German arms producer Rheinmetall is negotiating to build a €200m tank factory in Ukraine, according to its chief executive, Armin Papperger.
He told the Rheinische Post on Saturday that the plant could produce up to 400 Panther main battle tanks a year, and said his company’s talks with the Ukrainian government might lead to a decision within the next two months.
The Panther main battle tank is Rheinmetall’s development of the Leopard 2. It will be based on the Leopard’s hull, but will have a newly designed turret, and will incorporate AI and drones.
Former Russian president and prime minister Dmitry Medvedev expressed scepticism as to whether the plan would go ahead, and warned that, if it did, “the event will be marked with a proper salute from Kalibr [cruise missiles] and other pyrotechnic devices.”
However, Papperger said Russian missile attack was not a concern. “Protection by air defence won’t be difficult,” he said.
He added that Ukraine needed between 600 and 800 tanks to win the war. Rheinmetall presently makes about 250 tanks a year, but is looking to increase production.
Papperger said: “We are working at full speed. We have already put more than 40 Marder infantry fighting vehicles into operation, and by the end of the year, there will be about 100 of them. Of the 50 Leopard 2A4 tanks, about 30 are ready. There are also about 100 older Leopard 1 models, 88 of which we can make usable again.”