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Switzerland hands over first batch of Leopard 2 tanks to Germany

Swiss tanks being prepared to be sent to Germany by train.
Switzerland handed over the first nine Leopard 2 tanks on Tuesday. They were transported by train to Germany, the defence ministry said in a statement. © Keystone / Gian Ehrenzeller

The Swiss army has sent nine Leopard 2 battle tanks to Germany out of the 25 tanks that will be handed to their German manufacturer Rheinmetall for decommissioning.

Under the resale agreement between the two countries, the tanks will remain in Germany with NATO or European Union partners and will not be sent to Ukraine.

Switzerland’s Federal Armaments Office (Armasuisse) handed over the first nine tanks on Tuesday. They were transported by train to Germany, the defence ministry said in a statement.

An additional nine tanks will be transported to Germany by train on Wednesday. The remaining seven tanks will be exported by road, the defence ministry said.

The 25 Leopard 2 tanks were sold by Armasuisse to the German company Rheinmetall. Last November, the Federal Council (executive body) approved Germany’s application to export the tanks. In September, the Swiss parliament also agreed to the decommissioning of these tanks on condition that they be sold back to the company that manufactured them.

+ Switzerland can resell 25 tanks to Germany

The Swiss army currently has 134 Leopard 2s in service and 96 in storage. The 25 tanks sold to Germany were taken from armoured vehicles in storage.

The contract between Armasuisse and Rheinmetall includes their transportation to Germany. When the tanks are overhauled, the German company will dismantle parts that can still be used by the army’s active fleet, at no cost, and return them to Switzerland.

+Swiss commission recommends selling 25 tanks back to Germany

In addition to the sales price, both parties agreed on further orders from Rheinmetall for Swiss industry equivalent to the value of the sales price. Services for the Swiss army’s tank fleet are also planned.

Defence Minister Viola Amherd told parliament that the resale of the tanks was correct and judicious from the point of view of Swiss neutrality. Switzerland is thus contributing to the security of Europe, she said, and it is in Switzerland’s interest for its partner countries to be able to strengthen their defence capabilities.

+ Ukraine war: former Estonian president urges Switzerland to lift ban on arms exports

In parliament, the right-wing Swiss People’s Party voted against the export of the decommissioned tanks. Some criticism was also heard among centre-right parliamentarians, while a minority argued that Switzerland could not do without these tanks.

Germany says the 25 tanks will remain in Germany or in NATO or EU member states. They will be used to complete their armament. The tanks cannot be sent to Ukraine, even indirectly.

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