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Leopard 3 MBT Advanced Technology Demonstrator
Main Ground Combat System (MGCS)

Creating a next-generation main battle tank that has sometimes been called the Leopard 3 will be a difficult task that will certainly take plenty of time. In the short- to medium-term, Germany will have to upgrade the already-existing Leopard 2A7(+) so as to counter Russia's next-generation T-14 Armata main battle tank.

By 2015 Germany and France were reported preparing to jointly develop a new main battle tank, the Leopard 3, to replace its ageing Leopard 2 military vehicle by around 2030, which would be able to compete with Russia's next-generation Armata tank, showcased at the 2015 Victory Day parade commemorating the end of World War Two in Moscow.

In December 2014 the German Parliament approved a proposal to develop a new generation of tanks, a program to be included in the medium-term planning of the German Ministry of Defense. The decision came amid the Ukrainian crisis, where the 225/7 Leopard 2A6 tanks that the Bundeswehr aimed to maintain operational seemed rather inadequate.

The German Defense Ministry announced its plans for the "Leo 3" (as it's may be nicknamed in Germany) to replace its main battle tank, the Leopard 2. The German Defense Ministry announced its plans in a report on 22 May 2015 to the Bundestag. "Technologies and concepts will be investigated between 2015 and 2018 in joint studies also involving German industry," Markus Grbel, a deputy minister in the German Defense Ministry told his parliamentary colleagues. He cited the Leopard 2's long years of service as the reason that a new battle tank was required.

The main reason for the modernization was believed to be the Leopard 2 service life, which was set to expire by 2030. The Leopard 2's 50-year service life is set to expire in 2030. The tank, which came into service in 1979, was conceived as part of a plan for Cold War-era land defense. Germany commissioned more than 2,000 of them at the peak of the arms race of the early 1980s. Currently, however, only about 240 are in active service; but last month, citing the security situation in Ukraine, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen annnounced plans to reactivate 100 mothballed Leopard 2 tanks. In November 2014, von der Leyen also announced a move to add more than 100 aditional "Boxer" armored personnel carriers to the Bundeswehr's ranks.

The German media, however, suggest that another reason wss the recently-presented analysis by Germanys Federal Intelligence Service (BND) on Russias reinforced combat strength and its recently showcased T-14 Armata tanks, which were presented during the country's Victory Parade in Moscow on 09 May 2015.

A column of Armata tanks, equipped with 125mm cannons, rolled through Moscow's historic Red Square on May 9 as Russian President Vladimir Putin and a number of foreign heads of state, including Chinese leader Xi Jinping, watched on. The BND analysis suggestrf that even though the combat vehicles unveiled at the parade erre still somewhat pre-production models, when completed, it would be a tank with the highest levels of armaments.

According to Deutsche Welle, the manufacturer of the current Leopard 2, Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, was scheduled to merge with the French firm Nexter Systems over the course of the year. This prompted the German media to report that the new Franco-German firm, with more than 6,000 staff and a combined turnover of around 2 billion euros ($2.2 billion), could be a strong candidate to win the contract to develop a new battle tank for the German Bundeswehr. For KMW, joining with the Paris-based maker of the Leclerc battle tank will add new products, technology and markets.

Germany initially developed a strategy of always having two versions of tanks in service. One that was just fielded, and one to be replaced. The Leopard 1 was the replacement for the M47, and the Leopard 2 for the M48. The name was Halbgenerationenwechsel, which translates to Mid-generation replacement. And during the 1980s, the German Army started with plans for the replacement of the Leopard 1. This was the only time Leopard 3 was really set up, and requirements were slowly collected. The problem was that there was not enough technology available to justify a new family of tanks. Costs would increase massively if there should be a true improvement over the Leopard 2.

MBT Revolution

The MBT Revolution is a modular upgrade package to the Leopard 2A4 main battle tanks first revealed in 2010. It is also referred as Leopard 2A4 Evolution. The Revolution main battle tank is better suited for urban warfare and low-intensity conflicts. Since 2011 a broadly similar upgrade program is offered by the Aselsan of Turkey. These are referred as the Leopard 2 Next Generation.

