Makers of Leopard 2 tank embroiled in legal battle over rights

Two of Germany’s biggest defence contractors are embroiled in a legal battle over rights to the Leopard 2 — the battle tank that Berlin has approved to send to Ukraine after months of international pressure.

Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, a Munich-based company that first developed the Leopard 2 in the 1970s and builds its chassis, has filed an injunction against Rheinmetall, which produces the tank’s cannon, over claims made by its chief executive.

Armin Papperger, who has headed Düsseldorf-based Rheinmetall for a decade, last month told Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung that the company controlled rights to some of the older Leopard 2 models and had roughly 1,000 such vehicles in stock.

According to a statement by a district court in Munich, KMW has disputed this as “untrue, misleading and infringing on their rights”, and asked the court to restrain Rheinmetall from making such claims in the future.

Rheinmetall and KMW both declined to comment. A hearing will take place on May 2.

The Leopard 2 is not the only infantry-fighting vehicle that relies on collaboration between the two companies. Rheinmetall said last week that a joint venture with KMW had been tasked by the German military with retrofitting 143 Puma tanks at a cost of €770mn.

The two companies have benefited from booming demand for arms resulting from the war in Ukraine, which prompted German chancellor Olaf Scholz to reverse decades of pacifist policy and promise to ramp up the military of Europe’s largest economy.

Rheinmetall’s share price is up nearly 40 per cent since the start of the year and the company last month entered Germany’s Dax index, which tracks the country’s 40 largest companies.

Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Papperger has appeared frequently in the press, where he has become a strong advocate for the European defence industry. Some of his statements, such as a call to build a tank factory in Ukraine, have been privately questioned by others in the industry.

Privately owned KMW has taken a much quieter approach, staying in the shadows of its rival when it comes to discussions of German defence capabilities.

Additional reporting by Alexander Vladkov

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