Inside the Canadian crash course training Ukrainians on Leopard tanks

Leopard tanks rumble by way of the open terrain of Swietoszow day and night time, their turrets swiveling quickly to interact shifting targets kilometres away.

Inside their hardened shells are battle-hardened Ukrainian troopers, pulled from the frontlines for a 30-day crash course taught by Canadian troops at this Polish army base close to the German border. 

Most are already skilled on the Soviet-era tanks utilized by Ukraine’s military. However the Leopards donated by Western nations are quicker, higher protected, and provide larger manoeuvrability and focusing on capabilities.

“The Ukrainians have been since day one simply unbelievable college students,” mentioned Capt. Brittany Shki-Giziis of Canada’s Lord Strathcona’s Horse Regiment. “The stakes are very excessive for them so they’re extremely decided.”


Canadian and Ukrainian troops carry shells to a ready tank, a part of a compressed training program to familiarize the Ukrainians frontline groups with refined German-build armoured automobiles, which might strike targets greater than 5 kilometres away — whereas shifting. (David Widespread/CBC)

Canada has despatched eight Leopard 2 tanks from its personal army stock, a part of a multi-nation effort to supply dozens of the German-built tracked automobiles to Ukraine, together with British Challenger and American Abrams tanks.

These tanks will quickly be on the frontlines – and the top quality of Ukrainian tank crews to make use of them is already keen to place them to work.

“The objective is destroy the enemy,” a Ukrainian main chuckles as three Leopard tanks pound targets on the Polish vary. CBC shouldn’t be naming him for safety causes, however he tells a visiting information crew that he’d lengthy since left the army and begun his retirement when Russia invaded a yr in the past.

The Russian incursion modified every part.

The most important says Ukrainian tenacity has shocked the Russians and the donated tanks “are inflicting panic.” 

“We’d like extra ammunition,” he shortly added.

A Canadian soldier crouches on a Leopard tank in PolandCapt. Brittany Shki-Gizzis of the Canadian Armed Forces friends into the hatch of a Leopard tank that has each Ukrainian and Canadian troopers inside. (Ousama Farag/CBC)

Certainly, Ukraine’s large weapons on artillery and tanks eat 1000’s of rounds of ammunition every day in the gruelling battle of attrition.

Canada has despatched greater than 100,000 tank rounds for Ukrainian use in training and the battlefield, together with bullets for the machine weapons mounted to Leopard tanks.

Canadians deployed quickly to fulfill Ukraine’s want

The Canadian Armed Forces have skilled greater than 35,000 Ukrainian troopers since 2015, after Russia started a extra restricted invasion of Ukrainian territory.

Canada’s mission — dubbed Operation Unifier — continues to at the present time, nevertheless it has moved into neighbouring nations. 


When Western nations abruptly introduced the switch of Leopard tanks to Ukraine’s Armed Forces, it created an pressing want for instructors. Canada hurriedly deployed troopers from its principal tank regiment in Edmonton to the base in Poland. They will stay there for at the least six months, training new rounds of Ukrainian troopers on the Leopards.

The donated tanks themselves will quickly be utilized in the battle as quickly as crews are skilled.

The present activity power commander of Operation Unifier, Lt.-Col. Chris Boileau, says what these crews face can be instantly included into the Canadian curriculum.

“We’ve a fully ruthless effectivity in relation to our after motion reporting each serial of training … classes being tailored from the battlefield,” he mentioned.

Canadian soldiers stand in a line in PolandCanadian troopers from the Edmonton-based Lord Strathcona’s Horse, who routinely function in Leopard tanks, got little warning of their deployment to Poland. The necessity to prepare the Ukrainians got here up abruptly, and the Canadians had been despatched as instructors. (David Widespread/CBC)

And there’s a direct profit for Canadian studying, says Shki-Giziis, who instructions the Leopard training. 

“The Canadians have been studying a lot from the Ukrainians who got here from the frontline,” she says. “We’re studying simply as a lot as we’re educating.”

Switching from Soviet-era tanks

Ukraine’s President Volodomyr Zelenskyy had lengthy urged the west to supply trendy battle tanks, partially for the superiority, and partially to exchange losses of Ukraine’s personal inventory of Soviet-era tanks.

The Leopards are crewed by 4 troopers and have multi-layer composite armour, extensively acknowledged to be higher defended in opposition to assault.

They’ll journey at 110 km/h and are heralded for his or her velocity and accuracy, able to putting targets 5 kilometres away whereas on the transfer.

A soldier crouches on a Leopard tank in PolandA lone Ukrainian soldier inspects the barrel of a Leopard tank, in preparation for a typical 12-hour day of goal observe in day and night time situations. The crash course compresses three months of studying into lower than a month. (Ousama Farag/CBC)

“They actually admire this tank,” mentioned Capt. Konrad Stefanowicz of Poland Armed Forces, which itself switched from Soviet tanks to Leopards upon becoming a member of NATO in 1999.

“They are surely trying ahead to utilizing them in the future on the battlefield.”

Stefanowicz acknowledges a few of the troopers skilled on Leopards can be killed, and a few of the tanks could also be destroyed. However every, he factors out, has a lot better survivability than the state of affairs on the floor now.

Leopard’s sophistication not with out price

However the Leopard’s sophistication comes with added challenges.

“They’re mechanically much more advanced which implies much more upkeep, much more work is required to maintain them working,” mentioned Shki-Giziis. “Nonetheless, the benefits outweigh the challenges.”

WATCH | Ukrainian troopers get crash course on operation of tanks: ST COMMON TANKS IN ACTION MPX.png?crop=1

Watch Ukrainian troopers study to make use of Leopard 2 tanks

Canadian troopers are in Poland to coach Ukrainians on find out how to use the Leopard 2 tanks, donated by Western nations. CBC’s David Widespread was on the firing vary to see training and study the distinction they’ll make on the battlefield.

Nonetheless, along with the Canadians educating the Ukrainians a brand new system for loading rounds, driving and focusing on, the Ukrainians should construct out a provide chain of spare elements and ammunition which might be utterly totally different from what’s on hand.

As a result of the Leopard is certainly one of the world’s most-produced tanks, elements can be found extra simply, and the Ukrainians have demonstrated appreciable talent at sustaining and defending advanced provide traces, important to any battle effort.

Canadians is probably not pulling the triggers in Ukraine, however they’re now deeply concerned in training those that do. 

Whereas different nations have donated extra army gear to the battle effort, few are as concerned as Canada in such all kinds of training efforts — the newest, on tanks final in fight by Canada a decade in the past in Afghanistan.

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