Tank Leopard 2: The best choice for the Czech army, other options are just a makeweight

Tank Leopard 2: The best choice for the Czech army, other options are just a makeweight
10 / 02 / 2020, 10:00

Czech Army needs to rearm its forces, and at the start of the third decade of the 21st century one of the arms which needs to see its technology changed from the Soviet concept is the armored force, tank battalion. We will totally reject the absurd considerations that the army does not need tank troops. On the contrary: the modern army needs modern, reliable, sustainable and powerful tank force, both for combat first-line units, and for the reserves. So it is not a question of one deployable battalion, but of the entire concept of the development of tank forces, if the Czech Army intends to keep them. The replacement for the T-72M4 CZ MBT has been under discussion for many years and there are various more or less exotic variants, and only one is rational. It is the German Leopard 2 MBT.

Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) has produced nearly four thousand pieces of Leopard 2 in various modifications so far and for many countries around the world, therefore not only European. It is a solution based on long experience of the German defence industry. In addition to Great Britain, France and Italy, which have come up with their own solutions, which they can afford in their position as European powers, we can find Leopard 2 in the arsenal of a number of European armies, either directly from the KMW or licensed built by companies like Rheinmetall. In contrast, the British Challenger 2, the French Leclerc and the Italian Ariete are no longer in production, unlike the successful Leopards. As a result, the perspective of the British, French or Italian tanks is subject of questions, their further development is limited and expensive.

See also: The Czech Army Main Battle Tanks Question

Today Leopard 2 represent about a fifth of the active modern armament of NATO states (a figure influenced, of course, by the number of American Abrams); among Europe's NATO members, Leopard 2 is nearly 70%. We find them in the arsenal of Denmark (63 pieces), Germany (250 with a view of more than 300), Greece (353 pieces), the Netherlands (18 pieces), Norway (52 pieces), Poland (247 pieces), Portugal (37 pieces) , Spain (327 pieces), Turkey (354 pieces), recently purchased by Hungary (56 pieces); Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania are considering purchasing them too. Neutral coutries such as Austria, Sweden or Switzerland also use Leopards 2. In addition, these tanks serve in many non-European countries, such as Canada.

Some experts say the Leopard 2 is too heavy and thus it has a limited mobility, inter alia with regard to the carrying capacity of bridges, and generally as a burden on infrastructure. It seems that the above-mentioned states, virtually all of them, successfully ignore this certain disadvantage, and Czech Republic certainly does not seem to be exceptional in terms of terrain or other conditions. The Poles are sensitive when it comes to river crossing capabilities, for example. To the extent that they develop their own tracked Infantry Fighting Vehicle (the Borsuk) capable of floating across rivers. However, they did not hesitate to acquire Leopards 2. In addition, the weight of the Leopard 2 MBT is, of course, not self-purposeful. The criticism that the tank's conception dates back to the 1980s is easy to hear. Its development is continuous: Leopard 2 certainly has decades of service ahead. The tank is also produced in a number of specialized variants such as recovery, bridge or engineer.

See also: By 2030 Czech Army should have 40 thousand soldiers backed with modern weapon systems and good budget, new concept says

In the first place, given the numbers and deployment of the Leopard 2, any other consideration for replacement of the Czech T-72’s looks like from another world. Abrams are not used by any European countries; and, like the H-1 system helicopters, there would be a problem with their maintenance, as their manufacturer is located across the ocean. Similarly strange are the considerations about the South Korean K2 Black Panther tank produced on the other side of the world. The idea that the miniature Czech Army would deploy exotic pieces of technology, because we are "smarter" than everyone around us, while trying to make our armed forces effective, is simply absurd. Cost effective uniformity of basic equipment, common logistics, maintenance and operational deployment according to the same principles with the same capabilities and limitations are advantageous for the security mechanisms and for the Czech Army.

Other solutions are, in theory, the Israeli Merkava (and disproportionately cheaper Sabra, which is basically a modernized Patton). There is sometimes a call for a Russian solution in the discussions. Quite apart from the certainly respectable technical parameters of modern Russian tanks, the latest versions of the T-90 or Armata, such considerations are completely disconnected from the geopolitical reality.

Small army should not experiment and go its own way on the issue of basic weaponry - on the contrary, close cooperation with the closest allies is the only economically and militarily rational solution. Indeed, the manufacturer of Leopard 2 is developing a project of its successor, which will be another solution in the long term. Proven European solutions deployed by Poland, Germany, Hungary and others, is the way. With the planned (?) Increase in defence expenditure (the government's commitment to give the Army 2% of GDP since 2024), we can afford Leopard's advanced versions. While it would certainly be wise not just to upgrade but to strengthen the current armored battalion. Thirty modernized T-72’s (and even potentially Leopards or other modern vehicles) are tremendously few for a 10 million country. Besides direct purchase, there is also the possibility of leasing the Leopards.

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