German tank fleet to swell 40%

On 8 May Germany launched an ambitious project to modernise its fleet of Leopard 2 tanks, a fleet set to swell by 40% between 2019 and 2023. Awarded to Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) by BAAINBw, the German defence procurement agency, this €760M contract will upgrade 104 currently cocooned Leopard 2A4s to 2A7V standard. In addition, BAAAINBw has also ordered 32 chassis to be used as engineer vehicles or pontoon tanks.

A German Army Leopard 2A6 battle tank (Photo credit: Bundeswehr/ Sebastian Wilke)

The evolution in security policy over recent years has convinced us of the importance of armoured vehicles for our defence capabilities,” Armin Schmidt-Franke, vice president of BAAINBw, said in an official statement. The German armoured fleet, which had over 350 tanks during the Cold War, has gradually shrunk down to 225 platforms in service today, including 152 2A6s and only 20 upgraded to the latest 2A7 standard. But the invasion of Crimea and the conflict in Ukraine, coupled with the terrorist threat, have convinced Germany that it must rearm so that it can deploy well-equipped troops quickly.

This contract will therefore enable the German Ministry of Defence to attain the objective it announced in April 2015 of 328 Leopard tanks, theoretically enough for six armoured battalions, equipped with 44 tanks each, to operate at full strength.

The Leopard 2A7V, or 2A7+, is an evolution specifically designed to improve the tank’s survivability in urban environments. This kit includes a reinforced hull for better protection against mines and other improvised explosive devices, as well as the addition of modular composite armour that can be fixed around the tank. In addition, crew protection will be enhanced by the addition of an FLW-200 remotely controlled turret which can be equipped with either a 7.62 or 12.7mm machine gun, or a 40mm automatic grenade launcher.

Finally, this programme includes the installation of modernised infrared cameras and optics installed 360° around the tank, clamps for the addition of a bulldozer blade or a demining tool, and a new intercom installed outside the tank to allow Allied troops to communicate with the crew.

Even if it is a major technological leap in comparison with the Leopard 2A4, the introduction of the 2A7V standard is a fleet upgrade, not the constitution of a new generation of battle tank. The latter will emerge around 2030 with the, as-yet hypothetical, Franco-German tank project.