Armor: The Leopards New Spots


November 19, 2009: Turkey has completed an upgrade of its 171 German Leopard 1 tanks. The major part of the upgrade is a modern fire control system. The 1960s era, 43 ton, Leopard 1 has a 105mm gun, and a top speed of 65 kilometers an hour. Turkey is also upgrading 160 similar U.S. made M-60A1 tanks.

Until the 1980s, the Leopard I was considered one of the best tanks available. Entering service in the late 1960s, it was the first post-World War II German tank design. Although a contemporary of the American M-60A3, the German tank was considered superior. For this reason, Germany was able to export Leopards to many nations. Most of the 4,744 produced (plus 1,741 Leopard chassis adapted to other uses, like recovery and anti-aircraft) have been retired (in storage) or scrapped. Many owners may have to melt down it's Leopard Is, for there's not much of a market left for 44 ton tanks, even those equipped with a lot of nifty upgrades. The original buyers of Leopard I have already flooded the market.

Turkey also has 298 Leopard 2 tanks, bought second hand during the great post-Cold War sell off of European tank fleets. The German Leopard 2 tank continues to be a hot item in the second hand market, often to replace U.S. M-60 tanks (a 1960s design.) Already, Austria has bought 115, Canada 100, Norway 52, Sweden 160, Singapore 96, Denmark 52, Finland 124, Poland 128, Portugal 73, Greece 183, Chile 100 and Spain 108. Originally, West Germany bought 2,125 new Leopard 2 tanks, the Netherlands 445, Switzerland 370, Sweden 120, Spain 219 and Greece 170.

The 55 ton Leopard 2A is a contemporary of the American M1, but without the upgraded armor. Most 2A models have a stabilizer (for firing on the move) and a thermal imager (for seeing through night, mist and sand storms.) Germany has been selling refurbed 2A4s since the 1990s (after the Cold War ended and the German army was much reduced in size.) This enabled many nations to inexpensively upgrade their much older tanks.





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