LEOPARD 2: The history of the powerful German main battle tank

Today, we will present to you the history of the German main battle tank Leo2.

The Leopard 2 was originally designed to replace the M48 Patton main battle tanks and replace its predecessor, the Leopard 1, which was already in service with the German Armed Forces. The Leopard 2 (LEO2) is far superior in mobility, protection, and firepower to the previous model and has seen active combat multiple times.

The history of Leopard 2 begins…

It wasn’t long after the Leopard 1 entered service in 1965 that Porsche was awarded a contract to create modifications to the main battle tank. The goal of the Golden Leopard program was to make future Leopard 1 models as competitive as the MBT-70 model.

During the Cold War in 1967, the Federal Ministry of Defense opted to continue the Golden Leopard program, in addition to developing the MBT-70 with the United States. Krauss-Maffei, the prime contractor, was selected. The chassis was designed by Porsche, while Wegmann was responsible for the turret and ET 01, ET 02 were two prototypes of the Keller that were built in 1969 and 1970.

The Keller and Eber

The Keller’s turret had an arrowhead mask and an angular design. The turret was encased in a high-hardness steel casing that was mechanically welded into place using the assembling method. Arrow shells were fired from the smooth-bore 105 mm weapon. MB’s 872 V10 diesel engine paired with a ZF 4 HP 400 automatic transmission provided the power for its glacis. KPz-70 KPz-70’s MB-873 V12 diesel engine was downsized to ten cylinders in the MB-872 engine.

The Eber, a reworked version of the Keiler, was created in late 1969 by the German Federal Office for Armaments and Supply Technology in an effort to reuse components produced for MBT-70. The 152 mm XM150 cannon and the 20 mm machine gun mounted on the remote-controlled turret of the MBT-70 were also transferred to the Eber.

LEOPARD 2: The history of the powerful German main battle tank
Photo By Thomas Vogt from Paderborn, Deutschland – KPz 70, Prototyp, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=79020635

This recommendation was made in early 1970 by Helmut Schmidt and the Federal Ministry of Defense to continue the development of the Golden Leopard, but this time using the V12 diesel engine of the KPz 70. Orders were placed for 10 Rheinmetall smooth-gun-armed prototypes and seven 120-mm smooth-gun-armed models. Krauss Maffei was once again the primary contractor for this project. Between 1972 and 1974, a total of sixteen chassis (designated PT 1 to PT 17) and a total of seventeen turrets were constructed. The Leopard 2 FK (FlugKörper; missile) project was discontinued in 1971, but the XM150 (152 mm cannon of the MBT-70) armed version was examined.

The Leopard 2K

Known as Leopard 2 K prototypes, these vehicles took over some of the MBT-70 turret’s hydraulic engine equipment, along with its rollers and tracks. The Leopard 2 K, on the other hand, retained a four-man crew with a chassis driver. NATO’s MLC 50 classification index had to be adhered to by the Leopard 2 K when it adopted the Keiler design mass of fewer than 45 tons. Prototypes were also identified by their chassis.

In West Germany, the tanks were tested between 1972 and 1974 in Münster and Meppen. From February to March 1975, four Leopard 2Ks were tested in Shilo, Canada, and Yuma, Arizona, from April to May of that year.

Negotiations began in 1973 between the United States and West Germany to regulate several components of their future battle tanks in the year of their formation.

LEOPARD 2: The history of the powerful German main battle tank
Photo By Joshua06 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=98936530

The agreement with United States and West Germany

December 1, 1974, and July 26, 1976, were the dates when the agreement was signed and amended, and in February of 1973, the PT 07 chassis of the Leopard 2 was sold to the US Army for testing at the Aberdeen Test Ground. Comparative tests between the PT 07 Leopard 2 K prototype and the two XM1 prototypes were part of the memorandum of understanding (MoU).

Krauss-Maffei ordered prototype modifications for the Leopard 2 in order to meet the XM1’s requirements for ballistic protection, ammo compartmentation, and anti-explosion panels.

The Leopard 2 AV (austere version) was designed by Porsche, Krauss-Maffei, and Wegmann to suit the United States criteria of the Memorandum of Understanding.

On the basis of previous experience with the T-14 mod. turret, the turret was designed to feature less advanced fire control. At the front of the chassis, there is a fuel tank whose position is between layers of composite armor. There were no more body offsets that were on the borders of a curve.

Krauss-Maffei and Mak made at least eight tanks of the LEO2AV version, which was selected once the tests were completed and served as the foundation for manufacturing en mass the main battle tanks.

A program of modernization for the Leopard 2 was implemented.

LEOPARD 2: The history of the powerful German main battle tank
Photo By Billyhill – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47429973

As a result of this program, all older Leopard 2 tanks were upgraded to the Leopard 2A4 standard version which introduced a digital ballistic computer and an improved fire extinguishing system.

The Leopard 2 A5 version, included a thermal camera for the tank commander, an improved GPS/inertial navigation system, and the displacement of the panoramic viewfinder on the tank commander’s turret. In the Leopard A6, Rheinmetall’s longer 120 mm L/55 variant replaced the 120 mm L/44 – NBC protection and night vision are also included in this version of the armored vehicle with the Greek Army making basically a different variant of the Leopard 2 A6 with improved armor and optics taking the name Leopard2HEL or LEO2HEL.

LEOPARD 2: The history of the powerful German main battle tank - GEOPOLITIKI
Photo By User:Evilemperorzorg, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36640664

Turkey’s Leopard 2AMTs will be called Leopard 2A4TRs and will include many improvements in the armored chassis of the tank as well as improvements on its fire control & an active protection system.

The latest version of the Leopard 2

The Leopard 2A7+ was unveiled to the public for the first time at Eurosatory 2010 with the marking “Developed by KMW – tested and qualified by the German Ministry of Defense.”. Germany’s Bundeswehr has tested the Leopard 2A7+ as part of Operation UrbOp (urban operations).

LEOPARD 2: The history of the powerful German main battle tank - GEOPOLITIKI
Photo By AMB Brescia – Leopard 2 A7Uploaded by tm, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21585723

The Leo2A7+ is capable of both low- and high-intensity operations. Modular armor has improved the tank’s protection; a dual-kit on the turret and hull front has boosted frontal protection, and 360-degree protection against RPGs and mine protection has strengthened the tank’s survivability in urban operations.

The turret-mounted MG3 has been replaced with a stabilized FLW 200 remotely controlled weapon station, and it can fire programmable HE projectiles. The ability to move around and stay aware of one’s surroundings has all been enhanced.

Turkish Leopard 2 in the battle for Al Bab…

The Leo2A4 has been criticized negatively for its performance in the Al-Bab battle because of the huge losses Turkish land troops suffered against extreme Islamists but most military analysts claim that those casualties were the result of poor tactics implemented by the Turkish Army & were not caused by a poor tank design.

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