Leopard 2


Origin: Federal Republic of Germany.

Type: MBT.

Crew: 4.

Armament: One 120mm gun; one 7·62mm MG3 machine-gun coaxial with main armament; one 7·62mm MG anti-aircraft machine-gun; 8 smoke dischargers on each side of turret.

Dimensions: Length (including main armament) 31·72ft (9·668m); length (hull) 25·32ft (7·72m); width 12·23ft (3·73m); height 9ft (2·73m).

Combat weight: 121,275lbs (55,000kg).

Engine: MTU MB 873 Ka-501 12-cylinder water-cooled multi fuel engine developing 1,500hp at 2,600rpm.

Performance: Road speed 44·7mph (72km/h); range 341 miles (550km); vertical obstacle 3·93ft (1·2m); trench 9·84ft (3m), gradient 60 per cent.


Development: The Leopard 2 MBT has its origin in a project started in the 1960s. At this time the Germans and the Americans were still working on the MBT-70 programme, so this project had a very low priority. Once the MBT-70 was cancelled in January 1970, The Germans pushed ahead with the Leopard 2, and 17 prototypes were completed by 1974. These prototypes were built by the manufacturers of the Leopard 1, Karuss-Maffel, with the assistance of many other German companies.

       Without doubt, the Leopard 2 is one of the most advanced tanks in the world and the Germans have succeeded in designing a tank with high success in all three areas of tank design: mobility, firepower and armour protection. In the past most tanks have only been able to once. A good examples is the British Chieftain, which has an excellent gun and good armour, but poor mobility; the French AMX-30 is at the other end of the scale and has good mobility, an adequate gun but rather thin armour.

       The layout of the Leopard 2 is conventional, with the driver at the front, turret with the driver at the front, turret with commander, gunner and loader in the centre, and the engine and transmission at the rear. The engine was in fact originally developed for the MBT-70. The complete powerpack can be removed in about 15 minutes for repair or replacement. At first it was widely believed that the Leopard 2’s armour was of the spaced type, but late in 1976 it was revealed that it used the British developed Chobham armour.


Above: Leopard 2 grew out of the joint US-German MBT-70 project initiated in the 1960s.

Above: In main armament, Leopard 2 followed the Soviet trend toward smooth-bore tank guns.


This gives superior protection against attack from all know projectiles. It is of the laminate type, and consists of layers of steel and ceramics.

       The suspension system is of the torsion-bar type with dampers. It has seven road wheels, with the drive sprocket at the rear and the idler at the front, and there are four track-return rollers.

       The first prototypes were armed with a 105mm gun of the smooth-bore type, developed by Rheinmetall, but later prototypes had the 120mm smooth-bore gun. The 120mm gun fires two basic types of fin-stabilized ammunition (in which small fins unfold from the rear of the round just after it has left the barrel), and this means that the barrel does not need to be rifled. The anti-tank round is of the Armour-Piercing Discarding Sabot type, and has an effective range of well over 2,405yd (2,200m); at this range it will penetrate a standard NATO heavy tank target. The second round is also fin-stabilized is designed for use against field fortifications and other battlefield targets. The cartridge case is semi-combustible and only the cartridge stub, which is made of conventional steel, remains after the round has been fired. The job of the loader is eased by the use of the hydraulically-assisted loading mechanicsm. The gun has an elevation of +20° and a depression of -9°. A standard 7·62mm MG3 machine-gun is mounted coaxially with the main armament. A 7·62mm MG3 machine-gun is installed on the loader’s hatch for use in the anti-aircraft role. 42 rounds of 120mm and 2,000 rounds of 7·62mm ammunition are carried. Eight smoke dischargers are mounted each side of the turret, although production vehicles may well have eight on each side.

       A very advanced fire-control system is fitted, which includes a combined laser and stereoscopic rangefinder and the gun is fully stabilized, enabling it to be laid and fired on the move with a high probability of the round hitting the target. Standard equipment includes infra-red and passive night-vision equipment, an NBC system and heaters for both the driver’s and fighting compartments. The Leopard 2 can ford stream to a depth of 2·59ft (0·8m) without preparation, and with the laid of a schnorkel can deep ford to a depth of 13·12ft (4m).


Above: Smoke dischargers, periscopes, commander’s sight and MG3 ring-mounted above the loader’s hatch adorn the otherwise severely functional square-sided turret fitted to the Leopard 2.


       In 1976 a modified version of the tank was delivered to the United States for trials, designated the Leopard 2 (AV), the letters standing for Austere Version. This had many modifications requested by the United States, but Chrysler won the contract for the M1 in November 1976.

       The West German Army has ordered 1,800 Leopard 2 MBTs, of which 990 will be built by Krauss-Maffei and the remaining 810 by MaK of Kiel. First production tanks were delivered in October 1979 and production will continue until 1986.

       In 1979 the Netherlands Army placed an order for 445 Leopard 2 MBTs for delivery between 1982 and 1986. The Leopard 2 has also been selected for the Swiss Army, but other sales to European armies seem unlikely as it is either too heavy, or too expensive, or because the armies have only just re-equipped with another new MBT (eg, Leopard 1).

