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Battle tank Leopard 2
Kampfpanzer Leopard 2

The successor to the Leopard 1, the Leopard 2, was first produced in 1979. The largest German tank procurement program, with scheduled expenditure of DM 6.5 billion for 1,800 Leopard 2 battle tanks, cleared all parliamentary hurdles in 1977. All tank brigades of the Army (with the exception of tank brigades 28 and 29 which were equipped with the Leopard 1 A4/6th lot) were to be equipped with it, each of the 3 tank battalions of a tank brigade was to receive 35 Leopard 2 battle tanks. In addition to these 1,470 Leopard 2 tanks, there were to be 140 tanks for the 14 tank training companies and 190 tanks for schools, test sites, troop training areas and for rotation reserve, all together a defense reserve of 330 battle tanks equal to 18 percent. The supply was to begin with 20 vehicles in 1979, then 100 and 180 vehicles a year, and starting in 1982, it was to reach theannual delivery rate of 300 battle tanks.

Eventually, over 2,000 Leopard 2 tanks were produced. In 1988 a seventh lot of 100 LEOPARD 2's, priced at DM 561 million (of which DM75 million were peripheral expenses) was authorized. The lot represented the second "installment" of an order placed in the summer of 1986 to procure 250 LEOPARD 2's for the 10th Panzer division stationed in Sigmaringen — a division still equipped with LEOPARD 1 A4 tanks; however, financial constraints had reduced this order to 150 tanks (called the 6th lot). The German Army had thus ordered a total of 2,050 LEOPARD 2 tanks at a cost of DM 10.79 billion. By March 1987, a total of 1,800 had been delivered. The first tank of the 6th lot was to arrive in January 1988. A total of 108 LEOPARD 2's were expected for 1988 and an equal number for 1989.

In the Army Structure 2000 adopted at the end of the Cold War, Tank brigades in the early 1990s were equipped with Leopard 2 main battle tanks, replacing remaining Leopard 1 and M-48 tanks. Tank brigades continued to dominate the army structure, although the 16 Tank Brigades represented a slight decrease from the previous 17. Tank brigades consisted of two tank battalions, two mechanized battalions, and one artillery battalion, a decrease of one tank battalion and an increase of one mechanized battalion per brigade. Twelve mechanized brigades in the Army Structure 2000, represented a decrease from 15 in the previous army structure, resembling the composition of the tank brigades. Mechanized brigades contained two tank battalions, two mechanized battalions, and one artillery battalion, an increase of one tank battalion and a decrease of one mechanized battalion. However, there brigades were equipped with upgraded Leopard 1 rather than Leopard 2 tanks.

After delivery of the first lot of Leopard 1 tanks in 1967, investigations were initiated to improve several construction groups of the battle tank, such as weapon, drive, running gear and armor configuration. For this purpose two test vehicles were built in an experimental program and tested in 1970-1971. The "experimental development" was a successful example of German test bed, a vehicle built as a possible, more conventional alternative to the MBT-70 when the joint US-Germany development of the latter began to run into difficulties. After establishing the German-American Main Battle Tank 70 [MBT-70] development, the findings gained from this program flowed into the "experimental program," which was continued as a national battle tank development, a program which had as its goal for 1976 the introduction of a new battle tank to replace the M48.

When the joint MBT-70 program was terminated in 1970 the "experimental development" became the basis for the design of the Leopard 2 battle tank. After 7 prototypes at first, 10 other battletanks were built which were called Leopard 2 at the instance of the thenMinister of Defense Helmut Schmidt. In 1973 the technical testing of the first prototypes began, in 1974 troop trial followed, and in the next yearclimate testing in Shilo and Yuma. New requirements for armor, with the resultant establishing of the weight limit MLC50 and an agreement with the United States on battle tank standardization (December 1974), had a decisive influence on the Leopard 2 development.

A tank is developed according to the requirements of a specific user. Starting in the early 1990s, Forecast International’s Weapons Group assessed tanks and ranked them, and the Leopard 2 A5/A6 ranked in first place. “This potent tank has been greatly improved in the latest operational version, the A5 (Improved), maintaining the lead that it has held for some time,” the report concluded. It noted that the version of the Leopard 2 that was adopted by the Swedish Army after competitive trials is “even better than the A5 as used by Germany. This is due to the incorporation of a new, advanced command and control system and the Galix vehicle protection system. The Leopard 2S also features a new passive armor system.”

