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  • Leopard 2 Main Battle Tank (MBT)

    The West German Leopard 2 Main Battle Tank was born out of the abortive MBT-70 collaboration with the United States.

     Updated: 3/20/2017; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.MilitaryFactory.com

    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.

    Images Gallery


    Leopard 2 Technical Specifications

    Service Year: 1979
    Type: Main Battle Tank (MBT)
    National Origin: Germany
    Manufacturer(s): Krauss-Maffei Wegmann; Krupp MaK - West Germany / Germany
    Production: 3,500

    Design (Crew Space, Dimensions, Weight, and Systems)

    Operating Crew: 4
    Length: 31.73 feet (9.67 meters)
    Width: 12.14 feet (3.70 meters)
    Height: 8.14 feet (2.48 meters)

    Operating Weight: 61 tons (55,150 kg; 121,585 lb)

    Nuclear / Biological / Chemical Protection: Yes
    Nightvision Equipment: Yes - Passive

    Installed Power and Standard Road Performance

    Engine(s): 1 x MTU MB-873 Ka 501 4-stroke 12-cylinder liquid-cooled turbocharged diesel engine developing 1,500 horsepower at 2,600rpm.

    Maximum Road Speed: 45 mph (72 km/h)
    Maximum Road Range: 342 miles (550 km)

    Armament and Ammunition

    1 x 120mm Rheinmetall L44 smoothbore main gun
    1 x 7.62mm MG3A1 co-axial machine gun
    1 x 7.62mm MG3A1 anti-aircraft machine gun
    2 x 8 smoke grenade dischargers

    LEOPARD 2A6 (and later):
    1 x 120mm Rheinmetall L55 smoothbore main gun
    1 x 7.62mm MG3A1 co-axial machine gun
    1 x 7.62mm MG3A1 anti-aircraft machine gun
    2 x 8 smoke grenade dischargers

    42 x 120mm projectiles
    4,750 x 7.62mm ammunition
    16 x smoke grenades

    Global Operators / Customers

    Austria; Canada; Chile; Denmark; Finland; Germany; Greece; Netherlands; Norway; Poland; Portugal; Singapore; Spain; Sweden; Switzerland; Turkey

    Model Variants

    Leopard 2 - Base Production Model; 380 units produced.

    Leopard 2A1 - Second production model; revised fuel filters; redesigned ammunition holders; thermal sight for gunner.

    Leopard 2A2 - Early production Leopard 2s and 2A1s brought up to new accepted standard with some sutble changes introduced.

    Leopard 2A3 - Digital Radios introduced

    Leopard 2A4 - Automatic fire supression system installed; computerized fire control system.

    Leopard 2A5 - Narrow "pinched" turret design; improved armor; all-electric turret; improved ammunition options; commander's thermal imaging sight; rear-driving camera for driver; improved laser range-finder.

    Leopard 2A5E "Espana" - Spanish license-production Leopard 2A5s.

    Leopard 2(S) - Swedish Leopard 2A5; increased frontal, side and roof armor; new laser rangefinder; Celsius command and control system.

    Strv 122 - Formal Swedesh Army designation of Leopard 2A5.

    Leopard 2A6 - New Rheinmetall 120mm L/55 Main Gun; improved armor.

    Leopard 2E - Improved Armor Protection designed jointly by Germany and Spain.

    Leopard 2A6EX - Improved Leopard 2A6; auxiliary power unit installed.

    Leopard 2A6 Hel - Greek Army version of the Leopard 2A6 mark.

    Leopard 2A6M - Improved Mine Protection Variant

    Leopard 2A6M CAN - Canadian version of the Leopard 2A6M.

    Leopard 2A7 - Appearing in 2010; modular armor; improved battlefield survivability; improved RPG and mine protection; remote weapons station.

    Leopard 2 PSO ("Peace Support Operations") - Urban Warfare variant; improved protection from RPG and mines; shorter main gun barrel; camera systems; searchlight; additional weapon station on turret roof.

    Bergepanzer BPz3 "Buffel" - Armored Recovery Vehicle.

    Panzerschnellbrucke 2 - Mobile Bridge Launcher

    Pionierpanzer 3 "Kodiak" - Combat Engineering Vehicle.

    Leopard 2L - Bridgelayer

    Leopard 2L - Mine Clearing Vehicle

    Fahrschulpanzer - Driver Training Vehicle; sans turret; instructor cab set in turret's place.

    Leopard 2-140 - Proposed Leopard 2 armed with 140mm main gun; autoloader would have reduced the crew to three personnel.