In order for the Armed Forces of the Slovak Republic (OS SR) to be able to adequately respond to the constantly changing security environment and new threats, modern and competent technology is needed. Slovakia is currently planning to purchase new tracked combat vehicles and 8×8 armored combat vehicles, but the current version also includes tanks.
These form a key component of a heavy and mechanized brigade, which Slovakia has committed itself to building by 2026. However, the modernization of the existing T-72 tanks is not a suitable solution for the Ground Forces of the Armed Forces of the Slovak Republic in terms of providing all the necessary capabilities of the heavy mechanized brigade.
The Armed Forces of the Slovak Republic have long been significantly underfunded. The consequence is that the military equipment used by Slovak soldiers is long overdue and the technology is only operational due to partial modernizations. This is the case not only of infantry tracked combat vehicles, but also of tanks. The unsatisfactory condition of the tank army is not only the task of Slovakia, but also of European countries in general, which considered tank technology on the modern battlefield to be unnecessary and underestimated its importance. This later turned out to be a misconception and the Ministry of Defense of the Slovak Republic is aware of it.
The Tank Battalion of the Ground Forces of the Slovak Armed Forces currently still uses T-72 tanks of Soviet production, while all these tanks are, according to the data of the Armed Forces of the Slovak Republic, already after their lifetime. This is really mechanized for Slovakia, which has committed itself to building a heavy brigade. In 2019, the previous leadership of the Ministry of Defense announced its intention to modernize the existing tanks and thus ensure the purchase of new tanks and their operability. According to the Long-Term Defense Development Plan with an emphasis on the construction and development of the Armed Forces of the Slovak Republic with a view to 2030, Slovakia is planning to introduce new tanks into armament only in the second half of this decade. Until then, the Ground Forces of the Slovak Armed Forces have to use T-72 tanks. This timetable is regulated, for example, by the Department of the Ministry of Finance of the Slovak Republic, which states that the timetable for the purchase of new tanks is in conflict with the current priorities of this particular armaments project.
Production of T-72 tanks began in the 70s of last century. Today, several decades after the production of T-72 tanks was launched, it is no longer possible to continue with tanks adequate for the battlefields of the 21st century. Even the modernization of these tank dishes for the needs of securing resources and securing the tank troops of the modern Slovak army at the same time also new military weapons, which bring, for example, without or a new generation of anti-tank missiles. In addition, the possibilities for modernizing T-72 tanks are still narrowing and the availability of spare parts and components is also problematic. The only solution really needed is to buy new and modern tanks with potential for decades to come. Looking at the current possibilities of buying new tanks, the most logical option seems to be the acquisition of Leopard 2 tanks from Krauss-Maffei Wegmann.
There are reasons for choosing Leopard 2 tanks as a replacement for T-72 tanks. Leopard 2 is the only tank of Western production that is produced in Europe and at the same time it is a tank with a large number of users on different continents. Only in Europe does Leopard 2 tanks have, or will have, introduced in service in various versions of 13 countries. Of these, 3 countries, Hungary, Poland and Austria are directly neighboring Slovakia. From a geographical point of view, the introduction of Leopard 2 tanks into the armament of the Armed Forces of the Slovak Republic provides an opportunity to increase the compatibility of the army in Central Europe.
Leopard 2 users are also members of the informal association LeoBen. The LeoBen association allows users of Leopard 2 tanks to exchange experiences with each other using these tanks. No less an advantage in this membership is the ability to communicate not only with other users of the Leopard 2 tank, but also with the solution itself, in order to use the experience of using Leopard 2 tanks in improving this type of tanks. As Leopard 2 tanks are the only tanks in Europe, spare parts are also available in sufficient quantities, which are also purchased jointly and economically by users in the LeoBen association.
The advantage of Leopard 2 tanks is also that thanks to the modernization of older versions to the latest standard 2A7, these tanks will remain at least 15-20 years of tanks suitable for a modern battlefield. At the same time, there is still interest in these tanks in various parts of the world. For example, Tunisia, the latest version of the 2A7 current competition for success in Norway, which currently has Leopard tanks in version 2A4, has shown interest in Leopard 2 tanks.
Tank Leopard 2 is a logical replacement for ongoing T-72 tanks for Slovakia. Leopard 2 tanks have a large number of users in the world and, most importantly for Slovakia, they offer development potential for the next 20 years and are able to withstand modern battlefields. In connection with the ongoing project to purchase new infantry tracked combat vehicles, Slovakia would have a heavy mechanized brigade of the 21st century.