Germany, Denmark, and the Netherlands announced on Tuesday (February 7) that they would pool funds to restore Leopard 1 tanks from industry stocks and supply them to Kyiv in the coming months, Reuters reports.
German Vice Chancellor and Economy Minister Robert Habeck said on a visit to Washington on Tuesday (February 7) that he expected Ukraine to have a double-digit number of Leopard 1 tanks by March but he was not sure how many of the 178 tanks authorised would be sent in total.
"They have to be refitted and realigned for combat. That means that in the end you don't know exactly how many tanks there will be, because some repair work is necessary. But there are large numbers that will be made available here in order to repel the Russian spring offensive," said Habeck.
"The timetable comes from the progress in manufacturing or repair or restoration. And as the tanks become operational, they will then be delivered step by step"
Asked whether the decision to send them, after months of mounting pressure on Berlin, should have been taken earlier, Habeck said: "I hope the decision was taken at just the right time."
Since the New Year, Western countries have pledged hundreds of tanks and armoured vehicles to Ukraine to give it the firepower and mobility to push through Russian lines and recapture territory later this year.
Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands said their Leopard 1 initiative was open to further partners, adding Belgium had shown "initial interest to participate".
Earlier, the head of German arms maker Rheinmetall said it would send Ukraine 20-25 Leopards this year, with the rest of the 88 Leopard 1 tanks it owns in total to be sent next year.
The move follows the German government's decision last month, amid mounting international pressure, to deliver more modern Leopard 2 battle tanks from army stocks.