German tank exports

Tanks from German producers are used by many armies in the world. The largest and most important producer is the arms producer Krauss-Maffei Wegmann & Co. KG (KMW) in Munich; according to its own reports the market leader in the field of military tracked and wheeled vehicles in Europe. KMW not only produces in Germany but also in Brazil, Greece, the Netherlands, Singapore and the United States. Its range of products is broad and comprises, amongst others, the infantry fighting vehicle PUMA, the scout car FENNEK, the tank howitzer 2000 and the anti-aircraft cannon tank (Flakpanzer) GEPARD. The most well-known—and most exported—weapons systems are the battle tanks Leopard 1 and 2.

According to calculations of the Swedish peace research institute SIPRI, Germany had granted the export of armoured military vehicles worth just under US $18 billion between 1962 and 2011. Between 1992 and 2010 alone, Germany reported the export of 2,399 battle tanks to the UN weapons trade register. According to the information of the register, the most important purchasers were NATO member countries, above all Greece (715 battle tanks) and Turkey (403 battle tanks). Amongst non-NATO countries, Brazil (116 battle tanks) and Singapore (95 battle tanks) stood out.

Leopard 1

The Leopard 1 battle tank is the first battle tank developed in Germany since the end of World War II and is produced since 1965 in series (then still at the Krauss-Maffei AG). All in all, more than 4,700 of these tanks were produced until the mild-1980s of which the Bundeswehr (German army) ordered just under 2,500 vehicles; the others were sold to other armies or produced under licence abroad. After the Cold War, in particular, many tanks were passed on from old Bundeswehr holdings to foreign armies. According to the manufacturer, the tank is used in nine countries on five continents.

In the late 1960s, the first non-German buyers of the Leopard I were the NATO countries of Belgium, the Netherlands and Norway. In 1967, Belgium ordered 346 tanks (delivery 1968–1971), in 1968, the Netherlands ordered 480 (delivery 1969–1972) and in the same year, Norway ordered 78 tanks (delivery 1970–1971). A few years later, further orders came from Denmark (120 battle tanks, delivery 1976–1978) and Greece (106 battle tanks, delivery 1983–1984). Already in 1970 did the Italian armed forces order 800 Leopard 1 (later expanded to 920) that in most part were produced under licence in Italy itself.

In the course of the 1970s, customers from out of Europe also bought the Leopard 1 from Germany. In 1975, Australia started, ordering 92 vehicles. One year later, Canada followed, placing an order for a total of 114 battle tanks with Krauss-Maffei.

From 1990 onward, Germany exported the Leopard 1 tank from its remaining holdings into other countries. In this manner, between 1990 and 1994, 320 tanks went to Turkey, 245 to Greece, 110 to Denmark and 92 to Norway. After the final decommissioning of the Leopard 1 at the German Bundeswehr in 2003, another 232 tanks were exported to Greece until 2007. A noteworthy decision of the German government in 2006 was to sell 220 Leopard 1 tanks from Bundeswehr holdings to Brazil. For the first time, Germany sold this kind of tank to a non-NATO country. The tanks that had by then been modernized by KMW were delivered between 2009 and 2011.

But this was not the first export of the Leopard 1 tank into a non-NATO country. Brazil had already acquired 128 of these tanks from the Belgian armed forces between 1997 and 1999. In 1998, the Netherlands had exported 202 Leopard 1 tanks to Chile (which, in turn, sold on 30 tanks to Ecuador in 2009).

Leopard 2

The battle tanks Leopard 2 is the successor model of the Leopard 1 and has been produced in series since 1979. So far, Krauss-Maffei / KMW have produced more than 3,000 tanks of which just under one-third was destined for direct export. The Leopard 2 is currently deployed in the armies of 16 countries. As one can read on the website of the producer, this tank can be found "from the Arctic Circle to the Alps and Andes to the Mediterranean and the Pacific and is therefore justifiably called "Global Leopard".

Leopard 2 has so far only been exported and produced under licence in NATO- and NATO equivalent countries. The first foreign customer were the armed forces of the Netherlands that ordered 465 tanks in 1979 (delivery 1981–1986). Of this order, the Netherlands later sold 114 tanks to Austria, 52 to Norway, 38 to Portugal and 20 to Canada. The second foreign order came from Switzerland, which ordered 380 vehicles in 1984 (the final production began in 1987 and ended in 1993—to a large extent in Switzerland itself). Similar sales were concluded with Sweden (120 tanks in 1994, production and delivery between 1996 and 2002), Spain (219 tanks in 1998, production and delivery between 2003 and 2011) and Greece (170 tanks, production and delivery between 2006 and 2009).

In 2009, the German government agreed to the potential export of 36 Leopard 2 tanks to the Emirate of Qatar. As media reports showed in 2011, the German Federal Security Council had by then agreed to possibly export 270 battle tanks to Saudi Arabia.

The German army had started to markedly reduce its holdings of Leopard 2. Decommissioned tanks were generally sold abroad. Like this, 160 former Bundeswehr tanks were sold to Sweden in 1994, another 108 vehicles to Spain in 1995, 51 to Denmark in 1997, 128 tanks to Poland in 2002 and 124 to Finland and 298 to Turkey and 183 to Greece in 2005. In 2007, Canada bought another 20 tanks from German Bundeswehr holdings.

Furthermore, the German government sold used Leopard 2 tanks to two countries that were no NATO countries and no NATO equivalent countries. One of these countries was Chile, which received 172 of these battle tanks between 2007 and 2009 (together with 266 infantry fighting vehicles Marder that were delivered between 2009 and 2011). Another 95 Leopard 2 tanks of the Bundeswehr were sold to Singapore in 2007.

Sources and further information:

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