Leopard 2 Main Battle Tank (Germany)The origins of the Leopard 2 begin with the joint West German-US programme to develop an advanced main battle tank (MBT) known as the MBT-70 / Kampfpanzer-70. It involved General Motors on the US side and the Deutsche Entwicklungs-Gesellschaft mbH (DEG) consortium on the German side (which was made up of companies such as MaK, Rheinstahl-Henschel, Lutherwerke and Krauss-Maffei). The MBT-70 was intended to replace the M48A2G in German service and was designed to be around 50 tonnes, have hydro-pneumatic suspension, an advanced fire control system that had a laser rangefinder and infrared sighting system and an automatic loader for the 152mm XM150E5 main gun, which could fire the Shillelagh missile as well as conventional ammunition. Both test chassis were completed in mid-to-late 1966 and the first tests showed the superiority of the German suspension. In early 1967 both engine prototypes had been built, the German liquid-cooled MTU MB 873 Ka 500 (1,500hp) and the American air-cooled Teledyne-Continental (1,475hp). By mid-1967, construction drawings had been exchanged but after the component trial vehicles had been built, it was found the tank had become too heavy and so the next stage of the programme would have been to reduce the weight. But the two countries could come to an agreement on how to proceed and the cost of the programme had started to escalate rapidly.
The MBT-70 programme was finally halted in January 1970 and the two countries went onto develop their own national main battle tank programmes. The US continued with a cheaper version of the MBT-70 (the XM803) and eventually produced the M1 Abrams. The Federal Republic developed a tank using many of the components of the MBT-70 (the experimental tank being called 'Eber' (Boar)), as the German Office for Defence Technology and Procurement (BWB) had instructed Porsche to develop improvements to the Leopard 1that would bring it up to the standard of the MBT-70. The programme became known initially as the 'Vergoldeter Leopard' (Gilded Leopard) and then continued under Krauss-Maffei as 'Keiler' (Wild Boar). A decision was taken to continue with the programme and Krauss-Maffei were chosen as main contractor to build seventeen prototypes that had the MTU engine developed for the MBT-70. Sixteen hulls and seventeen turrets were eventually built, the prototypes looking like the Leopard 1 A4, and had quite a mixture of components including 105mm and 120mm guns. Further development continued with tests being conducted at proving grounds such as Meppen and Münster, troop trials and extreme weather testing in Shilo, Canada and Arizona, USA. The Leopard 2 was designed to fall into Military Loading Class (MLC) 50 but initially was found to be too heavy so Wegmann designed a new, lighter turret. The lessons of the 1973 Yom Kippur War were starting to be digested at this point though, and it pointed to superior armour protection as being vital in the future. MLC 60 was accepted for the Leopard 2 as was an increase in, and the use of, multi-layered armour.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the USA and West Germany to try and standardise the components of their respective tank programmes in December 1974 with an amendment in July 1976. part of the MoU was the comparative testing of the XM1 prototypes from Chrysler and General Motors with the Leopard 2 from Germany. The design had to be modified somewhat to meet the performance and cost criteria from the USA and so the Leopard 2 AV (austere version) was built. The modifications and building of the prototypes took longer than expected and the US Army proceeded with an evaluation of the XM1 prototypes, however, a prototype was flown over to the USA for comparative testing at the Aberdeen Proving Ground. The US Army reported that the XM1 and Leopard 2 AV were similar in terms of firepower and mobility but the XM1 had better protection. The XM1 was selected. The German companies responsible for Leopard 2 development went away with some bitterness and the feeling that their prototype had been used as a source of technology for the XM1.After extensive testing it was decided to adopt the 120mm Rhinemetall smoothbore gun and to go ahead with the initial series production of 1,800 Leopard 2s. Krauss-Maffei was chosen as the prime contractor and systems manager, MaK as sub-contractor (who would produce 45 percent of the tanks) with Wegmann as turret integrator. The first three pre-series vehicles were used in the final testing at the German Armour School (Kampftruppenschule 2) in Münster. The fourth tank was handed over to the German Armour School on 25 October 1979, the first Leopard 2 in service. The initial Leopard 2 order was built in five batches. The first batch consisted of 380 tanks, 209 by Krauss-Maffei (Fahrgestell Nr. 10001 to 10210) and 171 by MaK (20001 to 20172), delivered between 1980 and 1982, which started to replace the Leopard 1s of 1 and 3 Panzer Divisions (1 German Corps) that in turn replaced the M48A2G tanks in the Panzer Grenadier divisions. The second batch was built between 1982 and 1983 and consisted of 450 vehicles, 248 from Krauss-Maffei (10211to10458) and 202 by MaK (20173 to 20347). Minor changes were made to the vehicle including the deletion of the cross-wind velocity sensor, repositioning of the fuel filters, an external head-set connection was added to the left-side of the turret, foot boards were added to the powerpack to avoid damage during maintenance and the tow table clamps on the rear deck were repositioned. This version was designated Leopard 2 A1. The third batch consisted of 300 vehicles built between November 1983 and November 1984, with 165 from Krauss-Maffei (10459 to 10623) and 135 from MaK (20375 to 20509). Only a few modifications were carried out including the movement of the commander's panoramic PERI-R17 sight and the fitting of a larger cover plate to the top of the NBC system. These were also carried out to the second-batch vehicles and so the third batch vehicles were also designated as Leopard 2 A1. The first batch of vehicles were modernised between 1984 and 1987 and received the EMES-15 fire control system (with the PZB 200 going to the Leopard 1s) along with the other small modifications to the second and third batches. These were designated Leopard 2 A2.The fourth batch consisted of 300 vehicles and was delivered between the end of 1984 and the end of 1985, with 165 vehicles being built by Krauss-Maffei (10624 to 10788) and 135 vehicles by MaK (20510 to 20644). There were some modifications to these vehicles including the new digital SEM 80 / 90 VHF radios, revised exhaust grilles, an adjustable chest support for the gunner, a new camouflage system and the welding shut of the ammunition resupply hatches (due to concerns over the loss of overpressure in the NBC system after being hit). These vehicles were designated Leopard 2 A3. Between December 1985 and March 1987, 370 vehicles were built constituting the fifth batch. Krauss-Maffei built 190 (10789 to 10979) and MaK built 180 (20645 to 20825). The modifications made to this batch included a new digital core for the fire control system to handle new ammunition, a new fire and explosion suppression system and the second and third return rollers were repositioned. The final MaK vehicle served as a 'Komponentenversuchsträger' (component trial vehicle) for the Leopard 2 improvement programme. Although only five batches were originallt intended to be built, three more batches were subsequently ordered. The sixth batch of 150 vehicles was built between January 1988 and May 1989 with Krauss-Maffei building 83 (10980 to 11062) and MaK building 67 (20826 to 20892). Modifications included new maintenance free batteries, new tracks, zinc-chromate free paint, the movement of the central warning light to a new position. New forward sections of the side skirts and the deletion of the left-hand ammunition resupply hatch. These vehicles were designated the Leopard 2 A4. The seventh batch consisted of 100 vehicles built between May 1989 and April 1990 with fifty-five being built by Krauss-Maffei (11063to 11117) and 45 by MaK (20893 to 20937). No changes occurred on these vehicles, and so these were designated leopard 2 A4 as well. The eighth and final batch of seventy-five Leopard 2s were built between January 1991 and March 1992 with Krauss-Maffei building 41 (11118 to 11158) and MaK building 34 (20938 to 20971). There were a few minor modifications to the vehicles including modifications to the base of the smoke mortars, the rear sections of the side skirts were redesigned and the collimator for the muzzle reference system was changed to the right side of the main gun (something that was done to all vehicles). The final Leopard 2 was handed over to Gebirgs-Panzerbatallion 8 (Mountian Tank Battalion) on 19 March 1992. Many of the gradual improvements were retrofitted to the first to fourth batches and so all vehicles now had the designation Leopard 2 A4 despite there being a number of minor differences between the various batches, for example, the fifth to eighth batch had a fire suppression system while those of the first four batches only had a fire extinguishing system.
