Leopard 2 main battle tank


---- Strv 121/122 MBT (Swedish designation)

EQUIPMENT CATEGORY: Ground Combat Vehicles -- Tanks

PICTURES OF: Leopard 2 main battle tank


The Leopard 2 is the principal main battle tank (MBT ) in service with the German army and several other European countries. It is among the most modern MBTs in the world and has several variants.

The Leopard 2 is a highly regarded blend of firepower, protection and mobility. The Rheinmetall 120-mm smoothbore main armament is powerful and reliable and has been adopted for the U.S. M1A1 and A2 as the M256 . The computerized fire control system is sophisticated and expensive. The Leopard 's protection includes Chobham composite armor that is thought to be the equal of any Western tank. Taken together, the armor and the larger gun have resulted in 30 percent increase in the tank's weight over the earlier Leopard 1 (a tank of similar size, see separate record for details).

Unlike the M1 (which has a gas turbine), but like most other modern MBTs, the Leopard 2 has a high-horsepower diesel engine that has the advantages of maturity and, at least initially, greater reliability. The Leopard 2's powerpack was originally designed for the German prototype of the MBT -70. The Leopard 2's mobility is manifested in its high power-to-weight ratio and road speed and relatively low ground pressure. The only limitation on the Leopard 2's mobility is its relatively heavy weight, which restricts the number of bridges it can cross.

The hull, made up of spaced multilayer armor, is divided up into three sections: the driver's compartment in front; the fighting compartment in the center; and the engine compartment in the rear. The driver sits at the front right of the vehicle with a single-piece hatch cover opening to the right with three periscopes. The center periscope can be replaced with a passive night sight. To the left of the driver is an ammunition storage area.

Mounted in the center of the vehicle, the turret houses the loader (seated on the left), commander and driver (both seated on the right). A PERI-R17A1 stabilized panoramic periscope is mounted to the front of the commander's hatch and has a 360-degree traverse with 2x and 8x magnification. The gunner uses an EMES-15 dual-magnification stabilized sight with integrated laser rangefinder and thermal imaging unit. A FERO-Z18 8x magnification telescope serves as an auxiliary gunner's sight. The commander can see the picture transmitted from the gunner's EMES-15 in his own PERI-R17 sight and can also slave the weapon functions to his own controls. The turret in the Leopard 2A4 and earlier versions uses a hydraulic traverse system.

The loader has a single-piece hatch cover and a single observation periscope. Ammunition is stored in different places in the vehicle, with 27 rounds stored to the left of the driver and 15 to the left side of the turret bustle, separated from the fighting compartment by an electric door. The bustle is designed to explode upwards if it is hit.

The 120-mm Rheinmetall main gun is fully azimuth and elevation stabilized, firing armor-piercing fin-stabilized discarding sabot (APFSDS) and high explosive anti-tank (HEAT) rounds. A fire control computer calculates lateral angle lead and angle of sight for the main armament, taking into account target distance, direction of motion, the ballistic characteristics of specific ammunition and the angle of tilt of the vehicle. Combined with the sights, the Leopard 2 is capable of engaging targets under camouflage, in bad weather or at night.

To the rear, the engine compartment is separated from the center compartment by a fireproof bulkhead.



Initial operational capability in 1980. In service and in production.

In the 1960s, the United States and Germany were working on the joint MBT -70/KPz-70 program. However, Germany also had a parallel development program for a MBT , which resulted in the Leopard 1 . Porsche was awarded a contract in 1965 to develop improved Leopard 1 components and increase its combat effectiveness. When the MBT -70/KPz-70 program was cancelled, Germany directed Krauss-Maffei of Munich to develop a new MBT prototype. Following the 1973 Yom Kippur war, Germany decided to increase the Leopard 2 to MLC 60 (military loading class 60 tons) to increase armor protection.

Between 1972 and 1974, Krauss Maffei produced 16 prototype hulls and 17 prototype turrets, some with the Rheinmetall 105-mm smoothbore. The German Ministry of Defense formally decided to order the Leopard 2 in five batches, with a total of 1,800 units beginning in September 1977. The first tanks were delivered in 1979. A total of 380 were built in the first batch, all of which were delivered by March 1982.

