According to a news report from Defence24.com, the Polish Army is interested in buying more Leopard 2 main battle tanks (MBTs). Poland originally received 128 Leopard 2A4s for an extremely low price, a decision made in Germany in order to build up better political relationships between the two countries, which previously due to the second World War and previous conflicts had been terrible. A further 119 Leopard 2 tanks (including 105 relatively modern Leopard 2A5s) were ordered in 2013, after Germany (falsely) decided to downsize it's tank force. These second-hand tanks also were extremely cheap, costing only €180 million.
|The Leopard 2PL is an upgraded Leopard 2A4 with AMAP armor, new optics, electronics and an APU|
Given this history, it seems very unlikely that Poland is going to order newly built Leopard 2 tanks, which would cost between €5 and €11 million per vehicle, depending on variant and other parts and services being part of the contract value. Buying new tanks also would delay the introduction into service by some years, however the tanks could be more capable than what currently is possible with upgrading older vehicles - in order to keep upgrades cheap, most Leopard 2A4 users try to limit the weight of a modified version to 60 metric tons (above this limit the torsion bars need to be replaced, which requires some welding on the hull).
Thus Poland is most likely looking to buy second hand Leopard 2A4 tanks for a much a lower price - before Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula, used Leopard 2A4 tanks were sometimes sold for less than one million Euros per tank.
If Poland purchased Leopard 2A4 tanks, these MBTs then should be upgraded to the modern Leopard 2PL standard, which features enhanced surivability, firepower and slightly improved mobility. A thick AMAP composite armor module at the turret front boosts the frontal turret protection to a level comparable to the Leopard 2A7, while optics and modifications to the gun, improved drive system and a computer unit to program the 120 mm DM11 HE-airburst ammunition boost the tank's lethality.
A possible source for these second-hand tanks might be Norway; recent reports suggest that Norway is considering giving up it's small tank force (originally ordered 52 Leopard 2A4s, 46 left operational) in favor of a more mobile infantry-focused doctrine. Small infantry units should take out enemy tanks by using anti-tank guided missiles and other weapons. This is however only one of three options being considered by the Norwegian Army, in the end the tanks might be kept operational.
Finland might also be able to sell slightly less than a hundred Leopard 2A4 tanks, after purchasing 100 ex-Dutch Leopard 2A6 MBTs in 2014. Some of the 139 Leopard 2A4s originally bought by Finland have been relegated to reserve units, while others were converted into bridge layers, support vehicles or cannibalized for spare parts.
A third option for getting Leopard 2A4s at a low price might be Spain. Originally Spain leased 108 Leopard 2A4 tanks from Germany, which later were purchased by the Ejército de Tierra (Spanish Army), after Germany had downsized it's own military significantly and had no need for further tanks. Spain has offered the tanks to the Czech Republic and to Peru; however they were rejected due to being in a bad condition and thus requiring costly factory-level maintenance.
It is currently unknown what buying more Leopard 2 tanks means for the fate of the PT-16 tank developed by the Polish industry. It might result in no PT-16 being bought by the Polish Army, however the current government plans to increase the size of the military dramatically (together with it's budget), which might allow to upgrade some of the older T-72 and PT-91 tanks to the PT-16 configuration.
|Leopard 2A5 of the Polish Army|
Due to Russia's politics towards Eastern Europe (predominantely annexing Crimea and supporting the rebels in the
civil war in Ukraine) being considered an aggression and inacceptable, NATO has increased it's focus on conventional warfare, shifting away from focusing on international peace-keeping, peace-making and anti-terror operations. To react faster and better in case of a Russian aggression, the Polish Army has moved some of it's currently most advanced tanks - the Leopard 2A5 - closer to it's eastern border. The tanks originally belonging to the 34th Armoured Cavalry Brigade located in Zagan (a city close to the German border) have been moved to the 1st Tank Brigade, which is stationed in Wesola, a place close to the country's capital, Warsaw. Likewise the PT-91, an enhanced, local version of the T-72 featuring ERAWA armor and improved electronics, will be used to replace some other tanks in the 1st Tank Brigade. Previously the unit was equipped with obsolete T-72M1 tanks.