The hull of the Leopard 2 incorporates a multilayered armour and is divided into three areas, the driver at the front, fighting in the centre and engine at the rear. The driver is seated on the front right side and has a single-piece hatch with three periscopes. The centre one can be replaced by a passive night periscope. The commander and gunner are on the right of the turret and the loader on the left. The commander has periscopes for all-round observation and a PERI-R17 primary stabilised panoramic periscope that can be traversed 360 degrees. The gunner has a dual magnification, stabilised EMES-15 sight with integrated laser rangefinder, thermal image unit and fire control computer.. There is also an auxiliary FERO-Z18 sighting telescope with magnification of x 8. The gunner's picture is also transmitted to the commander's PERI-R17 who can control all the functions of the fire control system. The gunner also has a roof-mounted observation periscope, as does the loader. The engine is at the rear of the hull and is a MTU MB 873 Ka-501 liquid-cooled, turbocharged diesel engine (1,500hp) coupled to a Renk HSWL 354 hydrokinetic transmission that has planetary gear shift with integral service brake. The suspension is of the torsion bar type and has seven dual rubber-coated road wheels on each side along with an idler at the front, drive sprocket at the rear and four track return rollers. The Leopard 2 includes an NBC system, engine preheating, crew compartment heater, fire extinguishing (later suppression) system and electric bilge pumps. The main armament is the Rheinmetall L/44 120mm smoothbore gun which can fire APFSDS-T (Armour Piercing, Fin Stabilised, Discarding Sabot) and HEAT (High Explosive Anti-Tank). The tank holds 42 rounds of ammunition for the mian gun, with 27 in the hull to the left of the driver and 15 in the turret. A 7.62mm MG3 machine gun is mounted co-axially with the main armament and on the turret roof.
There are two combat improvement programmes planned for the Leopard 2. The first involves conversion of the tank into the latest version of the Leopard 2 - the Leopard 2 A5. The first batch of 225 German Leopard 2s has been converted and Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (the two companies amalgamated in January 1999) is working on a further batch of 125. The vehicles will equip units earmarked for the crisis reaction force. The modifications on the A5 consist of a thermal sight mounted on the roof for the commander; new all-electric gun control equipment; improved armour protection (which is modular) over the frontal arc with the turret having the new distinctive arrowhead shape; the turret interior has been fitted with spall liners; the side skirts incorporate improved composite armour; new driver's hatch; a TV camera at the rear to allow for safer reversing; a hybrid navigation system incorporating GPS technology and a modified laser range data processor. The second combat improvement programme will involve the installation of a new main armament, the 120mm L/55 calibre smoothbore gun, which can fire all existing ammunition as well as the new 120mm kinetic energy ammunition. Those Leopard 2s that have the L/55 gun installed will be designated Leopard 2 A6. The Leopard 2 is currently in service with:
The Bundeswehr (2,125);
Austria (acquired 114 tanks from the Netherlands);
Denmark (purchased 51 tanks from Germany);
Netherlands (formerly bought 445 between 1982 and 1986. Of these, 114 were sold to Austria, 180 are being kept and have been upgraded to A5 standard, the rest are for sale but may be kept and upgraded);
Spain (108 Leopard 2s are currently being leased from Germany - Spain is due to manufacture 219 Leopard 2s under license that will be armed with the L/55 calibre gun);
Sweden (bought 120 from Germany which are being upgraded to A5 standard and has an option on a further 90 and will assemble another 120 Leopard 2 (S) tanks. The Swedish tanks have a number of additional modifications including additional armour protection on the chassis front and turret roof, a modular Tank Command and Control System (TCCS) connected via a databus to the subsystems of the tank and an eye-safe laser. These raise the weight of the tank to 62 tonnes)
Switzerland (380 - 35 bought from Germany, the remainder built under license in Switzerland.
Greece is currently evaluating the results of its competitive tank trials which had the Leopard 2 A5 in pole position with an overall score of 78.65 percent. There are also Armoured Vehicle Launched Bridge, Armoured Recovery Vehicle and driver training vehicle variants.
(Leopard 2 / 2 A5) Hull length: 8.49m. Hull width: 3.7m / 3.74m. Height: 2.79m / 3.00m. Crew: 4. Ground Clearance: 0.54m (front), 0.49 (rear) / 0.50m. Weight: 55,150kg / 59,700 (combat). Ground pressure: 0.83kg/sq.cm / 0.89kg/sq.cm. Max speed: 72km/h. Max range (internal fuel): 550km / 500km (on road). Armament: 120mm L/44 smoothbore gun (L/55 on A6), 1 x 7.62mm MG3 machine gun coaxial, 1 x 7.62mm MG3 machine gun mounted on turret roof.
Foss, Christopher. 'Leopard wins Greek tank shoot-out' in Jane's Defence Weekly, 31 May 2000, p. 3.
Foss, Christopher. 'Spain selects 120mm L/55 gun to arm its MBTs' in Jane's Defence Weekly, 1 December 1999, p. 12.
How the Syrian Civil War Smashed Germany's Famed Leopard 2 Tank
Ankara had offered to release a German political prisoner in exchange for Germany upgrading the Turkish Army’s older-model Leopard 2A4 tank, which had proven embarrassingly vulnerable in combat.
Here's What You Need To Remember: This was shockingly illustrated in December 2016 when evidence emerged that numerous Leopard 2s had been destroyed in intense fighting over ISIS-held Al-Bab—a fight that Turkish military leaders described as a “trauma,” according to Der Spiegel. A document published online listed ISIS as apparently having destroyed ten of the supposedly invincible Leopard 2s five reportedly by antitank missiles, two by mines or IEDs, one to rocket or mortar fire, and the others to more ambiguous causes.
Germany’s Leopard 2 main battle tank has a reputation as one of the finest in the world, competing for that distinction with proven designs such as the American M1 Abrams and the British Challenger 2. However, that reputation for nigh-invincibility has faced setbacks on Syrian battlefields, and placed Berlin in a uniquely awkward national-level dispute with Turkey, its fellow NATO member.
Ankara had offered to release a German political prisoner in exchange for Germany upgrading the Turkish Army’s older-model Leopard 2A4 tank, which had proven embarrassingly vulnerable in combat. However, on January 24, public outrage over reports that Turkey was using its Leopard 2s to kill Kurdish fighters in the Syrian enclaves of Afrin and Manbij forced Berlin to freeze the hostage-for-tanks deal.
The Leopard 2 is often compared to its near contemporary, the M1 Abrams: in truth the two designs share broadly similar characteristics, including a scale-tipping weight of well over sixty tons of advanced composite armor, 1,500 horsepower engines allowing speeds over forty miles per hour and, for certain models, the same forty-four-caliber 120-millimeter main gun produced by Rheinmetall.
Both types can easily destroy most Russian-built tanks at medium and long ranges, at which they are unlikely to be penetrated by return fire from standard 125-millimeter guns. Furthermore, they have better sights with superior thermal imagers and magnification, that make them more likely to detect and hit the enemy first—historically, an even greater determinant of the victor in armored warfare than sheer firepower. A Greek trial found that moving Leopard 2s and Abramses hit a 2.3-meter target nineteen and twenty times out of twenty, respectively, while a Soviet T-80 scored only eleven hits.
The modest differences between the two Western tanks reveal different national philosophies. The Abrams has a noisy 1,500-horsepower gas-guzzling turbine, which starts up more rapidly, while the Leopard 2’s diesel motor grants it greater range before refueling. The Abrams has achieved some of its extraordinary offensive and defensive capabilities through use of depleted uranium ammunition and armor packages—technologies politically unacceptable to the Germans. Therefore, later models of the Leopard 2A6 now mount a higher-velocity fifty-five-caliber gun to make up the difference in penetrating power, while the 2A5 Leopard introduced an extra wedge of spaced armor on the turret to better absorb enemy fire.
German scruples also extend to arms exports, with Berlin imposing more extensive restrictions on which countries it is willing to sell weapons to—at least in comparison to France, the United States or Russia. While the Leopard 2 is in service with eighteen countries, including many NATO members, a lucrative Saudi bid for between four hundred and eight hundred Leopard 2s was rejected by Berlin because of the Middle Eastern country’s human-rights records, and its bloody war in Yemen in particular. The Saudis instead ordered additional Abramses to their fleet of around four hundred.
This bring us to Turkey, a NATO country with which Berlin has important historical and economic ties, but which also has had bouts of military government and waged a controversial counterinsurgency campaign against Kurdish separatists for decades. In the early 2000s, under a more favorable political climate, Berlin sold 354 of its retired Leopard 2A4 tanks to Ankara. These represented a major upgrade over the less well protected M60 Patton tanks that make up the bulk of Turkey’s armored forces.
