A sale of several hundred German battle tanks to Saudi Arabia is likely to be cancelled because of opposition from Social Democrat Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel, a German newspaper reported on Sunday.
German media have reported interest by Saudi Arabia in buying up to 800 Leopard 2 tanks from Germany. Such reports are never confirmed because of the sensitivity of arms deals.
The newspaper said Saudi Arabia had tried for years to get the tanks from German firms Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) and Rheinmetall and had some 18 billion Euros ($25 billion) available in its budget for the purchase.
“The government will not approve the disputed export,” Bild am Sonntag newspaper reported, citing government sources.
Arms sales are a sensitive issue in Germany. Germany's National Security Council, which includes conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Ministers of Economy, Defense, Development and Foreign Affairs, has to approve such deals but its decisions are not made public.
The Leopard 2 is a main battle tank developed by Krauss-Maffei in the early 1970s for the West German Army. The tank first entered service in 1979 and succeeded the earlier Leopard 1 as the main battle tank of the German Army.
Various versions have served in the Armed Forces of Germany and twelve other European countries, as well as several non-European nations. More than 3,480 Leopard 2s have been manufactured.
The Leopard 2 first saw combat in Kosovo with the German Army and has also seen action in Afghanistan with the Danish and Canadian contributions to the International Security Assistance Force.
There are two main development batches of the tank, the original models up to Leopard 2A4, which have vertically faced turret armor, and the “improved” batch, namely the Leopard 2A5 and newer versions, which have angled arrow-shaped turret appliqué armor together with other improvements.
All models feature digital fire control systems with laser rangefinders, a fully stabilized main gun and coaxial machine gun, and advanced night vision and sighting equipment (first vehicles used a low-light level TV system or LLLTV; thermal imaging was introduced later on). The tank has the ability to engage moving targets while moving over rough terrain.
Source: Reuters; Wikipedia