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Gepard Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft Guns For Ukraine

Library image of a German Army Air Defence Gepard 1 A2 SPAAG Flugabwehrkanonenpanzer live-firing [© Carl Schulze]

German Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht has announced Gepard 1A2 SPAAG (Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft Guns) to be sent to Ukraine, reports Carl Schulze.

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Yesterday, 26th April, after the meeting of the 43 member states of the Ukraine Defence Consultative Group at the USAF’s Ramstein Air Base in Germany, the German Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht announced that the German Government will allow the delivery of Gepard 1A2 Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft Guns (SPAAG) to Ukraine. By doing so she admitted publicly that Germany’s government has finally changed its course of action, under which previously the supplying of heavy weapons to Ukraine was a no-go.

The 46-tonne Gepard 1 A2 SPAAG Flugabwehrkanonenpanzer has a crew of three, consisting of driver, gunner and commander [© Carl Schulze]

On account of Germany’s past military history and the fear that the country could be seen by Russia as an active participant in the Ukraine War, the supplying of heavy weapons directly to Ukraine was a controversy discussed by German politicians and military experts. In fact, until very recently it was not regarded as a real option by the German government, despite the fact that a number of companies from the German defence industry had already offered hardware that they have in stock and that could be delivered at short notice. However, with other NATO members already supporting Ukraine with heavy equipment, or offering to do so, and with the ring of change announced, Germany has now followed suit.

It is believed that up to 50 Gepard 1A2 Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft Guns (SPAAG) will be handed over to Ukraine. These vehicles are ex-German Army ones. In 2010 the Gepard 1A2 SPAAG was retired from service and in 2012 the Heeresflugabwehrtruppe (Army Air Defence Branch) disbanded. This resulted in a capability gap, which has existed ever since. The modern German Army does not feature the capability to provide mobile air defence that can provide cover for armoured combat forces on the move against attacks by combat helicopters and fixed-wing ground attack fighters. When the Gepard 1A2 was taken out of service, large numbers of the surplus vehicles were procured by Krauss-Maffei Wegmann GmbH & Co. KG. And in recent years quite a number of these were sold to Brazil and Romania. With the German government now allowing the export of heavy weapons to Ukraine, it looks like the remaining surplus Gepard 1A2 SPAAG will now go to the war torn country.

The two 35mm KDA automatic cannons of the Flugabwehrkanonenpanzer 1 A2 Gepard SPAAG have an elevation range of -5° to 85° [© Carl Schulze]

The Flugabwehrkanonenpanzer 1A2 Gepard SPAAG is an autonomous, highly mobile, all weather capable air defence weapon system based on the chassis of the Leopard 1 main battle tank and first fielded by the Bundeswehr in 1976. Fitted with two 35mm automatic cannons, a search radar, a tracking radar, optical sights and a power supply system for the fire control system, and later upgraded with a laser range finder, the vehicle can engage fixed wing and rotary aircraft at short and very short range, including suddenly appearing targets.

[images © Carl Schulze]

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