However, the rumor has long persisted that Berlin agreed to the sale under the condition that the German tanks not be used in Turkey’s counterinsurgency operations against the Kurds. Whether such an understanding ever existed is hotly contested, but the fact remains that the Leopard 2 was kept well away from the Kurdish conflict and instead deployed in northern Turkey, opposite Russia.
However, in the fall of 2016, Turkish Leopard 2s of the Second Armored Brigade finally deployed to the Syrian border to support Operation Euphrates Shield, Turkey’s intervention against ISIS. Prior to the Leopard’s arrival, around a dozen Turkish Patton tanks were destroyed by both ISIS and Kurdish missiles. Turkish defense commentators expressed the hope that the tougher Leopard would fare better.
The 2A4 model was the last of the Cold War–era Leopard 2s, which were designed to fight in relatively concentrated units in a fast-paced defensive war against Soviet tank columns, not to survive IEDs and missiles fired by ambushing insurgents in long-term counterinsurgency campaigns where every single loss was a political issue. The 2A4 retains an older boxy turret configurations which affords less protection from modern antitank missiles, especially to the generally more vulnerable rear and side armor, which is a bigger problem in a counterinsurgency environment, where an attack may come from any direction.
This was shockingly illustrated in December 2016 when evidence emerged that numerous Leopard 2s had been destroyed in intense fighting over ISIS-held Al-Bab—a fight that Turkish military leaders described as a “trauma,” according to Der Spiegel. A document published online listed ISIS as apparently having destroyed ten of the supposedly invincible Leopard 2s five reportedly by antitank missiles, two by mines or IEDs, one to rocket or mortar fire, and the others to more ambiguous causes.
These photos confirm the destruction of at least eight. One shows a Leopard 2 apparently knocked out by a suicide VBIED—an armored kamikaze truck packed with explosives. Another had its turret blown clean off. Three Leopard wrecks can be seen around the same hospital near Al-Bab, along with several other Turkish armored vehicles. It appears the vehicles were mostly struck the more lightly protected belly and side armor by IEDs and AT-7 Metis and AT-5 Konkurs antitank missiles.
Undoubtedly, the manner in which the Turkish Army employed the German tanks likely contributed to the losses. Rather than using them in a combined arms force alongside mutually supporting infantry, they were deployed to the rear as long-range fire-support weapons while Turkish-allied Syrian militias stiffened with Turkish special forces led the assaults. Isolated on exposed firing positions without adequate nearby infantry to form a good defensive perimeter, the Turkish Leopards were vulnerable to ambushes. The same poor tactics have led to the loss of numerous Saudi Abrams tanks in Yemen, as you can see in this video.
By contrast, more modern Leopard 2s have seen quite a bit of action in Afghanistan combating Taliban insurgents in the service of the Canadian 2A6Ms (with enhanced protection against mines and even floating “safety seats”) and Danish 2A5s. Though a few were damaged by mines, all were put back into service, though a Danish Leopard 2 crew member was mortally injured by an IED attack in 2008. In return, the tanks were praised by field commanders for their mobility and providing accurate and timely fire support during major combat operations in southern Afghanistan.
In 2017, Germany began rebuilding its tank fleet, building an even beefier Leopard 2A7V model more likely to survive in a counterinsurgency environment. Now Ankara is pressing Berlin to upgrade the defense on its Leopard 2 tanks, especially as the domestically produced Altay tank has been repeatedly delayed.
The Turkish military not only wants additional belly armor to protect against IEDs, but the addition of an Active Protection System (APS) that can detect incoming missiles and their point of origin, and jam or even shoot them down. The U.S. Army recently authorized the installation of Israeli Trophy APS on a brigade of M1 Abrams tanks, a type that has proven effective in combat. Meanwhile, Leopard 2 manufacturer Rheinmetall has unveiled its own ADATS APS, which supposedly poses a lesser risk of harming friendly troops with its defensive countermeasure missiles.
However, German-Turkish relations deteriorated sharply, especially after Erdogan initiated a prolonged crackdown on thousands of supposed conspirators after a failed military coup attempt in August 2016. In February 2017, German-Turkish dual-citizen Deniz Yücel, a correspondent for periodical Die Welt, was arrested by Turkish authorities, ostensibly for being a pro-Kurdish spy. His detention caused outrage in Germany.
Ankara pointedly let it be known that if a Leopard 2 upgrade were allowed to proceed, Yücel would be released back to Germany. Though Berlin publicly insisted it would never agree to such a quid pro quo, Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel quietly began moving towards authorizing the upgrade in a bid to improve relations in the face of what looks suspiciously like tank-based blackmail. Gabriel presented the deal as a measure to protect Turkish soldiers’ lives from ISIS.
However, in mid-January 2018, Turkey launched an offensive against the Kurdish enclaves of Afrin and Manbij in northwestern Syria. The attack was precipitated generally by Turkish fears that effective Kurdish control of the Syrian border would lead to a de facto state that would expand into Turkish territory, and proximately by an announcement by the Pentagon that it was recruiting the Kurds to form a “border security force” to continue the fight against ISIS.
Leopard 2 Main Battle Tank (Germany) - History
Leopard II main battle tank
The Leopard 2 is a main battle tank developed by Krauss-Maffei AG, now Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW), of Munchen, Germany. The Leopard 2 is a successor to the successful Leopard 1.
The Leopard 1 was first produced in 1963 by Krauss-Maffei for the German Ministry of Defense and more than 6000 vehicles have been exported to Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Italy, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, Turkey and Australia. The successor to the Leopard 1, the Leopard 2, was first produced in 1979 and is in service with the armies of Austria, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden and Spain, with over 3000 produced. The Leopard 2 has had technical improvements under Upgrading Level I and Level II programs.
The Leopard 2A6 includes longer L55 gun, an auxiliary engine, improved mine protection and an air-conditioning system. The German Army is upgrading 225 2A5 tanks to 2A6 configuration, the first of which was delivered in March 2001. The Royal Netherlands Army has ordered the upgrade of 180 of its 2A5 tanks to 2A6 configuration. 219 Leopard 2A6 are to be license-built in Spain by Santa Barbara.
Another variant is the Leopard 2(S) which has a new command and control system and new passive armour system. 120 Leopard 2(S) are currently under production for the Swedish Army.
The hull is in three sections: 1) the driving compartment at the front, 2) the fighting section in the center, and 3) the engine at the rear of the vehicle.
The driver's compartment is equipped with three observation periscopes. Space to the left of the driver is provided for ammunition stowage. A camera with a 65 degree horizontal and vertical field of view positioned at the rear of the vehicle and a television monitor provide a reversing aid for the driver.
The turret is located in the center of the vehicle. There is an improvement program which provides third generation composite armour, and the additional reinforcement to the turret frontal and lateral armour with externally mounted add-on armour modules. In the event of weapon penetration through the armour, the spall liner reduces the number of fragments and narrows the fragment cone. The spall liner also provides noise and thermal insulation. The reinforcement provides protection against multiple strike, kinetic energy rounds and shaped charges.
The commander's station has an independent periscope, a PERI-R 17 A2 from STN Atlas Elektronik and Zeiss-Eltro Optronik GmbH. The PERI-R 17 A2 is a stabilised panoramic periscope sight for day/night observation and target identification, and it provides an all round view with a traverse of 360 degrees. The thermal image from the commander's periscope is displayed on a monitor. The PERI-R17 A2 can also be used for weapon firing as it is slaved into the tank's fire control system. The image from the gunner's thermal sight can also be transmitted to the commander's PERI-R17 periscope so the commander can switch the gunner's video image to the commander's monitor. This enables the commander and the gunner to have access to the same field of view of the combat range.
The gunner's station is equipped with an STN Atlas Elektronik EMES 15 dual magnification stabilised primary sight. The primary sight has an integrated laser rangefinder and a Zeiss-Eltro Optronik thermal sight, model WBG-X, which are both linked to the tank's fire control computer. The thermal sight uses standard US Army common modules, with 120 element cadmium mercury telluride, CdHgTe (also known as CMT) infra-red detector array operating in the 8 to 14 micron waveband. The infra-red detector unit is cooled with a Stirling closed-cycle engine.
The sight is fitted with a CE628 laser rangefinder from Zeiss-Eltro Optronik. The laser is a Neodinium Yttrium Aluminium Garnet, (Nd:YAG) solid state laser. The rangefinder can provide up to three range values in four seconds. The range data is transmitted to the fire control computer and is used to calculate the firing algorithms. Also, because the laser rangefinder is integrated into the gunner's primary sight, the gunner can read the digital range measurement directly. The maximum range of the laser rangefinder is less than 10,000 meters with accuracy to within 20 meters.
