On Wednesday, 21 December 2022, Minister of Defence Jana Černochová received from the State Secretary of the Ministry of Defence of the Federal Republic of Germany, Benedikt Zimmer, the symbolic key to the first Leopard 2A4 tank that the Czech Republic received from Germany for its assistance to Ukraine. The ceremonial takeover took place in the barracks in Přáslavice, where the units of the 7th Mechanized Brigade are located. As part of the ceremony, the minister also announced Tuesday’s signing of a memorandum on the acquisition of Swedish CV 90 combat vehicles.

“When I visited soldiers in Hranice or Žatec after taking office, I assured them that this government has the modernization of the army as a priority. But I don’t know if they believed me, because they heard it from defense ministers for years. Here you see the first swallow, others will follow,” the minister said, adding that with the Leopards the Army of the Czech Republic will come out of the impasse of dependence on Soviet technology.

Easier compatibility within NATO

“We got the tanks for supporting Ukraine. Support for Ukraine is absolutely right and necessary, I am proud of it,” emphasized the Chief of the General Staff of the Czech Armed Forces Major General Karel Řehka in his speech. He added that the Leopard 2A4 tanks are also available to our close neighbors, such as Poland and Hungary, and their introduction into service will facilitate compatibility within NATO.

“Joint efforts, mutual cohesion and decisive action make us strong and resilient. This was the reason for our offer of a replacement of technology. Approximately half a year has passed and today we are handing over the first Leopard tank to the Czech Ground Army here in Přáslavice. For this to happen, not only political will was needed, but constructive cooperation between both sides at all levels and, above all, mutual trust,” stressed Secretary of State Zimmer.

The German tank arrived at the Práslavice barracks early Tuesday morning, but remained hidden from the guests. Only after the Minister of Defense received the report from the commander of the tank battalion and greeted the enlisted soldiers did he head to the center of the platform. At that moment, it was still driven by a German crew, but the ceremonial passage after receiving the symbolic key was demonstrated to the guests by a freshly trained crew of Czech tankers. Perhaps the most important part of the ceremony was the static display of the interior and interior equipment of the freshly received Leopard tank. Members of the tank battalion and representatives of the supplier company were available to guests, including senators and members of the Parliament of the Czech Republic.

The ceremonial handover in Přáslavice was attended not only by the State Secretary but also by representatives of the German and Austrian armies. Both countries are actively involved in the retraining and training of Czech soldiers.

Another 13 battle tanks by the end of next year

German assistance in replacing the technology was agreed at the beginning of May 2022 with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz by Prime Minister Petr Fiala. In addition to tanks (14 combat tanks and one recovery tank), the delivery will also include an initial package of spare parts, ammunition and three-year service support from the supplier, which also includes the training of Czech soldiers. One of the signatories of a series of treaties between the German and Czech sides was the former commander of the land forces, Major General Ladislav Jung. It was his previous merits in maintaining good bilateral relations that the German side recognized by awarding the Golden Cross of Honour of the Armed Forces of Germany.

The remaining 13 battle tanks should be delivered to Přáslavice by the end of next year. The recovery vehicle, which is mounted on the upgraded Leopard 2 chassis, will be ready by mid-2024. Fully functional machines were originally used by the Swiss and German armies.