There are many ways to measure the effectiveness of a tank. There’s its top speed, its armor, the range and power of its main gun. And then there’s how well a tank can balance a glass of beer.
Naturally the German military tested the last one.
In 1986 Germany unveiled the Leopard 2 tank, a new model that became popular with NATO nations for its firepower, speed and accuracy. The German Bundeswehr released a video showing off the tank’s capabilities, including firing its main 120mm gun while on the go. But the standout moment comes roughly a minute and a 40 seconds into the video, where a soldier fills a stein with beer and balances it on the end of the gun.
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It was more than just a celebration of German brewing. As the video shows, the glass does not wobble, fall off or spill, in part because of the tank’s advanced stabilization, allowing it to accurately aim while traveling at speed. At the time, that was a major point of interest, when Western nations in the Cold War figured the Soviet Union had a much larger arsenal of tanks.
More than 30 years later and the Leopard 2 tank is still a hot topic. Ukraine wants Germany to supply or allow nations that buy the Leopard II from it to send those to Kyiv to bolster Ukraine’s own tank forces. Right now the country has been relying on its own corps of Soviet-model tanks, which were initially outclassed by more modern Russian tanks. However Ukraine has countered Moscow thanks to several Western-supplied anti-tank missiles, which have destroyed or disabled hundreds of Russian tanks. Ukraine has even managed to salvage some of those.
But Zelensky has pushed for Western tanks, specifically Leopard 2 ones. Despite weeks of buildup and talks, German Defense Minister Boris Pastorious said on Friday, Jan. 20 that the German government “cannot say when a decision will be taken, and what the decision will be” regarding the tanks. Pastorious made the statement at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, where officials from several countries were there to announce a new military aid package. Recently the United States announced it was sending Bradley fighting vehicles and Stryker armored personnel carriers to Ukraine. Poland, which uses the Leopard 2, has also discussed giving some to Ukraine, even without Germany approving the transfer.
Although Ukraine has received large supplies of weapons and ammunition, fighting with Russia has ground to a standstill, with neither side quite able to break through enemy lines. Russia has been pushing around both the city of Bakhmut and the Zaporizhzhia region and Kyiv has warned it expects Russia to launched a renewed offensive in the spring.
As for the Leopard 2’s beer balancing prowess, it’s not entirely alone. The 1986 demonstration was so iconic that when Japan showed off its Type 10 tank in 2015, it began by balancing a pair of filled wine glasses along the main gun’s barrel, to show how its hydro-pneumatic active suspension worked.
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