German Leopard 2 Main Battle Tank

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German Leopard 2 Main Battle Tank

The Leopard 2 Battle Tank was designed and manufactured by Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and is Germany’s main battle tank. It was manufactured in the 1970s and was first put in to service in 1979, upgrading and replacing the Leopard 1 as the German Army’s Main Battle Tank (MBT). The Leopard 2 variants have served in the German Army, ten European countries and non- European Countries. To date there have been more than 3,475 tanks developed.

The Leopard 2A4 was the original model and has turret armour which is vertically faced. The Improved” batch included the 2A5 and later models. These have a turret add-on armour which is an angled arrow shape, alongside many more improvements.

All the tanks have a digital fire control system, which incorporates a laser range finder, more stable main gun, coaxial machinegun along with a full night vision system. Earlier vehicle versions had Low-Light Level TV systems (LLLTV). Modern Leopard 2 Main Battle Tanks are now fitted with thermal imaging.

With the ability to move over rough terrain and engage a moving target the tank is a versatile peace keeping machine or military threat. It has the capability to drive through 4 meters depth of water (made possible with a snorkel), and can climb vertical obstacles over 1.1 meters high with very little preparation. The Leopard 2 is powered by a 1,500 horsepower twin turbo charged V12 multi-fuel diesel engine.

This is the Leopard 2 A6 battle tank out on exercise.
Leopard 2A6 on Exercise
The tank has the L55 smoothbore cannon (120 mm) and modern ammunition give it its superior firepower.
Leopard 2A6 in Combat Zone
The Leopard 2 A6 is a tank for all terrains, from Swamps to arid highlands.
German Made Battle Tank

Leopard 2 Production History

The German Ministry of Defence gave permission for the production of over 1800 Leopard 2 Battle Tanks in September 1977. These were to be sent out in batches of five. The main contractor for the 1800 tanks was again, Krauss-Maffei. There was a sub contractor called Maschinenbau Kiel (MaK) who would have 45% of the contract.

The date for the start of the tanks was in 1979. 380 tanks were sent: 209 tanks from Krauss-Maffei, MaK produced 171. This was the first batch from both contractors.

The earlier tanks had been fitted with an Image intensifier. 80 of the Leopard 2 Battle Tanks had been fitted with state of the art thermal night-sight systems. The earlier dispatched tanks were also fitted with the thermal imaging system.

One of the first countries to take a batch of the Leopard 2 tanks was the Netherlands who ordered 445 between July 1981 and July 1982. Austria was sold 114 and 1 turret. Canada brought 80 in 2007. 52 tanks were sold to Norway, and Portugal had been sold 37. Around 280 tanks were acquired by Sweden alongside 160 2A4s from the German stocks, 121 Stridsvagn tanks, with the remaining models being 2(S) which are similar to the 2A5.

Spain originally leased 108 2A4 models then later bought the tanks. This was before the 219 2A6 tanks were produced and ready for the change over. Between 1987 and 1993 Switzerland bought over 380 tanks.

Over the years of the Leopard 2 Battle Tank production, many other countries have used versions of the main battle tanks. These include Chile, turkey, Finland, Greece, and Denmark. There have been about 2120 field tests of the Leopard 2’s by Germany with different versions.

The British Army also tested the Leopard 2 in the 1980s. This was the deciding factor for the challenger 2. The Australian Army were looking for a upgrade to there leopard 1 battle tanks and gave the ex-German tank a field test in 2003, but chose the M1A1 Abram battle tank.

Over the years there has been a large bidding war regarding the Leopard 2 (Greece is a prime example as they have selected the battle tank over the M1A1 Abrams and Leclerc). This shows that they are one of the few best selling battle tanks in the world to date. The combat operations of the tanks are in Kosovo by KFOR, Danish and Canadian forces in Afghanistan.

Main Battle Tank Variants

Original Leopard 2 Tank

The first ever series produced battle tank, this version has been informally named the “A0” to help identify it from later versions. October 1979 unit March 1982 was the manufacturing period for the vehicles. In total there were 380 manufactured Leopard 2 tanks, Krauss Maffei had produced 209 and Mak 171. The Leopard 2 tank systems comprise of a fire control computer, laser rangefinder, wind sensor, EMES 15 telescope. There was thermal imaging but 200 vehicles had low-level light enhancement systems.

Leopard 2A1

There was an average amount of modifications which included thermal sights. This installation took place on 450 vehicles, which were part of the second batch. 281 2A1 were manufactured by Krauss- Maffei, the other 202 by MaK. The deliver date for the 2A1’s was March 1982 to November 1983. From all the modifications the most noticeable were the ammunition racks, which are the same as the M1 Abrams. The 2A1 had a redesigned fuel filter, which helped in reducing refuelling times.

Leopard 2A2

There were further modifications, which were applied to the vehicles from the first batch; these had been brought up to the same standard as the third and second batches. The first batch of tanks had the PZB 200 sights replaced with the new thermal sights, which were for the EMES 15 when they became available. The modification to the hull fuel tanks, which was the fitting of a filler opening and caps allowed the 2A2 to be refuelled separately, alongside the implementation of a deflector plate to help protect the NBC protection systems.

Leopard 2A3

There were only two real changes to the Leopard 2’s fourth batch, which consisted of 300 vehicles. The 2A3 had one main upgrade, which was the installation of SEM80/90 digital radio sets (Leopard 1’s were also being upgraded with the same digital radio set), the old ammunition reloading hatches had also been welded shut. With such little changes the newer batch had already been called 2A3.

