Leopard 2 main battle tank was developed by Krauss-Maffei, now Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW), of Munchen, Germany. The Leopard 2 is a successor to the successful Leopard 1.
Leopard 1 was first produced in 1963 by Krauss-Maffei for the German Ministry of Defence. More than 6,000 vehicles have been exported to Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Italy, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, Turkey and Australia.
The successor to the Leopard 1, the Leopard 2, was first produced in 1979 and is in service with the armies of Austria, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, Switzerland, Sweden, Spain and Turkey, with more than 3,200 tanks produced.
In June 2010, KMW unveiled its next-generation main battle tank, Leopard 2 A7+. The tank was successfully tested and qualified by the German Army. Its main features include a modular protection kit, improved sustainability and increased mobility.
In July 2011, a deal to sell around 200 Leopard 2 A7+ to Saudi Arabia was approved by Germany’s Federal Security Council.
International orders for Leopard 2 and its variation models
The Finnish Army has bought 124 tanks and the Polish Army has bought 128 used Leopard 2A4 tanks from Germany. In August 2005, Greece placed an order for 183 used Leopard 2A4 and 150 Leopard 1A5 tanks from German Army reserves.
In November 2005, an agreement was signed for the sale of 298 German Army Leopard 2A4 tanks to Turkey.
In March 2006, Chile signed a contract for the acquisition of 140 Leopard 2A4 tanks from the German Army. The first was delivered in December 2007.
The Leopard 2A6 includes a longer L55 gun, an auxiliary engine, improved mine protection and an air-conditioning system. The German Army is upgrading 225 2A5 tanks to 2A6 configuration, the first of which was delivered in March 2001. The Royal Netherlands Army upgraded 180 of its 2A5 tanks to the 2A6 configuration, the first of which entered service in February 2003. In March 2003, the Hellenic Army of Greece ordered 170 Leopard 2 HEL (a version of the 2A6EX). The first 30 are being assembled by KMW, with the remainder by ELBO of Greece. The first locally built tank was delivered in October 2006. The Leopard 2A6 HEL entered service with the Hellenic Army in May 2008.
Spain has ordered 219 Leopard 2E (a version of the 2A6 with greater armour protection), 16 recovery tanks (CREC) and four training vehicles. The first 30 were built by KMW and the rest licence-built in Spain by General Dynamics, Santa Barbara Sistemas (GDSBS). The first tank was handed over to the Spanish Army in June 2004 and deliveries concluded in 2008.
Another variant is the Leopard 2(S), which has a new command and control system and passive armour system. 120 Leopard 2(S) have been delivered to the Swedish Army. Deliveries concluded in March 2002.
In December 2006, it was announced that Singapore would buy 66 refurbished Leopard 2A4 tanks from the German Army, plus 30 additional tanks for spares. The tanks entered service with the Singapore Army in September 2008.
In April 2007, Canada purchased up to 100 Leopard 2 tanks from the Dutch Army and leased 20 Leopard 2A6M tanks from the German Army. KMW delivered the first of the leased 2A6M tanks, which has been upgraded with improved mine protection and slat armour, in August 2007. The tank was deployed to Afghanistan later in August 2007. The Dutch Army retains a fleet of 110 2A6 tanks.
In October 2007, Portugal purchased 37 Leopard 2A6 tanks from the Dutch Army. The first eight were delivered in October 2008 and deliveries concluded in 2009.
In October 2010, Canadian armed forces took delivery of the first 20 Leopard 2A4M CAN modernised battle tanks from KMW. These tanks were deployed in Afghanistan to provide a high level of protection and firepower to the Canadian soldiers. As of January 2011, five of the 20 tanks were sent to Afghanistan as a replacement for Leopard 2 A6M CAN, deployed there since 2007.
Rheinmetall Group received an order worth $289.6m from the Indonesian Ministry of Defence in November 2013 to deliver tracked armoured vehicles and to provide logistical support services and ammunition.
Rheinmetall will deliver 103 overhauled and modernised Leopard 2 main battle tanks under the contract. It will also deliver 42 upgraded Marder 1A3 infantry fighting vehicles, 11 various armoured recovery and engineering vehicles, associated documentation, training equipment, logistical support services and an initial supply of practice and service ammunition.
Indonesia received first eight 61 Leopard 2 RI (Republic of Indonesia) main battle tanks from Rheinmetall, in May 2016.
Rheinmetall received a €220m ($238.9m) order from Poland in February 2016 to upgrade 128 Leopard 2 MBTs to Leopard 2 PL standard. It also received a contract for 44 new Leopard 2A7+ tanks from the Hungarian armed forces in December 2018. Deliveries will begin in 2021 and complete by 2025. Hungary will become the 19th operator of Leopard 2 main battle tank.
Rheinmetall received a €118m ($139.3m) order to modernise 104 Leopard 2 tanks for Bundeswehr. The project includes the transformation of 68 Leopard 2A4, 16 Leopard 2A6 and 20 Leopard 2A7 main battle tanks to A7V standard.
In December 2017, Saab received an order from KMW to deliver mobile camouflage systems for Leopard 2 tanks. Deliveries will take place between 2018 and 2022.
KMW received a contract worth more than €300m ($336.8m) to modernise 101 Leopard 2 A6 main battle tanks, in April 2019. Deliveries are expected to conclude in 2026.
Mine protection system for improved crew safety
KMW has developed a mine protection system for the Leopard 2, following a concept definition by an international working group from Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Sweden and Norway, under the lead of the German procurement agency BWB. An order placed in September 2003 involved the modification of 15 Leopard 2A6 tanks for the German Army and ten Leopard 2A5 (Strv 122) for Sweden. The first mine-protected tank was delivered in July 2004.