The command and fire control procedure known as first echo selection is used for laser rangefinding for anti-helicopter operations. The principal weapon uses electronic firing to reduce reaction times.
A new smoothbore gun, the 120 millimeter L55 Gun, has been developed by Rheinmetall GmbH of Ratingen, Germany to replace the shorter 120 millimeter L44 smoothbore tankgun on the Leopard 2. The extension of the barrel length from caliber length 44 to caliber length 55 results in a greater portion of the available energy in the barrel being converted into projectile velocity increasing the range and armour penetration. The L55 smoothbore gun, equipped with a thermal sleeve, a fume extractor and a muzzle reference system, is compatible with current 120mm ammunition and new high penetration ammunition. An improved kinetic energy ammunition known as LKE 2 DM53 was developed as a result of a Tactical Requirement issued in November 1987, and uses the longer gun barrel. With the DM53 round the L55 gun can fire to a range of 5000 m. The effect of the kinetic energy projectile on an enemy target is achieved by 1) the penetrator length and projectile mass and the impact velocity and 2) the interaction between the projectile and the target. The penetrator material is heavy tungsten powder in a monoblock structure. The improved kinetic energy ammunition has higher muzzle energy and recoil forces.
The Leopard 2 is equipped with a land navigation system from the company LITEF of Bonn, Germany which is a subsidiary of Litton Industries Inc of USA. The hybrid navigation system consists of a Global Positioning System (GPS) and an inertial navigation system.
A program has been put in place to replace the H-WNA improved hydraulic system with E-WNA which is an electrical weapon follow-up system. The replacement with the E-WNA provides the following advantages: 1) the turret has no pressurized hydraulic fluid, 2) lower noise level and lower power consumption and heat generation, 3) improved reliability and lower maintenance and service requirements, 4) saving in operating costs and 5) good long term storage properties.
The crew compartment is equipped with a fire and explosion detection and suppression system which has been licensed by the company Deugra Ges. fur Brandschutzsysteme of Ratingen, Germany from the UK company Kidde-Graviner of Slough, Berkshire. A fireproof bulkhead separates the fighting compartment from the engine compartment at the rear of the vehicle. The engine is the MTU MB 873 with a Renk HSWL 354 gear and break system.
Germany’s Leopard 2 Is Among the World's Best Main Battle Tanks
The Leopard 2 is one of the world’s most common main battle tanks.
Here's What You Need to Know: This tank is popular with militaries around the world.
The Leopard 2 is one of the world’s most common main battle tanks, used by militaries on four continents. As such, the market for upgrades that bring the older versions up to the latest standards of protection and lethality is large. The primary player here is Krauss-Maffei Wegman, the original designer of the Leopard 2, who markets a variety of kits and new versions of the Leopard 2.
Before delving into the details of the update kits, it’s important to realize what standard the majority of the world’s Leopards are at. The majority of Leopard 2s operated worldwide are of the Leopard 2A4 standard, which was made between 1985 and 1992.
The Leopard 2A4 has the characteristic flat turret front, an all digital fire-control system, an L44 gun, hydraulic turret drive and a thermal gunner’s sight. They do not have an independent thermal commanders sight, advanced guns, or add on armor.
1. Leopard 2A6
The Leopard 2A6 is the most “traditional” upgrade, following the naming convention and general trend of the earlier 2A(X) series of upgrades. It builds upon the 2A5 upgrade, which introduced major changes to the turret design, including the distinctive “Wedge” turret. The wedge shape is a result of the application of a large spaced armor package to the turret. Most of the volume inside the wedge is empty, which provides stand off distance against HEAT shells, and some additional protection against KE shells.
Additional composite armor is also placed on the hull sides. Some subvariants of the 2A6 like the Leopard 2E operated by Spain have additional armor built into the front of the hull, turret front, and turret roof built into the original specification.
As the gunner’s sight in the turret was considered to be a rather large weak spot, it was moved on top of the turret. The 2A5 upgrade also introduced electric turret drive and introduced an independent thermal commander sight.
In the 2A6, the gun was also upgraded to the L55 gun, which increases the velocity of projectiles fired. This is considered a fairly critical upgrade, as it’s a significant boost to the Leopard 2’s anti-tank capability. 2A6M variants also included further belly armor to protect against mine as well as shock proof ammo racks and other improvements.
2A6s are in fairly wide service. Most types formerly belonged to the Royal Netherlands Army, which dissolved their Leopard 2 fleet (which included 2A6s) in 2012 as a result of defense budget cuts and were sold to other European nations. However, despite their age, they possess most features modern tanks should have, including some the T-72B3 and T-90A lack.
2. Leopard 2A7/2A7+ (2A7Q)
The 2A7 is the latest version of the Leopard 2 adopted by the Bundeswehr in 2014. The primary improvements were electronic. A new battle management system (IFIS) allows for similar capability to the US Army’s Blue Force Tracker system, sharing the position of friendly and possible enemy contacts. It also adds an auxiliary power unit (APU) and improved climate control for the crew.
Armament wise, a new programmable high-explosive round is integrated that can be shot out to 5 kilometers in impact, airburst, or delayed detonation modes. Defensively, a mine-protection kit superior to the 2A6M is installed.
In 2017 the Bundeswehr ordered their Leopard 2A4s, 2A6, and 2A7s to be upgraded to the 2A7V standard, which adds some additional armor modules to the hull, new thermal imagers (including a rear facing one for the driver), and a more powerful APU. Additional armament upgrades (including an increased pressure L55) were speculated to be present in the 2A7V standard but were not implemented in the final standard.
More advanced than the Leopard 2A7V is the Leopard 2A7+/2A7Q, which was procured by Qatar. It features the same upgrades on the Leopard 2A7V but has an even more powerful APU (so the air conditioning systems can be run when the tank is standing still). It also sports a remote-weapons station on top of the turret that mounts an American M2HB .50 caliber machine gun for close protection and additional top attack protection.
3. Strv 122C/D
The original Strv 122 was a Leopard 2A5 adopted by Sweden. However the original 2A5 was not satisfactory to Sweden, so they ordered it with the heavy add-on MEXAS-H composite armor package on the hull and additional roof armor against cluster bomblets and artillery fragments.
Also added was the French GALIX countermeasures system. The GALIX is an integrated laser-warning receiver and smoke grenade launcher with optional battlefield networking. It also can launch noise and flashbang grenades for crowd control.
The Strv 122B added the same mine protection kit as used in the 2A6M. Strv 122C and D variants will be fitted with a new commander’s thermal sight that includes a laser rangefinder. The Swedish Army is also considering replacing the L44 cannons on their Strv 122s with L55s and buying additional composite armor modules for their tanks.
The Swedes have attempted to make up for the low velocity of the L44 by procuring advanced Israeli APFSDS rounds (under the designation spårljuspansarprojektil m/95) that are considered to be superior to the original DM33 rounds supplied with the tank, but ammunition can only go so far.
Overall, while the Strv 122 is not the best Leopard 2 due to the limited capability of the L44 cannon, it is an interesting parallel evolution of the platform and superior to a basic 2A5.
4. Leopard 2 Technologieträger/Revolution (variants adopted as Leopard 2SG and Leopard 2RI)
Unlike the upgrades above, which are largely based on the Leopard 2A5, the Leopard 2 Technologieträger is a tech demonstrator of the possible advanced upgrades that can be applied to the Leopard 2A4, which still serves in many militaries today. As KMW has largely been focusing on the 2A7 line, the Technologieträger has been developed by Rheinmetall instead.
The most distinctive feature of the upgrade package is the Advanced Modular Armor Package (AMAP) armor modules on the hull and turret. These give the tank a very chunky appearance. However, the 2A4 sight position in the hull remains the same (and a weak spot). Also added is the Rheinmetall ROSY countermeasures package, which provides similar functionality to the aforementioned GALIX.
The fire control system and sights are also revamped, and the ergonomics of almost every crew position is revamped with new screens and controls. A new independent commander thermal sight is added. The hydraulic turret drives are also swapped out for electric drives as they were on the 2A5. An optional .50 cal RWS can be fitted on top of the turret. In the latest versions of the Technologieträger, the L44 is also swapped out for the L55 and the ADS hard-kill active protection system is integrated
Singapore procured a roughly similar upgrade to the Leopard 2 Technologieträger/Revolution in their Leopard 2SG. They acquired the AMAP Armor package but opted for an Israeli Elbit Systems commander sight and an indigenous battle-management system. Some reports say that the Leopard 2SG was upgraded with an L/55 gun, but pictures show only an L/44 gun installed.
