The Leopard 2A6 Tank is a German 3rd Generation Main Battle Tank that forms the back bone of the German Armies armored Corps and a number of its NATO allies.
Initially developed for both Germany and the Netherlands, the export model has been built under licence in both Greece and Spain.
Leopard 2A6 Tank Development
During the 1980’s, Germany embarked on a joint development program with France for the Leopard 3. Eventually Germany decided that several key improved components, such as armor (including turret roof armor), additional safety equipment and improved Sighting Devices would be explored for the Leopard 2. In 1991, KMW built 2 TVM trials vehicles featuring all the improved components, which was now known as KWS.
The KWS project was scaled down and broken into 3 parts (KWS I, KWS II & KWS III), which meant the introduction of improvements resulting in new models would be introduced in stages. KWS I refered to the introduction of a new 120mm calibre Length main gun by Rheinmetall known as the L55, KWS II refered to new Sighting equipment, Armor and additional safety features and finally KWS III, which explored the installation of an experimental 140mm main gun.
All the improvements of the 2 TVM vehicles were shared with the Netherlands and Switzerland, which were both the only 2 export clients and strategic partners of the Leopard 2. In 1992 both countries signed an agreement with Germany on developing the KWS II, aka Improved Leopard 2 following selection of the Improved components.
This resulted in the Leopard 2A5 Tank. This entered service with the German Army in 1995. In 2001 the first of the Leopard 2A5 fitted with the L55 main gun of KWS I (with other associated firepower upgrades) was delivered to the Germany Army, under the new designation, Leopard 2A6.
Leopard 2A6 Tank Upgrades
The L55 120mm smoothbore comes as an upgrade kit from the manufacturers Rheinmetall and delivered to KMW for installation. The kit includes the barrel, thermal sleeve, muzzle reference system, breech and crew safety guard.
Modifications to take the new gun are made to the trunnions and recoil system, 120mm round storage, auxiliary sight graticule and a new circuit board in the Fire Control Systems computer.
Leopard 2A6 Tank L55 Main Gun
The designation “L55” refers to the calibre Length of the gun. This is measured by dividing the barrel length by the bore calibre. This means the L55 Smoothbore is 6.6m in length and is 1.32m longer than its predecessor, the L44 used on the Leopard 2A4 and Leopard A5.
The increased calibre Length of a tanks main gun means the round when fired, has a greater distance to travel down the barrel, allowing the energy from the combustible element to build up for longer, resulting in an increased muzzle velocity. Muzzle Velocity is measured by how many meters per second the round is travelling at the point it exits the end of the gun.
The higher muzzle velocity increases the rounds range, improves accuracy and will provide more “punch” for the DM33 APFSDS rounds (as used by the L44) to defeat modern armor.
Whilst the DM33 benefited from the L55, Rheinmetall has developed a series of new rounds for the L55.
120mm DM63 / DM53 APFSDS Round
The world’s first temperature independent high performance tank ammunition, the DM 63 and DM 53 A1 (the latter is an upgraded version of the DM 53). What sets this round apart is its temperature-independent propulsion system (TIPS), which maintains its internal ballistic characteristics at a constant level through a broad temperature span. This new generation of ammunition is considerably more accurate and causes substantially less barrel erosion. The DM 63 can be used in climatic zones C2 to A1, and fired from any 120mm smoothbore tank gun.
120mm PELE Round
The company’s newly developed 120mm PELE is an inert round. It contains no explosive and is therefore extremely safe to handle. When it hits its target, the low-density material inside the projectile becomes so compressed that it causes the warhead to burst, resulting in a large number of fragments, which travel exclusively in the round’s trajectory. This is especially advantageous in the case of semi-hard targets. PELE can be retrofitted into multipurpose ammunition or armour-piercing rounds.
STANAG 4385 Compliant
A 2008 report by ATK, the main American manufacturer of 120mm smoothbore ammunition for the Abrams Tank family, confirmed the succesful trials of firing a number of their different 120mm smoothbore rounds from a Dutch Leopard 2A6 and Danish Leopard 2A5.
Leopard 2A6M Tank Variant
Learning from the lessons of the British and American tanks attacked during the Iraq War, a new Mine protection package was developed for the Leopard 2A6 Tank.
The package added a belly plate fixed to the underneath of the hull. The driver has a new suspended chair, the 120mm hull storage is modified and the turrets hydraulic drive is replaced with an electrical one, reducing the parts that can catch fire if the armor is penetrated.
Whilst the German Army has a number of these M packages for their rapid reaction force, it is also used on the Canadian Leopard 2A6M CAN tank (and used during the War in Afghanistan) elements of the package are used on the Swedish Strv 122 and the Danish Leopard 2A5DK (post 2008 attack).
Leopard 2A6 Tank Operators
Please note: (unless otherwise stated) all operator numbers ordered, dates and price info is obtained from the Arms Trade Register. You will find links for dedicated pages to each countries model Leopard 2 Tank under “model” in the listings if available.
Model: Leopard 2A6M CAN
The Canadian army loaned 20 Leopard 2A6M from Germany in 2007 to replace their Leopard C2 deployed in the War in Afghanistan (2001–2014). These loaned vehicles were eventually retained and replacement surplus A6 were bought and given to Germany.
Model: Leopard 2A6
100 surplus Leopard 2A6 were purchased from the Netherlands for 200,000,000 Euro’s. Deliveries started in 2014 and expected to be complete in 2019. These will serve along Leopard 2A4 tanks bought as surplus.
