SecurityInternational

We can deliver!

15. August 2023 - from David Ginster and Jan-Phillipp Weisswange

Countries can count on Rheinmetall – for quality and punctuality alike. All projects in support of Ukraine are running according to plan or even ahead of schedule.

German Military Aid For Ukraine

Germany is supporting Ukraine with weapons and equipment. Some of these were drawn from Bundeswehr reserves, others from corporate inventories, financed by the German government. The following provides a partial overview.

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On 21 March 2023 twenty freshly overhauled Marder infantry fighting vehicles rolled off the grounds of Rheinmetall’s Unterlüss plant. It was an impressive sight. Rather than driving on their own tracks, these armoured fighting vehicles were loaded onto a train consisting of dozens of specially designed flatbed freight cars.

For the company official in charge of the project in Unterlüss – we’ll call him Martin V. here – it was a special moment: “It was a truly remarkable moment, watching the vehicles roll out of the yard. I’m extremely proud of everyone involved in the project for their terrific commitment.” The shipment of armour formed part of Germany’s military support for Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression.

What Rheinmetall is doing to help

The twenty Marder IFVs earmarked for Ukraine, which will soon be joined by another twenty more from the Bundeswehr inventory, were not the first to be overhauled by Rheinmetall in recent months. The war in Ukraine has been raging for well over a year. If at first there was no clear line among EU and NATO member states on possible support, that page has since turned. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has revived the sense of cohesion and urgency among EU and NATO nations. Several donor conferences have taken place in the meantime, aimed at furnishing Ukraine with the military wherewithal it needs to defend itself. Rheinmetall is making important contributions to this military aid.

The “Ringtausch” multilateral equipment exchange programme, developed by the German government shortly after the start of the war, offers a good example. Here, NATO member states transfer their Cold War-era, Warsaw Pact-made heavy equipment to Ukraine. In exchange, they receive Western-made replacement systems. This has the advantage of providing the Ukrainians with military hardware they’re already familiar with. As part of these exchanges, Rheinmetall is currently supplying Marder IFVs, Leopard 2 main battle tanks and HX trucks.

Under the programme, Greece is receiving a total of forty Marder vehicles, 25 of which have already been delivered. The remaining 15 are due to ship this summer.

A total of 29 Leopard 2 tanks are due to go to the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Work here is proceeding apace. The first deliveries already took place at the end of 2022, and this year it looks like Rheinmetall will be able to deliver even sooner than contractually agreed. Ever since April 2023, three vehicles a month have been transferred to the new owners. And back in December 2022, Rheinmetall supplied the Slovenian armed forces with forty HX 8×8 swap body systems. In exchange for these state-of-the-art logistic vehicles, Slovenia transferred 28 Soviet-era tanks to Ukraine.

As things stand, in addition to those already under contract, Rheinmetall has sufficient capacity to overhaul and upgrade scores of additional Marder and Leopard 1 systems, and several dozen Leopard 2 tanks.

DEDICATION AND DRIVE

By themselves, these figures barely hint at the dedication and drive of the Rheinmetall staff. “The Marder dates back to the ’70s. You can imagine what the demand for spare parts is like,” says Martin V. Fortunately, and at its own expense, Rheinmetall already started restocking its warehouses the previous year, which saved a lot of time.

The Marder

Starting in the 1970s, at times the Bundeswehr had over 2,000 Marder infantry fighting vehicles in its inventory, when it was the prime weapons system of Germany’s mechanized infantry formations. Its successor, the Puma infantry fighting vehicle, first entered service in the German Army in 2015.

Working tirelessly in a two-shift system, Group employees assigned to the project set about overhauling the Marders in Unterlüss and Kassel: “We’ve managed to achieve all this only because of the way every employee and every department – from top to bottom – has pulled together to get the job done,” declares the project manager. “I can’t say it often enough: I’m unbelievably grateful for the terrific support we’ve received.” In so doing, Rheinmetall has honoured its contractual commitments to customers at home and abroad, preparing itself for unforeseen scenarios: “Always expect the unexpected!”