Indonesia procured a tank far closer to the original Technologieträger/Revolution package in the Leopard 2RI, which features the AMAP, German thermal sights, and new FCS. The ROSY smoke launchers and mine protection kit were not included, likely to keep costs down.
5. Leopard 2NG
Building off the success of the Leopard 2 Technologieträger/Revolution, Turkey’s Aselsan also built an upgrade package for the Leopard 2A4 called the Leopard 2 Next Generation or Leopard 2NG. As Turkey operates a very large fleet of 2A4s, this upgrade kit could be aiming for a domestic contract as well as export.
Like the German package, it features electric turret drives, reworked FCS, a commander thermal sight, a large and chunky armor package, a .50 caliber RWS and a battle-management system. Aselsan claims that the package is superior to the 2A6, however as the 2NG retains the L44 gun with no known upgrades, this is highly doubtful.
Charlie Gao studied Political and Computer Science at Grinnell College and is a frequent commentator on defense and national security issues.
The Leopard 2 is a main battle tank developed by Krauss-Maffei AG, now Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW), of Munchen, Germany. The Leopard 2 is a successor to the successful Leopard 1.
The Leopard 1 was first produced in 1963 by Krauss-Maffei for the German Ministry of Defence and more than 6,000 vehicles have been exported to Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Italy, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, Turkey and Australia.
The successor to the Leopard 1, the Leopard 2, was first produced in 1979 and is in service with the armies of Austria, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Sweden and Spain, with over 3,200 produced. The Finnish Army is buying 124 and the Polish Army 128 used Leopard 2A4 tanks from Germany. In August 2005, Greece placed an order for 183 used Leopard 2A4 and 150 Leopard 1A5 tanks from German Army reserves.
In November 2005, an agreement was signed for the sale of 298 German army Leopard 2A4 tanks to Turkey. Deliveries are planned from 2006 to 2007. In March 2006, Chile signed a contract for the acquisition of 140 Leopard 2A4 tanks from the German Army. The first was delivered in December 2007.
The Leopard 2A6 includes a longer L55 gun, an auxiliary engine, improved mine protection and an air-conditioning system. The German Army is upgrading 225 2A5 tanks to 2A6 configuration, the first of which was delivered in March 2001. The Royal Netherlands Army upgraded 180 of its 2A5 tanks to 2A6 configuration, the first of which entered service in February 2003. In March 2003, the Hellenic Army of Greece ordered 170 Leopard 2 HEL (a version of the 2A6EX). 30 are being assembled by KMW, the remainder by ELBO of Greece. The first locally built tank was delivered in October 2006.
Spain has ordered 219 Leopard 2E (a version of the 2A6 with greater armour protection), 16 recovery tanks (CREC) and four training vehicles. The first 30 are being built by KMW and the rest are being license-built in Spain by General Dynamics, Santa Barbara Sistemas (GDSBS). The first tank was handed over to the Spanish Army in June 2004 and deliveries should complete in 2008.
Another variant is the Leopard 2(S), which has a new command and control system and new passive armour system. 120 Leopard 2(S) have been delivered to the Swedish Army. Deliveries concluded in March 2002.
In December 2006, it was announced that Singapore is to buy 66 refurbished Leopard 2A4 tanks from the German Army, plus 30 additional tanks for spares. The tanks will enter service with the Singapore Army in 2008.
In April 2007, Canada purchased up to 100 Leopard 2 tanks from the Dutch Army and leased 20 Leopard 2A6M tanks from the German Army. KMW delivered the first of the leased 2A6M tanks, which has been upgraded with improved mine protection and slat armour, in August 2007. The tank was deployed to Afghanistan later in August 2007. The Dutch army retains a fleet of 110 2A6 tanks.
In October 2007, Portugal purchased 37 Leopard 2A6 tanks from the Dutch Army, to be delivered 2008–2009.
The MoD was offered Leopard 2 tanks on lease
My views have only been reinforced by the current imbroglio over the purchase and introduction into service of the Ajax scout vehicle, which to date has seen just over of £3.5 billion spent over the last ten years with only 14 of the non-turreted version, Ares, delivered.
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Trials and training on Ajax/Ares are now suspended, the MoD has finally admitted publicly, because of unacceptable noise and vibration problems with these new vehicles. This leaves the procurement of the Boxer IFV as the only shining light in the dark, dystopian world of the army’s equipment procurement programme.
Even then we joined, left, and then rejoined this programme, delaying its entry into British army service by at least ten years and also no doubt at a higher price than if we had stuck with it from the beginning.
It couldn’t get much worse, I thought, and then it has.
Only weeks after the Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace, announced to some fanfare the underwhelming news that a paltry 148 Challenger 2s were to be upgraded with the inclusion of the Rheinmetall 120 mm smoothbore gun (Hallelujah, at long last!) plus other enhancements in what is essentially a new turrets on old hulls lash-up, we learn that this was not the only option. But it was the only option to which the MoD seems to have been kindly disposed to listen.
The above is a brief sumamry of what is involved in coverting tanks to ‘Challenger 3’ standard.
MoD and serving army sources have now revealed that, a year before the announcement, Kraus-Maffei Wegmann (KMW), the manufacturers of the German Leopard 2A7, had approached the MoD with an offer which would seem to have been the answer to the maiden’s prayer. The deal tabled was for KMW to lease the current model of the Leopard 2, the 2A7 model, to the MoD and British army for an initial 20 year period with guaranteed buy-back at the end of the timeframe. On top of this, the company also offered to build a second UK factory that would have created circa 500 jobs in addition to supporting the existing supply chain of 3,000 jobs that the same company is developing for the Boxer IFV procurement.
Again, I have written in the Journal before on the benefits of leasing rather than buying defence equipment and do not intend to repeat the arguments here. But two points are worth re-emphasising perhaps: the first is that with Leopard 2 come the economies of scale that accompany the continuing developments of a tank that has been supplied to twenty or so countries worldwide. Those countries can available themselves of the improvements and upgrades that are made to the tank that accrue as the tank continues to evolve.
The same cannot be said of the 148 Challenger 3s which have been ordered for the Royal Armoured Corps. And secondly as the numbers produced go up there is a natural pattern for the unit price to come down.
In this context, for example, it is understood that KMW has been working on a tank autoloader for some time, one that can be incorporated into the existing Leopard 2 turret, but one that is also likely to be a standard feature on any future tank such as the Main Ground Combat System (MGCS), the joint Franco-German project. The common consensus is that future tank designs will almost certainly incorporate autoloaders. The Russians have had them for 50 years and it’s time we all caught up with them and the French, whose Leclerc tank has one too.
Will the KMW autoloader be able to be retrofitted into the Challenger 3 turret? I don’t know, but a better question might be will it be worth it.
On top of this, even if MGCS comes to fruition, Leopard 2 will remain in service across NATO. It will not be immediately obsolete. Adopting the German tank would allow British expertise in armour to be added to a new version of Leopard (the A8), increasing its protection, and making Britain part of the international supply chain. The future for tanks is not the UK, Germany and France developing them independently, but international cooperation. Buying or leasing Leopard 2 would have been an ideal means of kick-starting British membership of the MGCS team and influencing what it becomes. With Challenger 3, we have relegated ourselves to the role of off-the-shelf customer.
In essence, by plumping for Challenger 3 the MoD has chosen to go with an old chassis with no money to modify it or the powerpack, which means no increase in power or mobility despite an overall increase in weight. Yes, it will have a new turret and electronic architecture, but the price only includes 60 sets of the APS, to be issued on an as required basis which will hardly encourage those crews unlucky enough to come down the pecking order. Deliveries are mooted to begin in 2027 but informed commentators will tell you that 2030 at the earliest is much more likely. And, when and if it does enter service then, it isn’t really going to be much better than Leopard 2A7A1 is today, if at all.
In the end, of course, and sadly, it all comes down to finance, and on the face of it Challenger 3 seems to be cheaper overall than Leopard 2. But a quick look at the actual costings indicates that leasing Leopard 2 as offered to the MoD would be less expensive over the lifetime of the tank than the shorter term solution of Challenger 3. While a lease agreement would have avoided the higher initial purchase cost of Leopard 2 versus Challenger 3, the tables are also turned when it comes to support costs. Leopard components are available from multiple sources, ensuring a ready supply, but also competitive costs.
