 1960s. And while German Bundeswehr (army) upgraded the systems a couple of times, the last one was officially retired in 2010. So they aren't even current systems.
And again, they aren't tanks, which is what the Ukrainians actually need. As one description noted, the Ukrainians likely won't even be able to use them before the war is over.
The Moon of Alabama blog explained why: "I remember them well from my time in the Bundeswehr. While my primary training was as a gunner on a real tank, the Leopard 1A3, two people I knew were trained as gunners for the Gepard. There was a huge difference though. It took 6 months of training to become a reasonably good tank gunner. It took 12 month, including hundreds of hours in a simulator, to become a gunner on a Gepard. The commander role required even more training.
"The system was excellent for its time but also really complicate[d]. The two radars have various modes for different purposes. One would better use the right one or risk to attract explosive countermeasures. The startup of the turret systems and the handling of their various error modes that could occur were not easy to handle.
"The tank chassis is also more complicate[d] than the original one. It has an additional motor which powers five electric generators, two Metadyne rotary transformers and a flywheel to handle the extraordinary fast movements of the turret (2.5 sec for a 360°turn)."
The site went on to explain that there are literally only a handful of personnel currently serving in the Bundeswehr who still know how to operate and, more importantly, maintain the antiquated systems. And there is zero chance that the German government or parliament would authorize any Bundeswehr personnel to operate them inside of Ukraine.
Put another way, transferring these "tanks" to Ukraine gives the appearance of Germany doing something useful to help Kyiv out in its hour of need, but the fact is, it's an empty gesture from Berlin. Insulting, even.
It wouldn't be any different if Germany provided actual tanks to Ukraine but withheld ammunition and an operator's manual.
Ukraine likely is not going to survive Russia's invasion, not completely intact anyway. Sending more weapons – useless or not – to Kyiv only leads to more deaths and destructions.