Batch Production
                       Leopard   Krauss   Krupp
Period                 Variant   Maffei   MaK      Total            
Late 1979-March 1982   2         209      171      380 (batch one)
March 1982-Nov. 1983   2A1       248      202      450 (batch two)
Nov. 1983-Nov. 1984    2A1       165      135      300 (batch three)
Dec. 1984-Dec. 1985    2A3       165      135      300 (batch four)
Dec. 1985-March 1987   2A4       190      180      370 (batch five)
Jan. 1988-May 1989     2A4        83       67      150 (batch six)
May 1989-April 1990    2A4        55       45      100 (batch seven)
Jan. 1991-March 1992   2A4        40       35       75 (batch eight)

Germany procured a total of 2,125 tanks. An additional 445 were built for the Netherlands and 35 for Switzerland as the Pz87 (Switzerland license-built an additional 345). Sweden ordered 120 new Leopard 2S (Stridsvagen 122) and took 160 more from German stocks (Stridsvagen 121).

Plans to upgrade all Leopard 2s to Leopard 2A5s were scaled back to a 700-tank program in 1992 to save approximately 1.7 billion marks (US$1.1 billion at 1992 exchange rates). By 1996, only 225 Leopard 2A5 conversions had been funded. The planned Leopard 3 next-generation tank was eliminated altogether, saving approximately 9.35 billion marks (US$6.07 billion at 1996 exchange rates).

In mid-1995, it was announced that Spain would license-build 200 Leopard 2A5s for the Spanish army. Spain took delivery of 108 Leopard 2A4s for a period of five years between 1995 and 1996 at a lease rate of US$6.6 million annually while the Leopard 2A5s were being built.

Finland purchased 124 used Leopard 2A4s from Germany beginning in 2001.

Poland acquired 128 Leopard 2s from German army stocks in 2002.

In August of 2005, Greece ordered 183 Leopard 2A4s, as well as 150 Leopard 1A5s from Germany.

In November of 2005, Germany agreed to sell 298 Leopard 2A4 tanks to Turkey. Deliveries were scheduled for 2006 and 2007.

In March of 2006, Chile signed a contract for 118 German Leopard 2A4 tanks. The Leopard 2s will replace Chile's 131 Leopard 1 tanks slated for retirement.

In September of 2006, Greece reached an agreement with Rheinmetall to integrate the NATO-interoperable INIOCHOS command and information system with the tanks. Diagnostic testing equipment was also included in the deal. The systems are to be delivered by 2008.

In December of 2006, Singapore announced a deal with Germany for the purchase of 66 refurbished Leopard 2A4 tanks, 30 spare tanks and equipment.


Primary Contractor and Builder:
 Krauss Maffei Wegmann (KMW) GmbH, Munich and Kassel, Germany

Primary Subcontractor and Builder:
 Krupp MaK, Kiel, Germany

Other Subcontractors and Systems:
 Ametek Rotron -- brushless motors, fans and blowers
 Avitronics Pty. Ltd. -- laser warning systems
 Behr Industrietechnik -- cooling and air conditioning systems
 BEI Precision Systems & Space Division -- optical encoders, scanners
    and accelerometers
 CelsiusTech Vetronics -- fire control systems
 COMET GmbH -- battlefield simulation ammunition
 Diehl Remscheid GmbH & Co. -- armored vehicle tracks
 ERA Technology Ltd. -- military design and development consultancy
 Evans & Sutherland -- visual systems for simulation
 Giat Industries -- ammunition
 LITEF GmbH -- land navigation systems
 MPE Ltd. -- electrical filters
 PIETZSCH Neue Technologien GmbH & Co. KG (PNT) -- defense technology
    system and component development
 RENK -- tank transmission system
 Rheinmetall W & M GmbH -- ammunition and weapon system for ground forces,
    gun systems and weapon components
 RKS S.A. -- slewing bearings and special bearings
 SIGNAAL Communications -- tactical communications systems/networks,
    digital vehicle intercom systems
 SpanSet International -- lifting, lashing and personal safety systems
 STN ATLAS Elektronik GmbH -- electronic equipment and systems
 Weibel Scientific Ltd. -- Doppler radar systems


