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Background  —  Leopard 2 A6M / 2 A4 Tanks for the Canadian Forces?

Update: 12 April 2007 – official confirmation of 20 Leopard 2 A6Ms leased from Germany to arrive in Kandahar by summer 2007. Then 100 used Leopards (2 A4 and 2 A6Ms) will be bought from the Netherlands. The first of these refurbished tanks will be delivered by Fall 2007.

Rumours emerged on 10 Feb 2007 that Canada was tank shopping in Germany. Media reports [1] said  that Canada  had negotiated the lease of 20 Leopard 2 A6M tanks from Bundeswehr stocks and purchased  80 more older Leopard 2 A4. The newer 2 A6Ms, which have add-on mine-protection, would  be sent  to Kandahar. Less well-protected Leopard 2 A4s  would go to Canada for training purposes. Both models differ considerably from serving Leopard C2s.

Since the latest Leopard model [2] cannot be delivered quickly, the 2 A6M was leased instead – mine protection includes added floor plates, blast-resistant crew seats,  plus  revised ammunition stowage.  The basic vehicle is a Leopard 2A6 [3] with third-generation composite armour (similar in both shape and composition to the heavy MEXAS add-on armour kits applied to the Canadian Forces Leopard C2s sent  to Kandahar).

The angular Leopard 2 A4 turret did not have the  wedge-shape MEXAS armour. The gun is also different. Both 2 A4 and 2 A6M have Rheinmetall 120mm smooth- bore guns but a 2 A6  gun barrel  is 1.3m longer. This gives the gun higher muzzle velocity (more useful in tank battles than in the direct-fire support role).  Secondary armament for both Leopard models is two 7.62mm machineguns –  presumably C6s for 2 A4s and German MG3s [4] for 2 A6Ms.

KMW Leopard 2 A6M / 2 A4 Main Battle Tank – Specifications
  Crew:   driver,  gunner,  loader / radio op, commander
  Rheinmetall L/55 120mm / L/44 120mm main gun,
  42 rounds,  main gun range:  3,500 m  (11,483 ft)
  L  x  9.97m / 9.67m (gun fwd.), 7.74 / 7.72m (hull),
  W  x  3.74m / 3.54,  H  x  3.0m / 2.8m (cupola top)
 Weight:   Combat weight: 62 tonnes / 55.15 tonnes [5]
  Engine/trans:    1100 kW MTU MB 873.  Renk HSWL 354  [6]
  Max. Speed:   68 - 72 km/h, off-road 55 km/h, reverse 31 km/h
  Range:   500 / 550 km (road cruising), off-road varies

This lease/purchase surprised Canadian media but deployed Leopards are wearing out fast and it may be simpler/cheaper to replace than repair. In light of the German refusal to send troops to Kandahar, it galls to see  Canadian defence dollars build up [7]  Angela  Merkel’s treasury. Still, needs must and the deal means quick delivery, spares, maintenance software etc.

[1] Official reports from Berlin were cited by Agence France Presse (10 Feb 2007) in “Canada to buy German tanks for Afghanistan duty”. The report of  80 purchased  Leopard 2 A4s originated with Der Spiegel.  Both reports were repeated in the 11 Feb 2007  Ottawa Citizen. The Globe & Mail quoted DND spokeswoman, Tanya Barnes, saying “that no decision has been taken” on the reported tank lease/buy.
[2] Leopard 2 A4 is the most common model and can be thought of as a progressive development of the earlier Leopard 1s ( like the CF’s Leo C2 ) but with a larger turret for a 120mm gun. The Leopard 2 A5 introduced Heavy MEXAS composite armour to both turret and hull. With a longer L/55 gun, these tanks became the Leopard 2 A6s.  The latest production version is the 2 A6 (EX) with thicker  hull  armour.
[3] The mine-protection kit was developed for both Germany and Sweden. The Bundeswehr has 40 Leopard 2 A6M (M = Minenschutz) in service.  In July 2004,  the kit was applied to the Strv 122 in Swedish service ( Stridsvagn 122 med minskydd, an improved Leopard 2 A5 ).
[4] We assume that  leased tanks would retain German equipment.  That was the arrangement in the 1970s when Canadian tankers trained on Bundeswehr vehicles pending arrival of  Canadian Leopard C1s. Those loaned tanks retained their original MG3 secondary armament.
[5] Some sources give Leopard 2 A6 combat weight as high as 62.5t. Neither figure allows for the additional weight of the 2 A6M mine kit.
[6] The powerplant is a liquid-cooled  47.6L turbo-charged V-12 multi-fuel  MB 873 Ka 501 producing 1,500 hp at 2,600 rpm.  Some sources say that the Ka 501 is capable of 1,325 kW (or 1,800 hp) at 2,600 rpm.  The Renk automatic transmission has 4 forward and  4 reverse gears.
[7] It appears that our original, snide comment was unwarranted. According to CTV, Germany, which has “ been criticized for not allowing [its] troops to take part in the fighting in southern Afghanistan, have refused to take any money for the tanks Canadians have borrowed”. Vielen Dank, Angela! It should also be noted that Germany is also currently training Canadian tank crews on Bundeswehr Leopard 2A6s.