Germany to Bolster Ukraine With 50 Cheetah Anti-Aircraft Cannon Tanks
The Ukrainians have a real need for modern air defenses that can impede, blunt, or stop and destroy Russian air attacks from fighter jets.
Germany has decided to send as many as fifty Gepard “Cheetah” anti-aircraft tanks to Ukraine as part of the growing collective, multi-national effort to arm Ukraine in its fight against Russia.
Gepard vehicles, or Cheetahs, consist of an anti-aircraft gun mounted onto a Leopard tank chassis, weapons that could threaten, defend against, and even destroy Russian drones and helicopters. U.S. defense secretary Lloyd Austin announced his appreciation for Germany’s move following a forty-nation-strong security meeting in Germany to craft long-term plans to defend Ukraine.
“I consider Germany to be a great friend and ally ... it’s always been a real pleasure to work alongside our German partners here … Germany announced that it was going to provide 50 Cheetah systems. I think those systems will provide real capability for Ukraine … [and that the Germans will] continue to look for ways to be relevant and provide good capability to the Ukrainians as they continue to prosecute this fight,” Austin said.
Austin’s point is important: the Ukrainians have a real need for modern air defenses given that they operate outdated, Soviet-era air defenses and need to impede, blunt, or stop and destroy Russian air attacks from fighter jets. Despite Russia’s apparent numerical superiority in the air, the Russian Air Force has surprisingly not been able to achieve air superiority over Ukraine. Ukraine does appear to be getting S-300 air defenses, yet fortifying this capability with Cheetah’s could bring new dimensions to their efforts to defend the Donbas.
Any mechanized Russian assault on the Donbas is likely to operate with air support, yet well-placed and properly armed Cheetah anti-aircraft tanks could potentially target and take out Russia’s close air support. Cheetahs would have a longer range, heavier rate of fire, and be better protected than an individual soldier firing a shoulder-mounted Stinger missile. As heavily armored vehicles, Cheetahs could operate in open space more easily than a soldier with a Stinger, therefore widening the envelope of defensive attack.
Added to this support, German defense leaders are reportedly also working through parliament to get authorization to send eighty-eight Leopard 1 tanks to Ukraine as well.
More modern tanks would also be extremely impactful in Ukraine, as Russia operates a large number of armored vehicles and will likely draw upon existing heavy firepower to try to close in on Donbas.
Kris Osborn is the Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master’s Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.