 Austria                   114 x Leopard 2
 Chile                     118 x Leopard 2A4
 Denmark                    51 x Leopard 2A4, to be upgraded to 2A5
 Finland                   124 x Leopard 2A4
 Germany                 1,728 x Leopard 2A4
 Greece                    183 x Leopard 2A4
 Netherlands               151 x Leopard 2, for sale
 Norway                     52 x Leopard 2A4
 Poland                    128 x Leopard 2A4
 Singapore                  66 x Leopard 2A4 (pending)
 Spain                     108 x Leopard 2A4 on lease
 Sweden                    280 x Strv-121/122 (Leopard 2/2S)
 Turkey                    298 x Leopard 2A4


Leopard 2A4

 CREW                      4 (commander, gunner, loader, driver)

   Combat                  121,585 lb (55,150 kg)
   Unloaded                118,610 lb (53,800 kg)
   Ground pressure         11.80 lb/sq in (0.83 kg/cm sq)

      gun forward          31 ft  9 in (9.67 m)
      gun rear             27 ft 10 in (8.49 m)
      hull                 25 ft  4 in (7.72 m)
      turret top            8 ft  2 in (2.48 m)
      cupola top            9 ft  2 in (2.80 m)
      hull top              5 ft 10 in (1.77 m)
      firing                6 ft  7 in (2.01 m)
      track skirts down    11 ft  7 in (3.54 m)
      overall              12 ft  2 in (3.70 m)
      length on ground     17 ft  2 in (5.25 m)
      width                 2 ft  1 in (0.64 m)
   Ground clearance
      front                 1 ft 10 in (0.55 m)
      rear                  1 ft  8 in (0.50 m)

   Engine                  MTU MB 873 Ka 501 2,905-cu in (47.6-liter)
                              liquid-cooled, exhaust turbo-charged,
                              intercooled, 4-stroke prechamber, V-12 multi-
                              fuel engine
   Power                   1,500 hp at 2,600 rpm
   Power-to-weight ratio   27.20 hp/metric ton
   Fuel capacity           317 U.S. gal (1,200 liters)
   Transmission            Renk HSWL 354 automatic hydro-kinetic planetary
                              gear shift; 4 forward/2 reverse gears

   Shocks                  5 rotary shock absorbers (bump travel 11.2-12.8
                              in/285-325 mm, rebound 5.5-7.9 in/140-200 mm)
                              with torsion bar, front idler
   Wheels                  7 road wheels, rear drive (11-tooth sprocket)
                              with 4 return rollers

      road                 42 mph (68 kmh) max
      reverse              19 mph (31 kmh) max
      cross-country        34 mph (55 kmh) max
   Range                   342 mi (550 km) cruising road
      vertical              3 ft  7 in (1.10 m)
      trench                9 ft 10 in (3.00 m)
      unprepared            3 ft  3 in (1.00 m)
      prepared              7 ft  5 in (2.25 m)
      snorkel              13 ft  1 in (4.00 m)
   Gradient                60 percent
   Side slope              30 percent

   Main                    1 x 120-mm/44-cal Rheinmetall smoothbore gun
                              fitted with fume extractor and thermal sleeve
      ammunition           42 rounds
      elevation            -9/+20 deg
      elevation rate       10 deg/sec
      traverse             360 deg
      traverse rate        30 deg/sec
   Coaxial                 1 x 7.62-mm MG3 machine gun (MG)
   Anti-aircraft           1 x 7.62-mm MG3 MG
      ammunition           4,750 total 7.62-mm rounds
      elevation            -10/+75 deg

   Ballistic computer
      analog               AEG-Telefunken FLT2 with 4 ballistic profiles
      digital              Krupp-Atlas retrofitted to overhauled and newly
                              manufactured vehicles

