A new chapter of the Czech tank army - 73rd Tank Battalion received the first Leopard 2

A new chapter of the Czech tank army - 73rd Tank Battalion received the first Leopard 2
21 / 12 / 2022, 16:00

Today, the first of 15 Leopard 2 tanks was handed over to the soldiers of the 73rd Tank Battalion in Přáslavice. In total, Germany is donating 14 Leopard 2A4 tanks and 1 BPz3 Büffel recovery tank on the same platform to the Czech Republic as part of the circular support to Ukraine. This is to compensate for the heavy combat equipment that the Czech Republic has provided from its stocks to Ukraine, which has been resisting Russian aggression since February. "With the Leopards, we are literally coming out of the dead end of dependence on Soviet equipment, it is a real transition to a modern platform," Defence Minister Jana Černochová said during the ceremony in Přáslavice and thanked Germany.

The tanks will be used primarily for crew training, which has already begun in Germany and Austria. At the same time, the Ministry of Defence is negotiating the acquisition of more than five dozen tanks of the latest Leopard 2A7V version – and plans to upgrade the vehicles donated this year to this standard in the future, with the involvement of the Czech defence industry.

During the ceremony in Přáslavice, Defence Minister Jana Černochová said: "I welcome the first of the Leopard 2A4 tanks promised to us by Germany as compensation for our aid to Ukraine. I thank State Secretary Benedikt Zimmer and Germany for their cooperation and for helping Ukraine, which is bravely resisting the barbaric Russian aggression." She recalled her visit to the 7th Mechanised Brigade shortly after taking up her post and repeated questions about re-equipping the units with new equipment. "This government has defence as its priority and change is here." She said it would make sense to develop the modern Leopard 2 platform.

The Defence Minister also reported that Deputy Lubor Koudelka, together with representatives of the Swedish Government and BAE Systems, had signed a memorandum yesterday for the acquisition of CV90 Biplanes: "Ladies and gentlemen, the IFVs will come."

With the original Leopard (later designated 1) in 1965, Krauss-MaffeiWegmann (KMW) was able to provide the West German Bundeswehr and many other European NATO countries, with the exception of France and the UK, which concentrated on developing their own equipment. The Leopard is clearly the superior main battle tank (MBT). There are currently 19 Leopard 2 users worldwide, the most of any Western provenance in the MBT category, with more to come. Already with the entry into service of the first Leopard, the development of its future replacement was underway. Fifteen years later, the Leopard 2 was introduced, which was incorporated into the armament not only by the existing users of the original tanks, but by many other countries, and to this day remains the main Western tank in Europe, in terms of numbers and, according to many experts, in terms of its parameters and performance. It is characterized by a perfect balance between firepower, protection and mobility, and is unquestionably one of the best tank designs even on a world scale.

The Leopard 2, when viewed from the outside, does not represent a revolution compared to the Leopard 1. The chassis has been improved but remains largely identical. The emphasis from the start was on durability and reliability. The most obvious difference was the turret, which was adapted not only for the new 120mm Rheinmetall gun, but also for the additional composite armour. In technology, it is often not what is seen that is important, but what is not.

The main weapon is identical to the armament of the US M1 Abrams tanks. Up to the 2A4 version, the first example of which is being taken over today by the soldiers of the 73rd Tank Battalion in Přáslavice, it is an L44, i.e. with a 44 calibre long barrel. Since the 2A5 version, the Leopard has received the L55 cannon, a barrel that is another 1.30 m longer and is characterised by a higher muzzle velocity, longer range and better penetration. Both guns are fully stabilised and allow firing on the move, with a bearing of -9° to +20°.

The weapon's performance is supported by an advanced fire control system. The primary sight of the EMES 15 has double magnification and is fully stabilised, with an integrated laser rangefinder and thermal imaging camera from Zeiss. The systems are linked to a ballistic computer. As a backup, a FERO-Z18 auxiliary gunner's sight is coaxially mounted. In addition, the commander has his own independent Rheinmetall/Zeiss PERI-R 17 A2 periscope, which is stabilized and designed for day and night observation and target identification.

The fire control system provides up to three readings every 4 seconds and the data is transmitted to the computer, which then calculates the firing solution in real time. The laser rangefinder is also integrated into the shooter's primary sight. The computer deals with environmental conditions (wind, temperature, humidity), selects the correct ammunition and automatically sets the gun on the correct trajectory. The maximum range of the laser beam is 10,000 m and at this distance the measurement deviation is only 20 m. The Leopard 2 can hit moving targets at ranges of up to 5000 m, while moving alone over rough terrain at full speed, and in all weather conditions. Of course, there is a hunter-killer mode (the commander searches for and marks the target, the gunner destroys it while the commander searches for another).

By 1992, KMW had produced 2125 Leopard 2s in versions 2A0 to 2A4, and the latter, which is now entering the arsenal of the Army, was the most numerous. More than 1,800 of these were produced in eight series between 1985 and 1992, with earlier vehicles also upgraded to its standard; like itself, it can now be brought up to the 2A7 standard, or the still state-of-the-art 2A7V.

Among its improvements over previous variants were the addition of an automatic fire and explosion suppression system, a fully digital fire control system (which works with new types of ammunition), as well as modifications to the shape of the armour on the turret with improved titanium/tungsten assemblies that further enhanced the tank's exceptional durability and crew protection. After the end of the Cold War, hundreds of this version of the tank were sold to foreign users and several upgrade packages and programs were gradually developed for them.

In addition to the 14 Leoaprd 2A4 main battle tanks, the Army will also receive one Bergepanzer BPz3 Büffel recovery tank. Studies of a vehicle having the capability to extricate the Leopard 2 began in 1986. Three prototypes were built in 1987, followed by the final version in 1988. The ARV (ArmouredRecoveryVehicle) version has a hydraulically operated bulldozer plough at the front, a crane with an integrated winch with a capacity of 30 tonnes that can move at 270°, and a superstructure for a two-man crew on its left side. There is also an MG3 machine gun for self-defence and smoke grenade launchers.

This model was adopted by the Bundeswehr in 1990, and subsequently by virtually all countries that have the Leopard 2 in service. It weighs 54 tonnes and has a towing capacity of 62 tonnes. It can reach speeds of up to 68 km/h and has a range of 680 km.

Like the Czech Republic, the Armed Forces of the Slovak Republic will also receive 15 Leopard 2 tanks. The first tank arrived in Slovakia on Monday.

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