Several NATO countries are considering sending Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine – and Britain has already promised 14 Challenger 2s – but no agreement has been struck. So what is going on?

All eyes have been on Germany in recent weeks as its government wrestles with whether to donate its Leopard 2 main battle tank to Kyiv, or authorise other countries to send theirs as Berlin owns the export licence.

Meanwhile, there are reports that the US could be ready to announce the supply of its fast-moving M1 Abrams tank to Ukraine.

A breakthrough could be announced as soon as today, Sky News understands, but nothing is official yet.

Ukraine is widely expected to mount another counteroffensive in the spring after hugely successful drives last year that seized big chunks of territory around Kharkiv in the east and liberated Kherson in the south.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Ukrainian president, says his forces need more and heavier weapons – in particular Western tanks – to push the Russians back.

In what was widely seen as an attempt to prompt the UK’s allies to follow suit, Rishi Sunak’s government led the way in promising 14 of its Challenger 2 tanks.

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But there remains a deadlock in Europe over the Leopard 2, with Poland even saying it is willing to act without Germany’s authorisation to get its tanks to the battlefield.

So what are the Leopard 2, M1 Abrams and Challenger 2 tanks, and which other Western armoured vehicles are being sent to Ukraine?

Leopard 2 – Germany’s main battle tank used by various NATO countries

Ukraine has long urged the West to send tanks to help its forces fight Russia, and at the top of the list has been the Leopard 2.

Considered a main battle tank in the same way as the Challenger 2 and first introduced in 1979, it offers good protection against armour-piercing rounds and anti-tank guided weapons.

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It has been reported that the Leopard 2 was estimated to be able to penetrate frontal armour of the Soviet-made T-72 tank from 2,000 metres away and that of the T-62 from more than 4,000 metres – both of which are in use by the Russian military in Ukraine.

Germany’s decision to send Marders armoured vehicles to Ukraine has raised hopes that the heavier Leopard could be next, but there appears to be hesitation from the government to act independently of the US.

M1 Abrams: Highly manoeuvrable but poor fuel efficiency

After weeks of discussion, the Biden administration is preparing to send Abrams tanks to Ukraine, according to three senior US officials.

It has a 1,500-horsepower turbine engine – notoriously low on fuel efficiency – and a 120mm main gun.

The tank can make a difference on the battlefield through “lethal firepower, unparalleled survivability, and audacious manoeuvre”, the US army says.

Any agreement to supply Ukraine with Abrams tanks is likely to be perceived as an effort to persuade Germany to authorise donation of the Leopard 2, which uses less fuel and is widely available in Europe.

08 June 2022, Bavaria, Hohenfels: A US Army M1 Abrams tank drives across a road during a multinational exercise at the Hohenfels training area. Photo by: Nicolas Armer/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images Pic: AP
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The M1 Abrams tank could be headed for Ukraine. Pic: AP

Challenger 2: British tank buster that has ‘never’ been destroyed

The British Challenger 2 is a main battle tank that has been used on operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Iraq.

First introduced into service with the British Army in 1994, a number of Challenger 2s are deployed in Estonia as part of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence in the Baltic States.

It features a main 120mm rifled gun and has a crew of four – commander, gunner, loader/operator and a driver.

The British Army says it has “never experienced a loss at the hands of the enemy”.

British soldiers patrol on two Challenger 2 tanks in the desert near Basra, Iraq, June 2006. Photo by: Carl Schulze/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images
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British soldiers patrol in two Challenger 2 tanks in the desert near Basra, Iraq in 2006. Pic: AP

Bradley fighting vehicle: Armoured infantry transport from the US

Earlier this month, the White House announced that it will be delivering dozens of its Bradley fighting vehicles to Ukraine as well as hundreds of the anti-tank missiles they can fire.

While not a tank, strictly speaking, Pentagon press secretary Brigadier General Pat Ryder said they provide “a level of firepower and armour that will bring advantages on the battlefield”.

Bradleys are armoured vehicles that can transport infantry in combat zones and are often equipped with a 25mm M242 Bushmaster chain gun as their main weapon along with an anti-tank missile system.

Mr Zelenskyy hailed the move: “For the first time, we will get Bradley armoured vehicles – this is exactly what is needed.

“New guns and rounds, including high-precision ones, new rockets, new drones. It is timely and strong.”

FILE - American soldiers drive a Bradley fighting vehicle during a joint exercise with Syrian Democratic Forces at the countryside of Deir Ezzor in northeastern Syria, Dec. 8, 2021. The U.S. and Germany are sending Ukraine an array of armored vehicles, including 50 tank-killing Bradleys, to expand its ability to move troops to the front lines and beef up its forces against Russia as the war nears its first anniversary. (AP Photo/Baderkhan Ahmad, File)
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American soldiers drive a Bradley fighting vehicle in Syria in 2021. Pic: AP

Marder infantry fighting vehicles from Germany

While it has yet to act on the Leopards, Germany has said it wants to deliver around 40 Marder infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine before the end of March.

Resembling a light tank in some ways, the Marder can carry five or six troops and is one of the largest and heaviest of its type.

Germany has large numbers of Marders in storage and vice chancellor Robert Habeck said Berlin could ultimately send its entire functioning fleet of the weapons.

FILE -- Soldiers follow a Marder infantry fighting vehicle during a demonstration event held for the media by the German Bundeswehr in Bergen near Hannover, Germany, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2011. U.S. President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz confirmed in a joint statement Thursday that the U.S. would provide Bradleys to Ukraine while Germany would provide Marder armored personnel carriers. The statement did not give the number of vehicles or the total cost of the aid package. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn,file)
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Soldiers follow a Marder infantry fighting vehicle during a demonstration event in 2011. Pic: AP

AMX-10 RC: France’s ‘light tank’ designed for recon missions

The French defence ministry said it will hold talks with its Ukrainian counterpart to arrange for the delivery of armoured combat vehicles.

Designated as “light tanks” in French, the AMX-10 RC carries a 105mm cannon and two machine guns.

It’s primarily designed for reconnaissance missions and has enough armour to protect against light infantry weapons, according to the French defence ministry.

It has wheels rather than tracks, allowing it to be more mobile than heavy tanks.

This undated photo provided Thursday Jan.5, 2023 by the French Army shows AMX-10 RC tanks. France said Wednesday Jan.4, 2023 it will send French-made AMX-10 RC light tanks to Ukraine, the first tanks from a Western European country, following an afternoon phone call between French President Emmanuel Macron and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. (Jeremy Bessat/Armee de Terre via AP)
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French-made AMX-10 RC light tanks have wheels rather than tracks. Pic: AP/French Army