   Laser rangefinder       Nd-YAG
      aiming               WNA-H22 electro-hydraulic slaved mounting system
                              (SMS) fully electro-hydraulically stabilized
      binocular            Krupp-Atlas EMES-15 primary stabilized
      commander            Zeiss PERI-R17 stabilized, fully rotating
                              monocular daytime optical
      gunner               FERO-Z 18 auxiliary telescope
   Thermal imaging         Zeiss imager

   Armor                   Chobham-type composite steel-ceramic; 4-
                              section steel track skirts with thickened
                              front section blow-off panels in turret bustle
   NBC                     Drager Piller collective overpressure protection
   Fire                    Deugra crew bay Halon suppression system
   Smoke                   2 x 8-barrel 3-in (76-mm) smoke dischargers, one
                              on each turret side


Leopard AV (austere version)

Prototype built in 1976 for trials with the U.S. Army. The Army found the Leopard AV comparable to the XM1 (later the M1 Abrams , see separate record) in speed and firepower, but inferior in protection.

Leopard 2 (original production variant)

First delivered in batch one from late 1979 to March 1982. A total of 380 vehicles were built. Characterized by a slightly boxy turret shape. Empty weight is 114,640 lb (52,000 kg), combat weight of 121,254 lb (55,000 kg).

Leopard 2A1

In the second batch of Leopard 2s, 450 vehicles were delivered from March 1982 to November 1983, the crosswind velocity sensor was removed and the optical block protection over the commander's station changed in shape. The thermal sight was fitted to the EMES 15 primary sight. The fuel filters were repositioned for faster refueling. An external head-set connection was added to the left rear of the turret side. Ammunition stowage racks identical to those on the M1A1 were added. Tow cable clamps on the rear deck were repositioned and foot boards added to the power pack to avoid damage during maintenance. The changes necessitated a change in nomenclature, designated the Leopard 2A1.

The third batch, 300 vehicles delivered from November 1983 to November 1984, added a deflector to raise the position of the commander's panoramic sight by 2 in (50 mm). A larger cover plate was also fitted over the NBC protection system. While the nomenclature remained the Leopard 2A1, there was never a Leopard 2A2.

Leopard 2A3

The fourth batch, consisting of 300 vehicles delivered from December 1984 to December 1985, added new digital SEM 80/90 VHF radios and revised exhaust grills with circular bars. Because of the added risk of leaking if the turret was hit, the ammunition supply hatches on the turret were welded shut. These vehicles were given the new designation Leopard 2A3.

Leopard 2A4

The fifth batch consisted of 370 vehicles delivered from December 1985 to March 1987. The fire control system was fitted with a digital core in order to use new ammunition. A Deugra fire and explosion suppression system was installed and the return rollers repositioned. Turret protection was also increased. The vehicle was designated the Leopard 2A4.

Although only five batches were ever intended, a sixth batch was ordered in June 1987. There were 150 vehicles delivered from January 1988 to May 1989. The ammunition supply hatch on the left side of the hatch was eliminated and a central warning light was installed in a housing on the hull to facilitate better viewing when the driver was operating with his head outside the hatch. Zinc cromate free paint was used, Deihl 570FT tracks introduced and maintenance free batteries installed for the first time. There was no change in nomenclature.

The seventh batch of vehicles, 100 produced from May 1989 to April 1990, was identical to those in the sixth batch.

The eight and last production batch of 75 vehicles was built from January 1991 to March 1992. A collimator for the muzzle reference system was installed on the right side of the main gun, near the end of the barrel, and retrofitted to all vehicles of previous batches. The base mounts for the smoke mortars were also changed. Again, there was no change in nomenclature.

Leopard 2A5

Also known as Leopard 2 (Improved). See separate record for details.

Leopard 2A6

Long-barreled version of the Leopard 2 using the new Rheinmetall 120-mm/55-cal smoothbore gun. See separate record for details.