       Whatever happens, however, this highly efficient and effective MBT will serve a number of armies well into the 21st Century.



M1 Abrams


Origin: USA.

Type: MBT.

Crew: 4.

Armament: One 105mm M68 gun; one 7·62mm machine-gun coaxial with main armament; one 0·5in machine-gun on commander’s cupola; one M240 7·62mm machine-gun on loader’s hatch.

Dimensions: Length (gun forward) 32·0ft (9·766m); length (hull) 25·97ft (7·918m); width 11·99ft (3·655m); height 7·8ft (2·375m).

Combat weight: 120,000lb (54,432kg).

Engine: Avco Lycoming AGT-T 1500 HP-C turbine developing 1,500hp.

Performance: Road speed 45mph (72·4km/h); range 295 miles (475km); vertical obstacle 4·1ft (1·244m); trench 9ft (2·743m); gradient 60 per cent.


Development: In June 1973 contracsts were awarded to both the Chrysler Corporation (which builds the M60 series) and the Detroit Diesel Allison Division of the General Motors Corporation (which built the MBT-701 to build prototypes of a new tank designated M1, and later named to Abrams tank. These tanks were handed over to the US Army to trials in February 1976. In November 976 it was announced after a four-month delay that the Chrysler tanks would be placed in production.

       Production, which commercial at the Lima Army Tank Plant in Lima, Ohio, in 1979, with the first vehicles being completed the following year, is now also under way at the Detroit Arsenal Tank plant, which, like Lima, is now operated by the Land Systems Division of General Dynamics, which took over Chrysler Defense Incorporated in 1982. By late 1984 some 2,000 M1s had been built and the tank is now entering service at an increasingly rapid rate. The first units to field the M1 were the three armoured battalions of 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized), who proudly gave the tank its European debut in “Exercise Reforger” in Augustus 1982.

       The US Army has a requirement for some 7,058 M1 by the end of Fiscal Year 1989. From 1985 it is expected that the 105mm M68 rifled 120mm Rheinmetall smooth-bore gun, which is being produced under the designation XM256; this will fire both West German and American ammunition, although there have been more problems in adapting the turret to take the West German gun than had been anticipated.

       The M1 has a turret of the new British Chobham armour, which is claimed to make the tank immune to attack from all shaped charge warheads and to give dramatically increased protection against other anti-tank rounds, including kinetic energy (i.e., APDS and APFSDS). It has a crew of four; the driver at the front, the commander and gunner on the right of the turret, and the loader on the left.

       The main armament consists of a standard 105mm gun developed in Britain and produced under licence in the United States, and a 7·62mm machine-gun is mounted coaxially with the main armament. A 0·5in machine-gun is mounted at the commander’s station and a 7·62mm machine-gun at the loader;s station. Ammunition supply consists of 55 rounds of 05mm, 1,000 rounds of 12·7mm and 11,400 rounds of 7·62mm. Mounted each side of the turret is a bank of 6 British-designed smoke dischargers. The main armament can be aimed and fired on the move. The gunner first selects the target, uses the laser rangefinder to get its range and then depresses the firing switch. The computer makes the calculations and adjustments required to ensure a hit.


Above: After exhausting testing the US Army went for gas turbine propulsion in its M1 Abrams, plus the old 105mm M68 gun.


       The fuel tanks are separated from the crew compartment by armoured bulkheads and sliding doors are provided for the ammunition stowage areas. Blow-out panels in both ensure that an explosion is channeled outward. The suspensions is of torsion-bar type with rotary shock absorbers. The tank can travel across country at a speed of 30mph (48km/h) and accelerate from 0 to 20mph (0 to 32km/h) in seven seconds, and this will make the M1 a difficult tank to engage on the battlefield.

       The M1 is powered by a turbine developed by Avco Lycoming, running on a variety of fuels including petrol, diesel and jet fuel. All the driver has to do is adjust a dial in his compartment. According to the manufacturers, the engine will not require an overhaul until the tank has traveled between 12,000 to 18,000 miles (19,312 to 28,968km), a great advance over existing tank engines. This engines is couple to an Allison X-1100 transmission with 4 forward and 2 reverse gears. Great emphasis has been placed on reability and maintenance, and it is claimed that the complete engine can be removed for replacement in under 30 minutes. The M1 is provided with an NBC system and a full range of night-vision equipment for the commander, gunner and driver. One hazard has, however, become apparent since the tank entered service: the exhaust gases, ejected over the rear of the vehicle, can melt the paint of another vehicle too close behind. Consequently, any M1 on public roads  needs another vehicle behind it to keep unsuspecting civilian traffic well away!

       Those Europeans who critize the Americans for failing to make the “two-way street” a reality need look no farther than the M1. This epitome of the US Army’s might has British armour, main gun, and smoke dischargers, and a Belgian 7·62mm machine-gun, while later versions will convert to a West German main gun.


Above: Like Chieftain, the M1 Abrams has a slab-sided turret clad in compound armour: future versions will have a 120mm gun.


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