In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Italy is preparing to purchase Leopard 2 combat tanks from Germany, a defense undersecretary informed parliament on Thursday.
The purchase of the tanks, according to Isabella Rauti of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party, was made as part of an effort to dramatically improve the nation’s army, she told the lower house defense committee.
The move marks the first formal Italian initiative to add to its armoury since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine.
The administration aims to include the programme in the multi-year defence budget for 2023-2025, setting aside initial funds worth 4 billion euros ($4.5 billion) from 2024 to purchase the new tanks and upgrade other military hardware, Rauti said.
A defence source, who asked not to be named, told Reuters the state was planning to buy 125 Leopard 2 tanks, adding that the 4 billion euro investment would carry through to 2037.
Rauti said no specific procurement process for the tanks had been triggered and the government would seek parliamentary approval before implementing the plan.
The Leopard is jointly manufactured by German companies Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and Rheinmetall (RHMG.DE).
The Italian army at present relies on some 200 Ariete tanks, of which only around 50 are fully operational, the defence source said.
Along with buying the new Leopards, the government is planning to modernise the Ariete fleet to improve their efficiency and safety, Rauti said.
“Buying the Leopards and modernising the Ariete will ensure a number of units sufficient to meet NATO requirements,” she said, adding that the 4 billion euro budget would include updating the existing tanks.