After WWII German industry returned to once again show its superb tank developing ability, bringing out its first post-war battle tank, the remarkable Leopard 1 The Leopard 1 MBT was the first tank of a family of armored vehicles such as: Self-Propelled-Anti-Aircraft-Gun “Gepard”, Armored Recovery Vehicle, Armored Engineer Vehicle and Bridge Laying Vehicle. After combat effectiveness improvement program the Leopard 1 A5 is still the backbone of 11 armies land forces on three continents.
Development of the Leopard 2 started in 1970. Due to the threat of the cold war times with the United States and named tank 70 program. After realization of the three prototypes, the partners decided the results of the joint venture with the national new type tank was to take advantage of the state-of-the-art technology designed for the tank 70 program and whole improve the Leopard 1.
Compound armor was generously added and the turret was redesigned with much angularity. It was mounted with a Rheinmetali 120mm L/44 smoothbore main gun, and powered by a 1500 PS outputting MTU MB873Ka-501 engine.
In the 1979 the first Leopard 2 was delivered to the German Army as the beginning of a series production of more than 2000 tanks. During the production Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland decided to equip their armies with the Leopard 2. In the meantime, Sweden, Spain, Austria, and Denmark have acquired the Leopard 2 as their main battle tank.
Later the 2A1 type Leopard 2 was equipped with an integrated thermal imager to the commander’s sighting equipment; the 2A3 type featured an updated radio system; the 2A4 type featured a newly designed fire suppression system and new shape to its armored skirting. In the late 1980’s the Leopard 2 underwent further improvements in efforts to make it the world’s finest battle tank into the future.
In 1991, with easing of tension between East and West Germany and their subsequent reunification, an improvement program was initiated and divided into two stages: KWS I and KWS II, KWS I was intended to mount the tank with a L/55 1200 smoothbore gun; the KWS II was suggested upgrade the protection, the fire control system and the ease of operation. After the deliberations was adopted.
In December of 1993, the upgrade of 225 tanks of the 2A5 type was decided. The Improved version was officially designated the 2A5 type. Krauss-Maffei and MaK oversaw improvements to the chassis of the 2A5, while Wegmann & Co. and Rheinmetall took care of the turret. The major changes to the chassis included a sliding driver’s hatch and a rear CCD camera mounted at the rear of the chassis, enabling movement in reverse at high speeds. The front and sides of the turret were fitted with easily replaceable, wedge-shaped add-on armor. To minimize damage from shrapnel inside the turret and spall liner was also installed.
The hydraulic gun control and stabilization systems were replaced by R17A2/TIM incorporates an independent thermal significant enhancing the night fighting capability of the tank. The delivery of the first Leopard 2 A5 for the German Army were officially handed over in November 1995. In December of that year the Leopard 2 A5 were deployed to Armor School and the Tank Battalions 33, 214 and 393.
Improvements to the Leopard 2 A5’s possessed by Sweden and the Netherlands also continued. Germany steadily developed the improved firepower, 120mm L/55 smoothbore gun equipped Leopard 2 A6. As the first Leopard 2 family vehicle, the Armored Recovery vehicle “Buffalo” with is already in use in Germany and the Netherlands, has been developed. The continuous evolution of the Leopard 2 assures that it will keep on setting new standards as the world bes MBT until well into the future.