|The ADS system utilizes pre-warner radars, optronic sensors and box-based countermeasures|
Meanwhile ADS Protection GmbH, a German company owned by Rheinmetall Defence and it's partner IBD Deisenroth Engineering, has suggested to the German military to adopt it's Active Defence System (ADS), a box-based active protection system (APS) capable of defeating (depending on exact variant) anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) - including top-attack weapons, RPGs, EFPs, aswell as HE(AT) and APFSDS ammunition fired by main battle tanks. A report following an investigation on the system was presented to the German Defence Commitee at the end of March. Due to the commitee working in private, it is not known what the result of this report are. According to an earlier report in a news magazine, the system could enter service in 2018 or 2019, when ordered in 2017. The system manages to exceed the NATO STANAG 4686 requirements for active protection systems (intercepting more than 85% of incoming projectiles for a reduction in penetration capacity by 50%), defeating over 95% of incoming threats during testing.
On the 26th April of 2017, the German parliament finally approved a contract to buy and upgrade 103 Leopard 2A4 tanks, which are currently owned by the German defence industry. Previously the contract was delayed due to disputes between the two companies Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) and Rheinmetall, which could not agree on how the contract value would be split between them. Most of the tanks will be upgraded to the new Leopard 2A7V configuration, an upgraded variant of the Leopard 2A7, while the other tanks will be converted to support vehicles or repurposed in another way. The Leopard 2A7V will feature a stronger 20 kW auxiliary power unit (APU), enhanced armor protection, superior optics and improved communication systems. It might also feature the improved L/55A1 tank gun, that allows to operate at higher pressures. Together with new ammunition, this is said to improve performance/penetration by 20% compared to the current gun.
|Leopard 2's originally produced with old armor package can be identified by the welded ammo hatch (red arrow)|
After loosing several Leopard 2A4 tanks in combat against terrorists, Turkey is trying to improve the protection of the tanks. Depending on production batch, the 2A4 version of the tank is either fitted with a first, a second or a third generation armor package. At least some Turkish Leopard 2A4 tanks are most likely fitted with the oldest and weakest armor option, because they belong to the earliest production batches. These can be identified by the ammunition hatch located in the left side wall of the turret; it was closed (by welding steel ontop of it) when the tanks were upgraded to the 2A4 configuration.
According to the Military Technology Magazine, Turkish sources claim that a about 80 MBTs were used in the operation "Euphrates Shield", of which 43 were Leopard 2A4 tanks. Based on available data about 7 to 14 Leopard 2A4 tanks were hit by anti-tank guided missiles, damaging or destroying the tanks. Due to IS propaganda filming the same tank from different angles and pretending that this would be different vehicles, the exact kill number might be inflated.
|M60A3 fitted with ERA from Roketsan|
Currently 40 Leopard 2A4, 40 M60A3 and 120 M60T MBTs of the Turkish Army are planned to receive an upgrade to improve the protection against ATGMs, after two M60T tanks were already fitted with a remote weapon station (RWS) and laser warners. The M60T is meant to receive an active protection system; given that the Akkor APS is still in development, Turkey plans to buy an existing system. Furthermore the M60A3s and Leopard 2A4s are to be fitted with a new ERA kit from Roketsan (scheduled to be tested on a Leopard 2A4 first), a fire supression system, a close proximity surveillance system and the same upgrades as the two M60Ts received (which are laser warners and a SARP RWS). The upgraded Leopard 2A4 tanks are also meant to receive an APS, just like the M60T Sabra tanks. Which APS will be chosen is unknown, but Rheinmetall has complained about Germany blocking several weapon exports to Turkey; this might include the AMAP armor package used on the Turkish Leopard 2NG upgrade and/or the ADS active protection system.
The Leopard 2 tanks from Germany, Denmark and Poland did enjoy great success in the Strong Europe Tank Challenge 2016, hosted by the US Army on the Grafenwöhr site located in Germany. This year's competition is scheduled to take place between the 7th and 12th of May. Denmark, Italy and Slovenia won't return after participating last year, however Austria (with Leopard 2A4s), France (with the Leclerc MBT), Romania (with the TR-85M1) and Ukraine (most likely using an upgraded T-64 version) join last year's competitors Germany, Poland and the United States. Let's see how the Leopard 2 can handle the Strong Europe Tank Challenge 2017.