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German Leopard 2A6 Tank
Germany

Leopard 2A6 Tank

Leopard 2E Main Battle Tank
Unveiled / Entered Service
2001
German Leopard 2A6 Tank
Status
In Service
Steel Aces Play for free
the highly anticipated MMO tactical tank shooter for 2024.

Table of Contents

Steel Aces Play for free
the highly anticipated MMO tactical tank shooter for 2024.

Introduction

The Leopard 2A6 Tank is a 3rd generation Main Battle Tank and is the second implemented upgrade of the Kampfwertsteigerung (KWS) capability improvement programme for the Leopard 2A4. The A6 saw improvements in the vehicles lethality, with a new longer smoothbore main gun.

The vehicles manufacturer KMW, developed a technical demonstrator called the Leopard 2A6EX, which featured all the available upgrades they offered to potential export clients, resulting in orders from Spain (Leopard 2E) and Greece (Leopard 2A6 HEL).

Background

With growing concerns over the efficiency of the Leopard 2A4 against the latest and upcoming models of the Russian T-72 and T-80 tanks, Germany initiated the Kampfwertsteigerung (KWS) capability improvement programme in 1988 to address the vehicles armour and firepower in 3 key development projects.

KWS I – The development of a new, more capable Kinetic Energy penetrator that would require a new, more powerful main gun of the existing 120mm calibre.

KWS II – Improvements in protection and crew safety as well as updating of electrical systems.

KWS III – The development of a new 140mm main gun.

The first implemented upgrades were those of the KWS II project, resulting in the Leopard 2A5. The KWS III project had actually started before all the others, but was eventually dropped as a new turret with an autoloader would have to be developed as the rounds length and weight was not practical for a human loader to use.

After cancellation of the KWS III project in 1995, the KWS I project delivered a new KE penetrator that was a joint development with France called the DM53. The new round had a longer penetrator rod that required a new smoothbore main gun.

The new L55 smoothbore gun was trialled on two Leopard 2A5 prototypes called EML55/1 and EML55/2. Approval to convert Leopard 2A5 to the Leopard 2A6 Tank was given in 2000 and delivery commenced the following year.

Firepower

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.

20mm 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.

Variants and Marks

Leopard 2EX 1996

Built in 1996, this vehicle was a technical demonstrator to showcase to potential export clients the enhanced lethality capabilities of the Leopard 2A6 and the full array of available upgrades. This included the complete MEXAS Modular Armour system of the Leopard 2 Improved, a new Air-Conditioning unit installed in the turret bustle, an Auxiliary Power Unit in the hull rear and drivers/commanders vehicle navigation system. The vehicle was trialled in several countries resulting in orders from Spain and Greece.

Leopard 2A6M 2004

A former mine protection kit implemented on a limited number of German Leopard 2A6. The vehicle received a new armoured belly plate for the hull, modifications to internal components, such as hull ammunition rack as well as a suspended drivers seat. Designated the Leopard 2A6M, these vehicles were retired, making their designation defunct, which was re-purposed for the Leopard 2A6M+.

Leopard 2A6M+ 2015

An upgrade program developed to bring the A6 up to an almost identical standard as the A7 model, but at a reduced cost. Not all A7 upgrades were implemented (such as the APU was not installed), but it did receive the upgraded thermal channel technology for the Commanders Independent Sight, a new Kidde Deugra fire-suppression system and Thales SOTAS-IP communications system.

Once all upgrades were completed across the selected number of vehicles, the A6M+ designation was dropped and re-designated A6M. This designation should not be confused with the limited number of A6 that received additional Mine protection in the mid 2000’s. These vehicles were all retired and went through the A6M+ upgrade process.

Leopard 2A6MA1

This model is command version of the Leopard 2A6M. It is equipped with an additional SEM 93 radio.

Leopard 2A6MA2

The 1st Panzer Division is part of the German Army’s Intervention Force. It is a multinational Division and is integrated with the Dutch 43rd Mechanized Brigade who also operate the Leopard 2A6.

In 2018, the divisions German Leopard 2A6M tanks received C2 and Battlefield Management System upgrades. In addition, they were fitted with the same C2 and BMS as used on the Dutch Leopard 2A6, so they could share  battlefield information and crews. These vehicles were re-designated 2A6MA2.

Leopard 2A6MA3

A planned upgrade for 2026 of 101 A6, A6M and A6MA2. The exact details of the upgrade are not known, but the German Army have said they will be bringing earlier A6 up to an almost identical standard as the A7 model, but at a reduced cost.

This will not include the L55/A1, as all tanks already use the L55. The intention of the upgrade is to standardise all active tanks to a similar capability for reduced operation costs and avoidance of cross-training for the crews.

