Eighty-two years after Operation Barbarossa German panzers are returning to Ukraine. This time they’re being crewed by Ukrainians, or are they? Modern combat systems are so complicated that it’s difficult to rush them into service. Driving their new Leopard 2s may not be so very different from driving the old Soviet types Ukrainian tank crews are used to. Aiming and firing the complex Rheinmetall Rh-120 L55 gun is a different matter altogether.
Aside from the difficulty of integrating a completely new combat system into the Ukrainian army the strategic and political ramifications from the deployment of German panzers against Russia in the Ukraine are huge. Some Russian commentators have even gone so far as to suggest that Russia should launch air strikes against Hunland.
I very much doubt that we shall be seeing Russian bombers over Berlin again, nice thought though it might be. However there is no doubt that sending Leopard 2s to Ukraine has ramped up Russo-German tensions, even without German panzer crews. If the Russians capture a few Jerries then all bets are off.
Of course a Russian attack on Germany whilst she is still in NATO might well start World War III, as it would bring in us and you guys, on the wrong side, unless it were to trigger a complete NATO collapse. The risks of a world war can best be reduced by breaking up NATO now, starting with UK withdrawal.
However that would require a sensible new government in the UK, to replace the bunch of idiots we’ve got at the moment, no offense intended. The current government’s priorities are dictated to them by the Kabinettratsführer, Simon ‘von’ Case, who wants to keep the UK close to the EU with a view to eventually re-joining. He’s also an anti-Russian fanatic.
The sacking earlier today of former Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi over his failure to pay income tax, unreasonable though it is to expect Chancellors of the Exchequer to understand that income in the UK is taxed, may have hastened the end. If that nice man Nigel Farage were to return to lead the Reform Party and the pro-British European Reform Group of Tory MPs were to defect then the government’s majority would disappear.
Moreover there would then be a credible right wing alternative to the wishy-washy centrist Tories, who are only interested in managing Britain’s decline and paving the way for a pro-EU Labour government led by Sir Keir ‘von’ Starmer. They aren’t pursuing a single policy of interest to conservatives. (They’re talking about some interesting policy initiatives but it’s only talk – they’re unable to impose their will on the pro-EU, and hence pro-Labour, Civil Service.)
The Leopard 2
Jerry has always done a pretty decent panzer, although the tank was a British, not German invention. (It was betrayed to our community partner the Hun in World War I by the notorious German spy Maurice Hankey, the first Cabinet Secretary.) The first German effort, the A7V Sturmpanzerwagen, was ugly, not terribly good off-road and rather under-gunned.
Their World War II tanks were rather better, including the famous Tiger tank, which had the excellent 88mm gun, although it was out-gunned by the diesel powered Russian JS-1, which had a 122 mil gun, which entered service in 1944.
The Tiger was not in fact the best German tank of World War II. That honor goes to the improved King Tiger, also armed with the 88mm gun. Heavily armored, it was produced in too few numbers to make a difference.
The gestation of the Leopard 2 goes way back to the mid-60s – it’s been around a long time. It’s been improved of course, with both the fire control system and armor being upgraded. It’s not as good as the British Challenger 2 or the American Abrams, but it’s not a bad little panzer.
The Leopard 2 however has had limited combat experience, although Jerry deployed a few to Kosovo and a number of European NATO countries sent some out to Afghanistan. In particular it’s never been up against the outstanding new Russian T-14.
In the hands of trained crews I would expect a Leopard 2 to perform reasonably well against a T-90, but up against a T-14 it would be outclassed, rather like the Tiger tanks were against the JS-1 in 1945.
More importantly the Ukrainians aren’t getting them in the numbers they need to make a difference. There will inevitably be a time lag before they are introduced into service, and spare parts and maintenance will be an issue. Nobody listened when I concluded in November 2020 that a Russo-Ukrainian war was likely. The upshot was that tank production lines in the West weren’t reopened and main battle tank stocks are low. The UK for example probably hasn’t got more than 80 combat-ready Challenger 2s in service.
Russia is recovering from the initial mistake of not treating the war as a war. I sense that Russian defense production is ramping up. It needs to. This is now a full-scale war.
Sylvia Syms OBE
The great British actress Sylvia Syms sadly passed on Friday. She had been unwell for some months and was living at Denville Hall, the retirement home for actors and actresses. She had a wide-ranging career in both movies and television.
However her greatest role, achieving movie immortality, was as Sister Diana Murdoch, one of the two nurses in Ice Cold in Alex (1958), playing alongside Sir John Mills, Anthony Quayle and Harry Andrews. Ice Cold in Alex, released in shortened form in the States as Desert Attack, is one of the greatest war movies ever made. In fact it’s one of the greatest movies ever made.
