Germany’s Rheinmetall has reportedly bought 50 Leopard 1 battle tanks from Belgium for war-torn Ukraine.
This was reported by local newspaper Handelsblatt, citing its own sources.
Belgium’s Leopard 1 tanks were decommissioned in 2014. Thirty of those 50 tanks will reportedly be re-equipped, after which they will be transferred to Ukraine.
Belgian defense company OIP Land Systems bought 50 Leopard 1 tanks for €37,000 each, since the Belgian military did not have hangars to accommodate the decommissioned equipment.
Since then, they have been stored in a warehouse in the city of Tournai.
CEO of the company Freddy Versluys told Reuters they sold Belgian tanks to another European government, but declined to name the country.
A source with direct knowledge of the deal was quoted as saying by The Guardian that the tanks were bought by a “major German defense player.” This could be Rheinmetall.
“The fact that they (Leopard 1 tanks) leave our company proves that we asked for a fair market price and someone was more than happy to take them,” Versluys said in a post on LinkedIn on Tuesday. “I am glad they will finally join the fight for freedom.”
Versluys added that over a dozen tanks would be used for spare parts while the rest would be repaired. In a previous interview with The Guardian, Versluys said that it could take months and up to €1 million in renovation costs for each tank to be ready for use in Ukraine.
Earlier this year, Defense minister Ludivine Dedonder (PS) announced that the Belgian state wanted to buy back the tanks to send to Kyiv. According to Versluys, the proposal came with an "unreasonable price,” making the sale impossible.
Versluys was quoted as saying by Belga News Agency that it will be some time before the tanks actually land in Ukraine. "Transport alone will take several weeks. You don't just put 50 tanks on a truck in a couple of days," said Versluys.