Leopard 2A6M CAN

The Leopard 2A6M CAN Tank, is a Canadian variant of the Leopard 2A6 Tank. 20 of these tanks were loaned to the Canadian Army by the German Army for the Afghanistan War. These vehicles received the added “M” Mine Armor package and other additional modifications for Canadian Army service, hence their new designation.

The Leopard 2A6M CAN are now owned by the Canadian Army, following the Canadian Government buying 20 surplus Leopard 2A6 from the Netherlands and giving them to the Germany Army to replace the original loaned 20. READ MORE

Leopard 2E

A Spanish licence built, modified version of the Leopard 2A6EX. Designated the Leopard 2E (El español), the first 30 Leopard 2E were built-in Germany by KMW and the remaining 189 were built-in Spain. READ MORE

Leopard 2A6 HEL

A Greek licence built, modified version of the Leopard 2A6EX. A total of 30 vehicles were delivered from KMW in 2005, with the remaining 140 vehicles were built in Greece by ELBO as the primary contractor for the project. READ MORE

Operators

Canada – To meet immediate needs in the Afghanistan War, twenty of the Bundeswehr’s stock of Leopard 2A6 Tank were upgraded to 2A6M standard (mine package, now retired) and loaned to Canada at no cost by the German government. They were modified to meet Canadian requirements. Canada decided to keep these vehicles and purchased 20 surplus Leopard 2A6 from the Netherlands and gave them to Germany to replace their inventory.

Finland – Operating surplus Leopard 2A4 since 2003, Finland purchased 100 surplus Leopard 2A6 from the Netherlands in early 2014. Vehicles were delivered from 2015 to 2021.

Germany – One of the two original operators of the A6. A total of 225 A5 models were converted to the A6, with first deliveries starting in 2001. A total of 137 A6 are/have been upgraded to the A7V and A6MA3, whilst 14 have been given to Ukraine.

Greece – Licence built Leopard 2A6EX. Total of 170 vehicles in service since 2007 in addition to 183 surplus Leopard 2A4 ordered in 2005 and several hundred Leopard 1A5.

Netherlands – The second of the two original operators, the Royal Netherlands Army ordered that all of their 180 A5 vehicles be upgraded to the A6 in 2001, with the first vehicles being delivered that same year. Due to defence budget cuts, the number of operational A6 gradually declined until their full retirement in 2011.

A total of 136 Dutch Leopard 2A6NL were sold as surplus to other countries, leaving a total of 44 in storage. In 2015 the Dutch government over turned their decision and 16 A6NL were removed from service and a further 18 were leased from the Germany. These are in service with the joint German and Dutch 1st Panzer Division.

Portugal – A total of 37 surplus Leopard 2A6 purchased from Portugal in 2008.

Spain – Licensed manufacturer of Leopard 2A6EX. Designated the Leopard 2E (El español), the first 30 Leopard 2E were built-in Germany by KMW and the remaining 189 were built-in Spain.

Ukraine – Germany donated x14 surplus Leopard 2A6 in 2022. Its rumoured that Greece and Portugal have considered sending a limited number of their respective A6.

Combat History

War in Afghanistan (2001–2021)

Canada initially deployed their older Leopard C2 during the conflict, but ended up borrowing 20 Leopard 2A6M (which received additional Canadian equipment). In late 2006, a Leopard 2A6M CAN drove through an IED. The vehicle survived and the crew did not receive any injuries.

Russo-Ukrainian War

Ukraine has received various different models of the Leopard 2 in differing conditions from several countries. Non of these tanks are the latest versions and have dated armour. The number of losses is hard to confirm, but independent sources state they have seen via media reports of at least 3 German Leopard 2A6 (among other models) as either knocked out or destroyed as of November 2023. The operational success of the A6 and if it has seen any tank on tank engagements is not known.

Specifications

characteristic
Result
Main Gun
Rheinmetall L55 – 120mm, calibre Length 55 smoothbore Elevation -9 to +20
Secondary Weapons
Coaxial 7.62mm Machine Gun, Loaders 7.62.mm Machine Gun
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
Road Range
550km
Fuel Capacity
1160 litres
Vertical Obstacle
1.1m
Water Capability
1m (4m with Snorkel)
Trench Crossing
3m
Gradient
60%
Side Slope
30%
Length Gun Forward
10.97m
Length Hull
7.72m
Width
3.78m (with side front hull armor)
Height
3.65m (overall)
Ground Clearance
0.54m
Weight
62.3 Tonnes
NBC Protected
yes
Standard Armor(s) Type
Steel, Composite, Spaced, Modular
Optional Add-on Armor(s) Type
Active Protection Systems
no
Crew
Commander, Gunner, Loader, Driver