Germany’s Top Tank Destroyed on Ukrainian Frontlines: Leopard 2A6 and Dozens of American Bradleys Taken Out

Since the initiation of Ukraine’s mass offensive against Russian positions the Ukrainian Army and allied paramilitaries have begun to actively deploy new batches of armour received from Western countries, including not only very large numbers of Leopard 1 and Leopard 2A4 tanks, but also the much more capable Leopard 2A6 which, alongside the British Challenger 2, is considered the most capable in the country’s inventory. While Leopard 2A4s have proven highly vulnerable in combat with armour protection that is effectively obsolete, as best demonstrated by Turkish use of the vehicles against local militias in Syria and Iraq, the Leopard 2A6 has long been marketed as a much more capable vehicle. Costing close to $8 million per vehicle, advantages of the new variant include use of 3rd generation composite armour, integration of a a longer barrelled and more powerful main gun, installation of additional armour modules on the turret, and use of much improved fire controls. The loss of these tanks, which have widely been considered the most capable in production across the Western world, has significant implications well beyond Ukraine itself. 

A Leopard 2A6 tank was shown in close up aerial footage burning and completely destroyed, with features such as the gun mount confirming the class of vehicle seen. A second Leopard 2A6 was shown in the same formation damaged on its left track and abandoned, alongside multiple American M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles. personnel losses may be heavy, with  Western tanks requiring 33% more crew than Russian or Soviet ones at four men each, while Bradleys typically carry nine personnel including three crew. Footage of the destroyed vehicles comes amid reports of very heavy losses for Ukraine’s Western supplied armour in attempted offensives against Russian positions, with other footage published from both sides showing significant losses among Leopard 1 and Leopard 2A4 units.

It remains likely that Leopard 2A6 units have taken further losses, as only a small fraction of destroyed vehicles in the conflict can have closeup videos taken from the air. Leopard 2A6s remain very scarce assets within the Ukrainian inventory, and within NATO more broadly the large majority of tanks in service are less capable, meaning the class’ vulnerability could draw the future viability of further Western arms shipments to Ukraine into question. Germany was initially highly reluctant to allow Leopard 2s to be supplied to Ukraine, with this speculated to have been largely influenced by concerns that combat could tarnish the tank’s reputation. This would be a major loss due to its central importance to the German defence sector’s reputation and to its arms export profile as perhaps the country’s most iconic defence product. Although a more capable Leopard 2 variant the Leopard 2A7 has been developed, improvements remain conservative particularly when compared to the gap between the A4 and A6 variants, with the A7 also having been relegated to a very small production run due to limited foreign demand.