The kit consists of add-on armour elements including a new plate under the tank floor, new vision systems and re-stowage arrangements for ammunition.
Trials in February 2004 demonstrated that, with the new armour package, Leopard 2 tank crews could survive the detonation of an anti-tank mine under the tank without suffering any injuries.
Construction of the Leopard 2 battle tank
The hull comes in three sections: the driving compartment at the front, the fighting section in the centre, and the engine at the rear of the vehicle.
The driver’s compartment is equipped with three observation periscopes. Space to the left of the driver is provided for ammunition stowage. A camera with a 65° horizontal and vertical field of view positioned at the rear of the vehicle and a television monitor provides a reversing aid for the driver.
The turret is located in the centre of the vehicle. There is an improvement programme which provides third-generation composite armour and additional reinforcement to the turret frontal and lateral armour, with externally mounted add-on armour modules. In the event of weapon penetration through the armour, the spall liner reduces the number of fragments and narrows the fragment cone. The spall liner also provides noise and thermal insulation. The reinforcement provides protection against multiple strikes, kinetic energy rounds and shaped charges.
Fire control capabilities of the main battle tank
The commander’s station has an independent periscope, a PERI-R 17 A2 from Rheinmetall Defence Electronics (formerly STN Atlas Elektronik) and Zeiss Optronik. PERI-R 17 A2 is a stabilised panoramic periscope sight for day/night observation and target identification, which provides an all-round view with a traverse of 360°. The thermal image from the commander’s periscope is displayed on a monitor.
The PERI-R17 A2 can also be used for weapon firing as it is built into the tank’s fire control system. The image from the gunner’s thermal sight can also be transmitted to the commander’s PERI-R17 periscope so the commander can switch the gunner’s video image to the commander’s monitor. This enables the commander and the gunner to have access to the same field of view of the combat range.
The gunner’s station is equipped with a Rheinmetall Defence Electronics EMES 15 dual magnification stabilised primary sight. The primary sight has an integrated laser rangefinder and a Zeiss Optronik thermal sight, model WBG-X, which are both linked to the tank’s fire control computer.
The thermal sight uses standard US Army common modules, with 120 element cadmium mercury telluride, CdHgTe (also known as CMT) infra-red detector array operating in the eight to 14-micron waveband. The infra-red detector unit is cooled with a Stirling closed-cycle engine.
The sight is fitted with a CE628 laser rangefinder from Zeiss Optronik. The laser is a Neodinium Yttrium Aluminium Garnet, (Nd:YAG) solid state laser.
The rangefinder can provide up to three range values in four seconds. The range data is transmitted to the fire control computer and is used to calculate the firing algorithms. Also, because the laser rangefinder is integrated into the gunner’s primary sight, the gunner can read the digital range measurement directly. The maximum range of the laser rangefinder is less than 10,000m with accuracy to within 20m.
The command and fire control procedure known as first echo selection is used for laser range-finding for anti-helicopter operations. The principal weapon uses electronic firing to reduce reaction times.
Main armaments and weapons on Leopard 2
A new smoothbore gun, the 120mm L55 Gun, was developed by Rheinmetall Waffe Munition of Ratingen, Germany, to replace the shorter 120mm L44 smoothbore tank gun on the Leopard 2. The extension of the barrel length from calibre length 44 to calibre length 55 results in a greater portion of the available energy in the barrel being converted into projectile velocity increasing the range and armour penetration.
The L55 smoothbore gun, equipped with a thermal sleeve, a fume extractor and a muzzle reference system, is compatible with current 120mm ammunition and new high-penetration ammunition.
As a result of tactical requirements, Rheinmetall Waffe Munition developed the improved kinetic energy ammunition known as LKE 2 DM53. With the DM53 round, the L55 gun can fire to a range of 5,000m. The effect of the kinetic energy projectile on an enemy target is achieved by the penetrator length and projectile mass and the impact velocity, and the interaction between the projectile and the target.
The penetrator material is heavy tungsten powder in a monoblock structure. The improved kinetic energy ammunition has higher muzzle energy and recoil forces. Especially when using the new DM 53 KE round, the L55 enables a 30% increase in performance compared with conventional systems. For example, a muzzle velocity can be achieved in excess of 1,750m/s.
Leopard 2 is equipped with a land navigation system from the company LITEF of Bonn, Germany, which is a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman (formerly Litton) of USA. The hybrid navigation system consists of a global positioning system (GPS) and an inertial navigation system.
KMW’s MBT Leopard 2 support systems and tank engine
A programme has been put in place to replace the H-WNA improved hydraulic system with E-WNA, which is an electrical weapon follow-up system. The replacement with the E-WNA provides the following advantages: the turret has no pressurised hydraulic fluid, lower noise level and lower power consumption and heat generation, improved reliability and lower maintenance and service requirements, saving in operating costs, and good long-term storage properties.
The crew compartment is equipped with a fire and explosion detection and suppression system which has been licensed by the company Deugra Ges. fur Brandschutzsysteme of Ratingen, Germany, from the UK company Kidde-Graviner of Slough, Berkshire. A fireproof bulkhead separates the fighting compartment from the engine compartment at the rear of the vehicle.
The engine is the MTU MB 873 diesel engine, providing 1,100kW (1,500shp), with a Renk HSWL 354 gear and break system. An enhanced version of the EuroPowerPack, with a 1,210kW (1,650shp) MTU MT883 engine, has been trialled on the Leopard 2.