Below the Turret Ring: Leopard 2 Projects

The blog Below the Turret Ring has written a new post taking a look at some of the latest upgrade projects for the Leopard 2 MBT.

Below the Turret Ring: Leopard 2 projects

In April 2015 the German Army announced it’s plans to increase the operational Leopard 2 fleet by 103 tanks. Since then not a lot has happened, as revealed in official documents and in newspaper articles from the Februrary of 2017. At least some of the tanks are currently owned by the German defence industry, so the government has to buy them back – but no contract has been signed within nearly two years of planning. The Leopard 2A4 main battle tank (MBT) is an improved version from the mid/late 1980s of the original Leopard 2 tank. By modern standards it has outdated armor, a short gun with inferior armor penetration and range, while lacking of modern electronics, optronics and relying on the more dangerous hydraulic systems instead of using electric drives.

leostorage

Leopard 2 tanks in long-term storage

Original reports from last year expected 84 of the new tanks to be upgraded to the Leopard 2A7 or the improved Leopard 2A7V configuration. The costs for buying and upgrading the tanks are expected to be about 760 million Euros, the contract might be signed before summer of 2017; if not the whole program might be delayed by another year due to the German elections in September 2017. The reason for the current delays is a disagreement between the two companies Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) and Rheinmetall. Current workshare plans see about a third of the work (and the money) going to Rheinmetall, but the company demands more. Rheinmetall acquired the military division of Maschiennebau Kiel (MaK) in 1990, which was responsible for manufacturing 45% of all German Leopard 2 tanks. Rheinmetall is also a major subcontractor for the main armament, delivering the L/55 smoothbore gun for the tank.

Click here to go to the full blog post

Below the Turret Ring

It’s time to check up on the blog “Below the Turret Ring” to see what they have been up to.  Since last time we checked, they have posted two lengthy pieces, one on the armor configuration of the early model M1 Abrams, and a follow-up to their post from last year on Leopard II tanks in Syria.  Click on the headlines in the excerpts below to go to the full version.

 

Below the Turret Ring: Early M1 Abrams composite armor

f5nvtzu3On the TankNet forums, a user with the nickname “whelm” has posted drawings from a formerly classified document on the earliest iteration of the US M1 Abrams main battle tank (MBT). He got this document from Vollketten, a user with accounts at the Sturgeon’s House forum, the WoT forum and other places. It details the armor layout of the tank, showing were the Burlington composite armor is located and how it is specifically implemented on different areas.

Burlington special armor, also known as Chobham armor, is a type of composite armor developed in the United Kingdom by the FVRDE from the late 1960s onwards. It consists of a number of sandwich plates – also called biscuits – which are mounted in a spaced configuration. It is understood that these sandwich plates work as a type of non-explosive reactive armor (NERA), by using an elastic interlayer located between two metal plates (usually steel or alumininum). On impact the rubber will compress to the point of maximum compression, until expanding again and bouncing back. This will move more material into the path of penetration and also shatter thin and fragile projectiles, such as the shaped charge jets created by high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) warheads commonly used on anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs). Essentially NERA works like explosive reactive armor, but with a lot less plate movment, as it only reuses the energy from the impacting projectile, instead of using an external energy source (such as the detonation of an explosive layer) to move the metal plates.

 

Below the Turret Ring: Leopard 2 in Syria – part 2

c2ozgbnwgaaf_6hYesterday a new video was released by ISIS terrorists showing a bunch of destroyed main battle tanks (MBTs) and armored personnel carriers (APCs) near the Syrian city of Al-Bab. This video however has proven something, that I understimated a certain weapon. Not anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs), not improvised explosive devices (IEDs). A much older weapon: propaganda. The same weapon that turned the Tiger heavy tank – a rather mediocre design of it’s time – to a supposed super tank, that still is being worshipped by some individuals today. However the propaganda worked, invoking a Tiger-phobia on the side of the allies.

Now, what exaclty has happened? A new video showing the exact same area that the first few videos were showing. The destroyed or damaged tanks are probably all identical to the tanks already shown in earlier videos, that have been covered by numerous news articles and blogs. Still some people start writing articles in a sort of kneejerk reaction, claiming that these are newly defeated tanks and that the Turkish Army is just poorly trained or the Leopard 2 is a poorly designed tank, incapable of competing on the same level as the tanks of other countries (even though this is not tank-vs-tank warfare…). This again leads to people to come and reply or spread the articles, which are pushing for their own agenda. “The T-90 is so much better, only one was penetrated!”, “All people who think the Leopard 2 is a good are Nazi-tank fanboys” and “The Abrams/Challenger 2/T-84 is an inpenetratable super tank”. People love to ignore the fact that the Turkish Leopard 2A4 is fitted with out-dated armor, possibly still the first generation of armor technology introduced with the original Leopard 2 in 1979. The fact that the Turkish Army was purged after the failed coup attempt – in which most tank units were equipped with Leopard 2A4 tanks – is intentionally ignored.