During the Cold War there were basically two kinds of tanks — NATO tanks for the defense of Central Europe and Soviet tanks for an attack on Central Europe. NATO tanks were heavier and more sophisticated than their Soviet counterparts, with superior fire control, communication and control equipment, and especially all-weather opto-electronic sights. NATO requirements called for defense and counterattack under the climatic and terrain conditions of Europe. The Red Army had different requirements — tanks to attack NATO defense lines, gain terrain, and play havoc with NATO’s logistics.

The German Army’s version of the Leopard 2 has been upgraded with a longer gun tube and new ammunition. This version is called the Leopard 2A6. Other features of the Leopard 2 series that drew high praise were the tank’s MB 873 diesel engine, improved turret armor protection, and a new all-electric gun control and stabilization system that eliminates the danger of a hydraulic fluid fire and operates more quietly. New fire control components and some repackaging of the components within the turret have improved the “fightability” of the tanks, making the Leopard’s “hunterkiller” target acquisition even more effective. But the report noted that the Leopard 2’s lead over the M1A2 had closed over the years and was now exceedingly small. Much of the rating hung on the improved cannon.

The western armies developed very sophisticated tanks. The M1A2, the Leopard 2A5, the Challenger and the Leclerc all have great features; they are ergonomic, fightable, and computerized. Their only drawback is the large size, heavy weight (nearly 60 tons), and as a result increased logistic demands. The Russian designs focused on mobility and firepower, sacrificing armor protection [that is only significant on the front]. These systems (T-64, T-72, T-80, T-90) are not as ergonomic, roomy and fightable as the western tanks, but the designers were able to keep its height under 2.4 meters and maintain a small frame.

Battles in Afghanistan, Kosovo and elsewhere earned Germany's Leopard 2 battle tank a reputation for being indestructible. In one case, Canadian forces managed to drive a Leopard through a massive Taliban bomb blast and survive. However, Turkish troops fighting the terrorist group Daesh in northern Syria had a different experience. According to reports, Daesh fighters in the city of Al Bab had destroyed ten Leopard 2A4 battle tanks by February 2017.

Searching for answers, some German analysts speculated that leadership failures or a lack of experience among Turkish troops may be to blame. However, the fundamental issue appears to be whether the 60 ton tanks are suitable for use in an urban environment. The Leopard 2 basic concept came from a time when the enemy was expected to attack from the front. This basic design applies internationally to the big combat tanks, even to the most modern Russian T-14 Armata. The heavy-duty tracked vehicles are designed for a duel battle and have maximum protection in the frontal area as well as a small side angle. Since, for example, the Russian anti-tank missile Kornet can penetrate even 1.2-meter-thick armor, a tank's less-protected areas are relatively vulnerable.

During the course of fighting in the Syrian town of al-Bath, the Turks' approximately 30-year-old Leopards were often shot in the rear and sometimes from the side with anti-tank weapons. There, the massive tracked vehicles are less protected. Soldiers agreed that a battle in a city can't be compared with a duel on wide, undeveloped land, where tanks usually fight their targets from two or three kilometers away.

The newest version of the Leopard 2, the A7V, being introduced to the German army, boasts higher protection compared to the 2A4, which is no longer in service with the Bundeswehr. The newest Leopard 2A7, 20 of which were introduced to the Bundeswehr in 2014, reportedly has a special composite armor which includes layers of ceramic. However, the models produced so far don't have reactive armor, which was first installed in 1982 on Israeli tanks during Israel's war with Lebanon.

Krauss-Maffei Wegmann GmbH has also fielded a Leopard 2A6 PSO ( Peace Support Operations ) prototype for urban warfare. It has more effective all-around protection, better reconnaissance capabilities, non-lethal armaments, close-range surveillance capabilities through camera systems, a secondary weapons station ( remotely controlled ), a bulldozer blade, search lights and a shorter gun barrel ( obvious reasons ). This is similar to the M1A2 TUSK ( Tank Urban Survival Kit ) upgrade of the US Army.

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Page last modified: 18-02-2017 18:08:47 ZULU