(Bloomberg) -- Norway selected the Leopard 2A7 main battle tank to replace its aging fleet of an earlier version of the German-built vehicle, ensuring it will operate the same machines as its Nordic neighbors.

The country will buy 54 of a Norwegian version of the Leopard 2A7 and has set aside NOK19.7 billion for the purchase, the government said on Friday. The first of the tanks will be delivered in 2026 and will be phased in by 2031. The deal includes an option to acquire 18 more tanks.

“In today’s security situation, close defense cooperation in Europe is becoming increasingly important,” Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store said in the statement. “By purchasing German tanks, we ensure that Norway has the same type of tanks as our Nordic neighbors and close allies.”

The purchase comes after a debate triggered by Norway’s defense force chief about whether the NATO member bordering on Russia needs to buy new tanks right now, given the impact of technological developments, such as drones, on the battlefield in Ukraine. Norway was weighing up whether to go with the Leopard 2 or the South Korean K2 Black Panther.

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