Germany, Slovakia work to extend repair hub for Ukraine beyond 2024

Germany, Slovakia work to extend repair hub for Ukraine beyond 2024

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Negotiations are underway between the German and Slovak governments to extend the lease of a KNDS repair hub in Slovakia for German- and French-made combat vehicles damaged in Ukraine, according to the manufacturer.

In 2022, the Franco-German joint venture KNDS, formed by defense companies Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and Nexter, established a Slovakia base to perform rapid maintenance on vehicles donated to Ukraine.

While the initial lease was expected to expire at the end of this year, as it was always intended to be a temporary infrastructure, government officials and industry executives are now working to prolong activities at the site.

“The parties involved in this project have all shown a willingness to continue operating this base beyond 2024 and negotiations are ongoing on this matter to see how to go about doing this,” a KNDS executive told Defense News at the IDEB defense fair here.

Since becoming operational in December 2022, the hub has served as a strategic location for patching up Ukraine’s KMW and Nexter-provided vehicles, which make their way to Slovakia by trucks.

These include the self-propelled howitzers PzH 2000, CAESAR wheeled howitzers, Dingo armored transport vehicles and more. According to a company press release, six vehicles can be serviced simultaneously in the 800 square meters area.

The future of the repair base, much as Slovakia’s military support to Ukraine, has been uncertain over the last few months.

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Bratislava has been an important supplier of military equipment to the embattled country, having provided a dozen of MiG-29A fighter jets, air-to-air missiles, ammunition and more.

However, since the election of pro-Russian Prime Minister Robert Fico in October, Slovakia’s stance on arming Ukraine has been somewhat ambiguous, given that the politician had pledged to end military support during his campaign.

“We are not changing that we are prepared to help Ukraine in a humanitarian way… We are prepared to help the reconstruction of the state, but you know our opinion on arming Ukraine,” he told reporters after his election victory.

Since then, the leader has tempered his initial anti-Ukraine rhetoric and has allowed defense industry cooperation between Slovak and Ukrainian companies to continue.

A vehicle-maintenance facility also exists in Lithuania, where damaged Leopard 2 A6 and A5 tanks used in Ukraine are repaired by Lithuania Defense Services, a joint venture set up two years ago between Rheinmetall and KMW.

Under the current contract, the maintenance operations there are expected to continue until the end of this year.

Elisabeth Gosselin-Malo is a Europe correspondent for Defense News. She covers a wide range of topics related to military procurement and international security, and specializes in reporting on the aviation sector. She is based in Milan, Italy.

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