Model: Leopard 2A6 and Leopard 2A6M
As the original manufacturer, at its peak the German Army had 2125 Leopard 2 A4. Many have been sold on to other countries at the end of the Cold War or been upgraded by KMW.
A total of 225 Leopard 2 were upgraded to the Leopard 2A6. Janes state the first deliveries were in 2001, however the Official German Army website (see references section below) state the first deliveres (or could be date accepted into service) as 1999.
In July 2004, the German Army took delivery of 15 Leopard 2A6M Tanks. These A6’s have been modified with the M up-armoring kit. As of 2011, these 225 Leopard 2A6 Tanks serve as the principal Main Battle Tank of the German Armies Tank Corps.
In 2015 it was announced that an additional 100 Leopard 2 (model unspecified, most likely A4) were to be bought out of storage and upgraded (A7?) to increase the number of active Leopard 2 Tank in the German Army.
Model: Leopard 2A6 HEL
The Hellenic Army have operated the Leopard 1A5 Tank since 1998. To complement this, Greece ordered additional Leopard 1A5 in 2003 and secured the licence to produce the Leopard 2 Ex, the export version of the Leopard 2A6 in a deal worth 1.7 billion Euro’s. Designated the Leopard 2A6 HEL, a total of 170 have been delivered to the Hellenic Army between 2006 to 2009, of which 140 were built by the Greek firm ELBO. These serve alongside surplus Leopard 2A4 tanks.
Model: Leopard 2A6NL
The Dutch Army was the main export client of the Leopard 2 during the Cold War. The Dutch Army is the only operator of the Leopard 2 Tank to withdraw it from service (due to budget cuts).
The Netherlands initially ordered 445 Leopard 2 Tanks in 1979. deliveries ran from 1982 to 1986. The Leopard 2NL had locally produced Smoke Grenade Launchers, passive night periscope for the driver, 7.62mm FN MAG coaxial Machine Gun and Philips radios.
These Leopard 2 were bought up to the A4 model. 330 of the original 445 Leopard 2NL were bought up to the A5 model and of these 188 were upgraded to the A6 model in 2003.
On April 8th 2011, the Dutch Ministry of Defense announced The Royal Netherlands Army tank division would be dissolved and the remaining Leopard tanks sold due to large budget cuts. On the 18th of May 2011 the last tank fired the final shot at the Bergen-Hohne Training Area.
A number of Leopard 2A4 and Leopard 2A6NL have been sold to other countries, including Canada, Finland and Portugal. On September 15th 2015, the Dutch government ordered that the army would have a new tank squadron by 2016, which will have 16 of the remaining Leopard 2 in national storage and an additional 18 Leopard 2A6 leased from Germany.
Model: Leopard 2A6
Portugal purchased 37 surplus Leopard 2A6 from the Netherlands and 1 training vehicle in 2007 for 78,000,000 Euros. The vehicles were delivered from 2008 to 2009.
Model: Leopard 2E
In 1998, Spain secured the rights to licence build the Leopard 2 Ex, the export version of the Leopard 2A6. Designated the Leopard 2E (El español), the first 30 Leopard 2E were built-in Germany by KMW and the remaining 189 were built by Spanish Company Santa Bárbara Sistemas. Production and delivery of the Leopard 2E ran from 2003 to 2013.
Santa Bárbara Sistemas was bought by the European Land Systems Division of General Dynamics, now meaning that GDLS manufactures both the American Abrams and Leopard 2 Main Battle Tanks.
Leopard 2A6 Combat History
Canada deployed 20 leased German Army Leopard 2A6M during the War in Afghanistan (2001–2014). These were modified with A/C. In one reported incident, one vehicle was struck by an IED on the 2nd of November 2007. Canadian Forces reported the vehicle and crew survived the attack. 5 of the new Leopard 2A4M CAN were deployed between December 2010 and mid January 2011 to rotate of duty some of the A6M CAN’s. The Leopard 2A4M CAN’s Combat tour ended in July 2011, all tanks have gone through a rebuild.
Leopard 2A6 Tank Specifications
|Main Gun||Rheinmetall L55 – 120mm, calibre Length 55 smoothbore
Elevation -9 to +20
|Secondary Weapons||x1 coaxial 7.62mm MG, x1 7.62mm MG|
|Ammunition Storage||x42 120mm, x4,750 7.62mm|
|Engine||MTU Mb 873 ka 501, turbocharged 1500hp Diesel|
|Transmission||RENK HSWL 354, 4 speed forward/2 reverse|
|Top Road Speed||68 km/h|
|Fuel Capacity||1160 litres|
|Water Capability||1m (4m with Snorkel)|
|Length Gun Forward||9.67m|
||3.75m (with side front hull armor)|
|Height||2.48m (roof top)|
|Weight||62,300kg aka 62.3 tonne combat|
|Active Protection Systems||No|
Leopard 2 Main Battle Tank 1979-98 by Michael Jerchel and Mike Badrocke Buy on Amazon
Janes Armour and Artillery Guide 2005-2006
Germany Army Official Website http://www.deutschesheer.de/portal/a/heer/!ut/p/c4/NYu7DsIwDEX_yE7Fm62AkFhgQlC2kFit1TSJLAMLH08ycI90lqOLDyxE–beKqdoA96xc7x9fmAgElByQ-QRRlIlCJSyFY-3-vIELkXSaqWoXNyL1SSQk2io5SVSCrDHzjSHnVmY_5rvst3sV9f5bH06Hy-Yp6n9AV8TImE!/&usg=ALkJrhj_NWU_HOSwTIFLekxiS4q3E4hsmA