Below the Turret Ring: December Posts

As we get to the end of the month, we thought it worth looking at what the blog Below the Turret Ring has posted in December. They have two posts for this month, both dealing with German armored vehicles in the Middle East. On December 15 they posted about the Leopard 2 MBT in Syria. On December 22 they posted about a sale of German Marker IFVs to Jordan. We have posted excerpts and links below.  Click on the headline to go to the full article over at Below the Turret Ring.

Leopard 2 in Syria – Donnerstag, 15. Dezember 2016

8hfq9zhTurkish Leopard 2 tanks are actively operating in the war in Syria. The tanks have been photographed at different locations near the town of Al Bab, which is located about 35 kilometres (21.7 miles) north-eastern of Aleppo. A few photos were shared on Twitter, apparently taken by Turkish soldiers. More detailed photos and video footage was provided by the SMART news agency, which is said to have ties to Syrian rebels.

The Turkish Army is operating the Leopard 2 main battle tank (MBT) since 2005, when an initial batch of 298 Leopard 2 tanks was ordered. A further 56 tanks were purchased in 2010 and 2013. The Turkish military previoulsy tested the Leopard 2 Improved (Leopard 2A5/6 prototype), the Leclerc with additional armor package, the Ukrainian T-84-120 Yatagan tank (a version of the T-84 fitted with 120 mm gun and bustle-mounted autoloader) aswell as the M1A2 Abrams fitted with the MT883 diesel engine (as the gas turbine proved to be a main issue for potential buyers). The Leopard 2 Improved performed best, however the Turkish government didn’t purchase the tanks in the originally planned volume and version (up to a thousand Leopard 2A5 tanks were wanted by the military). Instead the Turkish goverment favored the local production of MBTs, where the bid by the South-Korean company Hyundai-Rotem was chosen over Krauss-Maffei Wegmann’s offer, because it included the full transfer of technology instead being a licence production agreement. This lead to the Altay main battle tank, based on South-Korean technology used on the K2 Black Panther MBT.

 

Marders to Jordan – Donnerstag, 22. Dezember 2016

3795783_originalJordan has received an initial batch of 16 ex-German Marder infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) on the 11th December of 2016 as part of German military aid. The delivery also included 20 mm RH202 autocannons, spare parts and a Marder driver training vehicle. It must be noted that the permission for an export of 24 Marders, 28 Rh 202 autocannons and one Marder driver training vehicle to Jordan was given for 2016. The costs of this equipment is €12.8 million. This means that most likely a second batch of Marders will be shipped this year. A total of 50 Marder IFVs are being delivered to Jordan until end of 2017. Furthermore Jordan is set to receive surveillance equipment, 56 vans and 70 trucks.
The military aid to Jordan is part of a bigger initiative, which costs about €100 million in 2016 and €130 million in 2017. Other recipients of the German military aid are the Iraq, Tunesia, Mali, Nigeria and Niger. Jordan received about €25 million from the German government in order to be able to purchase the Marders.

The Marder IFV is an older design, being introduced into German Army service in 1971. It replaced the HS.30 Schützenpanzer lang, the first infantry fighting vehicle of the world. While offering only average firepower for it’s time, the Marder was designed to feature a higher degree of armor protection, being heavier than all other IFV counterparts of the same era.

 

Video: Leopard 2 firing range footage

Tank Nut Dave has posted a number of videos showing Dutch Leopard 2 tanks firing a variety of ammunition types at various targets, including an M113, a Leopard 1 and a car.


 

 

 

 

Germany Wins Strong Europe Tank Challenge

Stars and Stripes is reporting that the tank platoon from the German Bundeswehr has won the Strong Europe Tank Challenge at Grafenwoehr Training Area.  This was the first such exercise held since 1991 and included tank platoons from six NATO countries, Germany, Poland, USA, Slovenia, Italy and Denmark.  The German platoon competed with the Leopard 2A6 main battle tank, while Denmark and Poland used the Leopard 2A5.  The US platoon compete with the Abrams M1A2, the Italian platoon with the Ariete MBT and Slovenia with the M-84.  The German team was rewarded the top prize while Denmark took second place and the Poles secured third place.  It seems bragging rights may be in order for the Leopard 2 tank.

