gepard air defense

The US Army has awarded a Florida-based company a contract worth just over $118 million to supply more German-made Gepard 35mm self-propelled anti-aircraft guns to the Ukrainian military. The Gepard in question appears to be old Dutch variants that were sold to Jordan about a decade ago.

In its daily hiring announcement, the Pentagon announced the Army’s $118,375,740 agreement with Global Military Products, Inc. of Tampa, Fla. Germany has already supplied dozens of these vehicles to the Ukrainian military, which has been using them to good effect, especially against Russian cruise missiles and drones.

The new US purchase of the Gepards is being financed through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI), created before Russia’s full invasion of Ukraine. This security assistance mechanism is specifically intended to assist in the acquisition of weapons and other equipment, along with training and other support services, on behalf of Ukraine. Also, unlike so-called “withdrawals” of materiel directly from US military reserves for transfer to the Ukrainian military, USAI can be used to purchase items not already in US inventory, such as the Gepard.

It is not clear how many Gepards are being purchased for Ukraine through the US military contract or when they might arrive in that country. The contract announcement does not explicitly say where the vehicles are coming from, but it does say that the “work will be carried out in Amman, Jordan, with an estimated completion date of May 30, 2024,” This also implies that the vehicles require some degree of reconditioning or other care before they can be delivered.

Jordan certainly has Gepards that could be acquired for transfer to Ukraine. In 2013, the government of the Netherlands reached an agreement to sell 60 retired Gepards to the Jordanian Army. That sale also included 350,000 rounds of 35mm ammunition and spare parts, among other items. The Dutch armed forces acquired 95 Gepards starting in the 1970s and stored the remaining examples in 2006.

Information about other military aid that Jordan has provided to Ukraine since Russia launched its all-out invasion in February 2022 is limited. Jordanian-made variants of Russian RPG-32 shoulder-fired anti-armor weapons and missiles for Soviet-designed 9K33 Osa short-range air defense systems, apparently from Jordan, have already turned up in Ukrainian hands.

Dutch Gepards differ from the variants that were made during the Cold War for what was then the West German Army in their radar fit. The Dutch version has an X-band search radar and a tracking radar that can operate in the X and Ka bands. The German variant has an S-band search radar and a Ku-band tracking radar. The different radars make the two types visually distinct.

Germany has also retired the Gepard, but there are still examples of the German version in service in Brazil and Romania.

All Gepard variants carry a pair of 35mm autocannons mounted in a single turret along with search and tracking radars. The vehicles use a hull and chassis based on the Leopard 1 main battle tank design, of which the Ukrainian army is also to receive examples.

The Gepard is designed to be used for point defense against aircraft, helicopters and other aerial threats. The Gepard’s 35mm cannons can also be used to devastating effect against ground targets.

The German variants that Ukraine has already received have proven extremely effective, especially against subsonic cruise missiles and drones. These two categories of weapons currently represent Russia’s primary means of carrying out long-range attacks, making the Gepard an especially valuable addition to the Ukrainian military’s air defense arsenal.

Ukraine has already received at least 34 Gepards from Germany and is about to receive 18 more from that country. More examples will only provide more critical short-range air defense capability, especially to protect key target areas. As tracked vehicles, Gepards also have good off-road mobility, giving them additional flexibility if they need to redeploy elsewhere or keep up with moving troops. This could prove critical in the long-awaited offensive ahead.

Joseph Trevithick