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Canada in Afghanistan – NATO – Armour in Southern Afghanistan  –  August 2007

The First of Twenty Loaned Leopard 2A6M CAN Arrive in Kandahar:
A Glimpse of the CF's Future  (With a Little Help From Our Friends)

Stephen Priestley,  Researcher,  Canadian  American  Strategic  Review  (CASR)

As was widely reported,  the very first “Canadianized” Leopard 2A6M CAN tank arrived at Kandahar Airfield (KAF) on 16 August 2007. There were a few surprises and a few hints of what the future holds. It’s early days for CF Leopard 2s but here is what the photos tell us.

The Leopard 2 arriving aboard an An-124  rather than the new CF  CC-177 was a surprise. The CC-177 may have been held  in case  DART  were sent to Peru. Or, because the tank was being shipped from Germany, perhaps it  made sense to take advantage of  SALIS, Canada’s assured access to Germany-based Antonov airlifters through NATO. That An-124s could deliver such heavy equipment to KAF was not a surprise despite earlier statements by DND to the contrary. [1]

When the Leopard 2A6M CAN was first publicly unveiled, a new feature was  extensive anti-RPG slat armour ‘cages’.[2] Oddly, there was no sign of that slat armour on the Leopard 2 arriving at KAF. The mounts for the new armour were in place but not the actual armour ‘cage’. [3]

It appears  that  only a  single  Leopard 2A6M CAN was delivered  to KAF on 16 August.  This is rather strange considering  the An-124-100’s carrying cap- abilities. The An-124 is credited with a range of 5210 km with a 120t payload. The Leopard 2A6M weighs about 60t, the distance from the SALIS base (Leizig- Halle) to KAF is about 4850 km. So, a minor mystery is why two tanks were not sent on that one flight.[4] In any case, as the former MND said, even with CC-177s, the CF will need to lease airlifters.

First the Big Move, Then the Small   –   Life-Extensions  for the  Loaned   Leopard  2A6M

Once the first Leopard 2A6M was on the ground in Kandahar, it still had to be moved  to the  tank park with a minimum of  wear and tear on tracks. Alas, the CF has no tank transport trailers. Twelve AHSVS tractor / trailer combos are on order but they won’t arrive in Kandahar until Fall of  2007. In the meantime,  the CF was able  to borrow a Dutch  XF95 Tropco [5], a low-loader normally used to transport the Dutch  PzH2000 NL self- propelled howitzers and out-sized engineering equipment (at right) around Uruzgan province.

The XF95 Tropco combo is what  the Koninklijke Landmacht use to move Leopard 2s around  the  Netherlands. As can be seen,  the Leopard  2A6M is near the limits of  the Tropco trailer. That  weight  may  be one reason that the CF loaner tank has yet to be fitted with a  slat armour cage. Another one may be the resulting overall width. [6]

One revelation from media reports was that the Leopard 2A6Ms will not have air conditioners. These tanks are on loan and only very minimal changes can be made.  Distinctive black boxes on the turret bustle (left) raised hopes that air- con had been added. (The ‘boxes’ likely  house CF-dictated communications gear  –  they line up with the new antennae stands.)  The Leopard 2A6M crews will wear cooling vests instead but, at least,  the turrets are cooler to begin with. [7]

These loaned German Leopard 2A6Ms give us clues about  how fully “Canadianized” Leopard 2s now on order might appear while also revealling some of  the challenges in deploying these 60 tonne vehicles. We are also made aware of  the debts incurred with allies to bring these tanks into action: NATO for its interim airlift arrangement, Germany for loaning the vehicles
( lease fees have been waived ), and the Netherlands for in-theatre transport. In the future, the Leopard 2s will belong to the Canadian Forces and they will be transported by CF Actros heavy trucks. How these vehicles arrive in-theatre is less important. Either leased airlifters or CF CC-177s.

[1] The Dutch have An-124s to transport helicopters directly into KAF  –  AS.532  Cougars in several  lifts during April  2006,  plus Apaches and Chinooks in Februrary and April 2007.
[2] Slat armour (or ‘bar armour’) is most often associated with light armoured vehicles (it has begun to appear on TLAVs in Afghanistan). The ‘cage’ must be seen as extra insurance for the less well-protected sides and rear of the Leopard 2s. A major role for CF tanks in-theatre has been breaching mud brick walls  –  hard to do with slat armour sticking out to the sides.
[3] Although not visible in images, it is possible that the ‘cage’ sections were in the An-124.
[4] If the slat armour section were on board, the extra weight would explain it.  Denmark, like the CF, plans to fly Leopard 2s directly to KAF. Each Kandahar-bound An-124 would carry one Danish tank (in contrast with  two Leopard C2s per An-124  from Edmonton to Manas).
[5] The current Dutch Tropco (Trekker-Oplegger-Combinatie or tractor/semi-trailer combo) consists of  the 6x6 DAF XF95 tractor with armour cab and  Broshuis low-loader semi-trailer.
[6] The Tropco trailer’s width  is pretty much  the same as the Leopard 2A6M’s track width. In theory, the Tropco can handle 70 tonnes. The Leopard  2A6 combat weight is 60 tonnes.
[7] The Leopard 2A6M  turret drive is electric only,  while current-serving CF  Leopard C2s also have heat-generating hydraulic pumps (which the loader straddles) driving their turret.

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