Italy plans to buy German-made Leopard 2 main battle tanks to bolster its ground forces following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, an undersecretary for defense told parliament on Thursday.

Isabella Rauti, a member of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party, told the Lower House Defense committee that Rome needed a “significant upgrade” of its ground forces and that the purchase of the Leopard 2 tanks was part of the strategy to improve the country’s army significantly.

This is the first formal initiative by Italy to modernize its arsenal since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine.

The administration intends to include the program in the multi-year defense budget for 2023-2025, setting aside initial funds worth 4 billion euros in 2024 out of an estimated total spending of 8 billion euros, Rauti said.

A defense source, who asked not to be named, told Reuters the state planned to buy 125 Leopard 2 tanks, adding that the 4 billion euro investment would run until 2037.

However, he specified that no specific process for the acquisition of the battle tanks had been launched and that the Government would request parliamentary approval before applying the plan.

The Leopard is manufactured jointly by the German companies Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and Rheinmetall.

Currently, the Italian army has about 200 Ariete tanks, of which only about 50 are fully operational, a Defense source told Reuters.

Along with the purchase of the new Leopards, the government plans to modernize the Ariete fleet to improve its efficiency and safety, Rauti said.

“The purchase of the Leopards and the modernization of the Ariete will ensure a sufficient number of units to meet NATO requirements,” he declared.