Leopard 2A7 at Eurosatory.
While KMW has declined to provide any detailed cost breakdown, according to military sources annual support costs for Leopard, based on data provided by Germany, Denmark and other EU users of Leopard, are less than 2% per annum, whereas those for Challenger 3, which has a single UK supply chain, are expected to be above 6%. The MoD will also be forced to purchase spares upfront, adding further to Challenger’s maintenance costs. Over 20 years, the total lifecycle costs for Challenger 3 are therefore likely to considerably outweigh those for Leopard 2.
So, against this background, it seems a crass decision, and the MoD’s attitude might well have been that it was open to considering all options as long as they were Challenger 3. Who took these decisions? No individual will ever take responsibility because that’s not the way it happens in Defence Procurement within the Ministry, but suffice to say that senior officers at three star level were intimately aware of the detail of the KMW Leopard 2 offer and turned it down. That the Defence Secretary, CDS, and CGS are all essentially infantrymen at the light end of that spectrum will not have helped matters much either, for not only are any of them not particularly renowned for being on more than a nodding acquaintance with original thought, but their collective knowledge of matters AFV will obviously tend towards zero. In military parlance, they don’t know their arses from their elbows.
We will only know for sure with hindsight, I’m afraid, but I will not be surprised if the Challenger 3 procurement programme ends up being added to the litany of recent British army procurement disasters alongside Ajax, Warrior CSP, and the SA80 rifle. What a pity Dominic Cummings resigned before he had the chance to sort the MoD out!
Development of the Leopard 2 Main Battle Tank (MBT) began in 1970. It was just a couple of years after a previous Leopard 1 entered service. In those days a clash between NATO and the Warsaw Pact was possible and the West German army needed a well protected tank, which would be superior to the models introduced in the Eastern Block. First prototypes of the Leopard 2 were completed in 1972. In 1977 Bundeswehr initially ordered 1 800 of these main battle tanks to supplement and replace the Leopard 1. First production batch of 30 tanks was completed in 1979 and the Leopard 2 was adopted by the West German army during the same year. At the time of its introduction it was a very advanced and successful design. By 1993 German army operated a total of 2 155 of these MBTs. The Leopard 2 was also a commercial success and was exported worldwide. Export operators were Netherlands (445 tanks), Switzerland (380 tanks, locally known as the Pz.87), Sweden (160 Strv 121 and 120 Strv 122), Spain, Turkey (354), and some other countries. A number of Leopard 2 tanks were sold to other countries from German and Dutch surplus stocks. By 2019 a total of 16 countries were using this tank.
A number of advanced technologies and design solutions of the Leopard 2 were taken over from the joint German-American MBT-70 program. The MBT-70 was a revolutionary design, however due to cost overruns, technical problems and different requirements West Germany withdrew from the program in 1969. However available advanced technologies were reused on the Leopard 2 and American M1 Abrams tanks. Fire control system, armament, ammunition, transmission and tracks of the Leopard 2 are similar to those of the US M1 Abrams main battle tank in order to simplify maintenance.
This MBT has a welded hull and turret. Composite armor of the Leopard 2 tank is similar to British Chobham. It offers good protection against armor-piercing rounds and anti-tank guided weapons. Ready-to use ammunition is stowed in a separate compartment in the turret bustle with blow-out panels. This improved survivability of the crew. The tank is fitted with NBC protection system and automatic fire suppression systems.
The Leopard 2 main battle tank is armed with a fully-stabilized Rheinmetall RH-M-120 120 mm smoothbore gun. Vehicle carries 42 rounds for the main gun. A total of 15 ready-to-use rounds are stored in the turret bustle, while the rest are store in front of the hull by the driver. The Leopard 2 normally uses two main types of ammunition - the APFSDS-T armor-piercing rounds and HEAT-MP-T multi-purpose rounds. The APFSDS-T round penetrates around 450 mm of rolled homogenous armor equivalency at 2 000 m range. Since its introduction some generations of APFSDS-T rounds were developed and used by the German army. Germans estimated that their Leopard 2 tank could penetrate frontal armor of the Soviet T-72 tank at a range of 2 000 meters and frontal armor of the T-62 tank at a range of over 4 000 meters. The HEAT-MP-T round is effective against both soft and hard targets. The gun of the Leopard 2 tank proved to be very accurate.
Secondary armament consists of two 7.62 mm machine guns. One of them is coaxial, while another is mounted on top of the roof.
The Leopard-2 has a crew of four, including commander, gunner, loader and driver. One interesting feature about this main battle tank, that it has an escape hatch in the floor behind the driver.
This main battle tank has a crew of four, including commander, gunner, loader and driver.
The tank is powered by an MTU MB 873 Ka501 turbocharged diesel engine, developing 1 500 horsepower. The Leopard 2 can be fitted with a deep wading kit. After preparation it can ford water obstacles up to 4 m deep.
Leopard 2A1, has improved armor protection. A number of components were improved in order to make them more reliable.
Leopard 2A2, fitted with improved sights.
Leopard 2A3, fitted with improved communications equipment and improved parking brake.
Leopard 2A4, fitted with new digital fire control system and improved turret with more armor. It was the most widespread version of this tank. Its production commenced in 1985 and ceased in 1992. All the previous models were upgraded to this standard. It was produced in Switzerland under license as the Pz 87. It looks like the Leopard 2A4 saw its first combat debut in 2016 during Turkish operation in Syria. A number of these tanks Turkish were lost to anti-tank guided missiles. A comparison test was recently made in Poland in order to compare reliability of their Leopard 2A4 tanks with Polish PT-91 Twardy tanks (improved variant of the Soviet T-72). It appeared that tanks with similar mileage (19 000 km) showed different results. Distance between failures of the Leopard 2A4 tank was 174 km and it took on average 1.3 days to repair the tank. On the other hand distance between failures of the Polish PT-91 was only 25 km and it took on average 3.2 days to repair the tank. So despite its age the Leopard 2A4 can be seen as a rather reliable combat vehicle, that is easy to keep in operational order.
Leopard 2A5 is a radically improved version. It was introduced in 1990. By 1998 a total of 225 German Army Leopard 2 main battle tanks were upgraded to the 2A5 standard. At that time the Leopard 2A5 was referred as the best main battle tank in the world.
Leopard 2A6 is another radically improved version with improved armor protection and a longer 120 mm/L55 gun. It has longer range and is more accurate than the Leopard 2A5. This tank is in service with Germany, Canada, Greece, Netherlands, Portugal and Spain.
Leopard 2A7 a proposed upgrade package for existing MBTs, which includes additional armor, additional cameras for long-range surveillance, advanced command and control equipment and some other improvements. Bundeswehr plans to upgrade about 50-150 Leopard tanks to the 2A7 standard. Currently it is one of the best main battle tanks in the world.
Leopard 2 PSO, a version optimized for urban and peacekeeping operations. It was developed as a private venture. This MBT has increased protection against improvised explosive devices and anti-tank missiles and rockets.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 04/21/2021 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.
For much of the Cold War, it fell upon NATO and the West to match wits against the latest Soviet combat tank / Main Battle Tank (MBT) offering. At the end of the 1960s, the US Army had in its stable the capable M60 "Patton" MBT while the West Germans made use of their first post-World War 2 tank design - the excellent "Leopard 1" MBT. However, it became apparent that, within time, upcoming Soviet tank designs would wield ever-greater power to counter any interim Western proposal current available. The Soviet T-62 and its 115mm smoothbore main gun prompted the original M60 and Leopard 1 developments and, if the Cold War were ever to go "hot", the land war would surely be run through West Germany and involve all of NATOs major players intent on stopping Soviet armor (the Soviets managing East Germany at this time).
Almost as soon as the M60 established a foothold in the US Army inventory in the early-to-mid 1960s, the US Army began looking at prospects for a "next generation" MBT, joining forces with the like-minded West Germans in developing such a new vehicle to meet the future demands of each respective army. It was expected that the new endeavor would produce a viable end-product in 1970. The resulting joint program, therefore, became the "MBT70" - a fiscally sound, technologically-advanced combat tank with excellent performance, mobility, protection and firepower.
