Leopard 2A4 MBT, Leopard 2A5 MBT, Leopard 2A6 MBT
Current German Army plans call for the existing Leopard 2 fleet to be rationalised down to 852 tanks by 2006. This is to consist of 350 of the latest 2A6 variants and 502 of the older, non-modernised, 2A4 models.
With the Leopard 2A5/A6 currently the dominant MBT design in Europe, further development will likely continue via the recently established Leopard 2 Working Group formed by Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland, which have a combined total of around 580 Leopard 2A5/2A6s in service. Spain, which plans to introduce 219 Leopard 2A5s, may also join the group. In March 2002, Greece signed up for 170 Leopard 2A6s.
Protection: Even the oldest Leopard 2A4 enjoys better all-round armour protection than the Leopard AS1,
particularly over the critical hull and turret front and sides. The Leopard 2A5 features additional passive armour on the front hull sides and in a wedge-shape over the turret front and gun mantlet. The Leopard 2A6 has the same armour package but a new 120mm, 55-calibre smoothbore gun, which grants increased engagement ranges and lethality against enemy armour.
It is interesting to note that while the Leopard 2 user community has clearly embraced the need to up-armour its tanks in the face of modern threats, the M1 Abrams’ armour has remained unaltered since introduction of the M1A1 version more than a decade ago. Does this signify a higher level of baseline armour protection in the M1 Abrams over other competing tank designs? An underbelly add-on armour kit for the Leopard 2A6, to provide improved protection against anti-tank mines, is under development. The latest variants of the Leopard 2 MBT family (particularly that entering service with the Swedish Army) are fitted with add-on armour, which is at the forefront of MBT armour technology development in Europe. This is provided almost exclusively by German firm IBD Deisenroth Engineering.
|Leopard 2A5 MBt|
2 gives away its design origins in the middle of the Cold War when the Soviet tank threat predominated. As such, only a 7.62mm coaxial machine and 7.62mm MG3 machine gun mounted at the loader’s hatch are fitted. This cannot be considered ideal for a vehicle tasked with providing intimate fire support for infantry as any Leopard 2 acquired by Australia would be. The total number of 120mm rounds carried on board is 42.
Mobility: The Leopard 2 family of MBT, like the Leopard 1 series before it, is highly mobile and more than
a match for either the M1 Abrams or Challenger 2 in this area. Typically sound German automotive and mechanical engineering has resulted in a platform with no known mechanical or performance deficiencies.
Of note is the lower ground pressure figures of both the Leopard 2A4 and 2A5 (0.83kg/cm2 and 0.89kg/cm2 respectively) compared to those of Challenger 2 (0.90kg/ cm2) and M1A1 Abrams (1.08kg/cm2). This infers a slight advantage in cross-country mobility over soft ground or sand for the Leopard 2A4/2A5. As an aside, Army’s current Leopard AS1 has a ground pressure of 0.88kg/cm2.
|Leopard 2A6 MBT|
Despite feedback from some members of 1st Armoured Regiment to the effect that there is a degree of cross-over between the overall design and workings of the Leopard AS1 and Leopard 2 series that would help alleviate the initial training burden and facilitate a rapid transition between the two types, complete re-training of instructors, vehicle crews and maintenance/support personnel would still be necessary. So too would the acquisition of new training simulators and the modification of live fire gunnery ranges to cater for and exploit the longer engagement ranges inherent in the 120mm ordnance.