Ukraine Situation Report: Leopard 1 Tanks Will Arrive This Spring

One of NATO’s legacy Cold War tanks will soon be on the way to Ukrainian units, with the Danish Ministry of Defense announcing the first of its Leopard 1A5DK tanks will be delivered by spring.

Acting Danish Defense Minister Troels Lund Poulsen, along with German Defense Ministry State Secretary Thomas Hitschler, visited Flensburger Fahrzeugbau Gesellschaft (FFG) to speak on the planned transfer. FFG is renovating the formerly Danish, Dutch, and German Leopard 1A5s before their delivery.

The plan calls for two tank battalions, or approximately 80 tanks, for Ukrainian forces. While the standard Leopard 1 entered service in the 1960s, the 1A5 upgrade variant began its career in the 1980s with a modern fire control system and all-weather night sights. While the Leopard 1 and its derivatives, including the Gepard self-propelled anti-aircraft gun, remain in service in several countries, Germany retired its last Leopard 1s in 2003. 

The Danish version of the Leopard 1A5 features the welded 1A3 turret in lieu of the German 1A5’s cast turret, but still features the venerable 105mm L7 Royal Ordnance main gun. Danish 1A5DK tanks saw combat in what’s now known as “Operation Bøllebank,” Danish for “hooligan bashing,” as part of the United Nations Protection Force’s Nordic Battalion 2 in Bosnia. 

A Danish Leopard 1A5DK with NATO-led IFOR crushes a Serbian 20mm M55 anti-aircraft gun during Operation: Joint Endeavor. (SPC F. DAVID MORGAN / Wikimedia Commons)

In the first combat for Danish troops since the Second World War, two platoons of U.N.-white Leopard 1A5DKs mobilized against a Republika Srpska force attacking the Norwegian and Swedish-held TANGO-2 observation post on April 29, 1994. After-action accounts claim the Danes fired 72 cannon rounds and may have killed as many as 150 Bosnian Serb fighters in the nighttime battle. 

The Danish tanks would see combat in Bosnia again that following October. There’s no question the Leopard 1s will see action, some of the most intense in Europe in generations, once they reach the Ukrainian frontlines. 

Before we head into the latest news from Ukraine, The War Zone readers can catch up on our previous rolling coverage here

The Latest

Saturday’s intelligence update from the British Ministry of Defense confirmed recent observations of the Battle for Bakhmut. The urban frontline is now on opposite sides of a 200-800m wide, open-ground “killing zone” on either side of the Bakhmutka River that bisects the town, with Ukrainian forces firing from fortified buildings west of the river. 

The Institute for the Study of War (@TheStudyofWar ) shared this view, noting that Russian forces had not advanced Saturday. 

While fighting in the town has stabilized along the river, Russian forces and Wagner Group PMC mercenaries continue threatening perilous supply lines on the roads west of Bakhmut. Ukrainian Ground Forces Commander, Lt. Gen. Oleksandr Syrskyi, visited the besieged town and said its defense must hold in preparation for a spring counteroffensive. 

On the opposite side, Wagner Group PMC founder Yevgeny Prigozhin has another bizarre dispatch in full combat gear. The mercenary leader and vocal Russian Armed Forces critic claims he will run for president of Ukraine in 2024. 

We wrote about the stunning footage of a Ukrainian soldier holding out under heavy Russian fire in the trenches that emerged on March 1. A tweet claims to show that soldier with Butusov Plus (@UButusov ) and identifies him as part of the Ukrainian 92nd Mechanized Brigade’s 22nd Separate Battalion. 

Recent drone footage shows both sides’ strikes on opposing air defense systems. Video from the Ukrainian side shows a 9K37 Buk missile system (NATO: SA-11 “Gadfly” or SA-17 “Grizzly”) transporter-erector-launcher-and-radar (TELAR) exploding after a hit by what’s believed to be an M982 Excalibur 155mm guided artillery shell. 

The Buk TELAR carries four missiles of the 9M38 “Gadfly” or 9M317E “Grizzly” variety depending on the variant. What looks like the launcher’s nose is the 9S35 “Fire Dome” fire control radar for tracking and guidance not only for the missiles onboard but also for other radar-less transporter-erector-launchers (TEL) in the SAM battery. 

The Russian Ministry of Defense also released footage of a ZALA Lancet loitering munition strike on one of Ukraine’s British-supplied Stormer HVM air defense vehicles. 

The Stormer HVM carries up to 20 of the lauded Starstreak short-range missile used against Russian aircraft and drones since their arrival nearly a year ago. The video ends before damage to the vehicle can be fully assessed, but it’s safe to say it did not go up in nearly the same fireworks show as the Buk above.

On a related note, nighttime video presumably from the massive Russian missile barrage on March 9 showed a Ukrainian Buk SAM intercepting a Russian cruise missile barely five seconds after launch at close range. 

Ukrainian forces were also seen testing out a portable anti-aircraft spotlight for counter-drone operations. 

Spotlights have been largely replaced by radars since the Second World War when anti-aircraft artillery and flak gunners used the beams to direct fire, but they have since become a regular part of Ukrainian air defenses against Iranian-designed kamikaze drones

Cockpit video from the Ukrainian Air Force shows a pair of its MiG-29 “Fulcrum” fighters in action. One of the two grayscale camouflaged fighters can be seen with both Russian-made Vympel R-73 (AA-11 “Archer”) short-range, all-aspect infrared-guided missiles and an AGM-88 HARM.

Ukrainian first-person-view (FPV) drones remain at work, with a new clip showing one spotting and chasing down a Russian T-80BV tank on the move in Donetsk Oblast. Like previous clips, the drone appears saddled with a rocket-propelled grenade warhead.

There is a wild account of a reported ambush by Ukrainian forces on a Russian combat-search-and-rescue unit. Ukrainian forces reportedly turned on an emergency transponder used by downed Russian fighter pilots to lure in a Russian Mi-17 for a rescue mission. But when the Russians arrived looking for the downed pilot, the Ukrainians sprung the trap.

Footage from more than a year ago reportedly shows Russians destroying one of their own Mi-8 AMTsh helicopters at the Hostomel Airport. The explosion reportedly took place as the Russians retreated from their ill-fated northern offensive on Kyiv

We previously wrote about Russian forces retrofitting thermal sights to aging T-62 tanks, and the pictures below appear to show a factory where that work is well underway. 

That’s it for now. We’ll update this story when we have more to report.

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