Leopard 2 MBT


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Development of Leopard 2 tank began in 1960s, when United States and Germany were intensively working on their project of new tank under label MBT/KPz-70. At that time, MBT-70 had the highest priority in both countries, so much so that one article forbade both countries from developing any other tanks in parallel with it.

MBT/KPz-70 project was very ambitious, with goal of creating a new concept of Western tank far more advanced than any other tanks of the day. In fact, idea was that the tank would revolutionize tank development, and tank itself would remain in service until at least year 2000. All of this had to be done with limited financial resources, while production price of individual tank could not be above 1 million USD. But expenditures and prices skyrocketed, leading to the project being cancelled in 1969., though Germany really had given up on it two years earlier.

MBT 70
Reasons for the discontinuation were listed as the differences in understanding the basic conception, problems of priority regarding the subsystem development, high costs and difficulties related to work coordination and cooperation. Also problematic were exotic solutions such as placement of driver into a cabin inside the turret that kept him stationary relative to tank’s body regardless of how the turret turned. Driver was supposed to control the tank via special electrohydraulic controls, while the remaining two members of the crew – commander and the gunner – were in standard places in the tank. The goal of this weird design was to have as low body as possible and thus minimize weight of the tank. Having entire crew inside the turret would simplify the question of crew protection. In the end, the entire system had shown itself as impractical, overly complicated, too expensive, and practically useless – in some positions the commander’s sights would block the driver’s sights from seeing anything.

Still, the MBT/KPz-70 was not a complete waste. It was the first time West had tested autoloader, hydropneumatic suspension allowing greater stability during cross-country driving, composite armor, modern fire control, stabilization of gun and commander’s sight, gas turbine etc.

During this time – in 1965. – German Leopard 1 was just entering service. At the same time, the German government had requested Porsche company to begin development and perfecting components of Leopard 1 so that it could reach the standards of KPz-70. Project lasted until 1967., and was known under names Vergoldetel Leopard and Gilded Leopard. This year also showed the first cracks in US-German project of supertank development. This encited the German Ministry of Defense to renew and reinforce the project of development of Vergoldeter Leopard which would later become known under the title of Keiler (“Wild Pig”).

Munchen company Krauss-Maffei was chosen as carrier of the project, while Porsche was assigned to develop the body while Wegmann developed the turret. The project continued without much problems, and in 1969. the first (ET 01) prototype had been finished, and the second prototype (ET 02) a year later. Both were powered by the 10-cylinder diesel engine MB 872, produced by MTU. By the end of 1972. the KPz-70 project was officially dead, and the German Office of Defense Technology and Procurement began a study with the aim of saving the majority of successful systems utilized by the deceased American-German programme. The goal was to combine the systems from discontinued KPz-70 with systems used in the new experimental tank. Tank was named Eiler, but the prototype was never completed.
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Basic Design​

Leopard 2 basically kept the Leopard 1 chassis, but with major improvement in armored protection. Biggest change was the turret, which was redesigned to fit both the new Rheinmetall 120 mm gun and also the extra composite armor. Composite armor is used on the hull and the turret, and it combines steel plates of different hardness, tungsten, elastic materials, ceramics and other non-metallic materials such as plastics. The armor is designed to resist 125 mm APFSDS kinetic energy penetrator ammunition when it is fired from a distance of 1,500 m. Estimated armor protection was, up to Leopard 2A5, 590 – 690 mm RHAe on the turret and 600 mm RHAe on the glacis and lower front hull. In Leopard 2A5 and later models the maximum physical thickness of armor is 1500 mm. All Leopard 2 variants after A6 include spall liners on the inside of the tank, protecting the crew. Leopard 2A6CAN increases protection against RPGs by including additional slat armor.

Tank operates with four-man crew. Driver sits at the right side of the hull, while the commander is on the right side of the turret, behind and slightly above the gunner. The loader stands on the left side of the turret, with the main guns breach between him and the commander/gunner. He loads the main gun from ammunition stored in an armored rack with blow out-panels in the turrets bustle (rear).

The Leopard 2 uses a hybrid electronic land navigation system made by LITEF, a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman. This navigation system consists of a global positioning system (GPS) and an inertial navigation system.