Two years ago, Canada sent 17 of its Leopard 1 tanks to Afghanistan, to give Canadian troops there some extra firepower against the Taliban. Some Canadian legislators were inclined to do without tanks, but Canadian military leaders believed the heavy combat vehicles would be useful. Not only are they impervious to most weapons, but they scare the hell out of the enemy. The troops proved to be correct in their assessment. The Leopards have seen constant action, particularly because the Taliban have been intent on driving the Canadians out by inflicting many casualties on the foreign troops. But the tanks turned out to be the best weapon to deal with the Taliban attacks, and the Canadian troops are glad to have them around.
There were some problems. When the weather got warm, the lack of air conditioning, and the age of the first tanks sent , became problems. Soon Canada has made arrangements with Germany, the manufacturer of the Leopard, to lease twenty of the most modern version of the tank, the Leopard 2A6M, which has considerably better protection against mines, roadside bombs and RPG rockets. The 62 ton Leopard 2 has a 120mm main gun and two 7.62mm machine-guns. The 43 ton Leopard 1 has a 105mm gun, and is actually a little slower (65 kilometers an hour) than the Leopard 2. Both tanks have a four man crew. Germany is selling off some of its Leopard 2s, and offered Canada 80 of them at a bargain price. Canada shopped around and got a better deal from Holland, and is buying a hundred Dutch Leopard IIs for $5.7 million each.