Leopard 2A4, the backbone of the German armored forces

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Back in the 70’s of the 20th century, the NATO forces needed a tank that would be able to counter Soviet T-72 and T-80 so they launched the MBT project. Due to various differences in approach and also due to the conflicted economic interests, the MBT project failed and most of the leading NATO countries started the development of their own tanks of the new generation. The US came up with the M1A1 Abrams, Great Britain developed the Challenger, French decided to pursue Leclerc, Italian choose their project called Ariette and the Germany started developing the Leopard.

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Characteristics

The backbone of the German armored forces was for a very long time the Leopard 2A4 version. It is a robust tank that weights some 55 tons in battle conditions and its appearance on the battlefield is both impressive and intimidating.

Its 120 mm Rheinmetall L44 gun allows it to take out any tank, vehicle or fortification and its flat tungsten/titanium armor provides the protection against most shells and missiles in operational use.

For tackling the infantry, it is equipped with one 7.62 coaxial machine gun and one 7.62 anti-aircraft gun on top of the turret.

Its powerful 1479 hp (1103 KW) engine allows it to move on almost any terrain and it gives the Leopard 2A4 a maximum speed of 68 km/h on the road.

Finally, it has a digital targeting system that allows it to fire at the moving targets while it is also on the move on the ranges of 5.000 meters. Of course, the ammunition that L2A4 uses has its limitations so the SABOT shells are effective against other tanks within the range of 2 kilometers. All of this together makes the Leopard 2A4 a feared tank amongst its potential adversaries.

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Leopard 2A4 Today

As from 2003, the Germany decided to heavily decrease the number of tanks in its armed forces so most of their L2A4s were sold to other countries while the main tank of the Bundeswehr nowadays is the Leopard 2A6. The L2A4s mostly ended in friendly and NATO countries and a lot of them are still using it. The German Leopard 2A4s were mainly sold to Canada, Finland, Spain, Chile, Denmark, Norway and Greece and they are still in active service in those countries.

There were several upgrades on these machines with their current operators so the Canadian version has some of the additional protection that can be seen on the L2A7. It was meant to be up-gunned with the usage of the L55 gun but it proved to be less than adequate in the conditions of Afghanistan war theatre so the standard L44 gun remained in service.

The Turkish army developed a new additional composite armor for additional protection on their Leopard 2A4s and it provided some additional protection to their tanks. Also, they completely overhauled the turret and integrated the new optic systems. This is to be used on their Altay tank concept but it has proven very effective on the L2A4s.

Technical data:

Weight: 55.15 tons in battle conditions

Length: 9.67 m

Height: 2.79 m

Width: 3.70 m

Armament: 1 x L44 120 mm Smoothbore gun, 2 x 7.62 mm machine gun

Radius: Road – 340 km, Off-road – 220 km

Max. Speed: 68 km/h forward, 31 km/h reverse

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