Pz 87 (Swiss Leopard 2)

Swiss variant built at the Federal Construction Works in Thun, Switzerland. Upgraded to the Leopard 2A5 standard in 2000 (see Leopard 2A5 /2A6 record for details).

Dutch Leopard 2

Approximately 60 percent of components produced by Dutch companies. Modifications from the German version include FN machine guns, Dutch communications equipment, and different smoke dischargers and a passive driver's night periscope. Of these, 114 are currently being transferred to Austria. These are being replaced by Leopard 2A5s (see separate record).

Stridsvagn 121/122 (Swedish designation) ( Leopard 2S)

A total of 160 Leopard 2A4s from the first five batches were sold to Sweden in 1994 and 1995. They were officially designated the Stridsvagn 121 (Strv-121).

Sweden signed a contract with KMW for the manufacture of 120 Leopard 2S, designated the Strv-122. The front hull and glacis have additional armor plates and the inside is completely surrounded by liner. Stronger torsion bars derived from the PzH 2000 are installed and reinforced brake disks used for the increased combat weight of 136,686 lb (62,000 kg). The fuel tanks also have an explosive-suppressing filling liquid and the engine is constantly cooled to reduce IR signature. Heat sensors installed in the engine automatically cut off the fan and air intakes if the vehicle is attacked by napalm. The turret roof and hatches have been uparmored and all of them electrically slide. An anti-helicopter round is being developed for this tank.

Most notably, the Strv-122 is the first MBT in Europe to use the advanced tank command and control system (TCCS). GIAT GALIX vehicle protection 80-mm mortars are mounted on the left and right sides of the turret, able to launch smoke, flare, decoy and fragmentation rounds.

Buffel Armored Recovery Vehicle (ARV)

A tank recovery vehicle based on the Leopard 2 hull. See separate database entry.


Differences between the Leopard 2 and the U.S. M1A1 Abrams tanks have caused considerable debate over which is the better MBT , although some observers would argue for including the British Challenger tank as well. The Leopard 2 has advantages over the Abrams in the commander's independently stabilized and slewable sighting system, the gunner's binocular sight and the tank's fuel mileage, particularly when idling. The track is also said to have been much more reliable, once early problems were resolved.

The greatest advantage over the Abrams is in the Leopard 's relative fuel economy. According to manufacturer's figures, the Abrams turbine's fuel consumption at best speed for maximum range is 0.58 miles per gallon (0.25 km per liter); the Leopard 's 1.08 miles per gallon (0.46 km per liter) is nearly twice as good. More practically stated, the Leopard travels 56 mi (90 km) farther on 57 percent less fuel. Fuel consumption while idling is the turbine's weakest point, consumption at idle being perhaps three times as much as the diesel. On the other hand, the German engine weighs more than twice as much as the AGT-1500 turbine and occupies more volume.

The independence of the commander's sight, while very useful, was limited by its lack of a thermal channel. For the commander to see in poor visual conditions, he has to couple the periscope with the gunner's thermal channel through an optical relay system. Many of the targets acquired during Operation Desert Storm were first seen through thermal sights. The Leopard 2 Improved variant has the PERI R17 TW sight with thermal channel. This was rectified in the Leopard 2A5 .

A new fin-stabilized 120 mm HE-T (high explosive-tracer) round was developed for the Swedish army's Leopard 2 MBTs by Bofors and Israel Military Industries. The projectile used in the 120 mm HE-T projectile is from a 120-mm mortar bomb and is fitted with a point detonating (PD) fuse, which is not armed until the projectile is 50 m from the muzzle of the barrel.

In September of 2006, Israel Aerospace Industries and Rheinmetall announced the development of a gun-launched laser homing weapon system (Lahat) upgrade kit for Leopard 1 and 2 tanks. The Lahat is available in tank-launched and canister launched configurations. It can be fired from 105-mm and 120-mm guns, the latter requiring the use of a sabot. The missile allows first-shot kills of targets at ranges over 4 miles (6 km) utilizing internal or external guidance. The system has been successfully tested from a Leopard 2A4 tank.



LATEST UPDATE: 1 February 2007