As the program proved highly ambitious from the beginning, the endeavor was quickly fractured. There were already early disagreements on the selection of a main gun. The Americans favored the British L7 105mm system as used on the M60 Patton while the West Germans were eager to field a new Rheimetall L44 120mm gun to counter the expected Soviet 125mm guns. A consensus was then reached on an unproven but powerful 152mm main gun system that could also fire a short-ranged anti-tank missile (as in the M551 Sheridan tank). Program costs then ballooned, largely owed to the high degree of untested technology being applied to the new design. This prompted the Germans to leave the program in 1969 while also drawing the ire of the American congress who were already dealing with a costly war in Vietnam. With the Germans gone, the Americans attempted to go at it alone though, after a financial review of the program, the MBT70 was officially cancelled outright by the overseeing US Department of Defense, this occurring in January of 1970. In response, the US Army attempted to sell congress on a simplified version - the MBT70AV "Austere Version" - but this initiative lasted all but one year until its own cancellation in December of 1971.
The US Army then went to work on a "lower-risk" program which eventually became the excellent "M1 Abrams" Main Battle Tank. At the same time, West Germany was already at work on a new indigenous design all their own to improve upon the aging Leopard 1 series. Design of this new tank was charged to Krauss-Maffei of West Germany - designers and builders of the original "Leopard 1". The project grew from the "Kampfpanzer 2" to the "Keiler" ("Wild Boar") and, finally, to the rather unimaginative name of "Leopard 2" assigned in 1971.
Military analysts and engineers were not blind to events of the world. The Yom Kippur War was closely being watch as war raged between Israel and her Arab neighbors. Prior to the conflict, many predicted the extinction of the Main Battle Tank as a primary battlefield component but this Middle East conflict proved just the opposite while new battlefield dangers emerged such as guided-missile threats. As such, Krauss-Maffei modified their prototypes with the experience garnered in Yom Kippur War and the end-result became a formidable 55-ton vehicle with improved armor protection. Prototypes were constructed featuring both the British L7 105mm main gun (as in the Leopard 1) and the new German Rheinmetall 120mm main gun and these were completed between 1972 and 1974.
With the Americans still in need for an MBT to compliment their outmoded M60s, there continued an internal effort to formulate an indigenous solution leading to the XM1 prototype. However, during its development, there was "forced" consideration given to the Leopard 2 dating back to an agreement signed between West Germany and the United States in December of 1974 in which the countries would jointly manufacture a new combat tank. For the time, this would have made fiscal and logistical sense, particularly in the realm of the NATO inventory where ammunition, parts and training could all be shared. However, it was almost a moot point from the beginning for a foreign-designed and developed main battle tank would never realistically stock the inventory of the US Army.
Regardless, the US Army acquiesced and West Germany delivered a modified Leopard 2 fitting the L7 105mm main gun - the same gun as selected for the XM1 prototype. This tank was further known as the Leopard 2 "Austere Version" (AV). Despite a favorable (and sometimes superior) showing in tests when facing off with the XM1, the Americans still naturally favored their homegrown design citing its lower operating weight and less expensive long-term operating costs. In fact, the XM1 was already slated for serial production as the finalized M1 even before the US Army was forced to test the modified Leopard 2 tank. As such, the Germans formally withdrew hope of their Leopard 2s from ever stocking the US Army inventory in January of 1977 and the XM1 eventually became the M1 Abrams of 1980.The US Army did agree, however, that cross-utilization of components should be used where possible in their new tank.
Back in September of 1977, satisfied with the prototype development and subsequent evaluations, the West German Army ordered their first serial production batch of Leopard 2 tanks to number 1,800 examples over five batches. The first vehicles began deliveries to West German units in 1979 and several other interested European parties soon joined in its purchase - this to include the Netherlands and Switzerland. The Dutch Army became the first foreign customer of the excellent Leopard 2 and placed an order of 445-strong in 1979. This was followed by the Swiss with an order for 380, 345 of these to be locally-produced under license and the rest coming from West Germany. The Dutch order was fulfilled in its entirety by the end of 1986.
Tight Cold War budgets initially placed procurement of the Leopard 2 out of reach of most interested parties but the arrival of new upgraded variants led to many "second hand units" becoming available. Many, therefore, came straight from West German Army and Royal Netherlands Army stocks. At its peak usage, the Royal Netherlands Army themselves managed some 445 Leopard 2 tanks before budget constraints forced their sell-off. To this end, the tank ended up seeing operational service with Austria, Canada, Chile, Finland, Greece, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, Sweden and Turkey during its still-going operational tenure. Possible future operators (as of this writing - 2012) may one day include both Indonesia and Saudi Arabia.
By any regard, the Leopard 2 followed conventional tank wisdom and learned values for the most part. It utilized a traditional design with a crew of four managing various positions about the vehicle. The driver sat front-right in the forward hull with the remaining crew in the turret. This consisted of the gunner, tank commander and loader. The gunner was situated front-right in the turret with the commander directly behind. The loader was set to the left side of the turret and managed the reloading functions. Ammunition was stored in the turret bustle as well as in the hull. Outwardly, the Leopard 2 exhibited modern clean lines and a low profile. Early production forms sported a turret with slab sides while later versions operated with the sleeker "sharper" design which improved ballistics protection (2A5 and later). The turret was set at the middle of the hull roof with a noticeable overhang of the bustle . The 120mm main gun, in turn, overhung the front of the hull. Smoke grenade dischargers were present along the turret sides in banks numbering eight to each turret side (total of sixteen grenades). The hull was largely flat with slab sides. The glacis plate was well-sloped while the upper portions of the tracks were protected in thin skirt armor plates. The engine and transmission was set to a rear compartment in a traditional fitting. Each track consisted of seven double-tired road wheels to a side with the drive sprocket at the rear and the track idler at the front. NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) protection was standard as was night vision equipment - passive for the commander, gunner and driver positions. A fire control computer and laser range-finder were standard from the first production model on.
The initial production Leopard 2 was simply known as "Leopard 2" with no model designator assigned. Production of this mark began in October of 1979 and continued into March of 1982 resulting in 380 first-batch vehicles manufactured (production was split between Krauss-Maffei and Krupp MaK with 209 and 171 units respectively). A pair of hulls was set aside for driver training variants - these forms sans the turret assemblies of their combat brethren, instead fitted with a windowed driver station. The Leopard 2A1 became the next notable production mark and this appeared in March of 1982. Key additions included a thermal sight at the gunner's station, a refined fuel filter for increased efficiency and redesigned ammunition racks to mimic those as found on the American M1 Abrams (the Abrams having entered service with the US Army in 1980). The Leopard 2A2 were Leopard 2 and Leopard 2A1 production forms brought up to a new standard while subtle changes were also enacted. The Leopard 2A3 appeared in December of 1984 with production spanning into December of 1985. The same digital radio sets being fitted to existing Leopard 1s were also fitted to new Leopard 2s, in essence this small change creating the "Leopard 2A3" mark. Beyond this, the production mark changed little from pervious Leopard 2 offerings. The Leopard 2A4 - appearing from 1985 to 1992 - brought about an automatic fire suppression system to help increase crew survivability in the event of a direct hit. A digital fire control system (FCS) was also introduced which broadened the ammunition type available to the crew, in turn broadening the tactical effectiveness of the Leopard 2 on the battlefield as a whole. The turret was revised to include a tungsten/titanium armor mix for improved ballistics protection. These changes made the Leopard 2A4 the standard Leopard 2 to which previous marks were upgraded to. Of note during this time was the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, leading to the reunification of the German land and its peoples in October of 1990, reestablishing the German Army itself as a single, unified unit with the Leopard 2 as its primary Main Battle Tank. Most Soviet-era equipment was dropped in favor of NATO-friendly designs.
The newer Leopard 2A5 production variant more drastically changed the Leopard 2 line than any other variant before it for it brought about a new, well-sloped turret "arrowhead" design that has since become the identifiable hallmark of the Leopard 2 family. This adds basic protection against kinetic- and chemical-based rounds. Add-on armor (also introduced) only added to the crews' protection, particularly on the side "skirt" facings. The turret was now all-electrically driven which has made it more responsive and efficient in the heat of battle while the gun breech region was reworked to accept heftier projectile types. A newer laser range-finding system has increased first-hit probability. A rear-mounted camera has improved rearward driving for the driver while the commander's station welcomed a thermal imaging sight. The Leopard 2A5 appeared in 1998 while, that same year, Krauss-Maffei became "Krauss-Maffei Wegmann GmbH & Co. KG".
