Photo: Jonathan G. Seow H. C.
The Leopard 2A4 is one of the many variants to the original Leopard 2 main battle tank (MBT). The Leopard 2 was conceptualized in Germany dung the mid to late 1960s when it was seen that an upgrade to the current MBT, the Leopard 1 was needed. When it was produced in the 1970s, it was quickly seen that the Leopard 2 was by far the most sophisticated MBT in the world. It was then deployed for use by the German Military in Afghanistan and Kosovo as well in many other European nations. By the 1980s several other nations would purchase Leopard 2s for use as their MBT as it outperformed the competition, the M1A2, Challenger 2 and Lerlec. It also boasted superior firepower and better mobility in spite of its much larger size.
The tank was designed by Krauss-Maffei AG (later renamed Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW)), of Munich, Germany. The design was initially a joint effort between West Germany and the United States to develop a new tank. The collaboration was known as the MBT-70 Program. Progress was stopped in 1970 and each country went on to develop their own MBTs. Krauss-Maffei completed seventeen prototypes between 1972 and 1974 that were tested by the German Military. The company was selected as the official contractor in September of 1977 and with the help of a second company MaK in Kiel, produced a total of 1,800 tanks.
After further development of the remains of the MBT-70, Krauss-Maffei was selected as main contractor to produce 17 prototypes. The first prototypes were completed between 1972 and 1974. As production and testing of the MBTs continued, a number of variants were created. The Leopard 2A4 featured the following:
- Inclusion of maintenance free batteries
- addition of new tracks
- movement of the central warning light to a new position
- addition of new forward sections of the side skirts
- removal of the left hand side ammunition re-supply hatch.
Specifications for the Leopard 2 MBT
The Leopard 2 weighs 62 tons, is 7.7m in length, 3.7m high and 3.7 m wide and holds a 2 man crew. It is divided into a driving compartment, fighting section and rear engine section. Observation periscopes are fitted to the driver’s compartment as well as an area for ammunition storage. Maneuvering is aided nu a 65 degree horizontal and vertical viewer placed at the rear of the tank that is attached to a monitor.
The Leopard 2 MBT comes equipped with a 120 mm smoothbore gun (L44 by Rheinmetall, Germany) and two 7.62 mm machine-guns. There is storage for extra rounds to the left of the turret that is separated from the fighting compartment by a small door. The 120 mm smoothbore gun is able to fire APFSDS-T (Armour Piercing, Fin Stabilized, Discarding Sabot) as well as HEAT (High Explosive Anti-Tank) rounds.
Countries that currently operate the Leopard 2 and variants
- Austria 114
- Denmark 51
- Finland 124
- Germany 2,125
- Greece 170
- The Netherlands 350
- Poland 28
- Switzerland 380
- Sweden 120
- Spain 108