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Canada in Afghanistan – NATO – Allied Armour in Southern Afghanistan  –  May 2007

Leopard-kampvogne til Afghanistan?: a Little Help from our Friends
The Danish Army is Prepared  to Deploy Tanks to Helmand Province

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

Update:  27 Oct. 2007.  Danish Leopard 2 A5s have begun arriving in Afghanistan.  The following is from Forsvaret :

The first Leopard 2 A5 tanks have now arrived in Afghan- istan. Four Leopard 2 A5s are to reinforce Danish soldiers in Helmand. Yesterday, the first tank arrived at [Kandahar]. “It’s all gone as planned.  The tanks landed at the correct time and the correct place", said Lt-Col Hans Henrik Møller of  the International Operations department. “The tanks have to go from [Kandahar] out to Helmand. Here the tanks are to support the attempt to push the Taliban out the area. Until that happens, it isn’t possible to rebuild these areas. The transport of the 62 tonne tanks (combat weight) was performed by Russian built Antonov [An-124] tranport aircraft. Only one Leopard tank can be flown at a time. The four Leopard tanks will operated by 24 soldiers. Training is being finished and the soldiers oriented to their new surroundings”, said Møller.

Not mentioned in the Forsvaret press release is that the 4 Leopard tanks will be joined by a single Leopard 1 Armoured Recovery Vehicle (from the same family as the CF’s Taurus).

On 05 February 2007, an Antonov An-124 arrived at Karup, Denmark  to allow  the Danish Air Force’s  Combat Support Wing to test-load Leopard 2A5 tanks for air transport. This was to determine whether Danish tanks could reasonably be deployed as part of the so-called Quick Reaction Force. The experiment was a success and the Danish Army announced that  the tanks were “ready for insertion” to either southern Afghanistan or Iraq  and  waited on a government decision.

Prior to the An-124 tests, [1]  the I. Panserbataljonen of  the Jydske Dragonregiment had created a reserve of  four tanks for possible deployment to a ‘hot spot’. Five Leopard 2 A5 DKs were re-sprayed in a “desert camouflage” pattern.  Previously, Leopards had been sent to Spain for hot climate/sandy environment tests and obviously the  lessons learned are being applied.

The Leopard 2 A5 DKs tested  in Spain wore sand and  grey camouflage and  Barracuda camouflage mats  which serve to reduce absorption of solar heat (the goal is to reduce thermal signature but a lowered interior temperature is a side benefit). As can be seen (left), the wash-off sand paint has given way to a dramatic scheme of  reddish brown and  dark  green over a pale sandy-grey base on  the five ‘reserve’  Leopard 2 A5s.

Checking the Cat’s Pedigree  –  Danish  Leopard  2 A5 DKs  Prove to  be  a  Breed  Apart

The Leopard 2 A5 DK is a bit of a hybrid. Denmark bought Leopard 2 A4s from Germany beginning in 1988. By the time the last ’A4 was delivered  in 2000,  contracts were in place to uparmour  the 51 tanks to  Leopard 2 A5  levels but  with local improvements (mostly aimed at ergonomics, lower interior heat, and  protection  for  fuel  tanks.[2]

Leopard 2 A5 DKs had been ordered from the outset with the lessons of the Gulf War in mind. Their turret drives and gun stabilization are entirely electric, thus avoiding the heat build-up from the hydraulic pumps in the Canadian Leopard C2s. An electrical generator provides power for the turret systems – as well as an air-conditioning system.  The 2 A5 DKs also have an auxiliary power unit  (APU) for running “engine off ”.

In choosing a ’2 A5 upgrade  rather than going  to the latest ’2 A6 standard,  the Danes decided to forgo the long L/55 120mm main gun.  This will  provide Canada with an excellent opportunity. The Danish experiences with short L/44 guns can be compared with that of the CF’s leased Leopard 2 A6Ms with long guns.  Should Afghanistan reveal any downsides to that longer gun, all purchased CF Leopard 2s could keep the L/44s. [3]

[1]  Denmark was taking advantage of  its membership in the NATO  Strategic Airlift Interim Solution.  SALIS provides members (including Canada) with 125 An-124 flying hours / year. The initial  Danish plan was to fly its Leopards directly into Kandahar.  Each An-124 would carry a single Danish tank  (in contrast to the two Leopard C2s per Antonov to Kyrgyztan).
[2] Many of the changes were based on Danish crew experiences with Leopard 1 A5s in the Balkans. This includes fuel tanks protected from blasts  (although not to 2 A6M standards).
[3] The L/55 gun is optimized for tank-against-tank engagements. Fire support missions may not require such a high muzzle velocity although this in itself isn’t a disadvantage. An extra 1.3m of barrel length for L/55s would restrict traverse in built up areas, however. Operational experience will reveal whether this is an issue in Afghanistan or not. Comparison might also be made with current  Danish 120mm tank ammunition which now includes XM1028 canister (shotgun shell-like rounds filled with 1150 tungsten balls) and Rheinmetall PELE (Penetrator with Enhanced Lateral Effect ) intended to reduce “collateral damage” during urban combat. Update:  Going by the ‘Tank Replacement Project’ LOI ,  DND will upgun all CF Leopard 2s.

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