According to an article from www.army.mil, the competition consisted of the following:

Platoons rotated throughout the three events, vying for a possible 1,000 points. Crews conducted both offensive and defensive operations involving fire and maneuver for 350 possible points in each lane.

Mounted orienteering had a possible 300 points that was combined from six 50-point tasks, including a mystery physical challenge that emphasized teamwork. Platoons navigated through an obstacle course with 13 challenges. Soldiers fired 10 rounds from three different locations using their own service weapons during the combat pistol shoot lane. The vehicle identification lane tested the platoons’ abilities to identify 25 friendly and threatening vehicles while traversing through a course. Crews had to recover, hook up and tow vehicles while under a simulated chemical attack. Finally, multinational teams reacted to an improvised explosive device, assessed and treated a casualty, and requested a medical evacuation.

From the Editor: Type 99 “third most powerful tank?”

99-143445_copy1As an example of how quickly bad information can spread around the internet, lets consider some recent articles that have been making the rounds which claim that the Chinese Type 99 MBT was recently declared “the world’s third most powerful tank.”  We spend a good deal of time searching for news relating to tanks and AFVs every day, two days ago we noticed an article from “Want ChinaTimes” with the headline “PLA’s Type 99 ranked world’s third most powerful tank.”  This theme was repeated in another article from Yibada with a very similar title posted yesterday.  So where does this notion come from?  The claim comes from the German magazine Focus which ran an article listing the best tanks in the world, with the Type 99 third after the Leopard 2 and the Abrams.  We found the Focus article in question, it’s in German of course but with some help from google translate we can get the gist of it.  If the authors of the Want Chinatimes and Yibada articles had bothered to do the same, they might have noticed that the tank descriptions in the Focus article are presented in no particular order.  In fact, the article plainly states that in order to see their rankings of the tanks, people have to watch a video which is embedded in the bottom of the article . In the video the Type 99 does not even make the list.  The article picks the five best MBTs in descending order as Leopard 2A7, K2 Black Panther, M1A2 SEP, Challenger 2 and Merkava Mk4.  It also notes that the new T-14 Armata may be a contender as well.

It should be noted that the article and video in Focus are really not very informative.  No information is provided as to the methodology used to rank these tanks, nor is it mentioned who is doing the ranking.  The fact that a German magazine has declared the German tank as the best should immediately raise some red flags with the reader.  Many of the technical details of modern MBTs are still classified and few have seen combat, especially any combat against other modern armor.  This lack of information makes these sorts of comparisons pretty meaningless, and most of these sorts of lists are more guesswork and nationalistic chest thumping as much as anything else.  Typically, we would not have bothered to mention articles of this poor quality here at Tank and AFV News.  However, we thought it worth pointing out this example of how quickly bad information can spread around the net.

German Newspaper challenges German policy of no DU tank ammo

leopard_2a6_2A recent article in German newspaper Die Welt makes the claim that German tungsten based APFSDS 120mm ammunition is ineffective against the armor of Russian T90 MBTs.  The author of the article, Han Ruhle, was the Chief of Policy Planning Staff in the German Department of Defense 1982-1988.  He lays the blame for the lack of effective depleted uranium APFSDS round in the German inventory at the feet of German environmentalists and anti-nuclear activists.  The article states that:

Currently, the Bundeswehr has a limited effective means of anti-tank ammunition with the DM63, an arrow-tungsten-based ammunition. Their penetrating power is indeed improved significantly over the old munitions and corresponds with the enhanced 120-millimeter cannon to just the level of the old uranium core ammunition of the US from the 80s. However, this is not enough to penetrate the newer versions of the T80- and T90 tanks.

The full article can be viewed here (in German).  This article comes at a time when the German military has suffered a number of embarrassments regarding equipment effectiveness, procurement and readiness.  The G36 rifle has come under criticism for inaccuracy at high temperatures, the Puma IFV has suffered a series of delays and cost overruns and earlier this year a German unit on exercises was shown with broomsticks substituted for missing gun barrels.

Not surprisingly, the decidedly pro-Russian news site Sputnik International pounced on this article, declaring “German Army has no Chance against Russian Tanks