Germany to Develop New Air Defense System Based on Leopard Tank Chassis for Ukraine

Rheinmetall is developing new weapons systems for Ukraine using the chassis of Leopard tanks.

German arms manufacturer Rheinmetall is working on new mobile air defense systems capable of shooting down Russian drones and missiles, according to the company’s head of Land Systems, Bjorn Bernhard.

Bernhard revealed in an interview with the German tabloid Bild that these systems, dubbed ‘Frankenstein tanks’ by the German media, are already under development.

These tanks are reportedly a heavily armored version of Rheinmetall’s Skyranger anti-aircraft system mounted on the hulls of Cold War-era Leopard 1 tanks. They will be able to engage short-range targets such as drones and artillery fire.

“There are still many Leopard 1 battle tanks whose chassis we could use to mount the Skyranger turret with the 35 mm machine gun,” Bernhard said in the interview, which took place at a secret Rheinmetall tank repair factory in Western Ukraine that reportedly opened in early June.

The company will present a similar vehicle, albeit mounted on a Leopard 2 chassis, at the ongoing Eurosatory 2024 defense industry exhibition in Paris.

“Highly mobile, modular and scalable ground-based air defense systems are becoming increasingly important as NATO forces refocus on national and alliance defense,” Rheinmetall stated in a press release.

It is unclear when Ukraine will receive these new hybrid tanks. According to The Telegraph, Kiev’s army has already received around one hundred traditionally configured Leopard 1 tanks from Germany. However, Ukrainian authorities have been urging NATO countries to provide more critical weaponry in recent weeks, citing the shortage of Western air defense systems that leaves their troops and infrastructure vulnerable to Russian attacks.

Earlier this month, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced that Berlin would transfer its third US-made Patriot air defense system and additional weapons to Kiev within the next few weeks. At the Ukraine Recovery Conference in Berlin, Scholz stated that Germany has already delivered or allocated €28 billion ($30 billion) worth of weapons to Ukraine and will continue supporting Kiev’s war effort.

Russia has repeatedly criticized Western military aid to Kiev, warning that it will only prolong the conflict without changing its outcome.