The heroes and heroines (the other nurse, sadly, is wounded and dies) leave Tobruk in an Austin K2/Y ambulance, the standard field ambulance of the British Army in World War II. (The most famous driver of a K2/Y was Her Royal Highness Princess Elizabeth, as she then was.) The CO, Captain Anson, played superbly by Sir John Mills in arguably his finest role, is an alcoholic, suffering from chronic battle fatigue.
The brave little ambulance, named Katy, encounters a ‘South African’ officer, Captain van der Poel, who in reality is Hauptmann Otto Lutz, an engineering officer with the 21st Panzer Division. (These days he would be serving in a Leopard 2 in Ukraine.)
Captain Anson’s suspicions are aroused when ‘van der Poel’ doesn’t know how to brew a cup of tea. This is a dead giveaway – all British Commonwealth armies in World War II knew how to brew tea! Suspicions are further aroused by his use of a radio set to contact the enemy.
However van der Poel, an immensely strong man, helps them when they are stuck in the Qattara Depression, the vast, almost impassable area to the south of the desert war zone. Over 400 feet deep in places, the Depression consists largely of salt marshes and lakes. The SAS got across, but not many others.
Unable to climb out of the depression going forward, in one of the most famous scenes in cinema they take the spark plugs out and reverse dear old Katy out of the Depression, using the starting handle. (For younger readers this is what we used to start cars with when the battery was flat – the trick is get your arm out of the way once the engine kicks over, otherwise you might break it.)
In a heart-breaking moment Sister Diana lets the starting handle slip when they are taking a break and Katy drops several hundred feet. Being British (apart from Hauptmann Lutz of course, who’s a Jerry) they don’t despair (this is why we’re never going to re-join the EU) and start back up again.
Eventually they reach that bar in Cairo and enjoy a well-deserved glass of ice-cold lager each. Having been tipped off by Captain Anson that they have captured a German POW, Hauptmann Lutz is arrested by the Military Police. In a great scene however the mustard keen MP subaltern is told to wait whilst they finish their drinks.
Hauptmann Lutz helped save their lives and is now their friend. They save him from a firing squad by pretending that he had given them his parole. His South African dog tags are ripped from his neck by Captain Anson just before he’s led away to a POW camp.
The movies teaches two great life lessons – how to get a stranded ambulance with a starting handle out of the Qattara Depression and how to treat a valiant enemy in wartime, that is to say with decency and humanity.
Sylvia Syms did many fine things in her long and eventful life but none better than her portrayal of Sister Diana Murdoch. Ice Cold in Alex will be repeated for centuries to come. Because of it Sylvia Syms will never be forgotten.
If the European Commission were to watch Ice Cold in Alex they would stop trying to recapture us now. They don’t stand a chance! God Bless you Sylvia, and may you Rest in Peace.
Michael Shrimpton was a barrister from his call to the Bar in London in 1983 until being disbarred in 2019 over a fraudulently obtained conviction. He is a specialist in National Security and Constitutional Law, Strategic Intelligence and Counter-terrorism. He is a former Adjunct Professor of Intelligence Studies at the American Military University.
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Good comments! Totally agree with Scaliger re the fire control system – it’s aiming the gun, not the actual firing of it, which is the tricky part.
I didn’t cover the DU shell aspect but it’s a good point and is causing political problems with the Greens. I suspect that Scaliger is right re DU shells being needed to defeat the strong frontal armor of the T-90.
I haven’t mentioned it but I am sadly aware that one of my most loyal readers has suffered the loss of someone very dear to them, who had also been a friend to me, my deepest condolences as they are likely to see this.
1. The complexity is in the digital-map (C4ISR) based fire-control system of the Leopard,
and feeding from it to the fire-control system (FCS), rather not in its mechanical gun.
2. The real problem is the possible use of Depleted-Uranium (DU) shells also in German Tanks i.e. Leopard 2 upto and including A6 version, for not having a strong enough gun to defeat the T90 from its frontal sector otherwise. Similarly 20mm autocannon DU rounds of the German Marder IFV borrowed from those of the US M2/M3 Bradley IFV.
3. A7V Sturmpanzerwagen designed for muddy-environments seems the outline-father of the AAVP-7 of the USMC designed for beach-landings.
Good point about the Tories: “They aren’t pursuing a single policy of interest to conservatives. (They’re talking about some interesting policy initiatives but it’s only talk – they’re unable to impose their will on the pro-EU, and hence pro-Labour, Civil Service.)”… Yes, the Civil Service is almost impossible to fire. And you have the Cabinet Office too – rule by unelected bureaucrats.
B shure 2 giv US’ the London BookMaker odds – when the lepards w ‘Clap start getting invisible’ Penicillin…
@ 10M Rubles per unit trashed – should B sort of fast work.. russian actor today has placed a bounty – per unit and not the first; but all of em…