The MBT Evolution is another step in the line of Leopard 2A4 Evolution and MBT Revolution. The MBT Evolution among other things features modified force protection elements. While the first one demonstrated the new armor package and the second one introduced the new fire control system for the commander, MBT Evolution aimed for the practical demonstration of the armor package. The tank was presented at the Eurosatory 2014 and covers add on armour, as well as ROSY demonstrators.

Leopard Evolution

The 62 ton-MBT Leopard Evolution was displayed during the 2012 Indodefence expo in Jakarta. Unlike Armata, MBT Revolution manufactured by Rheinmetall is not a new platform but an update to the Leopard 2A4 main battle tank. The comprehensive modular upgrade package offers improved protection, an upgraded digital fire control system and increased firepower. Overall the Revolution MBT is less vulnerable to ambushes, RPG rounds, anti-tank missiles, improvised explosive devices and mines.

One of the Leopard's key disadvantages stems from the fact that it uses tungsten instead of depleted uranium for tank rounds. The choice of material affects performance. Because of the limitations of tungsten ammunition, the Bundeswehr has some doubts as to the ability of its penetrator rounds to punch through the armor of the latest Russian tanks. Specifically, there might be instances where German ammunition might not have enough kinetic energy to ensure a kill against the T-80, T-90 and obviously the Armata.

The solution to this problem might seem obvious replace tungsten with depleted uranium but the Leopard is unlikely to receive rounds made out of depleted uranium since the Germans are largely against the move. Using US-made ammunition could have been an option but it is said to be incompatible with the Leopard's improved L55 tank gun.

Germany has decided to upgrade over a hundred Leopard 2's with the MBT Revolution kit while the new yet-to-be-designed main battle tank is expected to enter mass production in 2030 at the earliest.

Berlin has already started developing the next-generation Main Ground Combat System (MGCS) in cooperation with France, and that "the concept development phase should be completed by 2017. The MGCS's main focus on increased firepower was directly driven by Russia's Armata program. The Armata series armored vehicles particularly with their focus on active protection systems (APS) are forcing Western designers to focus on more direct fire weapons.

MBT (Main Battle Tank) technology support

The name of the research project: MBT (Main Battle Tank) technology support. While the chassis and turrent are from the Leopard 2A4, the entire interior concept, optronicks, fire control, communications and management technology as well as main and secondary armament were renewed, including self-defense systems. In sum, the whole of the old art of the 1980s are out of the tank.

New smoke grenade launcher systems include cartridges in the caliber of 40 mm can be manually or use up over the fire control system. Likewise, the new launcher contribute to bring the smoke grenades without costly tower or movements to the finish and also build a more dense and larger fog cloud that should distract the enemy and his weapons from the tanks.

The MBT technology platform is equipped with the AMAP (Advanced Modular Armor Protection) ADS (Active Defense System) in defense against armor-piercing projectiles. AMAP-ADS is manufactured by a joint venture between IBD Deisenroth and Rheinmetall Defence. The idea behind the "Active Defence System" (ADS) technology is as easy as it is spectacular - bazookas, missiles and armor-piercing projectiles, approaching the tank are detected by the ADS and at intervals of five to ten meters they are destroyedwith directed energy. What is meant by "directed energy", the manufacturer of the system does not explain exactly. Put very simply: Sensors detect the missiles and blow it shortly before the vehicle by means of a pressure wave from the sky. More precisely: a compressed air gun directs the missile into the ground, thus minimizing the risk of injury to civilians and adjacent units.

At the rear left on the turret is the heavy 12.7-millimeter-board machine gun is mounted, which is served in the tank from the gun loader. Also new are several optronic structures. That camera systems with night vision and laser-based distance measuring devices for reconnaissance and target data determination.

While the main weapon the Russian T-14 Armata may be a 152mm smoothbore gun, Rheinmetall settled for the time being on the 120mm cannon. This is now one meter longer, thereby increasing the speed of ammunition increases, with a corresponding increase in penetration. Rheinmetall is looking to new ammunition. Moreover, the defense contractor is working on a new 130mm cannon.

The new tank has a crew of four soldiers, and the turret is still manned. Otherwise, the design of a completely new tank would be necessary. The successor to the Leopard 2, the so-called MGCS (Main Ground Combat System), could have such an unmanned turret.



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