The Leopards

The 2nd generation of the growling German tanks.

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Source: Torbjørn Kjosvold

“Norwegian Leopard 2 A4 NO Tank” by Metziker is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

By: Joe Lam, Journalist

When the term ‘Panzers’ were used, people would instantly come up with imagines such as columns after columns of boxy, darkish grey weapons of destructions rolling down the streets of counties that have been conquered by the Nazis, or  about some types such as the fearsome Tiger 1. All of that is true, but after Germany (and it’s axis allies, Italy and Japan) got whipped by the allies (USA, UK, USSR, and others), it (just Germany) got split into two, West Germany (under the control of NATO) and East Germany (under the control of the Warsaw Pact). For some time West Germany (the East Germans were using Soviets tanks) were equipped with foreign tanks (mostly from USA) but during the 1970s the Germans were tired of these tanks and wanted a natively designed tank. And so let to the creations of the tanks that would be known as the leopards.

History (of Leopard 1)

During the 1950s, the West German Army wanted a new tank type to replaced their old American tanks (which are the M48 Patton and the M47), and they come up for the specifications that the new tank type, called the Standard-Panzer, should have. The new tank should be able to: weighted no more than 30 tons, be able to withstand 20mm cannon shots at all sides, be able to operates in both chemical and radioactive areas, to be able to carry and use a 105mm main gun, and also carry enough ammo to rival that of American designs. The German Army decided to considered speed and mobility of the new tank as the priority, with the armaments second and armor last. During this time, France, who have just flunked their own tank project, decided to team up with the Germans. West Germans agreed and the two of them sign a agreement contact in the June of 1957 (The Germans call this project Europa-Panzer). During this project 1 French and 3 German design teams were made and the each of them was in a competition with each other as each of them submitted 2 prototypes. The Germans decided to use the prototype designs submitted by the car company Porsche in 1963. Later, Germany decided to kick France out of the project after they (the French) have failed to contribute to the effort. In February of the same year, Kai-Uwe von Hassel, the defense minister of Germany, asked the German government for permission to produce the newly approved tank design. And this tank, and it’s later improved version, is the officially known as Leopard 1

Stats (of Leopard 1)

Length: 9.24 meters

Width: 3.37 meters

Height: 2.70 meters

Weight: 42.2 tons

Crew member required: 4 (Commander, gunner, driver, and loader)

Armaments: one 105 mm L7 gun, two 7.62mm MG3 machine guns

Engine: MTU MB 838 CaM 500 with 819 horsepower

Speed: 65 km/h

Range: 600 km

History (of leopard 2)

Despite the developments and the productions of the Leopard 1s, the German armed forces have already begin looking for a new tank type to replace the Leopard 1. At first they collaborated with the US and made a prototype tank design called the MBT-70. But this project is progressing very slow, and, in the end, the German armed forces decided to just upgraded their Leopard up to a new standard. They then give that order to Porsche in 1967. Porsche then looked at the Leopard 1. They them made several prototype designs, which each have a different (but advanced) layout and systems, but eventually they picked one design that they called the Eber (German for “Boar”). Eber was a new design (that the German Ministry of Defense suggested to be) based on the failed MBT-70 project. With a few more improvements Eber was renamed as “Leopard 2” and was submitted and were approved for productions by the German governments.

Stats (of Leopard 2)

Length: 9.97 meters

Width: 3.75 meters

Height: 3 meters

Weight: 68.7 tons

Crew members required: also 4 (Commander, gunner, driver, and loader)

Armaments: one 120mm smoothbore gun made by Rheinmetall, two 7.62mm machine guns (MG3 or FN MAG)

Engines: MTU MB 873 Ka-501 with 1,479 horsepower

Speed: 68 km/h

Range: 400 km

Design features of Leopard 2 

The looks Leopard 2 is somewhat nostalgic, for it have the same boxy shape that the WW2 panzers have. Slap on that Iron Cross sign of the German Army, and the Leopard 2 won’t be looking out of place if it was in a rank of WW2 panzers. And that’s not all, the technologies that the leopard 2 is highly advanced. It featured a gun stabilizing system that allowed the tank to still shoot accurately even when it’s racing at full speed and/or driving through very rough countryside. The system is so well that during a test, a military personnel put a jug of beer, filled to the brim, on a platform mounted on the gun barrel and have the tank to drive over some bumpy ground. And the end result is that not a single drop were spilled (the beer was later drunken down and here is a video of it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=222o2O_w3WI). There was also another test, and that one proved how well is the Leopard 2’s brake system. In this test a group of people stand together in a line in the path of a Leopard 2 that is driving at high speed. And just as the tank is about to crash into the group of people the Leopard triggered it’s brakes and stopped right behind the group of people ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jm42sikiW3Y    ).

Present day

For right now, the Leopard 2 is still in service with the German Army. The Leopard 1 (alongside with the American M60 and the British Centurions) were retired. The German government have signed a contact with a Israel film to equip a system called TROPHY onto the Leopard 2. Which allowed better protections for Leopard 2.