Development for the Leopard 1 tank started in 1956. The German and French Military recognized the need for a modern tank to replace the current M47 and M48 Patton tanks. A set of requirements were devised for the design of this new tank.
- Was not to exceed thirty tons in weight
- Had to have a power to weight ratio of 30 horsepower per ton
- Should be able to withstand gunfire by 20mm guns on all sides
- Be able to operate even if the field was contaminated with chemical weapons or was affected by radioactive fallout
- Had to have an armament of 105 mm caliber weapons and could carry as much if not more rounds.
German and France formed a partnership and collaborated on the design. The partnership eventually dissolved and after approximately eighty prototypes, the final design went into production by Krauss-Maffei for the German Ministry of Defense in 1965. A total of 6,485 Leopard tanks were built, with 4,744 being battle tanks and 1,741 bring utility and anti-aircraft tanks.
Uses for the Leopard 1 Tank
The Leopard went on to serve as the main battle tank in more than a dozen countries and was a standard in Europe’s forces. Since its production Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Ecuador, Germany, Greece, Italy, Lebanon, Netherlands, Norway, Turkey and the United Kingdom have all used or are still currently using the Leopard tank. The Leopard 1 has been given secondary roles in most forces (training missions, support etc.) while later incarnations are still being used as Main Battle Tanks. The hulls of decommissioned Leopards are also re-used in a variety of ways.
Specifications for the Leopard 1
The Leopard 1 weighs just over 42 tons, is 3.37m wide, 2.62m high and 9.54 m in length (with the gun at 12 o’clock). It is powered by a 10 cylinder 830 horsepower multi-fuel engine. It has a maximum top speed of 65km/h and an operating range of 600km. it comfortable manned by a crew of four ( a commander, driver, gunner and loader/ radio operator). The armament consists of one 105-mm gun, a 7.62-mm co-axially mounted machine-gun and a 7.62-mm crew commander’s machine-gun which could be used with high explosive anti-tank rounds, high explosive plastic and armor piercing rounds.
There are two main compartments in the Leopards hull. The engine is situated in the rear and is cordoned off from the crew by a blast proof bulkhead. The driver is up front and there is a hatch cover opening to his left. Three periscopes are found in front of the hatch; one infrared, one image intensification and one for night driving.
On the right of an all-cast turret are the gunner and commander, while the loader sits on the left. The commander has access to eight periscopes while the gunner has one and the loader has two. Towards the front of the commander’s hatch there is a 6x – 20x zoom periscope. An ammunition resupply hatch is located to the left of the turret. There is also a searchlight over the main gun that can be removed and stored to the rear of the turret.