More Popular Version of the Main Battle Tank Compared To Its Counterparts - Leopard 2A4

The 2A4 had become more widely spread, compared to the other Leopard 2 counterparts. The 2A4 had some major improvements, first being the explosion suppression system and the automated fire system. It housed a fire control system, which was an all-digital solution with the added ability to make use of the new ammunition types, alongside the upgraded turret with the added bonus of flat titanium/tungsten armour.

The production time for the 2A4 was around 1985 to 1992. Previous models have been upgraded to the 2A4 standards. 2,125 2A4 Battle Tanks have been in operation in The German Army. 445 additional 2A4’s were acquired by the Netherlands. Switzerland had been given manufacturing license and was known as the Pz87.

Greek version of the Leopard 2A6 during combat manoeuvres.
Greek Leopard On Manoeuvres
Firing of 120mm turret cannon from a Leopard 2, with fireball effect from the shear firepower of the cannon turret.
Leopard 2 Firing 120mm Turret
The Leopard battle tank at full speed during a combat exercise
Leopard Battle Tank At Full Speed

Leopard 2A5

The 2A5 had improvements to the turret front and its sides with a Modular Expandable Armour System (MEXAS), this was mainly designed to defeat a hollow like charge attack. Alongside the protection against a hollow charge attack, the space designed armour protected against kinetic energy penetrators. This is done by forcing them to change direction, and eroding them in the process. The 2A5 gun mantle was redesigned to allow upgrading of its armour. Improvements to armour composition and spall liners in the tanks interior were also introduced to reduce fragments when the armour is breached.

Leopard 2(S) (Swedish Variant)

This Swedish variant is based around the Leopard 2A5. Based on what was once called “Leopard 2 Improved”, it features increased front and top turret armour for its hull, an upgraded fire control system, and command and control systems. Its smoke dispensers can distinguish this variant from other versions of the Leopard 2, as can increased thickness in the crew hatches.

Leopard 2A6

The latest variant included a 120mm smoothbore gun (L55) as well as many other changes. Every tank battalion in The German Army’s “crisis Intervention forces” will be equipped with the 2A6, alongside the Dutch Army and Canada, who also wanted to order 40 2A6’s.

Leopard 2A6M

A 2A6M was designed and had only one real change, which was the massively enhanced, mine protection that was upgraded under the chassis, offering a higher rate of crew survivability with the internal improvements.

Leopard 2A6M CAN (Canadian Variant)

This Canadian variant of the 2A6M had many new modifications the first of which was the black mounted boxes on the turrets bustle at the rear. Firstly designed for the new air conditioning unit system, this likely houses the Canadian Forces radio communication device.

There was a loan of 20 variant tanks from the German Bundeswehr, providing better firepower and protection for Canadian Forces in Afghanistan. The MG3 machine guns are expected to be used on the loaner tanks, The FN MAG machine guns are due to be used on the ex-Dutch tanks.

Although there is a possibility to have air conditioning system units installed, they were not installed due to the loaned status of the 2A6M’s where only smaller changes could be implemented. Instead crew’s would be wearing special cooling vests. More excessive upgrading would be applied to the ex-Dutch tanks.

Leopard 2 Weapons and Armaments

The newly developed 120mm longer barrel L55 armament allows for larger amounts of energy in the barrel its self to then be shunted to projectile velocity, this was developed to replaced the original L44 smoothbore 120mm turret gun on the Leopard 2's.

The most noticeable bonus of the new L55 tank gun was the increased compatibility with the Leopard 2 weapons system, thus allowing integration with only minor alterations. The L55 has the ability to make use of high penetration ammunition and is also compatible with the current 120mm munitions.

In November 1987 there was a tactical need for improved kinetic energy ammunition, this was known as the LKE II, this uses the L55 gun barrel. Its main armament is the 120mm l55 smoothbore gun with high penetration ammunition.

The fire control system includes a 'night vision' and thermal imaging display for the tank commander as well as a stabilised panoramic periscope. The periscope can also display the gunner's thermal sight, which will enable the commander to have the same field of view in a combat scenario. The gunner has use of a integrated laser rangefinder as a primary sight as well as a thermal sight which are both linked to the tank's fire control computer.

Leopard 2A5 Main Battle Tank with camouflaged netting.
Camouflaged Leopard 2A5 Tank
120mm Leopard 2 Battle Tank target firing during exercise.
Leopard 2 120mm Target Firing
Stationary Leopard 2A5 tank.
Leopard 2A5 Main Battle Tank

Leopard 2 GPS Navigation System

The tank has a land navigation system, which uses global positioning (GPS) and is equipped with an auxiliary power unit (APU) to power the vehicle's electrical systems when the main engine is off.

Dimensions
Length 7.7
Width 3.74m
Height 3.0m
Crew 4 Man
Armour 3rd Generation composite; including high-hardness steel, tungsten and plastic filler with ceramic component.
Primary armament 1 x 120 mm Rheinmetall L55 smoothbore gun. 42 rounds
Secondary armament 2 x 7.62 mm MG3, 4,750 rounds
Engine MTU MB 873 Ka-501 12-cylinder diesel, 1,500 HP(1,103 kW)at 2600 RPM.
Power/weight 24.2 hp/tonne
Suspension Torsion-bar
Operational range 550 km
Speed 72 km/h
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