In a break from its reluctance to supply heavy artillery systems to Ukraine, which has been defending against the Russian invasion for two months now, Germany appears to be willing to transfer Gepard anti-aircraft guns to Ukraine.
The country’s defense minister Christine Lambrecht is expected to confirm the transfer to her counterparts during the 40-nation meeting that will take place on Tuesday at the Ramstein air base in Germany.
The meeting has been organized by the US defense department with the aim of better coordinating the international efforts to provide military aid to Ukraine. US defense secretary will be hosting the meeting after meeting with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv where he pledged military assistance to Ukraine.
The handover of the now-retired self-propelled anti-aircraft gun would mark a turn in Germany’s policy of not sending heavy guns to Ukraine, for fear of further escalating the conflict.
German chancellor Olaf Scholz was faced with a lot of pressure for his decisions and the perceived lack of action. He even faced criticism from coalition partners FDP and the Greens, who openly plead for Scholz to do more to support Ukraine in the fight against Russia’s invasion.
According to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Germany could send a total of 50 Gepard vehicles which were phased out by the German Army in 2012. Based on the Leopard 1 tank, the Gepard carries a pair of 35 mm Oerlikon cannons and two radar dishes for target acquisition. Developed in the 1970s, the vehicle has an intercept range of around 15 kilometers.
Aside from the political issues, another factor that complicated the decision on sending the Gepard to Ukraine, according to reports, was the lack of ammunition for the systems. A solution is said to have been found in Brazil, which also operates the systems.
Zelenskyy previously asked Germany for the Marder infantry fighting vehicles, but Germany said it could not supply them due to its own defense needs and obligations to NATO.
It should be noted that despite its reluctance to directly send heavy weapons to Ukraine, Germany was open to support indirect transfers of artillery. One such example is the proposed “ringtausch” proposal, which would see Germany supply its own weapon systems to NATO countries willing to send their heavy weapons to Ukraine.
Germany is also supporting the Netherlands in supplying PzH 2000 howitzers to Ukraine.
Update: The German defense ministry has confirmed it will be delivering the Gepard vehicles to Ukraine. Details on when exactly and how the systems will be transferred are yet to be disclosed.
Several hours after Germany confirmed the transfer of Gepard vehicles to Ukraine, Switzerland it would veto the re-export of ammunition for the tanks.
The Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) confirmed the veto saying it would not be allowing the re-export of 35mm ammunition for the tank. It would also not be able to honor another German requested that concerned 12.7mm ammunition.
“Both inquiries by Germany as to whether the ammunition received from Switzerland may be transferred to Ukraine were answered in the negative with reference to Swiss neutrality and the mandatory rejection criteria of Swiss war material legislation,” SECO said. The secretariat added it was unclear which ammunition would be sent to Ukraine with the Gepard SPAAG.