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.
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.