Comprehensive Support

This principle also applies to other forms of support that Rheinmetall is providing for Ukraine, partly based on contracts directly awarded by Kyiv, as well as others issued by Germany and other countries. For example, at the behest of the German government, Rheinmetall has supplied 26 brand-new HX swap body systems; more than a hundred Rheinmetall trucks are currently operating in Ukraine.

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(FImage: president.gov.ua)

Consulations In Kyiv

On 30 March 2023 President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine met with a small Rheinmetall delegation at the Presidential Palace in Kyiv.

In my capacity as CEO of Rheinmetall, over the years I’ve met with numerous senior politicians and high-ranking military officials. None of these encounters made such a deep impression on me as my meeting with the head of state of a nation that had been fighting for over a year to defend its freedom and national existence”, recalls Rheinmetall CEO Armin Papperger. “I’m very grateful for this fruitful and confidence-inspiring meeting with President Zelenskyy. At Rheinmetall, supporting our Ukrainian friends in their fight for freedom and democracy is a matter of central importance, which means supplying them as quickly as possible with urgently needed equipment.”

Best known for its expertise in armoured fighting vehicles, ammunition, air defence systems and logistic vehicles, Rheinmetall is perfectly positioned to serve Ukraine as a valuable and effective partner, capable of meeting the country’s short- and long-term security needs. Furthermore, the discussion partners in Kyiv looked at how Rheinmetall could contribute to Ukraine’s future strength and stability by setting up local production facilities. Rheinmetall is also in constant contact with the German government to ensure that help reaches Ukraine as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Furthermore, in 2022 Ukraine took delivery of five Surveil-SPIRE airspace surveillance systems, with another five on order. Rheinmetall is cooperating in this project with an Estonian partner company. In 2023, Ukraine will receive two Skynex air defence systems and a field hospital, to be followed by another in 2024. Ammunition – a core competency of Rheinmetall AG ever since its foundation – is the most urgently needed form of materiel. Rheinmetall is the only contractor capable of supplying new 155mm, 120mm, 105mm, 35mm and 20mm ammunition on a large scale, which Ukraine needs for its artillery systems, Leopard 1 and Leopard 2 main battle tanks, the Gepard antiaircraft tank, and Marder infantry fighting vehicles. A new production unit is currently being commissioned in Unterlüss for producing 35mm ammunition. A first lot of which will be shipped to Ukraine this summer, earmarked for the Gepard. While expanding its capacity, Rheinmetall continued to provide Ukraine with shipments of urgently needed ammunition for its combat units.

In addition to the current high level of support, in the long run, Ukraine will need assistance in strengthening its own defence capacities and reorienting its production to Western standards. Rheinmetall is currently in talks with the Ukrainian government and examining possibilities for closer cooperation. The President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, has even received Rheinmetall CEO Armin Papperger (see box). Ukraine has made clear its interest in creating an in-country capacity for producing Rheinmetall’s Fuchs/Fox armoured transport vehicle and, in the long term, its state-of-the-art Panther main battle tank or Lynx infantry fighting vehicle. The objective is to rebuild Ukraine’s once powerful arms industry and to safeguard the nation’s strategic autonomy.

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At Rheinmetall’s Kassel plant, work on overhauling additional Marder IFVs is still in full swing. Scores of others could still be made serviceable. (Image: Jan-Phillipp Weisswange)

While this may still be a long way off, the first defence aid is already rolling in. On 30 March 2023 Ukraine’s minister of defence, Oleksij Resnikow, inspected Marder IFVs that had recently arrived from Unterlüss. He thanked the Federal Republic of Germany for its steadfast support for Ukrainian independence. Following a formal ceremony, the Ukrainian military is now deploying these tried-and-tested infantry fighting vehicles at the front. Projects like this one contribute to Ukraine’s national struggle for self-determination. For this reason, Rheinmetall has every reason to be proud of the claim: “We can deliver!”

From Unterlüss to Ukraine: Rheinmetall dispatched the first freshly overhauled Marder infantry fighting vehicles by rail on 21 March 2023.

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