Sometime later, the new Leopard 2A6 was brought online and this version saw its main gun armament upgraded to the more potent Rheinmetall L55 120mm smoothbore system. Several minor variations models then emerged from this mark and included the Leopard 2A6M with hull mine protection and the Leopard 2 PSO ("Peace Support Operations") intended for support in "peacekeeping" operations. The latter forms are noted for their shorter main guns dozer blade at the front hull.
The pinnacle Leopard 2 development may well be the latest offering in the Leopard 2A7 as unveiled in 2010. This version has been seen with improved RPG/Mine protection as well as modular armor support. Included in this version is a remote-controlled weapons station which allows for firing of the turret roof machine gun without exposing the crew to battlefield dangers. The German Army has already moved to upgrade their existing Leopard 2A6 fleet to the newer Leopard 2A7 standard and these have also been offered to Saudi Arabia in a deal currently blocked by political wrangling at home (in Germany).
All of the latest Leopard 2 tanks (2A4, 2A5 and 2A6) utilized the same MTU MB 873-ka 501 series 12-cylinder diesel twin-turbocharged engine of 1,479 horsepower. This is tied to a Renk HSWL 354 series hydro-mechanical transmission system featuring 4 forward and 2 reverse speeds. The automatic transmission helps combat driver fatigue over long distances, particularly when going cross-country. The vehicles are suspended upon a torsion bar spring suspension system utilizing hydraulic dampeners. While the Leopard 2A4 yields an operational weight of 55 tons, the Leopard 2A6 tops 60 tons. Top road speed is 45 miles per hour with an operational range equal to 340 miles making her one of the fastest MBTs in the world today.
Main armament is the exceptional 120mm Rheinmetall L55 series smoothbore main gun to which 42 projectiles of 120mm ammunition are stored aboard. The main gun is fully-stabilized along both axis and can fire HEAT (general purpose) and APFSDS-T (armor-defeating) projectiles as needed. The APFSDS-T projectile features a dense tungsten allow core and, fired at 5,413 feet per second, can defeat heavy-class tank armor at range. Being stabilized, the main gun can engage and fire on targets at range while on the move, even over uneven terrain. Reloading of the main gun is accomplished by the loader crewmember but assisted by a semi-automatic mechanism. The Leopard's use of a smoothbore 120mm main gun made her the first Western tank to field an unrifled barrel - the smoothbore was, in fact, pioneered in the Soviet T-62 series, though with much research.
Secondary armament is supplied by a coaxial 7.62mm MG3A1 machine gun and a turret roof-mounted 7.62mm MG3A1 machine gun (at the loader's hatch). Approximately 4,750 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition can be carried. The machine guns are used when the target does not require the "overkill", anti-armor penetration properties of the main gun.
Defensively, the Leopard 2 has grown to include a bevy of situational awareness features that have increased crew survivability over the decades. Beyond this, the crew can rely on the smoke grenade dischargers (if the wind is right) to cover an advance or retreat. The machine guns also come into play defensively where the coaxial machine gun can be used to attack infantry at range while the turret-roof mounted machine gun can combat enemy infantry attempting to rush the vehicle. Similarly, the roof-mounted machine gun can engage low-flying enemy aircraft as needed.
As with the Leopard 1 before it, the Leopard 2 chassis and hull have gone on to see service in various other dedicated battlefield guises including an armored recovery vehicle (BPz3 "Buffel" ARV), an AVLB "bridgelayer" (Leopard 2L), a combat engineering vehicle ("Kodiak" CEV), mine-clearing vehicle (Leopard 2R) and a driver trainer (Fahrschulpanzer). The latter version sees its turret removed, replaced by a windowed observation cab for the accompanying instructor.
The Leopard 2 was operationally fielded for the first time in the Kosovo War as part of the peacekeeping force. Similarly, it has been utilized in the War in Afghanistan following the US invasion of the country after 9/11. While not as combat tested as some of her contemporaries, the Leopard 2 combines a perfect blend of mobility, firepower and protection to see her crew through. The Leopard 2 joined the American M1 Abrams and British Challenger 2 as some of the finest examples of Western tanks anywhere in the world.
German documents reveal Singapore received more Leopard 2 tanks
MELBOURNE, Australia — Information from government documents about a delivery of German Leopard 2 tanks to Singapore in 2017 suggest the city-state bought a new batch of tanks for its Army.
According to the register of conventional arms exports released by the German Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, Singapore received 18 Leopard 2 main battle tanks in 2017, adding to the seven tanks the German government said it exported in 2016.
The additional delivery in 2017 brings the total number of this type of tank received by Singapore to more than 170.
It’s unknown how many tanks were ordered or what variant of was delivered. It is also unknown if this latest batch of tanks are brand new or refurbished secondhand vehicles, although the former is unlikely given production of the Leopard 2A4 has ended.
German media reports say the manufacturer Krauss-Maffei Wegmann was building Leopard 2A7s for Singapore and Qatar.
Germany previously declared it exported 161 Leopard 2 tanks to Singapore between 2007 and 2012 in its reports to the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms database. Singapore declared the receipt of 156 Leopard 2A4s during the same period.
The 2017 delivery forms part of the $93 million worth of conventional arms exported to Singapore from Germany that year, which also included recovery vehicles, parts for tanks, various military vehicles, training and in-flight refueling aircraft, and small arms.
When contacted for comment regarding the 2017 deliveries, the ministry told Defense News to refer to its earlier statement. It had previously said that “no other variants of the Leopard has (sic) been acquired” since Singapore announced it had acquired refurbished Leopard 2A4s from Germany in 2006. Singapore announced at the time that it had acquired 96 tanks, with 66 to be refurbished and put into service, with the remaining 30 to serve as spares.
Is Germany's Leopard 2 Main Battle Tank Headed to the United Kingdom?
London needs a new tank and may be looking abroad for a solution.
More than 104 years after the British Army adopted the first tanks, which were deployed on the western front to smash through the German lines during the First World War, it now appears German tanks could be headed to the United Kingdom. Not as an invasion force but because the nation that pioneered the tank simply might have to adopt a foreign tank.
There aren’t really many alternatives—at least not cost-effective ones.
There is some irony that the British Army would adopt the German-built Leopard 2 main battle tank (MBT), which is considered among the best in the world, given that the first actual tank built by the British was dubbed “Little Willie” to mock Germany’s Kaiser Wilhem II. However, as close partners in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the British may have little other choice than to adopt the German-made tank.
David Axe, writing for Forbes last week, laid out why such a move would make sense: “The British Army needs new main battle tanks—bad. Realistically, it has two options. Rebuild some of the roughly 220 aging, obsolete Challenger 2s. Or buy Germany.”
According to a new study for the Royal United Services Institute in London, it was determined it would be far cheaper in the life of the program for the British Army to procure the Leopard 2. However, the study did suggest that while it would be far riskier for the United Kingdom to develop a Challenger 3, it would also provide “valuable intellectual property.”
First in, First Out
The British military was the first to adopt the tank under a program which began as the Landships Committee under Winston Churchill, and this past summer it seemed that it could be among the first major power to ditch the tank—and the second NATO power following the Netherlands to retire its tank force.
The Challenger 2 has been in service for more than twenty years without a major upgrade, and the number in service has dwindled from more than 500 to just 227—and many of those are now in storage. That number could be further reduced to just 148 tanks, which would also reduce the British Army to two tank regiments—the Royal Lancers and the Royal Tank Regiment. Under this reorganization, each unit would have around fifty-six tanks while the remainder would be set aside for training and reserve use.
Adopting the German-built Leopard 2 could be the right move for the United Kingdom—as it could allow it to invest in other areas of defense. The United States’ M1A2 Abrams and Germany’s Leopard 2 are now used by more than a dozen NATO partners and these have the latest computers and networking systems. While adopting the Leopard 2 could come at a higher upfront cost, the Royal United Services Institute study noted that there is an existing market for spare parts, upgrades and a built-in support network. Any British Leopard 2s would be just a fraction of a global fleet, which would reduce the costs over the long haul.
If the British military were to adopt the Leopard 2, it wouldn’t be the first time it used a foreign-made tank. The British have a long history operating foreign-made equipment—it was the second largest user of American M4 Sherman during the Second World War (after the United States of course).
Moreover, despite being the pioneer of the tank a generation earlier, during World War II, the British largely struggled throughout the war to produce a tank capable of taking on German panzers. While its Centurion, which only entered service at the very end of WWII, was one of the best tanks in the early Cold War, it took great effort to produce the right tank. The United Kingdom simply doesn’t have the time to take a risky chance to develop a bad tank again. Not when a very good option is to simply buy a German import.